The Series Series: Throne Of Glass By Sarah J. Maas

You know how like, when you’re at a house party and it’s late and someone says “let’s order pizza!” and you say, “YEAH!” And then you’re psyched because you’re going to get pizza but then they ordered Dominos, and you eat a slice and think, “Dominos is better than I remembered,” because you’ve really been craving pizza, but then you get a second slice and remember that Dominos is a pale imitation of pizza?

That’s sort of what happened with me while I was reading Throne Of Glass. 

I miss Westeros so much you guys, that I was overlooking the uh, less than great-ness, of parts of this series, because it shares some, well, stuff in common with A Song Of Ice And Fire and Game Of Thrones.

Namely, an exiled fire queen with a prophecy on her head and a tendency to burn her enemies.

That said, there’s a lot to like about Throne Of Glass on it’s own and I did like it. Let’s dig in.

The Books

Throne Of Glass

Crown Of Midnight

Heir Of Fire

Queen Of Shadows

Empire Of Storms

Tower Of Dawn

Kingdom Of Ash

The Author

Sarah J. Maas began writing Throne Of Glass as a teenager on Fictionpress before the series was picked up to be published conventionally, which is pretty damn cool. She was inspired by epic fantasy and apparently by Disney princesses which means I bet we’d get along pretty well. (Hey Sarah! Call me!) Since Throne Of Glass she’s written two more series, which I haven’t decided if I have the bandwith to pick up.

Series Structure

Seven books which tell the story of assassin Celaena Sardothien, who is really Queen Aelin Galythenius and her quest to regain her throne and destroy a great evil that is threatening her world. What I thought was most interesting about this series is the way it develops. It clearly started in a world where Harry Potter and The Hunger Games ruled in genre stories. There’s an oddly biased love triangle, a rigged contest, a magical castle with mysteries to solve, but by book three, the wind had changed in what fantasy held sway, and suddenly, a fire queen, sexy sex, beheadings galore and more characters you could really keep track of if you have a normal person brain ruled the day, and the series moved in a completely different direction.

It’s frankly, completely fascinating to behold the shift, and Maas pulls it off for the most part.

Themes

Legacy, I guess? Also letting go of the past to build the future. There’s a lot of both of those things, which are fun themes to explore. There’s also some shades of choosing light and life rather than giving into despair, but that’s pretty boilerplate for this sort of thing.

Favorite Book

My god, I loved Heir Of Fire, which shows Celaena/Aelin off in a Faerie realm with the Male who would become her mate, Rowan, (it is complicated) while her dueling would be lovers from the first two books, Prince Dorian and Captain Chaol Westfall realize they are in over their heads in their homeland, and that something is definitely up with Dorian’s father. It has a third act twist that gut punched me in a way I haven’t felt since The Red Wedding (though it is not as good, but it’s as brutal and out of nowhere)

Least Favorite Book

I do not like Throne Of Glass, which means, if it weren’t for this project of finishing what I start, I probably would not have continued. I’m glad that I did, because the series is pretty rewarding if a bit much in places. Maas’s sex writing in particular is very repetitive. At one point she’s got Dorian fucking a witch with ACTUAL IRON where humans have Keratin and the most she can do is put her on top? Come on lady! Show some creativity.

Favorite Character

Manon Blackbeak is a 500 year old witch of two royal lines who gets Spiked like YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE (To “Spike” a character is to have them begin as a very fun secondary antagonist and eventually become the best of the good guys and the problematic lover of one of the heroes. Origin – Buffy The Vampire Slayer) She’s also a military genius, and executes two of my favorite tropes ever, a character who rejected connection learning that love is not weakness, and calling the cavalry when all seems lost.

Also, she just rules.

Reread Possibilities

I really enjoyed the series, but part of what I enjoyed were the twists and turns and “WTF?” moments. I don’t think it would hold up on a reread, and frankly, it’s too long to reread without love, which, I liked and admired it a lot, but I didn’t love it.

Next up will be The Great Libary series by Rachel Caine, although it might be a bit though because there’s a scene in Kingdom Of Ash where Aelin is falling through multiple world that made my heart call out for yet another world.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and The Gunslinger followed…”

I half expected her to have to have a conversation with That Fucking Turtle. 

