Previously on Throne of Glass, Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian bow to the king; later, Celaena and Dorian bond through a rousing game of tag-team-cruelty towards a pretty young noblewoman they both inexplicably despise.
Note: all direct quotes are either in bold or block-quotes. If something’s in quotation marks but not bold, it’s paraphrased snark.
Chaol awakens Celaena the next morning, and she hasn’t even opened her eyes before she’s a-bitching. It’s cold and she’s tired and couldn’t the prince have had the decency to track her down and bring her to the castle sooner so she could’ve gotten more sleep and what took His Incompetence so long to find her at the mines anyway?
But whoa, hey, we see our third hint (after her fear of the king’s wrathfulness and the glass castle’s glassness) that there might be an actual human under all her badassery: maybe, just maybe, she’s feeling a bit nervous about this whole competition thing.
And just as those first sweet stirrings of hope arise within me–will she become a vulnerable, dare I even say relatable character after all?–she goes and fucks up it for me:
Celaena [began] unceremoniously stripping down to her underclothes and enjoying it far too much when Chaol’s cheeks reddened before he turned away.
Alas, the outfit chosen for her doesn’t meet her highness’s standards–remember, this is the first day of physical training for the competition, so her outfit is of the utmost importance–and she more or less stomps her delicate foot and pouts her peerless lips and squeals, “I look ridiculous! These pants are absurd, and this shirt is awful.”
And I set the book gently down upon the table and rest my forehead upon its pages and whisper would you just shut the fuck up already nobody cares what you’re wearing you are literally the worst.
And holy crap, my despair can apparently cross space/time/fiction boundaries, because Chaol heard me:
“Stop whining. No one gives a damn about your clothes.”
“Besides, you can take them off at the barracks. I’m sure everyone will be thrilled to see you in your undergarments.”
Which–okay. He’s being a dick, but can I blame him for it? Look who he’s dealing with: Celaena Sardothien, literally the worst. I’ll give you a pass, Chaol.
They then troop out of her rooms toward the training hall, Celaena following him while swearing “violently under her breath.” And yet again I find myself asking: what’s her motivation for doing this, aside from “it looks cool”? What is she feeling? Is she angry that he’s teasing her, after she teased him? If so: why? Or is she just embarrassed to be seen wearing clothes she doesn’t like, and she expresses her embarrassment by swearing?
This book repeatedly fails to adequately express its characters’ emotions and motivations. Aside from “they’re assholes” and “the book wants me to think they’re cool,” I have zero grasp on any of these characters.
So Celaena and Chaol enter a gorgeously betiled/bepillared/becurtained room where the other Champions are already I’ll Make A Man Out Of You-ing with their personal trainers. Cain immediately strolls his bulk by Celaena and remarks, “I’d have thought you’d be running home by now.”
This casual dig reignites Celaena’s MUDEROUS RAGE, which hasn’t made an appearance since chapter seven. I almost missed it.
But then oh what the fuck is this:
“I’m going to kill him,” she breathed [to Chaol].
“No, you’re not. If you want to shut him up, then beat him. He’s just a brute from the king’s army—don’t waste your strength on hating him.”
She rolled her eyes. “Thank you so much for interfering on my behalf.”
“You don’t need me to rescue you.”
“It still would have been nice.”
“You can fight your own battles.”
Oh my god I cannot handle this girl.
- If you’re being snotty to Chaol for failing to rescue you, then you must’ve expected him to–but why did you expect him to rescue you?
- Why did you want him to? Are you supposedly the most badass badass around, fully accustomed to taking care of yourself?
- And exactly what kind of “rescue” were you expecting from him? Cain made a sly comment, you responded, and Cain left. WHAT ABOUT THIS REQUIRES RESCUE.
Chaol distracts her bloodlust by challenging her to a practice fight, and Celaena surveys the weapons available to her: swords, axes, maces, pikes, etc., etc. “While she generally preferred the stealth of a dagger, she was familiar with every weapon here,” we’re reassured (in case anyone doubted it), but she “eliminated her options one by one, seeing each weapon for what sort of damage she might do to the captain’s face,” settling on “a lovely rapier” with which “[s]he could cut out his heart from a safe distance.”
Excellent choice. Except that, you know, rapiers are jabby-jabby weapons, not hacky-hacky ones. For your heart-removal needs, perhaps reconsider the axe.
Chaol suddenly gets sexy, “his toned body flexing through the dark threads of his shirt,” and they do some verbal as well as physical fencing. She privately decides Chaol—Captain of the Royal Guard, remember, and wait what the hell is he doing being her private tour guide and babysitter and sparring partner, doesn’t he have Royal Guard duties to attend to?—that he’s pretty skilled with a sword.
Lest you fear you’re missing out on some hot swordplay/foreplay action, let me assure you it’s a horribly written scene, and includes such complex gems as:
She withdrew and feinted, her feet jabbing and flexing on the floor with birdlike grace. Caught off-guard, he only had time to deflect, his parry lost in his size.
Parry : verb : to defend yourself by turning or pushing aside (a punch, a weapon, etc.)
Also, Jesus Christ they spend a lot of time “slamm[ing]” their rapiers together. Isn’t this supposed to be fencing?
Chaol wins through trickery, then politely asks her to pick another weapon—one that might actually make him break a sweat this time, if she would be so kind. So Celaena goes all grabby-hands for the hunting knives, which she calls her “dear old friends,” and please god I’m begging you let the knife-fighting be better written than the sword-fighting.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 5
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
Celaena fantasizes about murder: 2
Celaena murders someone: 0
So far this book has gotten just about everything wrong.