Review: Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

It’s been almost a year since I finished Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, and one of my all time favourite book series. I think that means it’s about time I wrote a review, right?

I wanted to wait until I’d read the entire series before I reviewed it. It’s a long one, with seven increasingly wordy books (the final book is over 1000 pages!). Sometimes it’s nice to know whether it’s going to be worth your time investing in a long series before you start book one. And honestly, when I read Throne of Glass I had absolutely no idea the story would end up where it did in Kingdom of Ash, a lot happens between books one and seven (A LOT) , so even if you read the first book and weren’t all that enthralled, you might end up loving the series overall. Let me give you a tiny taste of what to expect from this behemoth of a series, so you know whether to invest your valuable reading time in it…

TL;DR Ex-assassin and slave, Celaena Sardothien is plucked from the salt mines by Prince Dorian to be his contestant in a deadly game to choose the King’s new royal assassin. Spanning a year in her life, the series follows the sassy and silver-tongued trained killer as she rediscovers who she is underneath all the layers of shame, secrecy and tragedy. Only by facing her past head on and accepting the path she’s been forced to take in order to survive, can she uncover the truth about her heritage and become who she was always destined to be.

5 stars

Rather than review each book individually, which has the potential to be incredibly spoilerific – and nobody wants that – I thought I’d give you a brief overview of the series as a whole. If you prefer to go into a new series without knowing anything though, stop reading right here and go pick up Throne of Glass, because I’m not going to be able to write this review without giving certain things away. You have been warned!

In Throne of Glass, we meet our downtrodden heroine, Celaena Sardothien,  who has been imprisoned for murder (what with her being an assassin and all) and sentenced to a life of slavery in the salt mines of Adarlan. Until one day a handsome prince arrives to whisk her away – oh wait, no, that’s a different story. He’s actually come to drag the notorious assassin out of one kind of imprisonment and into another, as his champion in a competition to become the king’s new royal assassin. Better than slavery though, right? Well no, not to Celaena, who hates the king with a passion and is not thrilled to compromise her own personal (very morally grey) code to kill for him.

We’re thrown into a classic competition trope, with a terrifying bunch of brawlers, hard-men and nimble-fingered thieves all hoping to escape their respective prison sentences and legitimise their criminal ways. No judgement here. When people start turning up dead – outside the confines of the highly dangerous competition – Celaena realises there’s something darker going on underneath the surface at the glass castle.

Along the way, Celaena gathers a tight-knit group of friends – from Fae warriors and magic-wielding royals, to skilled soldiers and even a pup named Fleetfoot – building a band of brothers (and badass sisters) to rival any army.

Throw in a coven of wyvern-riding witches, a pirate king with a supernatural knowledge of the waves, and hordes of dark demonic parasites that can possess human hosts to wreak their own special brand of chaos, and you’ve pretty much got ToG in a nutshell.

I can’t say much more without potentially spoiling a lo for you (if I haven’t already!), so if any of that sounds like your cup of tea, please go and pick up Throne of Glass and see what all the fuss is about. You (probably) won’t regret it!

If I can give you one tip on picking up this series, it would be to get the audio books. Not only does it make reading such a long series a much less daunting task, it also means you get the perfect pronunciation of all the crazy names and places – and if you’ve ready any Maas books you’ll know how much she loves a difficult-to-pronounce name! You’re on your own with the spelling though…

Oh, one last thing, this is more New Adult than Young Adult and there are a few somewhat steamy scenes in the later books, so it’s definitely one for the older teens and up.

Enjoy, and let me know what you thought of the series if you’ve already read it!

Lyndsey

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Review Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas Lyndsey's Book Blog

Review: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

As epic fantasy novels go, it doesn’t get much better than The City of Brass! Set partly in ancient Cairo, it’s a richly diverse and beautifully descriptive novel, and even better, it’s the first in a series! The Kingdom of Copper is out now and The Empire of Gold is due in 2020!

TL;DR An Aladdin-esque fantasy with djinn warriors, elemental spirits and a smart, sassy con-woman. Nahri accidentally conjures a mysterious djinn warrior during a supposedly fake exorcism, and ends up being hunted by fire spirits across the Egyptian desert. When they escape into the legendary city of brass, Daevabad, Nahri discovers a history she never knew existed. One in which she and her ancestors are deeply entangled…

The City of Brass S A Chakraborty`
5 stars

Trying to make a living as a woman alone on the streets of Cairo isn’t easy, but Nahri has always survived on her wits. She uses her ability to read people, and a sort of ‘sixth sense’ for what ails them, to pray on the gullible, weak and desperate.

Nahri cons rich Ottoman nobles on the streets of Cairo, performing fake palm readings, healings and exorcisms. It’s all an elaborate performance to make money, until one day Nahri accidentally conjures a real djinn, who drags her across Egypt to a hidden, magical city. Her abilities make her a target and a spectacle, but her arrival in Daevabad, the city of brass, sparks more than just intrigue. Unrest has been building between the residents for centuries, and Nahri’s appearance might just light the fire of rebellion in them.

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The City of Brass focuses on three main characters whose lives and stories weave together to create a captivating and shocking depiction of life in Daevabad:

  • Nahri, the courageous, sceptical and self-sufficient con-woman, fighting for survival in the human world;
  • Dara, the centuries-old djinn warrior who is conjured by Nahri and escorts her to Daevabad to face her true destiny (and his own); and
  • Alizayd (Ali), the youngest son of the king, in training to be his elder brother’s ‘Qaid’ (captain of the royal guard).

