Previously on Throne of Glass, Angry Dad Chaol grounds our fair heroine, who gives an impassioned rendition of the standard teen “I hate you” speech and locks herself in her bedroom to sulk.
Note: all direct quotes are either in bold or block-quotes. If something’s in quotation marks but not bold, it’s paraphrased snark.
Oh, whew, this chapter opens with Lady Kaltain’s point of view. I know she’s supposed to be an antagonist, but I could kiss her for giving me a moment’s peace from Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian.
Lady Kaltain begins by noting (via narration) that “[t]hough the bindings on her pink-and-yellow gown crushed her ribs, and the pearls and diamonds around her neck strangled her, she kept her chin high, poised.”
This is a refreshing change from Celaena’s endless vanity. For Celaena, a glamorous wardrobe is something to coo and smirk and pout over; for Lady Kaltain, it’s a tool to use in pursuit of a goal—a tool she utilizes calmly and carefully even as it physically hurts her. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve guessed Kaltain the assassin of the two.
Kaltain’s mingling in a roomful of courtiers when she spots Evil Duke Perrington (her unofficial fiancé) across the room, and she maneuvers herself into his path; “he paused at the sight of her, his eyes gleaming with a hunger that made her want to cringe.”
And it’s done: Kaltain’s my favorite character. You know Celaena’s response would’ve been a simultaneous flush of anger (I’ll murder him so bad) and pleasure (a man thinks I’m attractive!).
He bows and calls her “Milady,” and she smiles and says “Your Grace,” all the while “forcing all that repulsion down deep, deep, deep.”
Can we trade protagonists? Can we maybe just have Celaena and Chaol murder each other, and let Kaltain take over the heroine-duties for the rest of the book? Because I’ve read less than a full page from Kaltain’s point of view, and already I admire and sympathize with her—neither of which Celaena’s managed to inspire in me after 138 pages.
And holy crap, look; she even has a motivation that I can fully support:
[S]he wasn’t here to simply enjoy the pleasures of the court. No, she was tired of being a minor lady, waiting to be married off to the highest bidder, tired of petty politics and easily manipulated fools.
While Celaena’s idling her time away between Tests, flirting with the boys and bitching about the indignity of anonymity (“Don’t you know who I am?” she’s probably still screaming at Chaol from the confines of her bedroom), Kaltain’s over here with an actual goal that she’s actually pursuing and that she could actually fail to achieve.
Duke Perrington and his “yellow smile” escort Kaltain toward her suite of rooms, and Kaltain uses the time to gently dig for any information he might’ve gleaned (about what, I don’t know) from his brief conversation with the queen. As they near her rooms, she tosses us yet another reason to sympathize with her:
Her stomach clenched a bit. Though he didn’t hide that he wanted her, he hadn’t pushed her into bed—yet. But with a man like Perrington, who always got what he wanted . . . she didn’t have much time to find a way to avoid owning up to the subtle promise she’d made him earlier that year.
If she doesn’t attain her end goal soon, she’ll be either ruined by or married to Duke Perrington. Check that out, ladies and gentleman: stakes!
Seriously, somebody rewrite this story with Kaltain as the heroine. I need that book stat.
Duke Perrington accidentally lets drop that the queen had made a catalogue of marriageable-and-fertile young noblewomen for Dorian to play eenie-meenie-miney-mo with, which is huge news to Kaltain (who, you might’ve guessed, wants to be the “mo”).
Kaltain breezily references meeting Celaena, digging to see if she was on the queen’s list. Remember: Kaltain believes Celaena is actually Lillian Gordaina, Dorian’s latest middle-class boning partner, but Perrington knows Celaena’s a Champion in the super-secret contest.
The duke went positively rigid. “You met her?”
“Oh, yes—she’s quite kind.” The lie rolled off her tongue.
I could hug her. She’s the first person in this entire book to describe someone else (that they’re not horny for) in a positive light, even if the description’s a lie. Celaena and Nehemia, you know, wouldn’t hesitate to write and distribute pamphlets full of awful things about everyone they’ve met—and people they haven’t met yet, too. Thank god they don’t have access to social media.
Duke Perrington assures Kaltain that it’s “impossible” for Celaena to marry Dorian, which is a relief, but not relief enough; she needs to separate Celaena and Dorian for good. And, judging from how red-faced the duke got at the mention of Celaena’s fake name, Kaltain can perhaps use him to pry the two apart. And lo, she begins to scheme.