The Series Series: The Bone Witch Trilogy by Rin Chupeco

We aren’t supposed to judge books by their covers but the cover of The Bone Witch looks like THIS:

The Bone Witch

So…yeah. That’s that.

The Books

The Bone Witch

The Heart Forger

The Shadowglass

The Author

Rin Chupeco began her career as a technical writer who was obsessed with horror and fairytales and now blends them together.

I will be reading everything she’s every written, because I loved this series. Did I give away the end of this blog? Seriously though, this was a delight.

Series Structure

This is a trilogy, three books that tell the story of Tea Pahlahvi, a Bone Witch or Dark Asha, magic users who’s role in society feels like something in between university professors and geisha, in the society of 8 kingdoms in the book. Tea’s power allows her to raise the dead as well as commune and subdue legendary creatures known as daeva that often threaten her world.

The story alternates between Tea’s telling her own story and a bard (who is more than he seems) who she has engaged to tell it for you. Tea has done terrible things and she is ready to reshape the world, if she has the strength to do it.

Themes

Oh there’s a lot at work here, responsibility, accountability, civil inequality, the redeeming properties of true love (and all true love, not just romantic.)

Favorite Book

It’s probably The Heartforger although The Shadow Glass grew on me as it went along. But I devoured The Heartforger which answered a lot of questions and mysteries from the first book and did actually have me thinking that we were watching the birth of a supervillain. (We weren’t, but in the interest of spoilers, I won’t elaborate)

Least Favorite Book

The Bone Witch was lovely and sucked me into the world, but Chupeco has a lot of world building and character introduction to do. This is where the two timelines and narrators came into play as important. I wanted to know how Tea got to where she was in the flash forward sections, so I was willing to get through, “This is how I found out about my powers, this was my training” even when I wasn’t overly invested

Favorite Character

There are, alas, not direct pop culture paralells this time around for me to default into love, but I was deeply fond of Tea’s great True Love, Kalen. He’s a stalwart captain of the guard type…he uh, reminds me of someone…a little…can’t put my finger on it…anyway.

Reread Possibilities

I don’t know that I’ll reread this, but I’m not opposed to it. I very much enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to Chupeco’s other work, but I don’t know that I’d pick up this series again.

Our next series will be Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, I’m already halfway through it. Waiting on Book 5.

The Lady Of Winterfell

It’s been a year, am I allowed to talk about Game Of Thrones again? I know we were supposed to chuck it into the ocean and never look back, but I can’t do that.

Because I think about Sansa Stark a lot.

I grew up reading fantasy. I loved it. I’ve always loved it, but there were never girls I related to in those fantasies. If there were girls, they hated being girls, or what was interesting about them was that they rejected the world of girls. There was Alanna, there was Eowyn, there was Leia. Or they were romantic heroines, which I loved but wanted more. The flip side of that coin was Belle, Ariel, Cinderella.

There weren’t girls like Sansa. Girls who wore their femininity in all it’s power as armor. Girls who used embroidery and marriage and the selfish love of the men around them as weapons. Girls who loved their families and wanted handsome princes to come save them but when those dreams shattered didn’t cower but fought, not in battles but in the ways they understood.

I think about Sansa Stark a lot. I think about how she got into my blood and mind. And in the past few years, as I’ve let the floodgates open to more and more fantasy I see that I couldn’t have been the only girl who hungered for that. Because there are these books now, you see, these books written by women around my age, filled with girls. Some who are like Alanna, Eowyn, Leia, who put on armor and pick up swords and fight alongside men. Some like Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, who long for true love and princes. And there are so many Sansas.

So many girls who fit into their world of privelege and beauty and when it’s hollowness was revealed, didn’t reject it, didn’t say, “there’s nothing here,” didn’t see the other women held by it as stupid, shallow or weak, instead took those things and made them the tools of their fight.

Yesterday I finished Queen Of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne Of Glass series. It’s going to be a while before I finish this series, because I’m waiting on Empire Of Storms and I’m the eight person in line for 5 copies at my library. But Sarah J. Maas’s series is full of Sansas. I had trouble getting into it because the lead, isn’t, and my GOD does this girl hate other women at the beginning of her journey. And that begins to unravel, slowly as the series progresses.

“I’m not like other girls,” is a hell of a drug. I’ve never understood it. I’ve always loved other girls and women, but it’s a really hard thing to kick in society that tells us that there’s no room for us to be who we are. But I’m so grateful to see that it is starting to shift.