By following these three through the novel, we get to see events from every angle and understand the actions and motivations of both the ruling class and the rebellious civilians, which is crucial in a novel of such rich culture and history. If we only saw Nahri’s perspective – as with many portal fantasies where we experience the new, thrilling world alongside the protagonist – we’d miss out on a lot of the finer details and political intricacies of Chakraborty’s world.

I absolutely loved being immersed in the Middle Eastern culture that inspired the story, I haven’t read many novels set in Africa or Arabia and it was really refreshing to find a fantasy story that wasn’t based in Europe or America. I’ve recently read An Ember in the Ashes, and have Children of Blood and Bone and Rebel of the Sands on my TBR, so it’s amazing to see more diverse characters and stories from different cultures being published. Chakraborty does a phenomenal job of creating an imaginative and stunning backdrop, mingling history and fantasy, and a compelling story that combines themes of family, loyalty, politics, love and revenge.

If you’re bored of the usual fantasy settings (dark forests and magic schools still have their place, but it’s nice to try something new every now and then) then you can’t go wrong with The City of Brass. Pick it up if you love a brave, morally-grey female protagonist and a lush magical world with more history than you could shake a wand at.

I’m currently listening to The Kingdom of Copper on audio book, and loving it. Can’t wait for the third and final book to come out next year!

Lyndsey

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The one writing podcast you need

I’ve been a podcast addict for a few years now. If you’re sceptical, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I don’t particularly like listening to the radio because I just want to hear my favourite songs, I don’t need all the inane chatter – so when it came to podcasts, I assumed that’s all it would be. That, or dry topics like politics. Nothing that would interest a creative type like me. *flicks hair*

Reader, I was so wrong.

A brief history of my love for podcasts

The first podcast I ever listened to, and still my number one, is My Favorite Murder. If you’re into true crime, with a side of humour and heartwarming honesty, you should definitely give it a listen. It was recommended to me by a friend and after just a few episodes I was hooked. The hosts are incredibly open and honest about their past struggles with addiction, mental health problems, and their advocacy for therapy as self care. They’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for causes like End the Backlog and helped raise awareness of some really important issues, with their signature mix of humour and heart. I’ve been to see Karen and Georgia live twice now and am the proud owner of a “Here’s the thing” mug and t shirt. (SSDGM to any fellow Murderinos out there.)

The next podcast I came across was the aptly named My Dad Wrote a Porno. I think it was Samantha Shannon on Twitter that first introduced me to this one, and when I saw several other well-known authors tweeting about it I knew I had to check it out. Essentially, Jamie’s dad writes erotic adult novels under the pseudonym Rocky Flintstone (they’re real, you can buy the ebooks), and his son reads them aloud on air, a chapter at a time, while his two friends and co-hosts poke fun at the cringe-worthy writing. It’s hilarious and a great lesson in how not to write, but as the presenter is the author’s son, it’s all in the name of good fun.

Since then, I’ve discovered lots of other favourite podcasts from recommendations by friends and people I follow online, including:

  • Crime Junkie – straight up true crime covering cold cases and under-reported crimes, plus its spin-offs Red Ball and Full Body Chills
  • The Murder Squad – crowd sourced investigations, helping give John & Jane Doe’s their names back and solving cold cases through web sleuthing
  • Happy Place – mental wellbeing and self care chats with Fearne Cotton and other famous folk
  • Ctrl Alt Delete – conversations about careers, business and growing up online with the “internet generation”
  • Is this Working? – a look at the modern day world of work and how it has changed, and how we can make it work for us

But the real reason why I’m shouting in your face about podcasts today is this…

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88 Cups of Tea

Never heard of the 88 Cups of Tea podcast? If you’re a storyteller of any kind, you need to rectify that immediately.

88 Cups of Tea is hosted by Yin Chang, an actress and writer from the US, who interviews authors, screenwriters, agents and other figures from the publishing and entertainment industries. If you have a favourite author, particularly within the YA category, then they almost definitely have an episode of 88CupsOfTea.

All the greats have been on it, including Victoria Schwab (her episode is an absolute must-listen, whether you’ve read her books or not), Holly Black, Sarah J. Maas, Holly Bourne, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cassie Clare, Renee Ahdieh, Marissa Meyer, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah Dessen, Susan Dennard, E. Lockhart, Angie Thomas, Beth Revis, Marie Lu, Sabaa Tahir, Samantha Shannon, Maureen Johnson, Tamora Pierce. NEED I GO ON???

With over 130 episodes, a fair few of which are with literary agents and industry insiders, there’s definitely something for everyone, even if you can’t commit to listening to every single one. (I still haven’t listened to even half yet!)

The beauty of 88Cups is that it doesn’t matter what genre you read, or write, or whether you’ve even heard of some of the authors interviewed, they all have something to say that you will benefit from hearing. I can’t emphasise this enough, you will learn something and take away some little – or large – nugget of information, inspiration or motivation from each and every episode.

Yin has a way of making you feel like you’re listening to two old friends chatting, and she isn’t afraid to ask the big questions. You’ll hear about the guest’s childhood and upbringing, how they fell in love with books and started writing, what challenges they faced in making time for their writing around work or kids, or the years they spent in the query and submission trenches, and how they got their “big break”.

Ultimately, you’ll realise with every episode that you are not alone. Choosing to live a creative life and making a living from our art isn’t ever the easy option, but the passion we have for what we create makes it worthwhile. If you need a hit of inspiration, or a little reassurance that your art is valuable, or even a kick up the backside to pursue your passion, then just listen to an episode of 88Cups and you’ll soon be back at your keyboard, with a cup of tea in your hand and a fire in your belly.

Lyndsey

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