Previously on Throne of Glass, Celaena becomes EVEN COOLER by receiving a public blessing from the Goddess of the Hunt (via a child representative) at the Yulemas morning service.
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 all gussied up for the masked ball, her beauty so exquisite that her servant Philippa lapses almost into incoherence in praise of it. I’ll spare you the details.
Since she’s forbidden from attending the ball, our cunning heroine has developed an elaborate ruse to con her guards into escort her straight to the ballroom doors. That ruse (get your desk-towels ready): telling them the Crown Prince has invited her.
Surely they won’t fall for it, though, right? Chaol would’ve explicitly informed them that she’s to be confined to her room, and to not fall for any tricks she might pull in an attempt to escape.
Celaena turned to the guards. “You look nice,” one of them—Ress—said shyly. “Off to the ball?” grinned another. “Save a dance for me, will you?” the third added. Not one of them questioned her.
. . . I can’t even transcribe the groan I just groaned.
Her idiotic guards bow and leave her at the ballroom’s doors, and for some reason Celaena “felt an urge to vomit and run back to her rooms.” Because that’s in keeping with her character, yep.
At last she tells her stomach to get its shit together:
She just had to make it down the stairs, and find a way to convince Chaol to let her stay. Then she could keep an eye on Nehemia all night.
Oh, I have a suggestion for that whole convince-Chaol-to-let-you-stay thing: tell him the truth already.
POV hop! Dorian—along with literally everyone in the room who isn’t currently waltzing—falls silent to watch Celaena’s grand, solitary entrance. She’s gorgeous and mysterious and whatever, let’s move on.
Walk to her. Take her hand. But his feet were leaden, and Dorian could do nothing except watch her. His skin flushed beneath his small black mask. He didn’t know why, but seeing her made him feel like a man.
“[Pronoun] didn’t know why, but” is right up there with “somehow” on my list of things that should be (almost always) banned from novels.
Chaol beats Dorian to the stairs, alas:
Celaena stared only at Chaol with those starlit eyes, and her long, white fingers floated through the air to meet his.
Glowing eyes? Disembodied skeletal fingers floating through the air? How beautiful and not at all creepy.
POV hop! Celaena gives no sign of protest as Chaol drags her “into a shadowy alcove,” where fur erupts all over his body and he starts slavering in her face, wanting an explanation for her presence at the ball.
All right, Celaena. This is your chance. Tell him the truth.
“Relax,” she hissed at the Captain of the Guard. “I only wanted to have some fun.”
“Fun? Crashing a royal ball is your idea of fun?”
Arguing wouldn’t help; she could tell that his anger was mostly about being embarrassed that she’d managed to slip out of her rooms in the first place. She gave him a pitiful pout. “I was lonely.”
Also: way to be a mind-reader, Celaena. Is that something else the King of the Assassins taught you in assassin school?
Also also: I wouldn’t call what you did “managing to slip out of your rooms” so much as “skipping happily to the ball hand-in-hand with Chaol’s fucking idiot guards.” You’re giving yourself too much credit for your wiles and stealth, Celaena.
Chaol sputters, and Celaena takes advantage of his uselessness by pointing out that Handsome Thief Nox is at the ball, and if a thief can be trusted among so many tempting noble targets, surely an assassin can be, too?
“How can I be the King’s Champion if you don’t trust me?” Actually, that was a question she really wanted to know the answer to.
Answer: you can’t. You should never have been allowed to enter this ridiculous competition, and certainly never be allowed to win, because you cannot be trusted. You’re the world’s best assassin, and everyone knows your #1 grudge is against the king of Adarlan.
I know Chaol agrees with me on this (proving he’s not a complete idiot), but I’m keen to see how he’ll answer her question.
Chaol covered his face with a hand and let out a long, long sigh. She tried not to smile. She’d won.
THAT’S IT? Oh my god, Chaol, get it together.
While I’m gesturing wildly to myself in my incredulity, Chaol “slump[s] his shoulders” and begs her not to make him regret his leniency. Oh my god.
The pair meander around until she finds “an empty spot in the crowd” that somehow affords a clear view of the entire room—including where Nehemia’s sitting beside the queen, on the dais. Wait, how can they have a perfect view of the entire room when standing smack in the middle of the crowd? Are they standing on a punch table?