I think about Sansa Stark a lot. I think about how overjoyed I was to find her eight years ago. I think about how she got an ending full of justice and triumph without ever compromising who she was.

I think about Sansa Stark and I cry, because she exists, in print and on TV for girls like me to find, and know they aren’t wrong or weak or stupid. There is space for them in these stories. And oh that matters so much.

60 Books in 2019 #55: Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer To The Crown has a lot in common with Jonathan Strange And Mr. Norrell, at least superficially. It’s about magic as a science and field of study in mid 1800s England, it’s about a reluctant practicitioner getting in over his head with Fairy kind (in this case dragons) and it’s about the way the British Empire steamrolled history and people who weren’t upper middle class white men. (In this case the two main sorcerers are African children transported to England as babies.)

The book examines colonialism through magic, which is cool, and has dragons, which is cooler, and a sort of Jane Austen style slow burn romance between said sorcerer Zachariah Wythe, and his young student Prunella Gentleman.

You’d think I’d have liked it more, but for some reason the book just didn’t absorb me. I don’t know why, but I had a lot of trouble reading more than 20 pages at a time for this one, which made for slow going. (Which is why I haven’t read anything else in a bit.) It’s well written but it just didn’t grab me.

Anyway, we’re nearing the end here. Up next, I’m not sure, actually, I am, but it’s rereading, which doesn’t count towards this goal. (But it’s been 3 weeks and I’ve been staring at Watchmen…I need to read it again, folks. I just need to. Also, His Dark Materials.) 

60 Books In 2019 #53 & 54: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins & Murder On The Rockport Limited by Clint, Griffin, Justin & Travis McElroy & Carey Pietsch

I’ve got a new (ish) Shibboleth when I’m around fellow nerdy people. Once you get past your standards (What’s your house? Marvel or DC? Wars or Trek?), you suss out if someone is a podcast person, and then, “Do you McElroy at all?”

I’ve decided to turn McElroy into a verb because it’s easier than running down the list of the good good podcasts, from these good nice boys and their various relatives. I McElroy pretty hard, I listen to all the podcasts, and have watched the TV show a few times and I listen to the spin off Smirl Girl podcasts. I was late to The Adventure Zone even by my standards and I’m still making my way through the Balance arc, but I decided to pick up the two (so far) graphic novels based on the podcast which is just the boys playing Dungeons And Dragons with their dad.

It’s not for everyone. I mean, if you’re allergic to JOY you might not enjoy the McElroy brand. Not but really, it’s absurdly silly stuff, where Taako, The Elf Wizard (from TV), Merle The Dwarf Cleric (Devotee of Pan), and Magnus The Human Fighter (Rushes in), go on magical adventures for The Bureau of Balance retrieving artifacts of great power.

But mostly they mess it up, and make dumb jokes, and make Griffin, their dungeon master and best friend sigh in exasperation. I was nervous if the graphic novel would live up to the slightly structured silliness of the podcast and it really did. It’s also so correct that Carey Pietsch’s art seems almost childlike, or at least like a children’s book, brightly colored and thick lined and full of whimsy.

Seriously, if you like the podcast (or want a slightly less time consuming introduction to those Good Nice McElroy boys) check it out.

I know I was supposed to be reading Cavendon Hall but here’s the deal, the book was not particularly well written and had a rape in the first 20 pages. I got too much stuff I want to read to be subjecting myself to poorly written historical fiction with rapes in it!

Up next is Doctor Sleep because we’re halfway through October and I want some ghosts damn it!

60 Books in 2019 #32: The Bird King By G. Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson was one of those amazing women who I found smiling with their arms wide open as I allowed myself to pass through gates of fandom. She and Sana Amanat gave us Kamala Khan, and thank God for it. So when I noticed The Bird King sitting casually in the New Releases section of my library I snatched it quickly off the shelf.

The first hundred or so pages of the book play out as an engrossing bit of historical fiction (with hints at magical realism), Fatima is a concubine in the household of the last Sultan of Grenada, as Queen Isabella’s armies close in on the city. Fatima is beautiful, willful, a bit naive and very sad. She’s friend with Hassan, the royal mapmaker, who’s talents are possibly more than they seem, and who enjoys the company of men.

