2017 in Review

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With 2017 ready to bow out and 2018 coming to invade, I think I can honestly say that this past year was a good one.

Personally, and I’ll keep it short since this blog is mostly about my hobbies, was pretty good. The wife and I bought a big dumb house (hooray mortgage) that we pretty much redid (painting really blows). The big dog ended up having heartworms, so yeah, that was fun. While the little one had to get gnarly teeth pulled. Other than spending a metric shit ton of money this year, all in all, it went swimmingly. Oh, and I added to my anime-inspired tattoo sleeve – added Castle in the Sky and Princess Mononoke to my Cowboy Bebop. Next up: Neon Genesis Evangelion.

I’ll leave my writing for the last since that’ll be the longest. In terms of my other hobbies I tend to blog about – I’ve seen/read some badass things this year. From movies to TV shows to books, I can say with aplomb this year was excellent. Now I know that I should have done some more blogs this year about all of the things aforementioned, but sometimes I didn’t want to spoil things (aka The Last Jedi, Stranger Things 2). So I might do a post about them this coming year.

I have a new favorite show: The 100. I seriously don’t know how I missed it until this year, probably the whole YA/CW stigma. But damn, this show is amazing and gets better with each season. One of my other favorite shows, Halt and Catch Fire, ended this year and I am super sadface. I will say that this season was stunning and one character’s death was probably the most well done TV death I have ever seen. Just beautiful. Emotional.

I’d have to say IT was probably the single best movie I saw all year. It (pun intended) was just perfect. It had everything – tension, drama, scares, humor, teenage angst. I just flat out loved it from start to finish. I’ll stand by it, but I loved The Last Jedi (come fight me bro). TLJ really flipped the Star Wars world on its collective head and I loved every minute of it. OK not every minute because that one scene with that one character (we all know what I’m talking about) was very cheesy. And I don’t care if people hate it, I loved it. It’s no Empire, but definitely up there with the best of them. Some of my other top films seen this year were VVitch, Thor: Ragnarok, and Blade Runner 2049.

This year, my goal was to read 30 books. While I didn’t reach that goal, I did finish with a respectable 27.5 (still reading that other half but won’t finish prior to year end). A few of those books were rereads (Elantris, Watership Down, Voyage of Jerle Shannara) but most were brand new. Majority of them were fantasy, but I did dip my toe into YA this year (more on that later). A couple of them are beta reads for critique partners, but I’m counting those because they are full manuscripts. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t been published because someone took the great effort to write them (both were excellent btw). I’d say Blood Song and Nevernight were the top two new books read this year. I will admit, I had to put down three others due to first person POV, I just have such a hard time with 1st person. So hard.

Now to the meat of this year end review – my own writing.

2017 was illuminating for a multitude of reasons. I know I don’t know shit, but I feel like this year really helped clean the muck off so to speak. At the tail end of 2016, I worked with an agent/editor on my passion project. After he lovingly tore it apart, I truly came to understand what the story needed to become – albeit to a point. I spent years writing this thing and in one fell swoop, I learned my story was trite and boring. Overdone. It was disheartening to hear it. But ever the optimist (hey I’m a Chicago Cubs fan so back off) I set my mind to fixing this story of Brynn and Hunter, vengeance v. duty of faith. Long story short, I thought I fixed this story. But I was wrong.

Something just didn’t feel right about it. I changed many things: the setting, the religion, the magic system, points of view. But it still didn’t feel complete. And then I went to my first writer’s conference. Though I grew up in the shadow of Chicago, there really wasn’t a huge writing fellowship, a group of fellow writers. Twitter has really helped grow my world in that manner, but the big thing was moving to Texas. The Writers League of Texas is amazing. I won’t stroke the ego anymore than this, but joining the WLT has been a boon. And their annual conference really helped a ton. I met some great writer friends and had some interesting ideas pop into my head.

