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Literature / Throne of Glass

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Throne of Glass is a series of young adult fantasy novels by Sarah J. Maas.

Erilea was once a world filled with magic and countless races of magic-bearing beings, humans among them. That all changed when the King of Adarlan launched a campaign for dominance over all of Erilea, banning magic and sentencing all magic-bearing nonhumans to either banishment or death along with the "blasphemous" humans who also wield such power. Now people from nations conquered by Adarlan are shipped to its capitol as slaves in droves. Magic has almost completely vanished, and it seems that Adarlan's royal family shall soon rule the entire realm.

Amidst this chaos, Celaena Sardothien, a master assassin trained by the King of Assassins himself, seemed to be the only one the nobility of Adarlan feared. However, her reign of terror came to an abrupt end when she was captured and sentenced to spend the rest of her life as a slave in Adarlan's salt mines. A year later, Adarlan's crown prince Dorian offers her a path to freedom: If she defeats twenty-three fellow warriors and criminals, she shall become the King's Champion and live the rest of her life in luxury. However, something dark hides within the walls of the Palace of Glass — something evil, which seems to only want to murder the Champions before they have a chance to shine.

The evil shadow soon reveals itself to be a much greater threat than Celaena could've ever anticipated. In the process of figuring out how to defeat it, Celaena will have to confront her harsh past and regain the identity she's been running from for years. With the aid of several allies, both expected and surprising, Celaena may just be able to rid Erilea of this dark evil for good.

The series consists of:

  1. The Assassin's Blade (2014): A collection of prequel novellas, four of which were originally released as ebooks.
    • "The Assassin and the Pirate Lord" (2012)
    • "The Assassin and the Healer"
    • "The Assassin and the Desert" (2012)
    • "The Assassin and the Underworld"(2012)
    • "The Assassin and the Empire" (2012)
  2. Throne of Glass (2012)
  3. Crown of Midnight (2013)
  4. Heir of Fire (2014)
  5. Queen of Shadows (2015)
  6. Empire of Storms (2016)
  7. Tower of Dawn (2017)
  8. Kingdom of Ash (2018)

In 2019, a two-player co-operative card game called Embers of Memory: A Throne of Glass Game was released. The game is set during the events of Kingdom of Ash.

Has a YMMV page. And now has a tentative character sheet. Please move all character-related tropes there.

This series contains examples of:

