New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: October 23rd, 2018
Number of Pages: 984 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance, New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for this book and the whole series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE

To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Queen of Shadows – Click HERE

To see my review of book #5 – Empire of Storms – Click HERE

To see my review of book #6 – Tower of Dawn – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.75 Stars

Y’all… this series, seriously…

I could go on and on and on, and I kind of will in this review because fuck it, this is MY blog, but before I go into this book that’s the final installment of this series, I guess I’ll share my original Goodreads review from when I finished this book all the way back in the fall of 2018 when it was first released. Here’s a little book review throwback:

~~~

Not since Harry Potter has a series really grabbed me and emotionally invested me like this series has. I remember I discovered this series back in 2012 on Pinterest, of all places, and seeing so much fan art about it and seeing amazing digital art work with “Throne Of Glass” in the caption, not knowing what it was, but after awhile, my curiosity got the best of me and so I decided to look into it and give the book a try.

One of the best decisions I’d ever made.

I quickly loved this series so so much. I loved everything about it. I especially loved the characters. I loved the dynamic of Caleana with Dorian and Chaol at the very beginning, the original trio, and even the new characters every book, to Rowan, Aedion, Manon, Lysandra, Nesryn, Yrene and so many more. I felt so connected and familiar with each of them, and felt like I was friends with them. They were my definition of squad goals, at least within a book.

Sarah J. Maas has created such a vivid, creative, wonderful world with this story of a girl trying to win back her kingdom, and it’s so incredible to know that this series began when she was only 16. I am so happy for her that she was able to fulfill a dream of hers and see this series grow over the many years. While I know some people didn’t like this aspect, but it was incredible to see her prose grow and mature over time, and yes, that means the subject matter also matured. Throne of Glass felt more than a typical kind of Teen fantasy and later on, especially in Empire of Storms, more mature themes had shown up and I noticed how some people didn’t like that; some saying it’s not the best material that young girls should read. While I saw their points of view, I thought it was great to see her writing change over time, because the story had changed so much over time, and characters grew and changed over time and so did Sarah as a writer. A woman in her thirties will write something very different than when they themselves were a teenager. The series developed into a non typical teen fantasy series, and into an area between YA and Adult fantasy. I also think that pushing boundaries and having subject matter that parents might not want their kids to read means it must be a good story; they’re more shocking, interesting and thought provoking.

As any great book series, it had to come to an end at some point. It makes me remember when I first read the big battle at the end of the first book, knowing there’s some big villain that needs to be vanquished and thinking to myself, how in the world are they going to get to that point? What will happen from now until then? The book didn’t really pick up until surprisingly almost 200 pages in. It was understandable; Sarah had to catch us up on a lot of characters and their arcs because for some of them, it’d been two years since the last book they were in, plus there’s a lot of characters. I loved each and every one of their stories, and adored the parts where they reunite and/or meet for the very first time. So much that I wanted to see happen did in fact happen, and knowing that this was the final book, I let myself savor every word.

Long story short through the entire middle, I laughed, I cried, and I prepared myself for the eventual end.

The ending… there were many things that Sarah did that paid tribute back to the very first book, going back to her roots of the story that were so touching, so heartwarming, I’m so happy she did them. It made me emotional about how it’s all over now but it made them reflect on the beginning. The ending of course wasn’t perfect, some storylines I wish ended differently or got more attention, but who knows, ACOTAR was only supposed to be a trilogy, so fingers crossed.

I can’t say a single bad thing about this series overall. Any writer I hope wants to have their stories touch someone meaningfully, and Sarah, this one did, so much. It’s one of my inspirations of wanting to write my own books, even if they aren’t anywhere close to resembling her own. What a story it’s all been, so much that happened, so much time and energy put into it, and it honestly gave me a newfound passion for reading. The Throne of Glass series will forever be such a big part of me, as a writer and a reader.

You could rattle the stars. You could do anything, if only you dared”

Thank you Sarah J. Maas, sincerely from the bottom of my heart. Reading your books, meeting you and getting a picture with you when you came to Minnesota for your Tower of Dawn tour, I aspire to touch someone’s life one day like you’ve touched mine!

To the stars that listen, and the dreams that are answered”

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

~~~

Awwwwwwee look at me trying to be a huge, influential book reviewer on there while singing praise to my favorite author and trying to keep my emotions in check at how my favorite book series has come to an end. I’d at least like to think I’d learned to not use as many commas and that my grammar has overall improved tremendously since then as well! Honestly, not a whole lot has changed in my opinion of SJM since then, even though she’s only released House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) since then, which is also crazy to think about, but I’d say I’ve also come to notice more of the things in her writing that aren’t so great, whether it be from fellow fans or haters. The cool thing about it all is though is that I can say I still love her stories even though I do notice the little things that I do wish would change, but instead of bashing an author, simply go and find someone else who does include that kind of material, whatever it may be.

