Previously on Throne of Glass, Modestly Modest Celaena’s admiration of her own stunning beauty is interrupted by Surly Dude Chaol’s hard-on; together they run through the terrifyingly glass castle toward her first meeting with the terrifyingly kingly king.
Note: all direct quotes are either in bold or block-quotes. If something’s in quotation marks but not bold, it’s paraphrased snark.
Celaena and Chaol enter an enormous and “ominous” room (which for some reason has marble floors; just how glass is this glass castle?) that’s crammed with people, including handsome Prince Dorian (who, of course, adjusts his erection at the sight of her).
To my shock and pleasure, Celaena’s got some shaky-with-fear stuff going on; the sound of the king’s voice “made her bones crack and splinter, made her feel the astonishing cold of a winter long since past.” That’s . . . a little over-the-top. But if she keeps this up, I’ll drop her fearless rating down from 99% to a more human 75%.
We’re told the king’s dressed like a king and armed with his infamous sword Nothung, which almost made me laugh-drool coffee on myself in front of the entire coffee shop I’m sitting in, because I’m twelve and apparently still giddy with the dick jokes of the previous chapter.
The king speechifies about the competition while Celaena eyes the twenty-three men she’ll be competing against; “when she scanned their faces—often scarred, pockmarked, or just plain hideous—there was no spark behind their eyes, no shining kernel of cleverness.”
I’m greatly relieved to know she’s the most attractive and intelligent of the competitors, as is her due.
Oh, but wait—one “moderately handsome” guy seems rather smart. (Please someone tell me this doesn’t become an Angsty YA Love Polygon.)
And of course, Evil Duke Perrington’s Champion (Cain) is built like a monster, because this book’s too hardcore for subtlety.
As the king natters on, Celaena (finally!) feels a stab of concern about becoming his Champion:
A flicker of shame sparked within her. What was “Champion” but a dressed-up name for murderer? Could she actually stomach working for him? She swallowed. She had to. She had no other choice.
Assassin : noun : MURDERER
Also: I’d rather hoped you’d have more to say about accepting a subservient position to the king who killed your family and destroyed your country and doomed you to torture and slow death.
This book is awful at internal conflict—we’re told (occasionally, in narration) that Celaena has some internal conflict going on, but she doesn’t think/behave as though she’s conflicted. She’s just snarking around, acting bitchy and preening in front of mirrors/boys.
This is especially unfortunate because her supposed internal conflict is the only conflict these sixty-eight pages so far.
Anyway, the competition details: the would-be Champions will train every day, and there’ll be a test every week for the next thirteen weeks (with more tests thrown in if not enough of them are dying or failing along the way). The final four will ultimately duel it out, because There Can Be Only One.
Somehow and for some reason, the king’s kept the competition a secret from the court:
“[W]hile my court is aware that some sort of contest is being held among my closest friends and advisors [ . . . ] you will keep your business private.”
Is—is he serious? Does anyone actually believe you can hold a thirteen-week-long competition between twenty-four thieves/assassins/warriors (each of whom has their own private escort of up to a dozen-ish guards) within your own castle and the whole city won’t know about it within a day?
This is awe-inspiringly hopeful, naive, or dumb. I haven’t decided which.
While I’m marveling at the king’s, shall we say, absolute trust in the secrecy of his servants and the obliviousness of his courtiers, Celaena’s marveling at the king’s continued survival. What Evils Hath He Wrought, What Pain Hath He Orchestrated, et cetera, yet none dare stab the cruel majesty of his face.
Apparently thinking something similar, the king announces he’ll be away from the castle for the duration of the competition, returning just in time to watch the final Highlander episode and name a victor.
After they’re dismissed, Dorian graciously provides us further evidence of Chaol’s incompetence: he’d neglected to inform her she’s supposed to be Lillian Gordaina, a wealthy merchant’s daughter who moonlights as a jewel thief. Her actual identity’s a secret for fear that her competitors “might know a thing or two about Adarlan’s Assassin and use it against [her].”