You know how they always say you should listen to your wife, well in this case, I should have. Even though she hasn’t read much of my writing (waiting until I’m satisfied with the story) she has always said my style is very YA. So after hearing this and talking about my story at the conference, I came to the revelation it should be YA. I did the edits, toned things down, de-aged the characters, all the fun YA stuff. The story really did pop more. But, I still wasn’t comfortable with it.

I know YA is trending toward more adult themes like sex and violence, but even with toning the story down, it didn’t feel right. I have a creepy sick villain and he had to be taken out in the YA version. That didn’t sit well with me. My main character, Brynn, likes to swear (same with a sky pirate). I didn’t want to lose all of that. But I tried. So I ended up taking the darker parts/characters/plots out and went to put that into a separate book. Nearly finished with that book. But always in the back of my noggin was the original plan for my trilogy. I couldn’t shake it.

And then came the true enlightenment. And it came while playing Final Fantasy IX (of all things).

If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing that game, I highly suggest it. The reason that game inspired me was the whole package it contains – humor, tragedy, tension, rage, friendship, love, idea of self, fast pacing, darkness. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is my story contains all of that. Yes, I tend to write more YA, but the story has to have that darkness to it, that grimness. It has to be dense, fully fleshed out, the world-building has to be adult level. But that doesn’t mean my YA writing can’t fit into that mold. They can co-exist. And then I remembered something that agent/editor said to me – I can write different characters or scenes using different genres. For example, my main characters of Brynn and Hunter can stay more YA style. It fits them. It always has. Minus the swearing by Brynn. My soldier character is definitely grimdark. He sees so much violence, commits violence and has a bleak outlook on life, wavering confidence in his honor. My villain was written to be more like a horror character, especially because he deals with the supernatural. Top it off, I changed the setting again, took the premise of my magic system from a separate WIP, changed some POVs, took out a YA character and gave her a complete separate story. Now I think I’m finally satisfied on where the story sits.

To put all that into perspective, none of this would have come about if I didn’t open myself up to other writers. I have 4 excellent CPs. One (Amanda) I met at the conference, and the other 3 (Claire, Lana, Dewey) via Twitter. What has really helped me the most is by reading their stories. Amanda writes YA fantasy about mermaids and Atlantis. Lana about Slavic mythology and witches (in YA first person no less). Dewey writes Middle Grade adventure/fantasy. And Claire does YA fantasy/sci-fi. Out of all four of them, Claire’s stories are the ones I would veer toward normally. And that is the beauty of having CPs. I’m getting a chance to broaden my horizons, read different types of stories and viewing them in a different mindset than just plan ole reading them. Working with CPs gives the opportunity to read someone else’s story, but also provide constructive feedback, in addition to receiving it. Seeing these other genres/stories has opened my eyes to what my own story is missing. The ideas just won’t stop. I even bring a critical eye to published authors works, see what they did, how it works. It has been amazing to have this transformation and it has really set me up for success that I didn’t have in the past.

Also, even if they don’t read this, I really just wanted to give a massive shout-out to Amanda, Claire, Lana, and Dewey! Thank you all!

Even though my goal for 2017 was to get on the path to publication, I think I can say I achieved it. Sure I haven’t scored an agent, but damn, they would’ve had a shitty story. I know that what I learned this year has set me up for success this coming year. My goal for 2018 is to land that agent. Without all the growth this year, I know it never would have happened.

Bring on 2018!

What I’ve Seen: Dark

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Dark, a ten episode Netflix Original Series from Germany.

Brief Summary:

In 2019 a man hangs himself, leaving his son a letter to not be opened until after a specific time and date. The son, after a few traumatizing months in the nuthouse, returns home and heads to school to meet his friends. The same week a boy goes missing. Oh, and this town lives in the shadows of a power plant. When the son and his friends go to the caves where the boy’s drugs are, the youngest of the group disappears. The families are fractured and the search for the missing children unfolds, not where, but when…

What works:

Aside from the obligatory Stranger Things missing boy & weird town vibe/comparison, what really makes Dark amazing is the cinematography and the camera work. This town is eerie as sin and everything within it is creepy. The drone shots of the forest and the cave that is the crux of the story is beautiful, but also dour. The music hits all the creep factors at the correct moments. The constant rain. The setting really is the outstanding character for this series.