Celaena/Aelin is an absolute favorite of mine over the course of the series; her growth is done so well, and the emotions behind her words, her motives, her actions are so sharp and vulnerable that you truly feel them alongside her as she goes from assassin to long lost heir to queen attempting to regain her kingdom. In this book, she once again goes through the wringer and learns the valuable lesson of having to lean on those in her corner and how that’s not actually weakness, but a strength in itself. That’s only one of the lessons she’s taught me throughout this series, another is how to let those same people in. Allow yourself to be vulnerable with them in order to not only survive, but truly live. It’s better to have gone too far than to not have travelled at all.

Rowan is of course another favorite; how could he not be if you’ve made it this far? He’s stoic, hard around the edges, protective, honorable, and a fierce ally and friend and lover. It shows how much he’s changed since Aelin came into his life; not only because they’re mates but also because of how she’s made a Fae warrior prince like himself whose been around for many years to somehow see the world in a different way. She was literally like a sun that made him see the light in his long and arduous journey. Was I immediately sold on his and Aelin’s relationship? No…… The shit from allies to lovers could’ve been smoother in my opinion, but that doesn’t mean I don’t totally fall for the passion and love they have for each other by this point. To be honest, I didn’t see a whole lot of dynamic change from Rowan in this book, but he was more the rock and calming presence in order for Aelin to fulfill her destiny!

Dorian is my absolute favorite, hands down! I’ve loved him since the first chapter of the first book, and that love only grew more and more as the series went on. It was disappointing to see him kind of get the brush off and shift slightly to the background in some parts, especially once Rowan and Aedion came into the picture in Aelin’s life, and I do think he was done dirty a few times because of that, but maybe that’s also partly why I love him so much as a character! He’s grown so much since the tropey, handsome, charming, total ladies man prince and has become a just and wholesome King full of bravery and more courage than anyone else I can think of! Ladies and gentleman and non-binaries, if a man like him who actually likes to read for fun enters your life, YOU HOLD ONTO THAT PERSON!

Chaol is such a controversial character towards the series, it seems like you either love him or hate him with hardly anything in between. Believe it or not, I’ve always been a big fan of his, even when he had some moments in Queen of Shadows that truly made you want to truly slap that boy across the face, I do put blame on SJM for that by putting him into the bitter ex position that he’d been relegated to. I could understand some of the things he did and said up until that point, it was all in his character and how he was brought up with his upbringing, but even I can agree that he was an ASS-HAT to Aelin in some moments… Nonetheless, I felt like he truly also redeemed himself later on by the time this book comes around. I was so glad/overjoyed/relieved to see him get his own little redemption arc and (hopefully) present himself in a better light once the story was done!

Aedion was another character I wanted to take the time to address. I immediately loved him when he strutted into my life in Heir of Fire, even though it was unclear whether he was going to be hero or villain right off the bat. He’s pretty much a male version of Aelin, which is straight up fire, but I will say I wish we explored his bisexual confession a little more! This is one thing that I’m not a fan of in terms of SJM’s writing, but so far her only LGBT+ representation is when a character just says it to their character, and that’s it… She got better about it in her Crescent City book with a lot more side characters who’re queer, but I say it can always get better; doesn’t mean I’m gonna trash her for it! I hate how disappointed I was in Aedion in this book with how he is towards Lysandra, but I go more into that later!

Manon Blackbeak is a badass, plain and simple. She’s a stone cold bitch, and I love her for it, but I have to say I like her character more than I liked her storylines. I just found myself skimming more often whenever the chapters centered around her; I just found her chapters to be more boring. That definitely changed in Empire of Storms, and suddenly I think she’s the most interesting character out of the bunch in that book! I also never thought I’d be so obsessed with her and Dorian becoming a thing, but a certain scene below decks with some chains later, and now…

If there’s more characters you want me to give a little commentary on, feel free to say so and I’ll happily add them!

