Previously on Throne of Glass, Deus Ex Machina Elena poofs in to save the day/Celaena’s ass.
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 body’s a wreck, but she staggers upright to the swelling of some hardcore Hans Zimmer.
The wind caressed her face and swept her hair behind her in a billowing sheet of gold. I will not be afraid. A mark burned on her forehead in blinding blue light.
Oh, so her magical forehead marquee is finally visible, is it? Goodie.
Also: was she fighting with her hair down, really?
Also also: she’s a mess of blood and saliva; you’re not going to convince me her hair is a squeaky clean banner shimmering in the breeze.
She doesn’t give us long to marvel at her power and beauty, thank god: the next thing you know, she has “shot forward, as fast as an arrow of Deanna,” which is impressive considering that a mere nine sentences ago we were told her “right leg could barely support her.”
But hey, she stabs Cain “exactly where Chaol had said he would be unguarded,” and oh my god when will I stop being aggravated by the fact that she’s incapable of doing anything without help?
Really, though, would it have been so hard to NOT have Chaol tell her about Cain’s tendency not to guard that side of his body? Why couldn’t the book let Celaena notice that herself, and decide on her own to exploit that weakness? Bah.
She tears Cain up a bit, once more our flawless Killer of All Killers, and within seconds has him on the ground, in a kill position. She briefly considers disobeying the king and killing Cain to protect her secret royal identity and the truth about the Wyrdmarks, but decides against it because . . . uh . . . because. No reason given.
The king grudgingly names her the victor, to her profound relief:
She’d won. She’d won. She was free—or as close to it as she could come. She would become the King’s Champion, and then she would be free . . .
SECRET ESCAPE ROUTE. WAITING FOR YOU. RED CARPET THROUGH THE SECRET TUNNELS LEADING YOU RIGHT TO IT. BEEN THERE THIS WHOLE TIME.
Then Nehemia collapses (presumably from the strain of whatever magic she was working; I really wish we knew what she’d been up to during all this), and Celaena’s too giddy with triumph and the (rather shocky) giggles to give Nehemia’s alarming blackout a second thought. Besties!
POV hop! Dorian sends for a healer to see to the bloody mess with perfect hair that is Celaena. That accomplished, he returns to his typical pastime: ANGST. “Woe, I should have done something to help her,” he thinks. “Alas, who could be so cruel as to drug her?”
And suddenly the point of view gets wonky:
Carefully putting his arms around Celaena, Dorian glanced toward Kaltain and Perrington. In doing so, he missed the look exchanged between Cain and his father. The soldier pulled out his dagger.
But Chaol saw. Cain raised his dagger to strike the girl in the back.
Without thinking, without understanding, Chaol leapt between them and plunged his sword through Cain’s heart.
Until now, all the POV hops (as far as I can recall) have been marked with a section break. Not this one.
But on to Chaol’s heroic act: I can believe Chaol might leap into action instinctively upon seeing Celaena and Dorian in danger (“without thinking”), but what’s this “without understanding” thing? If he didn’t understand that they’re in danger, why does he kill Cain? Or does he not understand what he himself is doing—in which case, what the hell?
When it was over and Cain’s eyes stopped seeing him, Chaol’s sword clattered to the ground. He dropped to his knees beside Cain, but didn’t touch him. What had he done?
Chaol couldn’t stop staring at his blood-soaked hands. He’d killed him.
Oh my god, Chaol, get a grip.
Two guards helped lift him up, but Chaol could only stare at his bloody hands as they helped him away.
You just protected two innocent people (whom you care about, and one of whom is the crown prince you’ve sworn to protect) from the guy who’s about to murder them. Why are you acting like you just killed a cherub-faced toddler? I swear to god you are the worst Captain of the Royal Guard in the history of Captains of the Royal Guard.
Our precious baby Chaol is ushered off by his wetnurses, and the POV shifts weirdly back to Dorian, who’s gazing at a weirdly distraught Celaena:
She trembled so badly that her wounds leaked further. “He shouldn’t have killed him . . . Now he—he . . . “
He what? He did you the favor of saving your life, and silencing the villain who could’ve spilled the secrets of your identity and the active power of the Wyrdmarks? Yes, sounds horrible. Chaol definitely shouldn’t have done that.
Dorian just kisses her gleaming beautiful golden hair and angsts about stuff: her glowing forehead mark, the stuff Cain said about her parents, how awful he himself is for not helping her, etc., yawn.
Then, as he’s carrying her to her rooms:
He was done with politics and intrigue. He loved her, and no empire, no king, and no earthly fear would keep him from her. No, if they tried to take her from him, he’d rip the world apart with his bare hands. And for some reason, that didn’t terrify him.
It’s been a few chapters since you last flip-flopped on your Should I Claim Celaena Or Not quandary, so this renewed determination doesn’t come as a surprise.
But sorry, kid, as done as you might be with politics, politics isn’t done with you. You can’t just ditch your crown because a hot girl got beaten up in front of you, thus making you realize (for the, what, sixth time?) that your life is meaningless without her.
Maybe it’s because I’m past the teenage love-is-everything phase of my life, but Dorian’s willingness to ditch his kingdom and his people—leaving them to suffer under his father’s (and his Clearly Gonna Be Evil little brother’s) rule—makes him less attractive, not more. Especially when he’s willing to “rip the world apart with his bare hands” if someone tries to take her from him, and he hasn’t even confirmed that she wants him in the first place.
So put it back in your pants and step away from the girl, Dorian.
POV hop! Kaltain is super displeased with how the show went down, and that displeasure morphs into rage when she feels a stab of excruciating pain in her head. Who wants to bet Perrington’s causing both her pain and her rage with his nifty black ring?
She stomps up to Perrington and hisses at him that his plan failed, that the poison he gave her to give to Celaena clearly didn’t work—and uh oh, she’s losing control of herself, speaking louder and louder. And uh oh, Perrington feigns surprise at her confession of poisoning Celaena. Guess who’s being thrown under the bus.
Realizing she’s being screwed, she starts screaming in a distinctly un-Kaltain-like fashion, begging the king to believe that the duke had set her up, then informing the duke that she’ll murder him so hard for this.
The king ignores her, and we’re left wondering if (a) he really was involved in the poisoning all along, as Perrington had claimed, or (b) he didn’t know about the poisoning, but isn’t surprised Perrington would try it, and ultimately doesn’t care because they’re bros.
The chapter closes on a somber note, with our beloved Kaltain dragged off to prison and her noble aspirations fairly well ruined.
We’re told Celaena’s A Total Badass: 4
Celaena proves she’s A Total Badass: 0
Someone fails at their job: 3
I hope this isn’t the last we see of Kaltain in this book; she deserves a better exit than this.
Also: am I the only one who thinks the pacing is weird here? The book’s climax (our heroine’s triumph) is achieved within the first page, and the entire rest of the chapter is devoted to the secondary characters’ issues (Chaol’s delicate babyhood, Dorian’s teen love, Kaltain’s thwarted ambitions). Couldn’t we have seen Celaena’s triumph at the end of the last chapter? As it stands, this structure diminishes the excitement and relief of her success; it buries the climax under the comparatively boring struggles of the comparatively unimportant characters. What a weird choice.