That said, I loved the characters – all three timelines worth! (Get to that in a moment) These characters, kids to adults, are so layered, so broken, so normal, so beaten its amazing. There is so much drama, that I hated then loved characters from episode to episode. I yelled at them for their actions, like literally yelled at the screen. Sighed heavily at decisions. That is what makes great TV! Each actor was great, even the minor side characters. The casting was spot on and each actor/actress nailed their roles.

Sidenote, I watched the German version with subtitles, I would suggest doing the same. I personally hate dubs but I think you truly lose the heart of the story if you don’t have it in German.

Holy crap how amazing was the time-travel aspect of this show? I mean it was simply awesome! The fact the show was such a sllllllllloooooooooooooooow build really helped it. You have mysterious strangers knowing things, three timelines, missing children, murders. All across 66 years. Like serious cyclical events happening. It was just downright great, I don’t know how the writers kept their stuff together, but it was flawless. As a viewer, we didn’t know what the heck was going on, which made the mystery all that more gratifying to follow. Even all three timelines (2019, 1986, 1953) had their unique aesthetic to them, just great stuff all around.

One more note on the slow burn aspect. I know most people, especially in the current era, we want instant gratification. We expect to know things quickly. But I thought the slow burn approach to this story was the perfect route to take. When the man hanged himself and left the note, the viewer doesn’t know what’s in it until episode three. That made the mystery worth it. Then we learn the truth about the time-travel, wow. That wouldn’t work if it all happened in the first episode. The luster would have been worn off.

This part might turn off viewers, but I absolutely adored the ending. Even if Netflix doesn’t make a second season, I think the ending was perfect. It doesn’t matter if there are so many cliffhangers, I think that was the point. I want to know who Noah is, what’s with the chair, what he says to Bartosz, when did Jonas go, does Ulrich get back to 2019? Like those are all important questions left open, but the point of the story was the cyclical nature of time. Is there fate or predetermination? Can we change that? Those are the basic questions asked by the show. I think the ending left it open for viewer interpretation and that, in my humble opinion, is brilliant!

What doesn’t work:

Really the one thing that is a bit flawed about this show is the giant cast of characters. Since it is only ten episodes, some characters get lost in the shuffle and their plots are weak (aka older emo son and rebel daughter). The problem is with three timelines and all these characters at different ages, juggling all of them is hard to do. Yes, the show did a great casting job that it is easy to see the transition of who is who over the time periods (moles, destroyed ears, other character traits), but there are so many characters to remember that it can be tough. It never would work if it was a weekly regular TV show.

My only other qualm is there were times when characters kept secrets from others. So the cheating part of Ulrich’s plot was fine. The cop and her husband’s marriage due to the husband’s gay preferences was fine. Those secrets are great story-telling. But there were times when the cop and Ulrich had info that could help solve each other’s case but they danced around the subject and didn’t say what they knew. I get it for drama aspects, but after a few times, it grew annoying. Like just tell them!

Rating:

5 out of 5.

This show was fantastic. Every episode drew me further and further into this world and I didn’t want it to end. I can be happy with the ending if it stays this way. But I also want more! It was dark (intended), layered, genre-bending. I loved it, nothing more can be said about it.

What I’ve Read: Nevernight

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Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Brief Summary:

In a world of three suns where only true darkness happens every two years, a young girl – a child of a failed rebellion – makes her first kill in order to join the fabled Red Church – an assassin school. Once she gets to the school, she trains to become a member of the church. Mia, the girl, also possesses a mysterious companion – a non-cat shadow that allows her to use the power of the Dark. She has three reasons to succeed – three deaths responsible for her father’s hanging. Along the way a plot of capture the leaders of the Red Church unfolds and only Mia can stop it.

