03 October 2018

My Thoughts on Throne of Glass

I have a lot of complicated feelings around the Throne of Glass books. There is a lot of bad, but some good as well, and it's difficult for me to unpick them. So I thought I'd better write it all up and see how I really feel.

But more specifically, this is a post about how the Throne of Glass books, in particular the first three, helped me unpick my internalised misogyny. Yes, really. So there are a whole host of problems that I'm not going to touch on in great detail, but I do acknowledge that they exist.

There are some spoilers for the first books, and I apologise for that, but I didn't feel I could address what I wanted to without them.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas cover

When I first read Throne of Glass I was hung up on one thing specifically - Caelaena and her girlishness. Where is this strong, ruthless assassin I've been promised? Why is she eating sweets and dreaming of pretty dresses? I was so annoyed that I didn't get what I was promised. She was saving people, and strategising, and she wanted to to dance the night away in the arms of the boy that she liked.

My problem? She was traditionally feminine. She was girly. For all that she thought about killing everyone around her in the most brutal ways, she never enacted it. I even confronted this in my review.
For all of her mutterings that she could take out everyone, kill everyone, maim everyone, there was some simpering in front of a mirror wondering how pretty she was and whether everyone was attracted to her or not.
Then we have Celaena's near constant slut shaming. She's putting down other girls for what she think may - or even may not - have happened, and it was something I absolutely hated about her. Girl against girl for being girls? No thank you.

It wasn't until after I had finished the second book, Crown of Midnight, that I stopped myself and truly thought about why I felt how I did, as Celaena was starting to grow on me. And then we have the whole Nehemia situation, which left such a sour taste in my mouth. It seemed like her whole purpose had been to die for Celaena to then take action. She was the only POC character and she was killed off, to drive the main character. Honestly I was gutted - Nehemia was an excellent character, and confronted a lot of racial stereotypes.

By Heir of Fire I understood that she was kick ass while being girly, and she didn't have to conform to traditionally masculine, and that that was OK. I think this is why Heir of Fire is my favourite of the series, and where I stopped reading (See also: Rowan. Ick).

I'd never truly thought of why, for a character to be kick-ass and strong for me, they had to have traditionally masculine traits. This was the first time I stopped myself, and took a long hard look at why that was. Nowadays I throw around "strong female character" a lot, in my own little attempt to reclaim it. I use it for mental strength, physical strength, emotional strength.

But by the fourth book I felt that the story itself was completely different. Suddenly is was far bigger than I thought it would be, it was hyper-sexualised beyond what I'd read in earlier books. I'm all for sex in young adult books, because young adults have sex, but woah, I've read tamer Mills & Boon. And I just wasn't enjoying it any more. Rather than force myself through and end up truly resenting a series I'd quite enjoyed, I gave up reading Queen of Shadows around 1/4 of the way in.

Now, I'm not going to go back and change my old reviews. I'm not going hide how shitty I was in the past, as I'm proud of how much I've changed in the years since first reading Throne of Glass. But I wanted to somehow acknowledge that crap as they can be, the Throne of Glass books helped to shape me a little.

Self portrait with Throne of Glass, and a beanie hat from Fairyloot


So yeah, Throne of Glass has its problems. The series is very problematic, in many ways. I never even read past around 1/4 of the way in to Queen of Shadows as it was all getting a wee bit too much over the top for me, even for a fantasy. But I do want to acknowledge that for me it did some good, it made me stop and take notice and change my own thinking.


What do you think of Throne of Glass?


4 comments:

  1. This is an incredible post and it's amazing how you've confronted your past problems. I love this series but I completely understand your POV.

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  2. Yeah I was gutted by Nehemia too, and I didn't like where the story was going after heir of fire so I stopped there too. I really think these should have been adult books, not ya.

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    1. It feels like a lot of people I've talked to stopped around Queen of Shadows!

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  3. What a great post! I read the first 4 TOG books when I first started my blog and I loved them at the time, but as I've read more I'm so much more aware of it's problems and I think if I read it for the first time no I'd hate it to be honest. I'm going to finish the series because I want to know what happens, but I just don't care anymore

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