Previously on Throne of Glass, Celaena thinks about the future, and Dorian thinks about Celaena.
Note: all direct quotes are either in bold or block-quotes. If something’s in quotation marks but not bold, it’s paraphrased snark.
Kaltain starts us off this chapter, freezing outside as she waits for the Champions to gather for their final duel. She has the vial of poison in her pocket, and two goblets beside her on the table. Wait, only two? Shouldn’t there be four, one for each Champion?
Perrington comes over and kisses her hand, which is the cover she needs to dump the poison in Celaena’s cup. Kaltain clearly missed her calling as a Vegas magician.
POV hop! Celaena’s shape-shifting into a grumpy popsicle, waiting for the duel stuff to start. She grumps at Chaol about the locale, and Chaol helpfully informs her that, at the last minute, the king decided the duel would take place at the foot of the Wyrdgate/gargoyle clock tower. HMMM.
Cain’s looking handsome and meaty in his red-and-gold outfit, carrying a fancy new sword that his sponsor (evil Duke Perrington) probably gave him. This causes her to briefly wonder if the duke knows about Cain’s extracurricular activities—but that thought is clearly too absurd for our cunning heroine, and immediately floats out of her head.
The old dudes of the king’s council take their seats, and for some reason Nehemia shows up and nobody seems at all alarmed by her presence. I guess the king’s given up the pretense of secrecy; they are holding the duel in a public garden/courtyard, after all.
The king stands and speechifies a bit, informing them that they’re not fighting to the death. “No death at all, not even a little bit,” he emphasizes, staring at our (frankly terrified of him) assassin. Cain and whoever are to fight the first round; Celaena and whoever will fight the second. The winners of those two rounds (*cough Celaena and Cain cough*) will fight the final round.
And then, our assassin has the epiphany that I was expecting her to have ages ago:
For a heartbeat, she saw the king with stark clarity. He was just a man—a man with too much power. And in that one heartbeat, she didn’t fear him.
Don’t get me wrong; I love that she fears him. I just haven’t been totally on board with her whole “his mere presence turns me into a frightened lamb” thing.
I guess the goblets are for the final duel, because Cain and Random Mercenary Renault start their fight without toasting first. Chaol gives Celaena some pointers on Cain’s fighting style as they watch (wait, does our trained-from-childhood badass killer need Chaol’s help figuring out an opponent’s weaknesses, really?) and I’m just getting bored when Cain handily wins the fight. Celaena’s turn!
Across the ring, Grave smiled at her as he wrapped a hand around the hilt of his sword. She bit down on her grimace at the sight of his teeth. Of course, she’d have to duel the grotesque one. At least Renault had been clean looking.
Oh good lord, girl. Are you really such a snob that you care about your opponent’s appearance? (Don’t answer that.)
Chaol offers Celaena his own sword to fight with, which leads to this:
She blinked at the blade, and slowly raised her face to look at him. She found the rolling earthen hills of the north in his eyes. It was a sense of loyalty to his country that went beyond the man seated at the table. Far inside of her, she found a golden chain that bound them together.
Uh, sure. If you say so.
But Nehemia breaks into their (romantic? psychic?) moment and offers Celaena “her beautifully carved iron-tipped staff” instead, and asks her to take the Adarlan motherfuckers down with a weapon forged from the forests of Eyllwe. Also:
“Let the King’s Champion be someone who understands how the innocents suffer.”
Nehemia’s eyes add the final message: “Win this duel, then be the worst King’s Champion you can possibly be, because fuck these guys.”
And “[t]hough a bolt of fear went through her at the thought, though standing against the king was the one thing Celaena had thought she’d never be brave enough to do,” this is a message that resonates deep in Celaena’s core. She takes the staff.
She swishes the staff around and thinks about the upcoming fight, thinks about Dorian, then thanks Chaol.
Chaol tilted his head to the side. “For what?”
Her eyes stung, but she blamed it on the fierce wind and blinked away the dampness. “For making my freedom mean something.”
Oh my god what. Are you telling me your freedom wouldn’t have meant anything if you’d escaped the mines of Endovier? Or if you’d slipped out of the palace anytime in the last several months? Or if you’d won the contest with someone other than Chaol as your physical trainer? Are you telling me that your freedom—that is, your LIFE—has no value except through Chaol?
What is wrong with you? I can’t even.
The king bids the duel begin, and Chaol squeezes her hand and tells her to go beat her opponent up, and Jesus Christ what has Chaol done to give her freedom “meaning”? I don’t understand. Someone explain this to me, because WHAT.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 1
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
Oh my god what.