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The Assassin and the Princess

The Assassin and the Princess - Sarah J. Maas I picked this book at random from my library's young-adult section without really reading the summary, or knowing anything about the author. Basically, I didn't really have an idea of what I was getting into.

This book tells the story of Calaena, an assassin in a fictional medieval/fantasy world. Prior to the beginning of the novel, she was charged with several crimes– obviously murder, for starters– and is sentenced to slave labor in a salt mine and has already been there for a year when the book begins. One day, the Crown Prince Dorian comes to the salt mine and offers her a deal: his father, the king, is holding a battle royale competition to pick his champion, an assassin servant that does his bidding. If Calaena wins and serves the king for four years, she'll be officially free once her contract is done. As the competition progresses, other contestants are turning up dead, and Calaena must now face a vicious murderer with an agenda in addition to the tyrant king and her fellow would-be champions.
In essence, this book is what you would consider character-driven. The world felt very undeveloped, as though it was all last-minute. To my understanding, the four prequels to this book are where the world is explored in-depth, but your reader shouldn't have to read prequels just to understand what's going on. Prequels are meant to add to a world after the main series books have already established the basics.
The mystery element also wasn't very good. I figured out who the murderer was before they even found the second body, but it takes Calaena well over 350 pages to notice the obvious.
The most glaring issue with this book is the cheap love triangle, but I'll go into that later.

And later is now. So, as mentioned, the love triangle is not too great, to put it lightly. Within the first two chapters, you can already see who's a part of it (obvious spoilers, but spoilers nonetheless Calaena, the prince Dorian and the captain of the royal guard, Chaol). Now, that's not to say that the concept of a love triangle is bad, because it's really not; plenty of books can use a love triangle gracefully to contribute to character development and plot. However, this was not the case with Throne of Glass. The relationships between the characters was meager, at best. Most of their conversations consist of banter and Calaena batting her eyelashes, and of course, the random uber-personal and angsty confession from Calaena to humanize her. All in all, it felt less like two guys who like the same girl and more like two guys who find the same girl really hot.
I have mixed feelings towards the protagonist, Calaena. Her most obvious flaw is that she loves smack-talking. Just all the time, it's 'she could disarm that guard in two seconds flat' and 'she could escape from this castle if she really wanted to– she just doesn't want to' (more or less paraphrased, but you get the idea). She isn't actually able to prove that she is as good as she claims until the end of the novel, given that throughout the beginning, she's still very weak from a year of labor and malnutrition.
Speaking of which, she's also constantly fluctuating between shallow and reasonable. When she first looks at her reflection after she's left the salt mine, her first thought is that she's gone down a few cups sizes from losing too much weight. She doesn't even mention how out of shape she is until her training starts, which you would think she would notice first, considering how much her job depends on her physical strength.
The other characters were, for the most part, dull. Cain was your average smug antagonist, Prince Dorian your average smoldering love interest, Chaol your average 'I like you but I'm gonna totally deny it' guy, and so on. If there was one interesting character, it was Princess Nehemia. She's the monarch of a kingdom that was invaded and conquered by Dorian's father, and she has been assisting rebels ever since their insurgency started. She added a lot of depth to this severely flat world.

The Writing
It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. Maas's biggest problem is that she really likes to state the obvious. Some things can be left to readers to interpret, or, as in most cases, your reader can make basic assumptions and see how you arrive from point A to point B. Otherwise, it had some nice flow to it– a lot of metaphors and descriptive writing. But her world-building leaves a lot to be desired, because it feels like she came up with the characters and in order to set them in her own world, made up countries as she went along to fit her characters, not her characters to fit her world.

The Cover
This is, admittedly, a generic YA cover. Blonde model, some detailing of a glass castle on the back, yadda yadda yadda. Nothing super interesting to look at.
Funny note: I also couldn't take the cover seriously because of the dagger. They sell the same one at Party City, and I had used it for a Halloween costume in the sixth grade. Needless to say, it doesn't exactly look authentic.

Final Rating: 2.5 stars