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Molly Templeton

No Wine, No Bargains, and Don’t Trust Your Senses: Reading Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses

Stunning and mysterious Fae lords. A world under the thumb of a mysterious and dangerous woman. The complicated relationship between mortals and immortal creatures. A long-ago war that shaped the future of mortals and Fae alike. And one young woman with a huge role to play in all of it. Some of A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first book in Sarah J. Maas’s series of the same name, reflects the story and themes of her Throne of Glass series. And some of it starts to go in a whole different direction.

In 2018, I read all of Throne of Glass in just a few weeks, and chronicled the whole thing here. This year, while we wait for the March release of Maas’s first adult novel, Crescent City, it’s time for A Court of Thorns and Roses!

As before, this is a first-read, so please: no spoilers for the series beyond the book currently under discussion.

That said, I’m going to talk Throne of Glass spoilers at least this once. But I’ll give fair warning.

Shall we go to Prythian?

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How We Live Now: The Expanse, “Saeculum” and “Cibola Burn”

You can enjoy The Expanse for a lot of reasons. Maybe it’s the characters, the scrappy found families, accidental do-gooders, swearing politicians, steely Belters and protomolecule plotters. Maybe it’s the sheer beauty the show is capable of: the alien vistas of Ilus, the ships in orbit, the vision of a half-drowned New York, those stunning titles. Maybe it’s the way the characters grow around each other, or the way the sets look lived-in and detailed, like places you’d want to wander through, figuring out what each item means to the person it belongs to.

It’s all of those things for me. But it’s also the question the show asks over and over again: Is this how we want to live?

Spoilers for season four.

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A Little More Time: The Expanse, “A Shot in the Dark” and “The One-Eyed Man”

One of the things that keeps me so invested in The Expanse—the show and the books—is that this story is interested in what comes after. It’s one of the things it has in common with Battlestar Galactica; it’s not (just) about how we get to a tipping point, but how we deal with it, what we learn, how we keep going. A lot of SFF focuses on the big moment of change, but I always want to know what’s next. How do we handle that kind of hard part? How does humanity rebuild after The Matrix Revolutions? How does the New Republic come into being after Return of the Jedi? (Yeah, I know, some of it’s in the books! I read them!)

I love “The Scouring of the Shire.” I love Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tehanu. And I love The Expanse, which shows again and again how big moments of change aren’t stopping points. There’s so much more to do after you survive.

[Spoilers for episodes 7 and 8, “A Shot in the Dark” and “The One-Eyed Man.”]

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There Will Be a Next Thing: The Expanse, “Oppressor” and “Displacement”

Halfway through last season was the point when the story shifted from the war between Earth and Mars to the matter of the ring, so maybe it’s not a huge surprise that the midpoint of season four brings a whole new threat! A big one! One that totally freaks me out! Let’s get right to it!

[Spoilers for episodes 4 and 5, “Oppressor” and “Displacement.”]

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First Things Last: The Expanse: “Subduction” & “Retrograde”

First, a confession: I’ve been so engrossed in this season that it took me a long minute to realize that the Ilus scenes are widescreen. It makes so much sense; it’s the first time The Expanse has taken place in wide open spaces. Everyone else is constrained in some way: by the ships of the Belt; by the habitable places on Mars; by the limits of office, in Avasarala’s case. (Not to mention the population density of Earth.) Emphasizing the scope of Ilus, the smallness of this little gaggle of humans contrasted against a planet that appears to them to be “empty,” is a gorgeous choice.

[Spoilers for episodes 3 and 4, “Subduction” and “Retrograde.”]

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“What in the hell did you do?” The Expanse: “New Terra” and “Jetsam”

FINALLY. It’s been a long wait for season four of The Expanse, and it’s finally here and ready for bingeing. (No one made any weekend plans, right?) After some generally spoiler-free first impressions of the season (tl;dr version: The show remains great!), it’s time to dig in.

(Spoilers for episodes 1 and 2, “New Terra” and “Jetsam.”)

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Storm’s Coming. Initial Impressions of The Expanse Season 4

At the end of season three of The Expanse, more than a thousand doors opened. Space: it’s an even bigger place than we thought! But humanity hasn’t always been great with places it thinks are empty and ripe for the taking. History is at the forefront of everyone’s mind as The Expanse moves into its fourth season. What does a mad rush to colonize new planets look like when people are short on opportunities? What is opportunity, and who gets more of it? What if these planets have already seen interstellar conflict and destruction? What if no one fully understands the situation?

The first episode of season four screened at NYCC, and so as not to retread that territory I’ll skip the summary—besides, season four isn’t the place to pick up this complex and engrossing series, friends! Start at the beginning! But for those of you who are caught up: if you don’t want to know a single thing about season four, you’re free to stop reading now with the assurance that, based on the first six episodes, it’s the same show, smart and immersive as ever. But if you want a little more, let’s talk a little about where the story’s going, and what it all means.