What works:

Let’s start with the beginning – it is f*cking brilliant! The first chapter starts as a flashback, but really only a short time before the actual start of the chapter. Let’s just say that I have never read a better first chapter. The bottom line, for Mia to join the Red Church, she has to kill someone. Now, normally, this might be trite, but the way Mr. Kristoff does it is ingenious. The flashback is how Mia decides to lose her virginity because she doesn’t know if she will live the attempted murder. The poetic way in which the sexual scene plays out is the exact same wording as when she murders the hangman of her father. Like literally the exact same pacing & sentence structure (with very few word changes) to invoke a complete different meaning. The reader knows what is happening, but to see it written to mean two different things is amazing. It was such an awesome opening that I don’t know how a better one can start.
She drew a breath, perhaps to speak (but what would she say?) and then there was pain, pain, O, Daughters it hurt. He was inside her – it was inside her – so hard and real she couldn’t help but cry out, biting her lip to muffle the flood.
– He drew a sucking breathing, perhaps to speak (but what could he say?) and she could see it in his eyes – pain, pain, O, Daughters, it hurt. It was inside him – she was inside him – stabbing hard as he tried to cry out, her hand over his mouth to muffle the flood.

Mia Corvere is such a great protagonist. She is not the best at everything, not big, not strong. But she is clever, smart, witty, hilarious, stubborn and downright fun. Normally I don’t like school/training novels, but Mia made it all worthwhile. She really was a great character to follow. Her interaction with the non-cat shadow (named Mister Kindly no less!) was such good banter, and her relationship with Tric was fun too. Best part about Mia is that she doesn’t let the story come to her, she actively plots the course of the story, even in the school setting.

I really loved the world. It has basis in ancient Rome – which is my personal favorite. I love all the background information and worldbuilding Mr. Kristoff does. It is just a really cool world. I also liked the minimal magic systems within it. Yes, Mia has a power, and there are two other cool magic systems, but none of these take the front of the plot. They are really only good additions to the story.

In case you didn’t get it above, I love the vivid wording and age level of this story. Sure most of the characters are teenagers, this world is as dark and gritty as they come. The writing is realistic and doesn’t hold back. Everything is written with great detail. I mean, there are two sex scenes after the first chapter and boy oh boy were they detailed. Dude could seriously write some graphic scenes. But that isn’t just with the sex, but also the violence and the dialogue. Assassins are not roses and gumdrops so I am extremely happy with how dark it all is. One other thing to note on the writing, there are tons upon tons of metaphors and turns of phrase. I can see how some might not like it, but I sure do.

What doesn’t work:

The footnotes. At first, I really enjoyed the footnotes. The narrator was quirky and witty. But then they just basically became info dumps and I ended up skipping them altogether.

For the most part, this story was 3rd person limited POV (nearly all from Mia’s), but there were times when it went into 3rd person omniscient. I hate that when the author bleeds into other characters’ heads without warning then back to another. It gets confusing at times and I’m just not a fan.

This is minor, but I didn’t like how quickly the end plot point was figured out. There weren’t enough hints leading up to it that it kinda felt somewhat “meh” when the conclusion was determined. Almost unearned. Also, the one death that happened at the end was way too undervalued. I just wasn’t a fan how it went down.

Rating:

4 out of 5. I really liked this book overall and think it has the makings of a great trilogy. Excited to get the next installment

What I’ve Read: Ilse Witch

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A re-read (maybe the fifth or sixth) of Ilse Witch, book one of the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara by Terry Brooks

Brief Summary:

As a Wing Rider is doing his daily flights over the Blue Divide, he spots a castaway. Turns out, the castaway was an Elf prince who set out 30 years prior to discover a forgotten magic across the ocean. Blind and mute, the castaway carries a map. When the Druid Walker deciphers the map, he brings together a ragtag team of warriors, magic-users and a young boy with a mysterious past. Using the brand new technology of airships, the group undertakes a long and arduous journey to this long forgotten land. During the journey, the young Bek learns the truth about his ancestry and his undiscovered magic. Chasing them the entire journey is the Ilse Witch, who also has a mysterious past and deep hatred for the Druid. Upon reaching the land that time forgot, the group is attacked by the sentient dweller in the ancient city and become separated.