  • A Taste of the Lash: Celaena is whipped several times during her time as a slave in the salt mines of Endovier, both as punishment and for the amusement of the guards. She still has the scars and quite a bit of trauma. Maeve is fully aware and deliberately orders her whipped at the end of Empire of Storms for extra pain and humiliation.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Duke Perrington is this to Kaltain.
  • Anachronism Stew: Not obviously so, but it's there. The government and society are medieval (feudalism, guilds, absolute monarchy), while the clothes, cities, weapons and court are 18th Century — although there doesn't appear to be any gunpowder, which is what provided the impetus to move away from wearing armour in the first place, which in turn allowed people to carry lighter weapons; and with guilds in a feudal society, there is no merchant middle class to support the extensive commerce and communications that would be needed by the extensive upper class and nobility that we see who have time to waste as a Decadent Court. Some of the descriptions and illustrations of Celaena's clothes seem more like they belong on a modern catwalk. Pianos are also present, with the king having one in the Glass Castle and Celaena knowing how to play, while the pianoforte wasn't invented until the early 18th century (there were precursors to the piano such as the harpsichord which were invented in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, but no modern pianos as described in Throne of Glass).
  • Anchored Ship: The state of Celaena's relationship with Dorian at the end of book one and Chaol at the end of book two. Celaena breaks up with Dorian in Throne of Glass because her feelings for him are more superficial than his for her and his position as the Prince of Ardalan and her job killing people for his father presents a conflict of interest. In the Crown of Midnight, Dorian tries to move on and Celaena and Chaol fall in love, but their relationship is also anchored when Celaena has to leave Ardalan and asks Chaol to find out the truth about her identity before he chooses to be with her again.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of those possessed by Valg demons. We get to see the horror up-close and personal through Dorian's POV in Queen of Shadows.
  • Apathy Killed the Cat: Celaena spends most of Crown of Midnight being completely disinterested in challenging the status quo or questioning King Havilliard in any way, much to the frustration of Nehemia and, to a lesser extent, Chaol. This comes back to bite her in the ass. Hard.
  • Arc Villain: Each book so far has a different main antagonist:
    • Throne of Glass: Cain.
    • Crown of Midnight: Archer.
  • Author Avatar: Sarah J. Maas bears an uncanny resemblance to Celaena as depicted on the book cover of the hardcover version.
  • Ax-Crazy: Several of the Champions are convicted killers.
    • Ned Clement, better known as Scythe, after the weapon he'd used to torture and hack up temple priestesses for three years before finally being caught.
    • Bill Chastain, the Eye Eater. He ate his victim's eyes.
    • Grave has a better lid on it, but it's still clear he enjoys his work more than is healthy and what he did to poor Nehemia was horrible.
  • Ban on Magic: King Havilliard imposed this in the backstory. Everyone thinks that it's a Type B ban and it certainly started that way, with magic so suppressed that even those who do still survive to use it find their powers are fading or gone entirely, but in Crown of Midnight Celaena discovers that the king has really been hoarding magic for himself, making this a standard Type A2.
  • Battle Butler: Wesley kills Farran and his top lieutenants in revenge for killing Sam and turning Celaena over to the King.
  • Battle Couple: Gavin and Elena. In fact, it's how they fell in love.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Celaena has this with both Dorian and Chaol. After resolving it with Dorian (if making out a few times before breaking up counts as a resolution), she moves into Unresolved Sexual Tension with Chaol that gets resolved definitively in the second book.
  • Better as Friends: What Celaena ultimately decides about her and Dorian.
  • Birds of a Feather: Celaena with both Chaol and Dorian. She and Chaol are both fiercely loyal though occasionally insensitive warriors with daddy issues and dark and troubled pasts, running from their noble births. She and Dorian are both flirtatious, intelligent bibliophiles with a similar sense of humor and they are both heirs to their respective thrones with latent magical powers. And in Heir of Fire, Rowan, Celaena's mentor in rehabilitation and later lover, is a warrior broken by grief and guilt over the loss of a loved one.
  • Blood Oath: All of Maeve's cadre are took blood oaths to her and are forced to serve her forever and obey whether they want to or not. In-Universe, a blood oath can only be severed by the death of one of the parties, or if the person whom the oath was sworn to agrees to release them. This can be done either honorably or dishonorably.
    • With Aelin's help, Rowan gets out of his and immediately swears a blood oath to her instead. This later causes a great deal of tension between him and Aedion.
    • Maeve eventually dishonorably releases Gavriel and Lorcan from their blood oaths because she knew it would hurt them.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The Champions have a very sexist attitude about Celaena. She shows them how ignorant they are at every opportunity.
  • Braids of Action: Celaena always wears her hair in a braid when she fights.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Wyrdmarks. Wyrdgate. Wyrd.