Their vantage point might actually be too good: the scene turns rage-red when she spots Dorian “dancing with a small brunette with outrageously large breasts,” and excuse me while I flail around a bit some more. Yes, how dare this random woman have a body type that you’re envious of? Best insult her body so you don’t feel so bad about your own.
Time skip! An hour’s passed, Nehemia hasn’t so much as twitched in her seat beside the queen, and Celaena’s feeling like an idiot for suspecting her. Oh, wait—Nehemia’s on the move, coming straight up to Celaena and Chaol. She tells them she feels unwell and shows them her permission slip to leave early.
Once Nehemia’s gone, Chaol points out how weird the girls were acting toward each other, and asks what the deal is. Our brilliant heroine snaps at him to mind his own business, making this the thousandth opportunity she’s passed up to clue him in on the the whole Magical Murders situation.
And now it’s time for Celaena to maybe catch a dance or two, because Nehemia’s absence means the likelihood of an attack on the ball has dropped from 95% to, like, .05%. Sounds . . . reasonable.
But Celaena can’t get her groove on until Chaol stops baring his teeth every time a handsome man looks at her. They relocate to the edge of the dance floor, which somehow also gives her a perfect view of the entire room; maybe they dragged their punch table with them?
They argue a bit about whether or not Chaol wants to dance with her (he would love to, but Duke Perrington would notice, and that would be bad for some reason), and whether or not they like each other. It’s a conversation full of hurt feelings and low self-esteem and, uh, romance I guess.
There was beauty in Chaol’s face—and strength, and honor, and loyalty. She stopped hearing the crowd, and her mouth became dry as he stared at her. How had she missed it for so long?
I’ve been told I have very loyal-looking cheekbones, myself.
Things are just heating up between them when Dorian ditches his busty harlot and inserts his “alarmingly handsome” self into their conversation. His gaze meets Celaena’s, and her “blood turned into shooting stars,” which sounds awful.
Dorian asks Celaena to dance, and Angry Chaperon Chaol says nope, her dance card’s already full, go away. When Dorian and Celaena simultaneously stamp their delicate feet and ask why they can’t do some down-and-dirty waltzing, Chaol replies:
“Because it attracts too much attention, that’s why.” Celaena rolled her eyes, and Chaol glared at her. “Do I have to remind you who you are?”
As far as the court knows, Celaena is Lady Lillian Gordaina, merchant’s daughter. Sure, the court would whisper about the crown prince dancing with a merchant’s daughter (well, maybe not, if everyone insists on calling her Lady), but why would that worry Chaol? And if this is about Perrington: again, why would that worry Chaol?
This whole situation reads as manufactured drama, and someone please make it stop.
Dorian to the rescue! Our prince dismisses Chaol’s non-reasons, and Chaol stalks off in a huff. Looks like it’s Dorian’s turn to have a romantic moment with Celaena, hurray.
Her heart jumped into a gallop, and Chaol dissolved from her thoughts, like dew beneath the morning sun. She felt bad for forgetting him—but . . . but . . . Oh, she wanted Dorian, she couldn’t deny it. She wanted him.
They flatter each other a bit before he asks her to dance, and the chapter concludes:
Was there music playing? She’d forgotten. The world had shrunk into nothing, dissolved by the golden glow of candles. But there were her feet, and here was her arm, and her neck, and her mouth.
And her ear, and her splee—no, that’s her pancreas, and—
She smiled and took his hand, still keeping one eye on the ball around them.
At least she had the decency to straight-up admit that everyone could’ve been slaughtered around her while she’d been flirting with Dorian/numerating her body parts, and she wouldn’t have noticed.
But really, if you’re truly concerned about an attack, shouldn’t you consider keeping, oh I don’t know, both eyes on the room around you? Just a suggestion.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 3
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
We’re assured Celaena’s gorgeous: 15
Celaena does absolutely anything to advance the plot: 0
I really wish I’d been keeping track of her plot-advancement record all along.
On second thought, maybe it’s best I didn’t; that many 0s in a row would’ve cast me into bleakness.