What works:

Though my first foray into fantasy was Tolkien, Terry Brooks was really the one to fully grab me. I read the original trilogy and the Heritage series in the late 90s, so when this book came out in 2000, I was aching for this series. And it didn’t disappoint (and still doesn’t). The biggest thing about Mr. Brooks is his attention to detail in crafting a story. While I loved individual books in the aforementioned stories, I really didn’t get invested in every single character arc (though after re-reads, I understood them better) until this story. I love every single character POV and care so much about them. This book, this quest, these characters are the exact reason I started forming/writing my own fantasy stories. There is just something so graceful and encouraging in this book/trilogy that I couldn’t help myself for wanting to emulate Mr. Brooks.

The one thing that sets this series apart for me is the expansion of the world. In the original trilogy there is only the most basic of hints this world is the future of Earth. A bit more is expanded in the Heritage series (I’m thinking of you Eldwist!), but this series really hits home that this is our future. I love the journey to Castledown – which is obvious it takes place in Asia (hence the name Parkasia). It really adds a layer of setting and place.

Every time I re-read this series, I find a new character to fall in love with, and that is what makes Mr. Brooks fantastic as a writer in these early series. When I first read it as a teenager, obviously Bek and Quentin were my favorites because they were of a same age to me. Then it became Walker. Now it is Rue and Redden, the Rovers. I always loved Rue because she was an awesome character, but now, I can really see the progression of Mr. Brooks as a writer. In the early stories, only Brin and Wren were main female characters, but they were magic users, family members. They were the ones the story happened to. Not Rue. Rue is not the main character, but her story arc is amazing. She relies on her instincts, her abilities, her charm, her wit. She is a perfect character.

I also love the fact that one of the main characters – with that familial connection – is a villain. It is a true flip of the script. The Ilse Witch is great.

While I really like stories with major plots and scheme, my favorite fantasy trope is the quest. I just love having characters go to someplace unknown and just grow from that. The Druid of Shannara is pretty much one of my favorite fantasy books because of Walker’s journey to the Eldwist. And this trilogy adds another level to an awesome journey story. I absolutely love the journey itself, but also the stuff that happens on said journey – like the growth of Bek, the mystery of the Ilse Witch, who is the spy, what will happen to the group. It is just an overall amazing first book in this trilogy.

What doesn’t work:

While I am a huuuuuuuuuge Terry Brooks fan (I will read the hell out of all his books!), this series starts the formula for all his other books that take place chronologically after this. What I mean is that the same types of characters start to reappear, especially the boy Ohmsford character and the Wishsong. Bek is amazing, but down the road, you see him over and over again, so it really isn’t a blight on this book, but it does set the stage.

The other thing I never noticed before I tried to become a writer myself was the repeating Mr. Brooks tends to do sometimes. For example, every time the characters meet to discuss their plans, every single character is named in that meeting. It happens a lot! And after a few times, it gets somewhat trite. This also happens with catching characters up to speed, many times the same history is repeated.

The biggest thing to me is probably the title. I enjoy how the script is flipped with the Ilse Witch, but really, in the scheme of the trilogy (spoiler), she really isn’t the major focus until book 2 and especially book 3. While book 2 is aptly named, I think book 3 should have been called Ilse Witch. The reason this bugs me is because the Ilse Witch isn’t a major POV character here, and most of the story revolves around the journey from Walker/Bek’s POV. I know it is silly, but I think the title doesn’t fit the story, but if you couldn’t tell, I really love this books so I am somewhat nit-picking here.

Rating:

5 our of 5

Terry Brooks will always be one of my favorite authors and I re-read them quite often to immerse myself in a wonderful story. It is hard for me to rate each book individually because this trilogy is so strong as a whole, there are no let-down books that tend to happen with series. I don’t know how anyone who enjoys fantasy could not love this book (trilogy).