  • Chickification: In-Universe: As Elena says to Celaena:
    "There are many things history has forgotten about me. I fought on the battlefields during the demon wars against Erawan — at Gavin's side. That's how we fell in love. But your legends portray me as a damsel who waited in a tower with a magic necklace that would help the heroic prince."
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: On several occasions. Dorian inflicts it on his former friends in the palace guard when possessed by a Valg Prince (something that causes him huge amounts of guilt) in Queen of Shadows. Aelin herself has to endure two whole months of it in Kingdom of Ash. Thankfully not much is seen, but what we do get is quite horrible.
  • Cosmic Plaything: The majority of the main cast has some god or other they are said to be blessed by. It turns out that they're actually playthings of those gods - some blessed, some cursed, some with mixed influence, and some with a god that could care less. In fact the whole plot is a orchestrated by a group of gods.
  • Covers Always Lie: Most of the books feature Celaena on the front cover (as seen on this article's page image) but there's a big discrepancy with the way she's depicted on them and the way she's described in the actual books. The covers tend to depict her with white hair, dark eyes and almost bluish skin; in the books Celaena is said to have golden blonde hair, blue-gold eyes and fair skin that's a normal shade for humans. Book-accurate fanart of Celaena tends to be very different to how she's presented on the covers. The way she's depicted on the cover of the original paperback edition of Throne of Glass is also much closer to the book's description (although some people found that version made Celaena look weirdly similar to the author).
  • Dance of Romance: Celaena and Dorian have one of these at the ball, much to the consternation of all the other girls who wanted to dance with Dorian for a second. She and Chaol have a more private one outside a little later.
  • Dating Catwoman: Technically what Chaol and Dorian would both be doing, considering Celaena's in-universe status as a Villain Protagonist.
  • Death Faked for You: In Crown of Midnight Celaena arranges these for people the King orders her to kill who she doesn't believe deserve it.
  • Doorstopper: Not applicable to the first two books and the prequel (the latter of which is made up of short stories), which are all under 500 pages long. From Heir of Fire onwards, though, the page count creeps increasingly higher, generally falling between 500 and 700 pages. The final book, Kingdom of Ashes, is a real whopper, being nearly 1000 pages long.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Most of the cast had very dicey childhoods, with nearly every character being an orphan who experienced violent deaths as a child.
  • The Empire: Adarlan. Interestingly, most of the story is told through their nobility's and allies' perspective.
  • Elemental Powers: Those who can use magic normally specialize in a specific element, though certain people use non-elemental magic such as shape shifting or healing. Raw magic users are powerful because they can use all these.
  • Everyone Can See It: Pretty much everyone catches on to the fact that Dorian has feelings for Celaena. On the flip side, Dorian figures out that Chaol and Celaena have feelings for each other long before either of them realize it or act on it.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: Every major character is in a committed romantic relationship by the end of the series. Aelin chooses Rowan over Dorian and Chaol (it turns out they're soulmates). Chaol finds love again with Yrene. Dorian ends up with Manon in Empire of Storms (after his second love interest Sorscha was killed two books earlier). Aedion and Lysandra are married by Kingdom of Ash's epilogue, as are Elide and Lorcan.
  • False Soulmate: Invoked in regards to Lyria and Rowan. In the backstory Rowan was led to believe that Lyria was his soulmate and was left devastated and bitter for centuries after she died, believing he would never again feel that way about anyone. However, he finds himself developing strong affection for Aelin and subsequently learns that she is his true soulmate (she wasn't even born when Rowan and Lyria met). It's revealed that Maeve used magic to trick Rowan into believing Lyria was his mate and later arranged for her to be killed to break him; Maeve used his grief to manipulate him into swearing loyalty to her to give him some sense of purpose again.
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: Chaol, Celaena, and Dorian with Dorian as the Fire and Chaol as the Ice.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The way Aelin gains some of her allies.
  • Fisher King: The Kingsflame is a flower that was first born when Brannon became first king of Terrasen. It blooms as a sign that the current king or queen of Terrasen is a good ruler. For this reason, Terrasen had been devoid of it for ten years. It blooms at the end after Aelin is crowned queen.
    • Another example is the Witch Kingdom starting to become fertile again after the Thirteen's sacrifice and Manon becoming queen of the Witches.
  • Forbidden Fruit: The reasoning behind Dorian's initial attraction to Celaena.
  • Gambit Pileup: Empire of Storms is pretty much this. Aelin appears to be Out-Gambitted by Maeve at the end, but in a twist it turns out Aelin already guessed it might end that way and took precautions so the fight could continue without her. It also is revealed in that book that Aelin's adventures have all been a result of some really old schemes on behalf of Gavin, Elena, and various gods.
