Two things really grabbed me right off about this series. The first was Sarah J. Maas’ main character, Celaena and her personality. She matures a lot over the books, but what I like is how energetic and social she likes to be. She’s not overly talkative, but she’s welcome to conversation being started with her and once you get her started about subjects she enjoys, she can be quite talkative. She’s super kick-butt (almost to the book in later books where it seemed, to me, that she was little too skilled?), but she loves being girly too. She will wear luxurious dresses and spend half a day on a manicure. And if the day calls for it, she will easily lay in bed reading and eating chocolates all day. These habits tend to take a backseat as the plot progresses, but it was nice to see a heroine so… personable. While she’s serious sometimes, she’s also friendly and exceptionally sassy.
Her arc has also been rather interesting to see. After book three the arc takes a new turn, and things about her change that show how she’s maturing and accepting her role and purpose. She still has many faults, like trusting people enough to include them in her plans, but I’ve liked seeing how she grows and changes.
The second thing that grabbed me was Maas’ ability to write descriptions. Seriously guys, I fell in love with the way she described the settings of this series, the way she described Celaena’s dresses (gorgeous). It’s vivid and colorful and easy to imagine. It added to the colorful variety of characters and the intense plot, enhancing it all beautifully. The worldbuilding of Erilea (and those beyond it) and its countries are extremely diverse, and Maas’ description of them in the series and novellas are beautiful. Her worldbuilding is complex, with different cultures and peoples, all with their own customs and lands. It’s vast and there’s nearly always something new to learn. :3
The plotline of the ToG series builds up through the first two books, and then it kind of explodes in the next three. The series isn’t done, but the plot keeps the characters moving and scrambling and there’s enough action and epic battle scenes to keep the pages turning. There’s almost not enough space for breathers. ;)
But when there is, the characters work out how to interact. The cast grows bigger, and the series gains several more POVs, as the plot goes on, and it’s interesting to watch them all figure out how to act around each other. They all come from very different backgrounds, and all of them with vastly different personalities, which sometimes makes for tense situations within the group. Everybody tries to figure out where they’re supposed to belong in the hierarchy, and occasionally working out rivalries or personal grudges.
The villains are deliciously twisted, but their personalities varied and make them all different from each other. Their motives are cloaked exceptionally well, but rest assured it’s evil and world-changing (go big or go home, right?). It’s had years to sit and stew. ;) There are villains from two different corners, but both are after the things the heroes are after too. I’m eager to see how everyone clashes.
My favorite character of them all is probably Prince Dorian. X3 He is a precious muffin all throughout his arc. And while he’s not quite the strongest of them all (but he’s certainly getting there) I like how the others ensure he stays protected. His survival is as critical as Celaena’s, but I like how he adjusts to the rapidly changing world around him, and his own situation with all of its emotional struggles and inner demons. I just really love the guy okay? XD
The romance in the novels tends to grow a little bolder with each book (or Maas’ writing of it), with a nice blend of relationships that are fairly smooth sailing to others that are hesitant and careful, and others that nobody really knows what’s going on or why. XD But with the boldness also carries into writing actual sexual scenes, which I personally could have done without. I liked it better when any bedroom scenes were brief and the door closed without much description. It tends to be sweeter that way. I know what they do, but I don’t always actually want to read them doing it.
The novella prequels are precious. X3 They offer a look into Celaena’s life shortly before the events of the series. It was nice after the whirlwind of Empire of Storms to revisit the Celaena I met in book 1, and it was really fun to have those events explained in greater detail, and know how Celaena makes a few of her connections in the later books of the series, as well as how she’s so skilled in her occupation. I would recommend reading books 1 and 2 before you read the novellas, though. Or at least book 1. I read them after all five of the currently published books, but it may be a little more fun to read them sooner if you’d like. ;)
But even with all of my own personal issues with the books (I know some of them are unavoidable), or the ones in the section below, this series in action-packed and intense, and it will keep you glued to your seat. I personally greatly enjoyed the series, and I’m glad I got caught up, even though I was about five books and four novellas late. XD
This section is not meant to warn readers away from the books. This section is only meant to allow them to be aware of what's in them, and to use their own discretion when reading. :)
(Brief notes for the novellas can be found after these, which are for the series.)
Violence/gore: This increases as the plot progresses. It can get really bloody and gory in some places.
Profanity: Similar to the previous section, the number of times language is used seems to increase as the story goes on. However, the words used, while there is a variety, are fairly mild (“mild” is my own opinion). P****, s***, a**, d***, b******, and b**** are the main words used often. Characters may also swear by the world’s own gods (or say things like “gods above” or somesuch).
Sexual content: There is a lot, but I think the majority of it is only briefly described in a background setting, or simply implied through dialogue. Prostitutes are also in the background quite often. We see characters touch and kiss affectionately, but the bolder descriptions come later, especially in Empire of Storms, in which is a borderline explicit sex scene (chapter 38, if you would prefer to skip it). Others are not as described, but readers are still well aware of what’s going on. Homosexual references are made frequently, and a few named characters are either homosexual or bisexual, but very little is shown on the page.
Other: Plenty of liquor is consumed, and opium is used by a few characters. There is a lot of magic in varying forms. Demons (Vrag) are a part of the story, and witches also come into the story (but without as much magic as you might expect).
Assassin’s Blade (the novellas bindup)
All of the novellas actually had very little in the way of sexual content and profanity compared to the series (which was refreshing after coming off of EoS). There was still a fair amount violence, naturally (comes from having a cast heavily set in the assassin occupation). Liquor is consumed, too.