Previously on Throne of Glass, Killingest of Killers Celaena scoffs and smirks herself to exhaustion while meeting her fellow competitors.
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 enjoying a leisurely lunch of “shoveling meat and bread down her throat” when Chaol arrives on the scene—which, actually, is how a lot of chapters start: either he’s bursting in on her or he’s escorting her somewhere. Again I ask, doesn’t he have Captain of the Royal Guard duties to attend somewhere? Anywhere? No? Okay.
Celaena’s as tired of this repetition as I am, and greets Chaol with both a “What are you doing here?” and a repulsed nose-wrinkle at his plate of salmon.
And then what the fuck, Chaol, seriously:
“I hate fish. I’d rather die than eat it.”
“That’s surprising,” he said, taking a bite.
“Because you smell like one.”
Is—is this supposed to be a charmingly juvenile insult, or is he making an ill-advised joke about Celaena’s ladybits? Because the former’s just obnoxious, and the latter’s fucking awful.
While I’m stewing in disgust, Celaena responds with her trademark calm and poise:
She opened her mouth to expose the ball of bread and beef that she was chewing.
Am I supposed to like either of these characters? Am I supposed to find their interactions cute and/or romantic? Because no.
Chaol grows up enough to ask if Celaena’s enjoying her newfound freedom, and our former-slave heroine sneers she’s enjoying it “for the most part” (ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You’ve been enslaved and [supposedly] regularly beaten nigh unto death for the last year, and you’re enjoying your fancy dresses and giant-ass suite of rooms and regular delicious meals “for the most part”?)
She especially loves the books, she tells him while I pant in rage, and adds:
“I don’t suppose you’d understand.”
“On the contrary. I might not have as much time to read as you and Dorian do, but that doesn’t mean I love books any less.”
She bit into an apple. It was tart, with a sweet, honey-like aftertaste. “Oh? And what books do you love?” He named a few, and she blinked. “Well, those are good choices—for the most part.”
Great to see she’s continuing to be a judgmental snob; consistency’s important in a protagonist.
We’re told that “somehow, an hour flew by, carrying them on the wings of conversation,” and wow this book isn’t even trying to show me how their relationship progresses from enemies to (I’m assuming) Angsty YA Love Triangle lovers. “They’re bonding, trust me,” the narration is saying, while hastily shooing us forward to what has to be the weirdest scene in the book thus far:
The following dawn, Celaena’s bedroom door opened, and a familiar stalking gait echoed through the room. Chaol Westfall stopped short when he found the assassin dangling from the beam of her bedroom doorway, repeatedly hoisting herself up to touch her chin to the wooden bar.
Just to be clear: Celaena’s doing chin-ups in the bedroom doorway when Chaol . . . opens the bedroom door and walks through the doorway? Is he “stopped short” by his face in her crotch?
They smile at each other, and I guess that’s supposed to prove how deeply they bonded during that conversation we didn’t get to see. Cool, I guess.
That afternoon, the pair goes for an aimless promenade through the castle (“she was glad to be out of her rooms, and dressed in one of her new gowns—a lovely lilac silk dress with pale pink lace accents and pearl beading”) until they smack into Lady Kaltain (she of the flowerpot attack) and the “stunning” Princess Nehemia of Eyllwe.
(You can tell Nehemia’s a good guy because the narrator oh-so-graciously deems her “stunning.” You’ll remember that the narrator previously sneered at Kaltain for being “unfairly stunning,” so she’s clearly a villain. Sigh.)
Quick refresher: Eyllwe is a southern country, and “one of the last countries still fighting Adarlan’s rule [of the continent].” Lots of the slaves sentenced to death-by-salt-mine alongside Celaena were “rebels” from Eyllwe, who whispered sonnets about their Super Espionage Rebel Princess Nehemia—so, understandably, Celaena’s finely-tuned somebody’s-up-to-something radar starts pinging madly at the sight of her.
Celaena shocks everyone by greeting Nehemia in her native language (introducing herself as Lady Lillian Gordaina), and Nehemia goes from zero to asshole in under twenty words.
“Have you arrived today, Your Highness?”
[ . . . ] “Yes, and the queen sent this one”—Nehemia jerked her head at Kaltain—“to bring me around with that sweating worm of a man as well.” The princess narrowed her eyes at the small councilman, who wrung his hands and dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief. [ . . . ]
Celaena ran her tongue across her teeth, trying not to laugh. “He seems a bit nervous.” She had to change the subject or else she’d indeed laugh. “What do you make of the castle?”
