Previously on Throne of Glass, Cain wins the first round of the duel, Nehemia gives Celaena her fancy staff, and Celaena thanks Chaol for giving her freedom “meaning.”
Note: all direct quotes are either in bold or block-quotes. If something’s in quotation marks but not bold, it’s paraphrased snark.
IT’S DUEL TIME.
Oily Assassin Grave wastes no time, charging at her like a bull. He’s got bad teeth and poor hygiene on his side; she has quick reflexes and a cool attitude on hers. I won’t give you the blow-by-blow, but one of my favorite bits is:
He stumbled, but her fist was waiting. As it met with his nose, she savored the rush of pain through her hand and the crunch of his bones beneath her knuckles.
If I had a fighting style, it’d probably be this right here: holding my fist out and waiting for someone to come break their face on it.
He calls her a bitch, and she quickly nails him to the ground, then leans in:
“My name is Celaena Sardothien,” she whispered. “But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”
Hell yeah, this is what I signed up for. Couldn’t we have had this Celaena the entire book? The calmly confident girl who doesn’t give a shit what other people think about her? The one who determines the value of her own life without regard to men? I want this one.
FYI, when not under the influence of a drug, she’s a better fighter than Cain; it took Cain three minutes to defeat his opponent (isn’t that, like, a super long time?), and it took Celaena two (which is still a rather long time, right?).
Time for a toast! Kaltain presents the two goblets, and of course “Celaena wanted to punch her.” There’s our old girl back, thirsting for unnecessary violence.
Celaena and Cain drink their wine, and the final duel begins immediately. Also immediate: the world-hazing effect of the drug. Ruh roh.
Cain attacks, and we’re treated to a lengthy description of the fight, peppered with Celaena’s frequent “Am I ill?” “Why do I feel sick?” “Is something wrong with me?” questions, and why don’t you realize you’ve been poisoned oh my god. It’s so obvious.
Except wait, she’s attacking “faster and faster, stronger and stronger,” but at the same time she’s getting clumsy? I can’t tell how the drug’s supposed to be affecting her abilities.
She’s literally a split second from winning the duel when her muscles go noodley. Kaltain giggles from the sidelines in delight, so Celaena casts her a quick Go Fuck Yourself glare—and her eyes catch on the goblets. Finally, our cunning heroine experiences that unequaled pleasure of figuring it the fuck out. She’s been poisoned with bloodbane.
Cain smacks her around and insults her, and she realizes he knows what’s up. Glad we’re all on the same page here.
This couldn’t be happening—they couldn’t have betrayed her like this.
Maybe we’re not on the same page here. Who do you think betrayed you? Because you shouldn’t be shocked that Cain would poison you, and you think so little of Kaltain that her involvement shouldn’t shock you either.
Celaena helpfully informs us that she needs to end the duel quickly because the hallucinations will start soon, and that “seers had once used bloodbane as a drug to view spirits from other worlds,” which sounds like it might come in handy at some point.
She makes a valiant attack, but alas, her staff snaps and Cain dislocates her arm—and then he kicks her so hard that her shoulder relocates on impact. Holy crap, ow.
She’s down, holding the broken staff, and Cain’s approaching like a beast, when—
Dorian clenched his teeth. Something was terribly wrong. He’d known it from the moment the duel started, and began sweating when she had the opportunity to bestow a winning blow and failed to deliver it. But now . . .
WHAT THE FUCK, BOOK. I don’t give one single damn about Dorian and his observations and his concerns. Celaena is finally fighting Cain. She’s finally injured. She’s finally losing. GIVE ME CELAENA BACK.
But oh my god Dorian’s just all “He couldn’t watch as Cain kicked her shoulder” and “What was wrong?” and “He should stop it” and GIVE ME CELAENA BACK.
His narration is over half a page long and includes only two details of the fight: Cain slices Celaena’s thigh open and punches her face. The rest of the narration is all “Dorian had to help her” and “Dorian almost cried out” and I hate it.
Something in Chaol began fraying as Celaena raised her bloodied face to look at Cain.
THE EVERLIVING FUCK, BOOK.
At least Chaol lets the narrator describe the fight for us, rather than nattering on about his feelings. Cain taunts Celaena, asking what her father would say of her failure—indicating that he, at least, knows her super-secret identity as the princess (well, should-be queen) of the conquered kingdom of Terrasen. Cain goes all creepy and says he can see her secrets clear as day, so the evil magic must be strong in him.
Cain continues to talk disrespectfully of her murdered family, rousing Celaena’s wrath. She staggers back to her feet and attacks, only to be kicked back down like a ragdoll, flopping all over the ground. Chaol’s panicky at how badly she’s losing, understandably.
POV hop! FINALLY, we’re back in Celaena’s head. She’s a limp sack of blood that Cain’s beating to nothingness.
All around her were whispering, laughing, otherworldly voices. They called to her—but called a different name, a dangerous name.
Oh, lord. I never even thought to wonder what her real, Princess/Queen of Terrasen name is. It has to have at least as many vowels as Celaena, surely.
The hallucinations have started. First up: a creepy dead dude with red eyes and long sharp teeth.
She’s resigned herself to defeat when Chaol approaches the ring with his pom-poms and chants at her to get up. Cain, meanwhile, is beating his chest and crowing insults. After a while, Chaol changes from the Get Up chant to the Celaena chant (which is performed in a breathy, romantic whisper).
And in that moment, somehow his face was the only thing that mattered.
Oh my god. Please don’t tell me this is connected to that whole infuriating “my life/freedom is only meaningful because Chaol was somehow involved in it” thing, because I will vomit.
Girls, remember this: your life is valuable because it’s yours. Not because some hot dude hangs out with you, or says your name in a way you like. Not because of some dude, period. Because it’s yours.
That said: I can understand giving up on your life and only gaining the strength to carry on because of the people you love. If Celaena and Chaol had developed a realistic, strong relationship over the course of the book, I probably wouldn’t be complaining right now.
Celaena scrapes herself together and gets back up, only to be shoved face-first into the gargoyles’ clock tower. The hallucinations have gone from wtf to WTF, and suddenly, she’s being attacked by monsters?
They were going to bring her inside their realm, and the tower was the gaping portal.
Don’t know how she decided that’s what’s happening, but okay.
She’s terrified, but then she gets mad. She starts flailing around and then pop, she’s back in reality, with Cain ripping Elena’s magical amulet off her neck. You’re telling me she was wearing her necklace loose during these duels? I’ve never fought a fight in my life, and even I know better than that.
Also: I am genuinely relieved to see Celaena stripped of her magical protection bauble. Will she actually have to rely on her own abilities for once? Dare I hope?
The chapter closes with Celaena amuletless, and all the bad things descending on her like seagulls on a bag of chips.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 3
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
I swore out loud in outrage: 8
I don’t know what the fuck the book was thinking, switching POVs like that, but let me just reiterate that I hate it. If it happens again next chapter, I don’t know that I’ll do.