I’d actually forgotten how engaging and enjoyable it can be to have a POV character with a clear goal, clear motivations, clear stakes, and an uncertain potential for succeeding. Kaltain’s may be an antagonist, but I’m hereby naming her my true heroine.
Point-of-view hop to Dorian!
Dorian and Chaol argue about Chaol’s continued incompetence: “Chaol’s absence [from Celaena’s side] was inexcusable, even with the dead Champion to investigate.” That’s right, Chaol, your Captain of the Royal Guard duties take backseat to babysitting Celaena, and don’t you forget it.
Chaol scolds the prince for meeting Celaena unaccompanied, despite being the reason Celaena was unaccompanied in the first place, then bumbles his way into one of his most intelligent moments in the book thus far:
“She might be pretty and might impress you with her cleverness, but she’s still an assassin, Dorian.”
“You sound like my father.”
“It’s common sense. Stay away from her, Champion or no.”
And why, exactly, didn’t Chaol manage to rustle up any concern about her assassinhood before they personally escorted her along the several-week journey from the mines to the royal castle where they intend her to become the king’s right-hand murderer?
It took me four rounds of editing to remove the capslock and the swearing from that paragraph, FYI.
I’ll also take a moment to point out that we’ve been repeatedly told that Celaena spent years terrorizing the Adarlan royal family before her imprisonment in the salt mines—but we have yet to learn what the terrorizing entailed. I mean, she’s an assassin, so “killing people” is the obvious guess, but no one (including Celaena) has mentioned who she’s killed in her (supposedly) illustrious career. And surely if she’d killed any members of the royal family, (1) we should know by now, and (2) Dorian would never have chosen her as his Champion. So how does an assassin who doesn’t kill people manage to publicly terrorize a royal family?
But back to Dorian, who’s continuing to play the brainless princelet:
“Why would she kill me? I think she likes being pampered. If she hasn’t attempted to escape or kill anyone, then why would she do it now? [ . . . ] You worry too much.”
. . . At least he got the “she likes being pampered” part right.
Dorian then implies that Chaol’s growing
erection love for Celaena is obvious, which makes Chaol snarl. Taking the hint, Dorian directs the subject in a more pleasant direction: the murdered Champion. Chaol goes all gruff and starts describing the corpse:
Chaol’s eyes darkened. “I’ve studied it again and again over the past few days. The body was totally destroyed.” The color leeched from Chaol’s cheeks. “Innards scooped out and gone; even the brain was . . . missing. I’ve sent a message to your father about it, but I’ll continue investigating in the meantime.”
“I bet it was just a drunken brawl,” Dorian said, though he had been in plenty of brawls himself and had never known anyone to go about removing someone’s innards. A trickle of fear formed in the back of Dorian’s mind.
- Two dozen-ish top-of-their-field murderous criminals are being housed in your palace, each of whom is under 24/7 guard.
- One of the craziest and murderiest of these criminals was EXPLODED INTO GOBBETS while locked inside his HEAVILY GUARDED ROOM, and his guards apparently DIDN’T NOTICE UNTIL THE NEXT MORNING.
- HIS INNARDS AND BRAIN ARE MISSING, JESUS CHRIST.
- AND YOU’RE DISMISSING THIS AS “JUST A DRUNKEN BRAWL” REALLY?
- AND YOU’RE MAKING YOUR CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD SPEND HIS EVERY WAKING HOUR BABYSIT CELAENA BECAUSE WHY, EXACTLY?
(And this is insignificant in comparison, but: how’d Chaol send a message to the king, when nobody knows where the king went?)
I’m glad at least that Dorian doesn’t actually seem to believe a drunken brawl ate the Eye Eater’s innards and splashed the rest of him around his bedroom—but the fact that Dorian’s concern is a mere “trickle of fear” that’s just beginning to form “in the back of [his] mind” IS A BIT ALARMING.
Okay, Dorian. Prove me wrong. Show me you can handle this Crown Prince thing during an obvious code-red evisceration crisis. We’re counting on you.
Dorian grinned and put an arm around the captain’s shoulders. “With you looking into it, I’m sure it’ll be solved tomorrow,” he said, leading his friend into the dining hall.
Be right back, putting up a job posting for Crown Prince of Adarlan because WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DORIAN.
I love Lady Kaltain: 9
Dorian’s an idiot: 5
We put up with Celaena’s bullshit: 0!
And you know what? Even if Lady Kaltain does turn out to be full-on evil, I’ll be cheering her on anyway.