When Isabella sends diplomats to treat for peace, Fatima and Hassan find themselves in the crosshairs of Baronesa Luz, who’s the representative of The Inquisition. (As a Catholic, the Inquisition always makes me shudder, one of the darkest of the dark chapters of the faith I love so much. And there are a lot of them.) She learns of Hassan and part of the peace treaty is handing him over as a sorcerer, Fatima risks her own life and comfort to get him out of the palace, and on their way out, they encounter Vikram, a jinn, and then the world cracks wide open.

As the pair run for their lives, they remember a legend of a hidden island, where the King Of Birds lives, and make that their destination. Hassan draws the map and their quest begins.

Hidden magical islands are a wonderful dreamy part of mythology that seem to always persist, and as it turns out, Fatima and Hassan’s island is all of them at once. And the legends that surround it are all true, and the ending twist is such a wonder that I can’t give it away here.

I’ve reiterated a hundred times that I love stories about stories, and I love religious discussion about why faith is how it is even more than that. Wilson is a Muslim and everytime I read her writing about devotion it touches my heart. The Bird King often reads like a love letter to God, to the God who I’ve felt wrap me up in warmth and love more times than I can remember. But it’s also about stories and the ways that cultures take the same stories and change them, and the way that truth and fact aren’t always the same.

I really, really liked this book, but it’s a slow starter, be warned. But once it opens up, it’s beautiful.

Up next is I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through The TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum. More television criticism! I’m going to pick up these books whenever I find them. That’s for sure.

Game Of Thrones Winner: “The Long Night”

What’s been nice this year, is that there are very clear winners. I mean super clear.

This week’s winner is Arya Stark.

She killed the Night King, to save her brother. It was amazing. And this was after she survived the Westerosi version of the kitchen scene from Jurrasic Park. (This is not a criticism btw. I’m a big big fan of that scene, and think it’s a great suspense build, so copying it isn’t the worst thing you can do), and then having a chat with Melisandre, and remembering what we say to the God of Death. (I can do this all day? Sorry you guys, I’m in the fog of where my obsession is the hammer where every criticism looks like an Avengers themed nail.)

So Congrats Arya Stark. You are definitely the best Stark this week. (I mean, it wasn’t sacrificing your happy ending to save the universe. But it was good.) (Guys, I’m totally fine.)

Runner Up was Theon. To quote my sister, “he took NAMES in the Godswood.”

Sansa Agency Watch

Uh, she hid in crypt. But she also killed some zombies, and Tyrion kissed her. Look of her two terrible dysfunctional marriages, Tyrion is definitely the keeper. Which, even he admitted is kind of sad.

Arya Badass Watch

Arya killed the Night King. Hooray!

Bran Stark’s Excellent Adventure

Warged into some crows, got the Night King into Winterfell, this was all fine. I’m just kinda over Bran.

#NotAStark #NotABastard

Did, did Jon, do anything this episode besides get a dragon killed? I don’t think he did. Anyway, Jon got a dragon killed. Way to totally SUCK Jon. (You want to know who didn’t get a dragon killed? Steve Mother Fucking Rogers that’s who! He is worthy and wielded Mjolnir. Have you ever wielded Mjolnir Jon Goddamned Snow?) (Turns out the dragon didn’t die? But Jon was still sucky this week. I stand by that.)

Sam Is A Ravenclaw

Sam did a lot of running around looking panicked.

Who died?

Jorah, Theon, a bunch of Dorthraki, Beric, Lyanna Mormont (went out like a boss though!). But let’s talk about Jorah for a minute here, who’s death did get me. Mostly Dany weeping over his body, but the fact that he died for Dany was incredibly powerful. It was how he always had to end.

On A Scale Of Aragorn’s Speech Before The Gates Of Mordor To Sansa Being Raped While Theon Watches How LOTR Was This Episode?

It was like if The Battle At Helm’s Deep was fought right after The Battle Of The Blackwater. So like not super LOTR no.

 

60 Books In 2019 #14: A Wizard Of Earthsea By Ursula K. LeGuin

Last year when I read Dune I noted that one of the things that I loved about reading it was seeing where it’s DNA had landed in other stories that I loves. Turned out, it was you know, everywhere. 