What It’s About:

This book continues shortly after the events of both Empire of Storms and Tower of Dawn, both of which were happening parallel to each other in terms of chronological events happening. Aelin has been taken away by Queen Maeve and Cairn, brought back to Wendlyn to be taken prisoner and held captive in that horrid iron coffin, and let’s not forget Fenrys whose also there in his wolf form.

Aedion and Lysandra are trying to keep up the ruse of Aelin being safe and sound as the allies the Terrasen Queen has brought together, but tension is insanely thick between Aedion and Lysandra as she puts Aelin’s face on in front of everyone but themselves and Aedion is a general scorned by their wicked betrayal of keeping him out of the loop and allowing Aelin to be captured in the first place, all while barely being able to keep the Valg King Erawan’s army at bay…

Rowan is following close behind Maeve in order to save his mate and wife (yes, remember she’s his wife now too), and it’s a race against time before she’s gone forever…

Dorian and Manon are travelling with the 13 to gather even more allies amongst the witches…

Chaol, Nesryn travel back from the Southern Continent with all their new allies and the recent news they’ve discovered about the Fae Queen…

With Aelin captured, friends and allies are scattered to different fates. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever. As destinies weave together at last, all must fight if Erilea is to have any hope of salvation.

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an explosive conclusion as Aelin fights to save herself―and the promise of a better world.

What I Liked:

  1. The Final Battle! Just the fact that it’s the final book and that big final battle is finally here is reason enough to be excited! Remember when you read the first book for the first time and Aelin was still Celaena and she was facing off against Cain? You wondered what you were possibly getting yourself into, and what could possibly happen in this series as you kept going on with each book? It’s just crazy to think we’re finally here and the end is upon us!
  2. SJM’s Reunion of the Original Trio! The nostalgia was heavy in this book, and I was so happy to see SJM pay tribute to how this whole dang series started, and that was with Aelin (as Celaena), Chaol Westfall, and Dorian Havilliard! To have them all reunite and how she brought their dynamic back into the spotlight actually brought me to tears a few times! They feel like my actual friends, and they’ve been through so much together and on their own and to see them come back together and still have so much love and adoration for each other….ugh, SO MANY EMOTIONS!!
  3. Aelin Learns to Lean on Her Squad! One thing that even I was finding annoying with Aelin was how she had to keep all her plans inside her own mind and couldn’t share the entirety of them with anyone! Sure, the plans usually came together successfully up until this point, but c’mon girl… these people are your squad! Don’t keep them out in the cold, you’re not your cousin!!!! By this point, there was no way she was going to be able to get out of her predicament with Maeve and Cairn on her own, and it was great to see her finally learn to rely on her loved ones and allies in order to become victorious! It’s not weak to seek help from those who are willing to give it!
  4. Dorian Makes a Major Play! Once again, Dorian proves why I love him so much and becomes a major MVP when he shape-shifts and flies over to Morath, THEN his whole interaction with Maeve had me on the edge of me seat!
  5. All The Couples! I think I was complaining about this aspect of SJM’s writing before—that all her characters end up together when they don’t necessarily have to—BUT I can also say I care way too much about every couple by now to think this way, at least for this series… Aelin and Rowan, Aedion and Lysandra, Dorian and Manon, Chaol and Yrene, Lorcan and Elide, and even Nesryn and Sartaq; I just care about them all so much by this point! It’s hard to say some of these couples didn’t need to happen when I love them all so much!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Aedion’s Behavior Towards Lysandra…What a douche-nozzle he was in this book! Yeah, he felt betrayed by the two women who’re most important to him in his life, and sure they left him out of the loop with their plan, but seriously?! I was heartbroken by how much I was liking him less and less with every chapter that focused on him and Lysandra and the allies that Aelin brought to them. I was happy to see him redeem himself a little bit by the end, but I can tell it wasn’t enough for some readers, and not all was forgiven in terms of his behavior. I still can’t believe he even left Lysandra out in the snow when she was completely naked! I wanted to slap the sense into that hard head of his!
  2. More Characters Should’ve Died…Now hear me out because I can literally feel some of you readers deciding to have me cancelled for even saying this, but I seriously think SJM played it too safe and saved way too many characters in the end! The story would’ve been WAY more impactful if more main characters died in this epic final battle, and seriously it’s a nasty and brutal battle, it’d just be more realistic if more of the major players were to have been killed off. It would’ve been sad and depressing, yes, but it surely would’ve made such a more effective and memorable storyline with the emotional impact more deaths would evoke! What If Aedion and Lysandra died before they could reconcile? What if they literally died in each other’s arms while they confessed their love for each other? What if the same thing, but with Lorcan and Elide? What if the whole royal family of the Southern Continent died? The Ruks? What if Dorian died in his major sacrifice? I will admit, the character deaths we did receive were plenty tragic and I won’t spoil who it was for anyone who still doesn’t know, but I stand by my statement!
  3. The Ending Should’ve Been More Extensive…By this I mean it was wrapped up a little too neat and trim. I kinda wish there was a much bigger jump through time, and with more information on what happened to other characters besides just Aelin and Rowan. What happened to Chaol and Yrene? Aedion and Lysandra? Lorcan and Elide? Manon? Sartaq and Nesryn? What kind of King did Dorian truly turn out to be? I wanted more of these kinds of answers from SJM, but fingers crossed that she left it more open-ended so that if she ever wanted to, she could return to this world and continue their stories in some way!

