Hey, ready to help me procrastinate on real work?
If you are, it’s block quote time.
“She ran a hand down her gown. Sea-foam white lace bloomed from the sweeping neckline, washing upon her breast from the powder-green ocean of silk that made up the dress. A red sash covered the waist, forming an inverted peak that separated the bodice from the explosion of skirts beneath. Patterns of clear green beads were embroidered in whorls and vines across the whole of it, and bone-colored stitching stretched along the ribs. Tucked inside her bodice was the small makeshift hairpin dagger, though it poked mercilessly at her chest. She lifted her hands to touch her curled and pinned hair.“
This book is, so far, devoting a lot of time to how people look and what they’re wearing. One one level, this makes sense- people naturally pay more attention to other people than to, say, chairs. But it would be nice to see some energy taken away from this and spent on developing the setting and the physical experience of the characters. There’s a lot of surface detail- but very little sense of anything being lived in, from bodies to the country. This, I think, is another way of showing instead of telling.
Also, I’m glad to see Celaena keeping a weapon with her, but I have honest questions about the method here. I’ve never been able able to conceal anything other than a piece of paper or a few dollars under my shirt/in my bra, let alone a collection of stabby hair pins. And we’re going to discover shortly that Celaena is wearing a corset. Readers: does anyone find this plausible? (Instead of one of those ideas that’s constantly repeated in fiction in spite of having almost no relationship to practical reality, like being able to climb through any air ducts.)
“She didn’t know what she planned to do now that she was dressed, especially if she’d probably have to change before the competition started, but—“
Look, dressing up for the sake of it is fine. It’s fun. But maybe right before the assassin Hunger Games is not the time?
Phillipa arrives, and comments that it’s a shame Celaena is an assassin, because she could totally land a rich husband.
Phillipa, I really wanted to like you. Sigh.
Celaena informs Phillipa that people already seem to think she and the prince are involved. Phillipa says to brush it off until the next pretty girl attaches herself to the prince, which Celaena is insulted by even though she doesn’t want to be seen as the prince’s current squeeze either. Phillipa brushes that away too.
“Philippa shook her head. ‘Your face is much more pretty when you smile. Girlish, even. Far better than that frown you always have.’
‘Yes,’ Celaena admitted, “you might be right.’“
Look, this is almost certainly meant to be character development. Celaena admitting that maybe it would help her to loosen up around some people.
But that doesn’t make me comfortable with it, because it’s way too close to the whole “give me a smile, babe, because your only value to me is being compliant and pretty” phenomenon. And combined with Phillipa’s rich husband comment it’s too much enforcing traditional gender roles for me.
Phillipa asks that Celaena not sit down because it’ll ruin the look of her dress (and Phillipa wants other servants to see her work first).
“‘But my feet hurt in these shoes.’ She frowned pitifully.“
Oh my god Celaena how have you survived the supposed events of your life being this whiny? If you’re just being whiny because you can now, or as a front, I’d like some indication of that. Otherwise it just makes it hard to remember you’re supposed to be anything but a brat. Is this supposed to be “relatable”? It doesn’t work.
Chaol slams in, is momentarily taken aback by Celaena’s hotness, and then drags her out of the room.
Speaking of characters I wanted to like: Chaol. Captains of the Guard are my type, man. Suspicious, probably only sane men are my type. I was completely primed to like Chaol. But he just comes across as a jerk like everyone else and I am annoyed.
Celaena is being taken to see the king! This was supposed to happen in the evening, not the morning, which is apparently part of why Chaol is physically dragging her this time.
“‘The king?’ She was thankful that she hadn’t yet eaten.“
This part, and the part that follows, actually do address some of my concerns from the beginning of the post. That line’s the best of it (it implies, rather than saying “she felt this”), but Maas does describe how Celaena’s panic is physically affecting her, and how the environment seems to be conspiring to contribute to this (she realizes they’ve entered the glass castle, where she does not want to be). It’s full of cliches such as Celaena feeling “like fainting,” but there’s some sense of a real person in there. Baby steps.
Unfortunately it looks like we’re going to be returning to things that are completely over the top and overdone, because this is how Celaena describes her memory of her one look at the king from her trial:
“She had glanced at the king—only once. It was enough to make her reckless, to wish for any punishment that would take her far from him—even a quick death.“
DID YOU KNOW THE KING IS EVIL? EEEEEEEEEVIL.
Chaol tries to remind Celaena of survival skills like not disrespecting the king who could have you killed- which going by how she treated the prince is a reminder she needs. But he does actually try reassure Celaena a bit- saying that the king’s still just a man and this isn’t a trial.
“His eyes were rich, molten brown.“
This just makes me want molten chocolate cake come on.
And Chaol says Celaena looks pretty, because we need to remember the romance plot regardless of circumstance.
Next time: the king is eeeeeeevil.
(I haven’t read ahead I just feel we can count on this.)