Previously on Throne of Glass, Proficient-In-All-Deathtools Celaena loses against Weirdly Unemployed Captain of the Royal Guard Chaol in the most unrealistic fencing bout I’ve ever read.
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’s intended disembowelment of Chaol is interrupted by the bellowing of Theodus Brullo, Weapons Master and competition judge, whose history and qualifications I’ll pass over. He gathers the combatants in a circle, passes out Hello My Name Is stickers and has them share their life stories with the group.
She knew better than anyone not to underestimate opponents based on their appearance.
FOUR PARAGRAPHS LATER:
A slender, tall man with thinning blond hair surveyed the circle and sneered. “Xavier Forul. Master Thief of Melisande.” Master Thief! That man? Of course, she realized, his reed-thinness probably aided in slipping into houses. Maybe it wasn’t a bluff.
TWO PARAGRAPHS LATER:
As his name suggested, Bill Chastain, the Eye Eater, ate the eyes of his victims. He looked surprisingly plain, with mousy brown hair, tan skin, and average height, though Celaena had trouble not staring at his scar-flecked mouth.
TWO PARAGRAPHS LATER:
She immediately forgot the names of the first four [assassins]: a gangly, haughty boy; a hulking brute; a disdainful runt of a man; and a sniveling, hawk-nosed prat who claimed he had an affinity for knives.
Give me a moment while I gather the will to continue.
Oh, sweet god, I’m going to need another minute: there’s an Assassin’s Guild, and the King of the Assassins determines who is and who isn’t allowed to join it. “Membership required years of training and a more-than-impressive track record.”
Are you really going to try to convince me that there’s a guild of assassins ruled over by an assassin king?
Do you know what a guild is? Do you know what an assassin is? Celaena’s been unclear on the whole assassin thing, as you’ll remember from chapter ten, so maybe this whole book is based on some terrible misinformation the author received about assassins?
Anyway, only one assassin, Grave, appears worthy of Celaena’s consideration, and he looks especially rapey.
I’ll pause here to inform you that every single competitor is indeed a criminal; even the soldiers are actually ex-soldiers whose XTREME BRUTALITY got them ejected from Adarlan’s already notoriously brutal army. So yes, this is a lovely group of people to house for thirteen weeks in the royal castle.
If the king is serious about this whole farce—if there’s no brilliant ulterior motive—I’m going to cry. Please don’t let this book be that dumb. Please let the king have an ulterior motive (perhaps related to the spooky evil lurking in the castle?) for hosting this ridiculous competition inside the castle.
Celaena (who, remember, has assumed the identity of Lillian Gordaina) has to introduce herself as a small-town jewel thief, which earns her snickers. Afterward, she fusses to Chaol about the indignity:
She hadn’t spent eight years building a reputation and a year laboring in Endovier to be disregarded like this. “If I have to call myself a jewel thief again—”
Chaol raised his brows. “You’ll do what, exactly?”
“Do you know how insulting it is to pretend to be some nobody thief from a small city in Fenharrow?”
He stared at her, quiet for a moment. “Are you that arrogant?”
Okay, I’m officially Team Chaol, insofar as I stand up and cheer every time he calls Celaena out on her shit. (I’m Team Death in terms of who I want Celaena to pair off with by the end of the book.)
Chaol tells our sweet child to calm her face and appreciate the fact that her enemies will underestimate her. They bicker about it for a bit—this girl is too stupidly arrogant to survive this whole book—and Chaol advises her to mask her badassness so her enemies will continue to underestimate her, right up to the final battle.
Celaena agrees to the plan, but reminds him, “I can look out for myself,” which, uh, is not what she was telling him in the previous chapter. Changeable as [insert your location here] weather.
The Champions are taken out for a run, and Celaena keeps up a litany of arrogant self-encouragement (”I don’t need to prove myself! I know I’m the best, and that’s all I need!”) as she wheezes and wobbles within the middle of the pack. As soon as they cross the finish line, she staggers back into the forest to puke in private.
(Well, semi-private; Chaol has a front-row seat for the show.)
Huh. I genuinely like the way this chapter ends, with Celaena (more or less) realistically weak and struggling with the physical demands of running. She’s showing a degree of determination and inner strength that—quite frankly—we’ve never seen in her before.
But even when she’s at her weakest, when she’s exhausted and emaciated and about to pass out, Celaena is performing at the same level as your average (highly skilled, physically fit) warrior/assassin/thief. Join with me as I wave farewell to any tension I might’ve felt regarding Celaena’s ability to pass every Test with ease.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 4
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
Her badassness kills the book’s tension: 3
It only took, oh, NINETY PAGES to see a hint of something I can appreciate about Celaena. At this rate, she might even develop a truly likable trait before the book ends!