Conclusion:

It’s like I said in my original Goodreads review: Before this series, only Harry Potter has been a book series that has made me give as much emotional and time investment as this series has over the course of my 27 years on earth. The Throne of Glass series holds such a special place in my heart, and I think that’s partly because I was with the series as the books were all being released, and I grew up alongside the books and the story at a very impactful time of my life from 2013-2018.

It was always alongside me in my journey through those years, and with that proves my attachment towards this series that I might not ever have with another series ever again if not for quite some time. In terms of Gen Z’rs and the TikTok generation: these books truly hit different!

I truly can’t recommend this book series enough for anyone looking for an epic fantasy series to try and read. I say it’s seriously got a little of everything needed in order to create an epic story: adventure, memorable characters, danger, romance, character growth, the battle of good vs. evil, action, mystique and lore, surprising twists, history, betrayal, many intertwining storylines, and so much more! My only concern is that for the more advanced readers, the first book is truly the weakest and only shows what feels like 1% of what the actual series is about! It’s filled with many recognizable tropes we’ve seen so many times before, but remember that it was published in 2012 when these ideas weren’t considered as cliché as they are now. I say give it a chance, see what happens, and you never know, you’ve be as in love with it as I am!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6): By Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: September 5th, 2017

Number of Pages: 680 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This Review contains spoilers from this book and previous books in the whole series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Queen of Shadows – Click HERE

To see my review of book #5 – Empire of Storms – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

Here we are with yet another installment in what is one of my favorite series of all time: The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

This is an interesting addition though and has caused some confusion amongst the fandom; so hopefully I can help anyone who has questions by clearing things up: this is not a side quest or side story that people can decide to skip over. It’s just the next installment into the whole series, but it happens parallel to all that happens in Empire of Storms. We never saw Nesryn and Chaol in the previous book because of all that happens in this book thats happening all at the same time. With them not being in that story means that all the others (Aelin, Rowan, Dorian, Manon, Aedion, Lysandra, Elide, Lorcan, and the others) are not going to be in this book. It seems like there was some miscommunication because Tower of Dawn was originally supposed to be a side-novella, but once Sarah sat down and started writing, a story that was much larger than a novella just poured out of her, and she playfully shrugged as she turned this into the publisher. Suddenly, it goes from being a side-story in a novella format to a full-length novel and just the next installment of the series. I’m not complaining; I could easily read a 2,000 page book written by SJM, but I do see the confusion some people in the fandom had.

This book holds a special place in my heart because thanks to this book, I got to actually see Sarah J. Maas in person, hear her talk about her writing experience, and won a raffle to even get a picture with her and a personalized signed copy of the book! She talked about the Southern Continent being inspired by the Mongolian Empire, how she Genghis Khan, and how the story of her most important new character, Yrene Towers, is actually pretty similar to a story about her grandmother. She too fled a country that was dangerous and sought to kill her and others like her (for religious beliefs I think), and all the complex emotions behind it along with having to start over in an entirely new world all alone. It was incredibly inspiring! Below is the picture I got with Sarah; some of you may have seen it pop up on some of my other reviews under my name or in my bio page:

Back to the story, Chaol has always been a favorite character of mine! Him, Dorian, and Aelin/Calaena were the original trio, and I always appreciated Chaol’s more stoic personality and the pride he has for himself and all that he does. I didn’t like when things got complicated between him and Aelin/Calaena because he couldn’t accept the magical parts of her, but I could understand where he came from since that’s what he’s been taught for as long as he remembers. It’s hard to break the chain of that if it’s been instilled into your brain since you were young, but I could still see the good in him even as it felt like he’d been reduced to the “bitter ex” in Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows. I always held out hope that we’d see him get back more into the story in a better light, and Tower of Dawn definitely allows that to happen with his character, but I get more into that later on!

