Throne of Glass (Sarah J. Maas)

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1. What is the genre?

Global — Action > Savior

Secondary — Worldview > Education

2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for the genre?

Conventions

Hero, Victim, Villain: Celaena Sardothien is the hero, the other competitors who die throughout the competition are the victims, and everyone on “Team Cain” (The King, Duke Perrington, and Cain) are the villains.

Hero’s object of desire: Once her fellow competitors start dying mysterious deaths, Celeana is determined to help Prince Dorian and Chaol figure out who or what is behind it all. She doesn’t know why the Ridderak (controlled by Cain) is targeting specific competitors so, for all she knows, she could be next on the list.

The power divide between the hero and villain is very large: Cain has been using dark magic to absorb the strength of the fallen competitors. It’s also clear Cain is working with “supernatural powers” that nobody really understands. Celaena is a really talented assassin, but her skills alone can’t match Cain’s supernatural abilities — or the power and reach of the King of Adarlan.

Speech in praise of the villain: There are a few of these, but for this book, we will look at Celaena’s main competitor, Cain. Celaena says, “Men of his size usually aren’t very fast, or very nimble. He could knock me out in one punch, probably, but he’d have to be swift enough to catch me.”

Obligatory Scenes

The Inciting Attack by the Villain: Celaena Sardothien is taken from the Endovier salt mines (by Captain of the Royal Guard, Chaol Westfall) to speak with the Crown Prince of Adarlan. She thinks that she’s about to be hanged, but instead she’s offered a chance to win her freedom by entering a competition to become the King’s Champion.

Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action: Celaena doesn’t immediately agree to Prince Dorian’s terms. She doesn’t even want to enter the competition — instead, she suggests they just give her the title since she’s a world renowned assassin and completely capable of being the King’s Champion now. Unfortunately for Celaena, she doesn’t get her way and is ultimately forced to take the Prince up on his offer.

Forced to leave the ordinary world hero lashes out: The next day, Prince Dorian, Chaol, and Celaena set off for the capital. Celaena gives Dorian and Chaol a hard time and teases them the whole way to Rifthold.

Discovering and understanding the antagonist’s McGuffin: Celaena sees Cain, a fellow competitor, “controlling” a beast of dark magic called the Riderrak. She realizes that Cain is using the Riderrak to kill and “steal” strength from the other competitors to make himself stronger and ultimately win the competition.

Hero’s initial strategy against the villain fails: Although Celaena manages to kill the Riderrak, she still has to face Cain in the final round of the competition. He’s already amassed a great amount of strength and power from the other fallen competitors, so she’s up against a real challenge going into the final duel.

Realizing they must change their approach to salvage some form of victory: Right before the final duel takes place, someone poisons Celaena.. When the Eye of Elena (a necklace) is ripped off her during the duel, Celaena  starts to see demon spirits surrounding her and Cain. She realizes that Cain controls the demons and that he will likely kill her even though it’s against the rules to do so. In a last ditch effort to save herself, she asks the gods for help.

Hero at the mercy of the villain: : Unbeknownst to the King, the poison in Celaena’s system gives her the ability to see beyond the veil of death (special gift #1). Her ancestor, Elena (special gift #2), answers Celaena’s call for help and removes the poison from Celaena’s body. Although Celaena recovers from the poison because of Elena’s help, she continues to fight Cain because she sees that the people she previously hated (Dorian and Chaol, who work for the King) actually care about her, and represent the possibility of a better world (special gift #3).

The hero’s sacrifice is rewarded: Celaena wins the title of “King’s Champion” which means she’ll work for the man she hates for the next four years. She’s hopeful about the future but terrified of what the King will make her do as his “personal assassin.”

Learn more about obligatory scenes and conventions.

3. What is the point of view?

Third Person Limited from the alternating POV of Celaena, Chaol, Dorian, and Kaltain.

Learn more about point of view.

4. What are the objects of desire?

External/Conscious — Celaena wants to become the King’s Champion so that she can be free.

Internal/Subconscious — Celaena needs to accept that life isn’t black and white. Dorian and Chaol work for the King, and come from Adarlan, but they’re not bad people. She also needs to embrace her true identity instead of holding on to her “mask” as Adarlan’s Assassin.

Learn more about objects of desire.

5. What is the controlling idea / theme?

Survival is possible when we’re brave enough to stand up for what’s right, when we allow our true gifts to be expressed, and when we accept others who do the same (even if we disagree).

Learn more about controlling ideas.

6. What is the beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff?

Beginning Hook

Prince Dorian and his Captain of the Guard, Chaol Westfall, present renowned assassin, Celaena Sardothien, an opportunity to become the King’s Champion and win her freedom from the Endovier Death Camp. She agrees to compete as Prince Dorian’s champion and they travel back to Adarlan.

Middle Build

Upon arriving in Adarlan, Celaena begins training for the upcoming trials. When champions start to be murdered one by one, Celaena realizes there’s something sinister going on in the castle. She uncovers that one of her fellow champions is using “dark magic” to control a beast called the Ridderak to steal strength from the murdered competitors. Celaena kills the Ridderak but starts to worry (for the first time) about facing Cain in the final duel.

Ending Payoff

Before Celaena meets Cain in the final trial, one of the King’s minions poisons her. Celaena defeats Cain (with the help of her friends Nehemia and Chaol, and her ghost-ancestor Elena) and becomes the King’s Champion. She’s hopeful, yet terrified of what she’ll be asked to do as the king’s personal assassin.

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About the Author

Savannah Gilbo is a developmental editor and book coach who helps fiction authors write, edit, and publish stories that work. Being a writer herself, Savannah understands the challenges and fears writers face when trying to turn their book dreams into realities. Through 1:1 coaching and developmental editing, she works with writers of all skill levels to combat these fears, and take their stories from an idea or messy first draft to a finished manuscript that works. She's also the host of the Fiction Writing Made Easy Podcast that delivers actionable tips, tools, and strategies for writers each week. When she’s not busy creating her own stories, you can find Savannah writing articles for her blog or re-reading her favorite fantasy books over and over again. You can learn more about Savannah and how she helps fiction writers here.
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