I love how the book oh so coyly suggests Celaena has weaknesses without actually committing to those weaknesses.
Also, did no one think to inform her of her secret identity before she entered the castle and started interacting with everyone, really?
My only consolation is the book’s not trying to convince me that any of these people are brilliant strategists.
Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian discuss the competitors, some of whom “have rather gruesome reputations” (great job inviting them to crash in the castle for a few months, guys), but their conversation is interrupted by the “unfairly stunning” noblewoman who’d been trash-talking Celaena in the garden that morning: Lady Kaltain.
(Side note: oh how unfair of this random woman to be beautiful. She doesn’t deserve beauty the way our charming Celaena does. Celaena’s TOTALLY JUSTIFIED in her snide hatred of this woman’s beauty, yes, of course.)
Lady Kaltain dry-humps Dorian for a bit, quietly snubbing Celaena in the process. Celaena “might have bothered to care about the slight if she had any interest in courtiers,” which confuses me: does she or doesn’t she care what courtiers think of her? If not, why fret about being seen as Dorian’s latest lay, and why attack this very lady with a flowerpot?
For some reason, Dorian introduces Celaena as Lady Lillian Gordaina; shouldn’t a mere merchant’s daughter be Miss?
Then again, there was a Pirate Lord and a King of the Assassins. Maybe noble titles are handed out to everyone who wants them.
Lady Kaltain pouts over Celaena’s harloty presence, and for some reason Dorian implies that Celaena’s caught in a threesome between himself and Chaol, which inexplicably arouses no response in Celaena except “wicked amusement” at Lady Kaltain’s disappointment:
The assassin and the prince glanced at each other, their blue eyes reflecting the same intent. At least they had one common enemy.
A common enemy? Seriously? Guys, a snotty young lady angling after the prince is hardly an enemy to either the prince or the assassin said young lady has snubbed. She is, at worst, a minor nuisance.
Christ, these assholes are petty.
Dorian excuses himself and kisses Celaena’s hand in farewell; the kiss sends a shock wave straight to her groin/face, which flushes. Soon after, Chaol asks if she’d enjoyed the charade:
“Immensely.” Celaena patted Chaol’s arm as she took it in her own. “Now you must pretend that you like me, or else everything will be ruined.”
WHY ARE YOU SO PLEASED? YOU’VE WANTED NOTHING BUT TO MURDER THESE TWO MEN AT EVERY POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY. YOU’RE DISGUSTED THAT PEOPLE ARE LABELING YOU DORIAN’S SEX-KITTEN. WHAT ARE YOU DOING I DON’T UNDERSTAND.
But oh, it gets so much better, when Chaol jokingly implies Celaena is too low-bred and not beautiful enough for Dorian:
She whipped her head to look at him. He smiled. “How vain you are.”
She glared. “I hate women like that. They’re so desperate for the attention of men that they’d willingly betray and harm members of their own sex.”
This is where I laugh myself to death because are you listening to yourself? You hate vain women who want men to notice them? Women who will use whatever tools are available to them—including their bodies (in the form of flaunting their beauty)—to secure the best possible future for themselves?
YOU’VE BEEN PRIORITIZING YOUR APPEARANCE AND MEN’S ATTENTION OVER YOUR OWN PHYSICAL WELL-BEING FOR ALMOST THIS ENTIRE BOOK.
AND YOU ARE A GODDAMN ASSASSIN PLANNING TO SWEAR YOUR ALLEGIANCE AND MURDER-ABILITIES TO YOUR MOST HATED ENEMY TO SECURE THE BEST POSSIBLE FUTURE FOR YOURSELF.
Chaol and Celaena chatter through the rest of the chapter like old friends while I discreetly clear off just enough table to bash my head on.
I hate everyone: Yes
Guys, I just can’t.