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Hugo Spotlight: Embracing Character Flaws in Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road

In the lead-up to the 2019 Hugo Awards, we’re taking time to appreciate this year’s novel and short fiction Finalists, and what makes each of them great.

We know the language for the novels that shape us when we’re young: formative, inspirational, the books that made us who we are—the ones that show us who we can grow into, and ways of becoming those people. But it’s less common to talk about the books that serve this same purpose once we’re grown-ups—even though we keep becoming who we are. It’s not a finite process!

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Assassins, Pirates, or Dragons: Where to Start With the Work of Robin Hobb

Choosing a Robin Hobb book to start with isn’t just choosing a series—it’s choosing a doorway into a huge, interconnected world. All but one of Hobb’s trilogies make up a giant tale told in many pieces (the oddball is the Soldier Son series). They span continents and decades, damaging leadership and ecological damage, traumatic childhood and challenging coming-of-age.

And you can start in several places. If you’re a completist, you’ll probably start at the beginning, but if you’re not, you can choose based on character, or location, or focus. Would you like a young man with royal blood, or a headstrong young woman fighting to lead the family business? Prefer your dragon-centric tales set in a strange, deadly landscape? Would you like to explore a bustling port town in a series where family drama involves magical ships? Or do you like your fantasy set in castles and keeps, fully engaged with the foibles and flaws of royalty?

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We Might Be So Much More: Reading Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass: Kingdom of Ash

All our theories can at last be put to rest, though not all of our questions got answers. But how could they? Even in almost a thousand pages, there were so many things in motion, going into this last book, that only one thing seemed definite: A really big showdown, years in the making, was coming.

Welcome to the last post in Reading Throne of Glass! My head is absolutely full to bursting with details, both vital and random, and I’m dying to talk about what happened at the end. So let’s get to it.

This post involves all the spoilers for all the books!

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How A Wizard of Earthsea Made Me a Fantasy Reader

This week, Saga Press releases a gorgeous new omnibus edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Books of Earthsea, illustrated by Charles Vess, in celebration of A Wizard of Earthsea‘s 50th anniversary. In honor of that anniversary, this week we’re running a different look at Earthsea each day—starting with the first book in the series.

I didn’t meet the book that would make me a fantasy reader under the best of circumstances.

When I was small, 8 or 9, I got very sick with some sort of stomach thing. Nothing would distract me from whatever was twisting my gut. I sprawled on our scratchy, plaid sofa, miserable, unsoothable, probably an absolute terror to be near. My mother, being very smart and very well-read, decided to read to me.

I don’t know if she started with A Wizard of Earthsea, but I know it’s what worked. It was the only thing that worked, a magical spell of distraction and calm—and change, because I was never the same afterwards.

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10 Questions We Hope Are Answered in Sarah J. Maas’s Kingdom of Ash

After reading the entire Throne of Glass series in six weeks, I am extremely ready for Kingdom of Ash—maybe more ready than I can remember being for the last book in a series, ever. And by “ready” I largely mean “armed with many details and about a thousand questions, approximately one for each page of the massive final book.”

Here are 10 of the biggest questions—from the mysteries of barely-seen countries and tricksy villains to the question that hangs over every final book in a series packed with conflict: Who’s going to make it out alive?

The entirety of Throne of Glass up through Tower of Dawn is discussed below, so enter here only ye who have read the books.

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Side Quest: Reading Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass: Tower of Dawn

After Empire of Storms, our heroine is off the page in more ways than one: Tower of Dawn is primarily Chaol’s book, as he and Nesryn venture to the Southern Continent and meet up with another person whose life has been unexpectedly affected by a certain former assassin. A reader might think they could skip Chaol’s sometime frustrating tale of healing, but that would be a mistake: it’s also full of super-important secrets and one reveal that changes the entire nature of the threats our heroes face. (I have so many questions.)

Welcome to the next installment of Reading Throne of Glass! In anticipation of Kingdom of Ash, I’ve been reading the entire series over six weeks. This isn’t a reread for me, but a first-read: if you’ve already read the whole series, you will be able to feel extremely superior while I ponder things you probably know backwards and forwards. 

Spoilers for the entire published series follow!

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Ambrose Spellman Is Already My Favorite Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Character

According to Chance Perdomo, who plays Ambrose Spellman in the upcoming Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, he’s “the Alfred to Sabrina’s Batman.” I don’t think this means Sabrina’s going to be flying around using a witch utility belt, but I do think it means that Ambrose is likely to be an absolute fan favorite once the series airs. Based on the first episode, which fans got a sneak peak of at NYCC, he’s pretty much got my vote.

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