What I’ve Read: Prince of Thorns

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Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, book 1 of the Broken Empire trilogy

Brief Summary:

A young boy (nine) sees his mother and younger brother murdered by one of his father’s (the King) enemies. Once healed, the boy (ten) runs away with a group of merchenaries and becomes their leader. Now fourteen, he aims to return home to become a king. Though his father has other plans for him, sending Jorg on a suicide mission to bring him a great stronghold of an enemy.

What works:

This book isn’t for everyone. Jorg and his companions are definitely not heroes and they definitely aren’t nice. They kill, burn, rape and pillage and sometimes in very graphic detail. At first it was a bit off-putting to say the least. Though once the story fleshes out, it doesn’t seem all that difficult to see why Jorg does what he does. But it still isn’t for everyone.

That said, the way in which Mr. Lawrence writes is superb. I highly dislike first person point of view, but this book demanded it. Jorg is so complex, not being in his head would be a major shame. One thing I really did like (and only after major thought on my part), I loved the voice of the novel. It is set over a thousand years after nuclear destruction, but the limited allusions to that are great. Very little description is used, and I think that works to the story overall. Also, the way in which Jorg describes things is so basic, so stringent on detail, I came to love it.

Another thing I didn’t like at first, but after thought, really came to dig, was the fact characters were killed so quickly. Unlike in Game of Thrones where plots happen and people die, this book had Jorg (mostly) killing characters you just got to know. Some I didn’t see coming and I loved it. I thought it was so daring of the author. Well done, sir.

What didn’t work:

Though Jorg is complex, sometimes I felt like he was too badass, almost like when you play an RPG until your characters are just like God. The dude is 14 years old and he already is a genius, skilled fighter, master manipulator, leader. While cool, I wish there was a bit more build-up to it, not just him having these abilities.

This was a very short book (only 320 pages) and I felt a bit disappointed in the overall plot. I love revenge stories, but there wasn’t a ton of build-up to the end. Further, I wasn’t a total fan of the villain popping up randomly toward the end of the story. Almost a bit of a cheap fake-out.

Rating:

4 out of 5

The best thing about this book is the pace. Yes it is short, yes it is dark, but the pacing is so strong, I didn’t want it to end. The writing, while hard to digest due to the graphic nature, was so well done, it was excellent. It really is a great piece of fantasy.

What I’ve Seen: IT

download (1)  IT by Andy Muschietti

Brief Summary:

Based on the Stephen King novel (and updated to take place in 1988-89), the movie follows seven teenage kids as they are haunted by a strange creature – It. It takes the form of multiple fears for the children: sometimes as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, a Leper, a headless boy, among others. It is an ancient evil that comes back every 27 years to feed, mostly on young children, by use of their fear. After the seven friends – the Losers Club – all realize they have seen the creature, they come together to defeat it.

What works:

One thing Stephen King does well, is create believable friendships of children (see Stand by Me). If you have ever read the book IT, then you know the Losers Club are excellent characters, they feel real, they talk like real friends, you care about them. The 1990 TV miniseries, you didn’t feel that, but in this movie, damn you definitely feel like these kids are actually friends. From the snappy dialogue – boasting and roasting, to the in-fighting of teenage friends, this group feels so realistic, I found myself naming my friends at that age in their roles. The child actors were so into their roles, it didn’t feel forced at all and the movie stood taller because of it.

Pennywise was creepy AF. Tim Curry will always be Pennywise to me, but that is because I was growing up when that TV miniseries came out. He creeped me the hell out (still does), but Bill Skarsgard more than ably fills in as the clown of evil. In fact, he is much more creepy than Tim Curry, much more evil, more childish, more brutish and all around terrifying. I usually don’t get scared in horror movies, but he definitely gave me some goosebumps.

