“Throne of Glass”: A FictionPress Success Story

A couple days ago, I finished reading Sarah Maas’ novel Throne of Glass. Imagine how startled I was when I picked up the book in Barnes & Noble, and saw that the dedication was addressed to FictionPress readers! Not only that, but the author had published several ebooks. I even recognized some of the titles from somebody’s profile I visited awhile back. It was incredibly encouraging to behold her 10-year progression from editing to FictionPress to ebooks on Amazon, and finally to the published, bound paperback in my hands—the first book of at least two.

As a writer myself, I recognize that to an author, their book can feel like their firstborn child. It makes them extremely sensitive toward criticism. But I also believe that criticism can be constructive, whether or not everyone agrees. So with that in mind, this is my opinion of the book, having never read it on FictionPress prior to its publication.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, the story progresses from Chronicles of Riddick, to a gentle interlude of travel (during which the prisoner/assassin is both superstitious and scheming), and then becomes a lot like a medieval Hunger Games (a game of elimination, minus the expectation of senseless killing). The suspense of the games, and the fact that the assassin is the only female contestant, is overlaid by having to conceal her identity and act like a court lady as she moves about a glass castle, trying to understand the forbidden magic therein. There is a classic Cinderella scene (which I applaud), though quite a bit tamer than I expected with all the suspense, but the aftermath is what will keep you smiling and intrigued.

The book’s front cover is rather frightening, the back cover haunting, and from the summary on the back one would think that the assassin is on the front and her princess friend is on the back. That is not the case. In fact, after reading the novel, it is my belief that the women on the front and back are actually the same person. Rather misleading.

Another way I felt misled was regarding the assassin herself. In the beginning, the assassin is presented as a hardened criminal who somehow used to attend court, and has mysteriously survived thus far in a prison (concentration) camp. I was reminded strongly in this of The Chronicles of Riddick. However, as soon as she was led out, that was where the similarities ended. Before I knew it, she was a fragile girl with an assassin pretense, attached to her occupation only as a means to an end, and the womanizing crown prince who shrewdly employed her to fight (possibly to her death) was falling in love with her sorrow. I had quite a few “Huh?” moments.

I was excited about WAFF, but when it got there I rejected it and nearly put the book down, because it seemed so disconnected from the previous line of thinking. Why would this hardened assassin who had lost everything and didn’t trust anybody and would rather cut out her own heart than love one of the royal family, suddenly disclose her lost lovelife to the crown prince when he’s infringing on her space? There is a good amount of character depth, but the character development was such that I had to mentally change gears a lot to keep up with the flow of the story.

The weird part to me, I think, was the feeling that the assassin was actually trying to cover up the fact that she was always trying to prove her own worth. Maybe this is a hidden psychological nugget, or maybe this is unintentional; I don’t know. And I expected the crown prince to be stronger somehow, after his bravado in sneakily defying his cruel father’s wishes, but maybe that was the point of his character, and why choosing the assassin was a significant event for him.

It turned out quite a bit lighter than I expected, for how dark its beginning was. I think this is unusual for the first book in a series, as most fantasy novels get progressively darker as they go on (not lighter). I’m still kind of in limbo about this dark-to-light progression, preference-wise…I think I would have liked it better if it picked a tone and stuck with it.

Despite my criticism, I enjoyed the book, and I’m glad I kept reading. But it did enlighten me as to some things to be careful of in my own writing. The whole reason for my rewrite, after all, was to beware of jumps in character development. Still, I applaud Maas for her successful transition to the tangible book world, and I can only hope that my own FictionPress readers will be so supportive if and when I take that leap.

Go read Throne of Glass, or its sister stories, and see what you think! 🙂

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