  • Guys are Slobs: Aelin repeatedly accuses the Cadre and Aedion of being slobs. Given that they are all comfortable camping and going without proper baths for long periods of time, there is some truth shown to this.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The series starts out focusing on a teen assassin who is forced to work for an evil king to gain her freedom and reluctantly gets involved in the rebellion against him, as well as getting into a love triangle between the king's much nicer son and the captain of the royal guard. Then after the fourth book it switches to a long-lost princess (the assassin's true identity) fighting demonic overlords to reclaim her throne, with the evil king being revealed to have been a mere puppet.
  • Heroic BSoD: Celaena goes into a pretty intense one after Nehemia's death.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Aelin has a lot of trouble getting allies and money for her war effort internally and externally due to her (and her allies') pasts. It appears that the bad publicity, while well known to the ruling class, is not common knowledge.
  • High Fantasy: Medieval European Fantasy setting (or close enough)? Check. Band of unlikely heroes fighting against a Sorcerous Overlord and his evil empire? Check. Magic coming out the wazoo? Check...well, as soon as the characters get out of range of the towers that supress magic and/or find a way to destroy them. Continent-spanning quest for magical artifacts that could either save or destroy the world? Check. The main protagonist is The Chosen One and the long-lost heir to the throne? You bet.
  • Hope Bringer: The revolutionaries view Aelin Galathynius as this. Nehemia's people also view her as this.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Bill Chastain the Eye Eater.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: The long-lived species of the series have a lot of trouble getting and staying pregnant. As such, every child is considered precious.
    • The fae have trouble getting pregnant, making each pregnancy and child precious. Seemingly their pregnancies are easier than those of the witches once they manage to get pregnant in the first place.
    • Witches, due to their fae blood, have trouble getting pregnant. The curse on the wastes (and therefore the witches) only makes this problem even worse. Almost all pregnancies are miscarried or result in a stillbirth and many witches die giving birth under the curse. Some witch matrons are so paranoid about a miscarriage or stillbirth that they order all pregnant witches to be on bedrest for their entire pregnancy.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The reason why Chaol refuses to acknowledge his rising attraction to Celaena and the reason Dorian tries to bow out gracefully despite his feelings for Celaena and give them both space while he nurses his broken heart. Their friendship comes first, even before love.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Whereas Dorian wound up being a pretty good guy, his little brother was sent to a school in the mountains for beating one of the servants to death. The royal family compensated her family, but that won't bring her back or change the fact that a kid got a slap on the wrist for murder simply because he's a royal.
  • La RĂ©sistance: Celaena discovers that one of these is building in Adarlan with the lost heir of Terrasen rumored to be at its head.
  • Love Triangle: The Celaena-Dorian-Chaol triangle is a significant subplot in the first book, but loses most of its significance by the end of the second. Celaena leaves Adarlan having essentially rejected both of them.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Magic vanished approximately ten years before the first book, and was made illegal by the King shortly afterwards. This would be because he's using the Wyrdkeys to both give himself powers and suppress potential competition.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Arobynn.
  • Married at Sea: How Aelin and Rowan get married at the end of Empire of Storms.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Kaltain is relatively easily talked into doing this to Celaena, though indirectly. It doesn't work.
  • Named After First Installment: The series takes its title from the first book, which refers to the Glass Castle that serves as the book's setting. The Glass Castle has decreased relevance as the series goes on and gets destroyed in the fourth book, making it something of an Artifact Title by the halfway mark. Notably, the planned TV adaptation would’ve gone with the title Queen of Shadows, which comes from the fourth book and doubles as a Protagonist Title, though it's also a bit of a spoiler as to Celaena's true identity.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: A minor example. Celaena learned everything she knows about killing from Arobynn Hamel, the King of Assassins, and being his favorite gave her a very big head start. On the other hand, it's very difficult to become a world-class assassin without some sort of training, and her skills are very much real. She proves it by running rings around him in Queen of Shadows before having him assassinated and altering the will to inherit everything he owns.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted. Celaena is in bed with cramps in one chapter of Throne of Glass, and Elide's heavy flow causes her several issues in Empire of Storms and Kingdom of Ash.
