Chapter four actually starts off better than the last few have, by virtue of some actual character exploration. Celaena is lying on a bed, in the room she’s being housed in until the prince’s party leaves the next morning. It’s a real guest room, not wherever they keep the slaves.
“she ran her hand down the mattress, and blinked at the freeness of movement“
She finds herself unable to process her new environment- the lack of chains, the mattress, the quality of the cloth. This is actually interesting- not because a character has to have terrible baggage to be interesting, but because this actually shows Celaena reacting to her environment in a way that demonstrates her experiences and thought processes.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, the writing is still pretty bad. We have “brutish servants” and silk caressing skin (because silk is the only expensive fabric, and it always caresses you). But at least it seems to overall be connected to a human being who could exist.
This segues into a part which could get uncomfortable for anyone struggling with an eating disorder, please be warned.
Celaena has been starved (she could barely eat and then threw up at dinner, because no one thought of how to help a starving person recover). She actually is deeply upset upon seeing her reflection and how emaciated she is. The language doesn’t hint that maybe being wasted away is secretly kinda hot, which sadly is something to appreciate.
“She took steadying breaths, savoring the hope. She’d eat. A lot. And exercise. She could be healthy again.“
I really, really hope this is followed up on, because it’s something I’d genuinely like to see in YA.
The next morning, the captain finds her sleeping on the floor- she couldn’t adjust to the softness of the bed. Remarkably, this isn’t stated outright- we just see her lying on the floor and then saying she found the bed uncomfortable. Yay!
Celaena becomes super cheerful because she’s out in sunlight, and is getting nice clothes.
“She loved clothes—loved the feeling of silk, of velvet, of satin, of suede and chiffon—and was fascinated by the grace of seams, the intricate perfection of an embossed surface.“
This is another thing I’m happy to see! A female lead who is billed as a badass with super fighting skills who also likes traditionally “girly” things.
Celaena stops being so cheerful when she sees the slaves heading to the mines for the day, but turns away to ignore it. As she does so, the prince’s dogs run up and greet her, surprising the prince, because the dogs usually don’t warm up to anyone who isn’t around often or feeding them. Because of course animals just instantly love
the princess the assassin.
(That’s not intended as a spoiler, I don’t know if it’s true, I just think it’s pretty clear she’s a lost princess of some kind.)
This, of course, gives Maas a chance for more painfully “clever” dialogue between Celaena and the prince.
“‘Am I going to be blessed with the pleasure of hearing your voice, or have you resolved to be silent for the duration of our journey?’
‘I’m afraid your questions didn’t merit a verbal response.’
Dorian bowed low. ‘Then I apologize, my lady! How terrible it must be to condescend to answer! Next time, I’ll try to think of something more stimulating to say.’”
Dorian’s reply here is treated as a sick burn. Yes, really. But more worthy of comment is Celaena’s reaction to this supposed humiliation:
“the unbearable urge to splatter someone across a wall“
For some reason Celaena seems to have expected to just be allowed to ride on her horse without any restraints. She’s not- Chaol shackles her and connects her chains to his saddle. She considers killing Chaol and/or breaking free two times, but doesn’t.
Remember, if you’ve had characters talk about your lead’s amazing fight skills, you don’t need to show her even trying to use those skills at any point. (Wouldn’t this have been a good opportunity to show Celaena’s determination? Maas could still get her to the Hunger Games, because Celana could reasonably fail purely due to her physical condition. But it would establish that Celaena is fierce, and show how she actually thinks about fighting and tries to move, which would bolster the things we’ve only been told so far.)
Anyway, they’re in a forest, it’s a fantasy journey, and Celaena keeps trying to make Chaol talk and maybe give something away.
“‘How old are you?
‘So young!’ She batted her eyelashes, watching him for some kind of response. ‘It only took a few years to climb the ranks?’
He nodded. ‘And how old are you?’
‘Eighteen.’ But he said nothing. ‘I know,’ she continued. ‘It is impressive that I accomplished so much at such an early age.’
‘Crime isn’t an accomplishment, Sardothien.’”
Celaena tries to brag and puff herself up more, but Chaol shuts her down.
I’m okay with Chaol.
She keeps trying to pry, all we learn is that there is apparently some deal with Chaol and noble titles, and then they stop for lunch.
So! Chapter 4. Actually showed some promise, in spite of the amateur writing. And then it stopped.