The jumps & scares. I hate torture porn (like Hostel & the Saw movies after the first one). Don’t like it and don’t think it is scary. I love horror movies with slow burns, ratcheting up the tension, playing on fears. IT does this to a T. Every scare was well-placed and felt real, especially relating as a teenager. Those things would have scared the piss out of me and I found myself jumping a few times when the scare came. But the best part was because of some the absurdity of Pennywise. The herky-jerky movements were amazing and really sold the terror of the scene.

The absolute best thing about IT was the humor. I already mentioned the kid actors being awesome, but they were laugh out loud sometimes. It made the movie fun. Really fun. And then the theater would laugh at itself after the scares because we all agreed it was fun. And to top it all off, the rock fight was just a blast, I don’t think a scene made me laugh as hard as the start of it in quite a long time.

What didn’t work:

I found very little I didn’t like with this movie. The only thing I could nitpick is the one scene where Pennywise did his dance. I know that scene was humorous and gonna make a popular gif, but it was a bit out of place for me.

Rating:

5 out of 5

I absolutely loved this movie! When I saw they were remaking IT, I was ecstatic, I loved the book and I still enjoy the TV miniseries. I eagerly waited for more to come out and the marketing of this movie was fantastic – there were red balloons all over Austin, TX the day of release. This movie scared me, made me laugh, and all around was such a fun time, I can’t wait to see it again.

What I’ve Read: Throne of Glass

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas is a Young Adult high fantasy

Brief Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is the world’s greatest assassin and while serving time within a salt mine, she is given the opportunity to fight in an upcoming competition to become the King’s Champion under the banner of Crown Prince Dorian. If she wins, she serves four years and gains her freedom. Accepting this, she goes to the capital and begins her training with the other 23 would-be Champions. They are given tests and then when four remain, they duel to discover the winner. But then the Champions begin to turn up murdered, and it is up to Celaena to discover what is going on before she becomes the next victim.

What Works:

Celaena really is an all-around fun protagonist. Not only is she this fearsome assassin, but she is also written as her age. She enjoys clothing, reading, fine dining, and she also is witty, funny, smart, vain, and loyal. It was really cool to see the different sides to this character, because most protagonists aren’t this layered. One minute she will be talking about missing a party, the next talking about snapping a guy’s neck. She even plays up her being this awesome assassin to other characters when they discover she is only a teenager. Really fun character.

One thing about Celaena I want to point out is that she wants to be the best and her frustration shows. I loved that because I think that is every teenager ever. She is told in the beginning to not stand out, not to cause the others to figure out who she is. But I loved that growing sense of aggravation from her. I loved knowing she hated every second of it. And then when she finally gave in, the shocking way in which she revealed herself was spot on.

I really liked how there were multiple threads/plots going on in this book. At first, I was just thinking it would be about the competition, but it was really good to have the other side plots as well. The story is fast-paced and goes from scene to scene really smoothly without missing any beats.

I know I have said this in my other reviews in the past, I typically enjoy multi-POVs. That said, even though this book has multiple POVs, it truly is Celaena’s story. I think by having the other POVs only have small paragraphs or just a few pages really worked for this story. It gave another visual of the scenes, but didn’t bog it down by having to go into too much of that character’s head.

What Doesn’t Work:

The ending with one of the sub-plots. I really liked the supernatural element to it all, and thought it was really fun and cool, but the way it ended didn’t hit for me. I didn’t understand how it came about and how it all worked out. It just fizzled without much bang.

The one POV of the King in the end. Without spoiling anything, I was let down, or maybe too obvious is a better choice of words. I wish that whole thing was saved for the second book.

The love triangle. I enjoy a good triangle, I mean that is what makes many a good story. But this one didn’t work for me, mainly because I don’t see a Crown Prince doing the things Dorian does. Also, I didn’t like that Celaena was so smitten by both so quickly. I get it, she is a teenager and all teenagers (male and female) go through pangs of lust (all that was handled really well, IMO), but I didn’t feel like that was in her character to go so swoony so quickly. I wish it was more a slow burn.

Rating:

4 out of 5

I really did like this book and Ms. Maas sure does spin a good tale. Celaena is one of the best all around protagonists I have read in a long time.