  • Obviously Evil: Cain. He's the biggest, strongest, and most intimidating of the Champions. Twice Celaena witnesses him doing something a bit off, like kneeling in front of a Wyrdmark, and she notes that he seems to be getting bigger and stronger as the competition continues. And yet she suspects Nehemia of being the Big Bad before she ever thinks to point a finger at Cain.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Wesley taking out Farran.
  • One True Love: In-universe there is exists the concept of mates: two people who are soulmates and have been destined to be together. Aelin and Rowan are eventually revealed to be mates.
  • Out-Gambitted: At the end of Heir of Fire when Chaol is just about to get Dorian and Sorscha out of the city but the King captures them before they can make their escape. The king forces Dorian, Chaol, Aedion, and Sorcha to reveal their allegiances by threatening to kill and or make their beloved face a Fate Worse than Death. Happens again at the end of Empire of Storms, though who got the better of who could be debated.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Aelin and most of her allies are big believers in this, though their victims often have it coming. Major examples include:
    • Celaena avenging Nehemia's grisly murder by repeating everything that was done to her on Grave.
    • Rowan flaying Cairn alive for torturing Aelin for two months.
    • Aelin and Elide using Exact Words to get her traitorous and abusive uncle to talk, then chaining him to a chair and leaving him in a prison cell to starve to death.
    • Aelin paying back the gods for destroying Elena's soul and reneging on their bargain by opening up a door to a Hell dimension on them and then slamming the only way out.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally. The first hint that Dorian and Chaol get that Celaena is not the monster they think she is occurs when Dorian's dogs practically dive at her and she begins fussing over them. Later, Dorian gives her a dog of her own.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Though there are several very good reasons for it, despite being an infamous assassin Celaena doesn't actually assassinate people much.
  • Predecessor Villain: The Dark Lord Erawan, who lead an army of demons and the undead against Erilea a thousand years ago and was stopped by Gavin and Elena. Ironically, Gavin and Elena's descendant the King of Adarlan is seemingly determined to follow in Erawan's footsteps.
  • Professional Killers: Celaena herself, of course. Several of the other Champions as well, of varying levels of competence and class.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: A major theme of the later books. Aelin is forced to accept this while other characters discuss her relationship to the prophecies and their implications.
  • Red Baron: Nesryn Faliq's aim is so infamously good that even people in the Southern Continent have heard of her and started calling her Neith's Arrow.
  • Rightful King Returns: In Crown of Midnight, Celaena investigates a rebel group is said to be working with Aelin Galathynius, the lost heir to the Terrasen throne, to gather an army and overthrow King Havilliard. The rebels themselves are mostly dead by the end of Queen of Shadows, but their dreams have come to fruition: the king is dead, his much kinder son is on the throne of Adarlan and has released several conquered countries from his rule, and Celaena has accepted her true identity as Aelin and is readying to serve as queen of Terrasen.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Celaena, just before the climax of Crown of Midnight. To the point that it frightened several of her friends and her love interest in-universe.
  • Royal Brat: Hollin Havilliard, whose tantrums are something Dorian fears even more than the assassin in the castle.
  • Scars Are Forever: subverted. In Tower of Dawn, Yrene's power heals the scar Chaol got from Aelin trying to kill him in Crown of Midnight, and it is made possible by the fact that he is getting over that trauma. The scar from the wound that he got against the King of Adarlan instead remains and keeps hurting, but it is also much less visible as a result of his physical and psychological healing.
    • Also subverted in Kingdom of Ash. Every time she is tortured by Cairn, Aelin is healed so she can be broken again. As a result her body is covered in new skin and her scars are erased. She does not take it well because it means erasing her history, especially her bond with Rowan and her promise to Nehemia.
  • Second Love: Chaol and Celaena are this to each other.
  • Slasher Smile: Dorian at one point is deeply creeped out by Celaena and the King's matching evil smiles. This is also the signature expression of most Ironteeth Withes, especially Manon Blackbeak who has it down to a fine artform.
  • Shipper with an Agenda: Maeve, rather violently, for Aelin and Rowan; Georgina for Dorian and Kaltain;
  • Spirit Advisor: Elena for Aelin and Gavin for Dorian.
  • The Old Convict: Even though Celaena served only a year in the mine, she outlived pretty much everyone else sent there.
  • Too Dumb to Live: In the first book, a bag of candy mysteriously appears on Celaena's bed on the Christmas-analogue holiday, and she just eats it, even though she's in the middle of a deadly competition and something has been horribly murdering people. Subverted as it turns out to be completely fine.
  • Torture Technician: Cairn is on Maeve's cadre specifically to be this. He's quite good at it, and really loves his job.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: When the gods have engineered you and your story for a very specific purpose, they don't let you fight fate.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Word for word from Erawan in Queen of Shadows. Describes his attitude towards his minions exactly.