“It’s the most foolish thing I’ve ever seen,” Nehemia said, scanning the ceiling as if she could see through the stone and into the glass sections.
To make sure we’re on the same page about Nehemia’s assholery: a stranger who appears to be an Adarlan noblewoman politely greets her and asks how she likes the castle, and Nehemia spins in a circle, middle fingers pistoning in the air, and says, “Fuck these tour guides and fuck this castle and fuck this country, am I right??”
No wonder she and Celaena are destined to be BFFs; they’re the same godawful person.
Nehemia dismisses Kaltain and the “sweating worm” of a councilman (what did he ever do to either of you, that you’re both insulting and laughing at him?), then princess and assassin bond through their shared bitchiness (“Liliian, you’re so special and different from the other courtiers,” “Oh, Nehemia, that’s because all the other courtiers are maggots, ha ha,” “Lillian, where do you come from?” “Some miserable little fishing port with zero redeeming qualities,” “Sounds almost as disgusting as this city, ha ha,” and so on forever, god help me).
Other things they bond over include (a) Adarlan’s mad-eyed BURN IT ALL approach to conquering their respective home countries, and (b) how uncomfortable they are in their elaborate dresses. (I guess Celaena’s forgotten how she crooned over her new dress six pages ago?)
They cut their pinkies and spit on them and rub them together to swear blood-sisterhood, and after they part ways Celaena decides it’s been too long since I pounded my face into my desk:
She never had many friends, and the ones she had often disappointed her. Sometimes with devastating consequences, as she’d learned that summer with the Silent Assassins of the Red Desert. After that, she’d sworn never to trust girls again, especially girls with agendas and power of their own. Girls who would do anything to get what they wanted.
But as the door closed behind the ivory train of the Eyllwe princess, Celaena wondered if she’d been wrong.
Guys, what the fuck is this. Seriously, what. the. fuck.
I’ve never seen such hateful misogyny internalized by a YA heroine, ever. She’d never trust girls? Especially girls who have a goal and the ability to see it through? Especially girls who are pushed to desperation to succeed?
Somebody prop a mirror in front of this girl, because–
Wait, no don’t. She’d just smug at herself over her Extraordinary Beauty until a man meandered by for her to smug at instead.
Thank god we point-of-view hop over into Chaol’s head for the remainder of the chapter, because Celaena’s blown past infuriating and is roaring down the border between sickening and despicable.
But it doesn’t help my stomach that Chaol’s first two observations are “Oh look, Celaena’s stuffing her face” and “My lord she is exquisite in that flower- and jewel-hued dressing robe, extending one elegant leg upon which I must now rub my masculinity.”
Celaena casually asks if he’s “[e]nthralled by Princess Nehemia,” (nice passive-aggressive dig to see if she’s sexier than you, Celaena), and he stays his hip-thrusts to reply:
“That headstrong girl?” He immediately regretted that remark as her eyes narrowed. A lecture was coming on, and he was in no mood to be patronized.
- How does he know a lecture’s coming on? She’s never lectured him before, so unless she’s scrawling LECTURE IMMINENT across her face with gravy, how can he tell?
- Celaena’s literally the last person in the world to be declaiming the sin of passing judgment on others. She is, I remind you, the absolute worst.
But Chaol successfully interrupts my amazed/horrified giggle-bout with some Important Plot Information:
Before departing this morning, the king hadn’t taken any of the guards he’d suggested he bring on his journey, and refused to say where he was going, or to accept his offer of accompaniment.
Guess that settles the question of whether or not he’s actually employed.
Also: some royal dogs have disappeared, turning back up in the palace’s northern wing with their entrails gnawed upon. Spooooky.
But oh my god no please no flirting, give me the dead dogs not the flirting. Celaeana goes all “WHAT’S WRONG WITH HEADSTRONG GIRLS, AREN’T I SEXY ENOUGH?” and Chaol growls “YOU’VE GOT COOTIES, GO AWAY” while resuming his frottage on her leg. A full page passes like this until—are you ready for this? I don’t think you’re ready for this—Chaol thinks:
Despite her arrogance, she was clever, and relatively kind, and somewhat charming.
Chaol is clearly not reading the same book I am.
But where was that writhing darkness? Why didn’t it show itself so he could just throw her into the dungeon and call off this ridiculous competition? There was something great and deadly concealed within her, and he didn’t like it.
He’d be ready—when the time came, he’d be waiting. He just wondered which one of them would survive.
NEITHER, PLEASE THANKS.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 2
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
Someone’s an asshole: 28? 29? I hand-to-god lost count.
Team Death, Team Death, Team Death.