I got an eGalley of this book through NetGalley(dot)com. This is the debut novel by Maas and the first book in a planned trilogy; although it is preceded by four novellas (all of which I have purchased but have not yet read). The story itself is very loosely based on Cinderella.
Celaena Sardothie has served a year in Endovier for her crimes as an assassin when suddenly she is called on by the Crown Prince. She is offered an opportunity she cant resist. She is to be the Princes entry into a contest to see who will be the Kings champion. If she accepts she will compete in a number of challenges, if she wins she will have two years of service to the king and then blessed freedom will be hers. Of course, nothing is as straightforward as that.
This was an absolutely excellent novel. It is supposed to be loosely based on Cinderella, but really reads more like an epic fantasy than a fairy tale retelling. Celaena is a fabulous character; shes tough and has survived some horrible things...but despite all of that she can still laugh and still care about people. It was wonderful to see her go from the starved wretch that was drug out of the mines to something so much more.
All of the supporting characters are incredibly well done; they all have histories, complex personalities, and are so easy to engage with. Prince Dorian is charming and seems to be a bit of a ladies man, but at times he is incredibly sincere. Captain Westfall, who trains Celaena, is gruff and stiff but seems to understand Celaena like no one else does. There is a foreign princess who befriends Celaena who is a warrior in her own right and an endearing character.
Really every character in this book is just so well done. Even Celaenas competitors are well filled out and interesting.
The world is wonderfully done. Complex and epic, but never too hard to follow. Magic is forbidden in this world by order of the king. But when Celaena stumbles upon Wyrdstones throughout the palace she finds that Magic is still present in secret ways. Watching Celaena try to unravel the mystery behind this magic was fascinating; magic is present in a fairly subtle way but has a huge impact on what happens in the story.
The plot is complex and well done as well. It is not as complex as say Sanderson or other epic fantasy authors, but it is more complex than you typically find in YA fantasy. I really enjoyed it, I loved the world developed here and had so much trouble putting down this book! This book wrapped up very nicely, no horrible cliffhangers or anything like that.
Overall this was just a fantastic YA fantasy read. I highly recommend to fans of fantasy, especially epic fantasy. While this story is a bit lighter than most adult epic fantasy, it still has many of the elements that make epic fantasy so wonderful. There is a complex plot and world, wonderful magic and mystery woven throughout, there is intrigue, mayhem, and murder. This is one of those rare books where even side characters are incredibly well developed and have wonderful depth. I loved this book. I immediately went out and bought the four preceding novellas and am on pins and needles to see what happens in future novels in this series. Highly recommended!