A Wizard Of Earthsea was very much the same. I knew that the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender had credited it with the inspiration for their magic system (which is one of my favorite magic systems, btw), and I saw a lot of that here, but there were so many small moments that made me giggle, as I’ve seen them pop up other places. Ged’s admission to the tower to learn magic mirrored Quentin’s in The Magicians, (A book I don’t like very much, but has moments I really love, and that’s one of them!) his journey matching countless growing up and aways I’ve read and watched before. His begrudging love of his mysterious mentor also feels, you know familiar.

But where LeGuin’s work shines, to me isn’t in the world building and characters, although they’re pretty good. It’s that this story feels old. The chapters and episodes feel pulled out of Mort D’Arthur or Idylls Of The King. They’re straightforward and poetic, and lyrical and dreamy. A Wizard Of Earthsea feels like it’s always been with us, which is I think kind of what she was trying to do?

I’m glad to be back on track with my reading, and since I’ve had trouble connecting with my reading material lately, it felt really comforting to find this book, which, truly felt like something I’d read before, but new at the same time. Not rereading is a bit of a challenge for me, I usually check in with my favorites over the course of a year, and losing that comfort is, you know, tricky sometimes. It’s good, because I’m pushing into the new, and finding new books to love and cherish. This is one such book. I’ll be back in Earthsea, I think, again, it’s a series, and also it’s YA, which means the reading isn’t hard.

Up next is The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice.

YAAAASSSS, my favorite vampire’s story being told at long last!

60 Books In 2019 #13: The Killing Moon By N. K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon is rich, interesting, compulsively readable, and full of the kind of things I love about fantasy fiction.

It has an interesting magic system, a Prince who is really a monster, wise and interesting women and a couple of queer dudes. I really couldn’t ask for more except that I’m so tired of new fantasy worlds right now that it took far too long to read this wonderful book.

Jemisin is a fabulous writer, even as I only had patience for ten pages here and there, I was in awe of her prose, over how propulsive and engrossing the plot was, how intriguing the main characters and mystery.

This is the first book in a series and of the three I’ve started this year, it’s the one that I’m most eager to pick up the second part of, which is saying a lot, as I also really enjoyed Throne Of Glass, as you’ll recall.

This is a short review, because the book didn’t blow me away and I took too long to read it, so I don’t have a lot of through line thoughts on it, but it’s a well written piece of fiction and I’m eager to learn more. So…yay?

Up next I take on YET ANOTHER new fantasy world, when I dive into A Wizard Of Earthsea.

60 Books In 2019 #11: The Queens Of Innis Lear By Tessa Gratton

There have been a few moments in my life when I thought “maybe I read too much.” And when I read the book jacket for The Queens Of Innis Lear and realized that it was a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear but using the story structure made popular in fantasy fiction by a certain bearded fellow in Arizona who’s got a thing for dragons and twincest, and I audibly gasped and maybe danced a little jig, because that sounds awesome, was one of them.

That thought didn’t stop me from picking up Tessa Gratton’s book though. And as I read through her take on the story I was giddy. Her three sisters, Gaela (Goneril), Regan, (Uh, Reagan) and Elia (Cordelia), all maintain their characters from the play while being given new wrinkles and motivations and loves and hates.

This is a very good book, that I loved very much, enough to revisit my least favorite of the big ass end of life melodramas in The Folio. (My rankings go: Macbeth, Tempest, Lear.)  I want to live in this book. I want to learn this magic, which is deep and Celtic and land based and rooted in blood and matriarchy and sisterhood.

Gaela made herself a warrior, and used magic to make herself sterile in hopes of seizing her father’s crown like a man. Regan, wanted only to be a mother but couldn’t carry a child to term and clung to her older sister after her own mother’s death. Elia always felt pushed aside by her sisters, so was devoted to her father. Her sisters resented this and those resentments curdled. As they father nears death and asks for them to prove who loves him best, their world explodes.

Gratton is beholden to the story we all know, but she doesn’t cleave to it. The best Shakespeare retellings don’t. She uses the play and twists it’s workings to her purpose. Funny, how I said after A Throne Of Glass that I wanted a break from fantasy worlds, and then immediately dove right into one that I fell madly in love with.

Up next is more fantasy! (Like I said, I have some books out of the library, so I’m stuck at the moment…) Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. The internet went bonkers about this book when it came out a few weeks ago, and I have to admit it will be fun to get into a fantasy series at the beginning and then wait a decade for another book and whine with everyone. (I’m sure Mr. James has a plan it’s just, how I’ve observed these things going.)