He supposed he’d learned that strength could be hidden beneath the most unlikely faces.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “Tower of Dawn”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq have arrived in the shining city of Antica to forge an alliance with the Khagan of the Southern Continent, whose vast armies are Erilea’s last hope. But they have also come to Antica for another purpose: to seek healing at the famed Torre Cesme for the wounds Chaol received in Rifthold.

After enduring unspeakable horrors as a child, Yrene Towers has no desire to help the young lord from Adarlan, let alone heal him. Yet she has sworn an oath to assist those in need—and will honor it. But Lord Westfall carries shadows from his own past, and Yrene soon comes to realize they could engulf them both.

In this sweeping parallel novel to the New York Times bestselling Empire of Storms, Chaol, Nesryn, and Yrene will have to draw on every scrap of their resilience if they wish to save their friends. But while they become entangled in the political webs of the khaganate, deep in the shadows of mighty mountains where warriors soar on legendary ruks, long-awaited answers slumber. Answers that might offer their world a chance at survival—or doom them all . . .

What I Liked:

  1. ANOTHER Batch Of New Characters! Holy Character Overload Batman, we have a lot of new characters! With Chaol and Nesryn travelling to the Southern Continent to gain allies for the epic war ahead, of course that means we meet a large amount of new characters to fill the pages. There’s the Khagan, who’s the ruler of this new realm you travel to and whom Chaol has to convince to help join Aelin and the others. There are also his royal children: Hasar, a princess with a wickedly sharp tongue who you can’t wait to see interact with both Aelin AND Aedion. There’s Arghun, the arrogant and strategic of the Khagan siblings. There’s Duva and Kashin along with Sartaq, who’s also the commander of the Northern armies in the Southern Continent, along with being the oldest of the siblings. He’s an important character, definitely keep your eyes on him! The most important character to also include is Yrene Towers. I wouldn’t exactly call her new since we actually met her in one of the short stories in The Assassin’s Blade, but I know not everyone has actually read it themselves, so Tower of Dawn is the start for them. Another incredibly important character to keep your eyes on! The list goes on with all the new characters you meet in this book, but this is a good start to go off of until you read the book yourself if you haven’t already! It’s funny, but one thing SJM is NOT known for is her representation of marginalized characters with her past books, but it’s like this book was saving all of them for now because I think every new character introduced in this book is POC.
  2. Chaol is Redeemed! Perhaps my biggest disappointment in the series is how Chaol seems to be reduced as a character in the last few books. You begin to see it in Heir of Fire, it really rears its ugly head in Queen of Shadows, and then he’s gone entirely from Empire of Storms! The frustration with Chaol’s treatment was growing and growing as the series developed, but luckily his disappearance from the previous book means he got all the more attention in this book, and I truly think this book also helps him redeem himself in a lot of fans eyes. He finally sees the error of his ways, learns to accept what he couldn’t before, and is able to heal in more ways than one and move on in life. Fans of Mr. Westfall will rejoice at how he’s given center stage this time around and how much he grows in this installment, and even finds love while doing so!
  3. Valg Plot Twist Revealed! Not to give it all away for those who haven’t read this book yet themselves, but a HUGE secret involving the backstory of Erawan and the Valg is revealed, and of course, it changes everything! Sure, it may not have been revealed in the most logical of ways: the character who reveals it has been keeping it a secret for so many years, why tell it now? BUT that doesn’t make this twist any less exciting and somehow allow SJM to raise the stakes somehow even higher as it all leads up to the final battle that will take place in the next book!
  4. The Mystery! So when Nesryn and Chaol arrive in Antica, they soon learn the royal family and the whole city are in mourning over the unexpected death of one of the royal children. Soon, it’s revealed that foul play was involved, and that the dark cloud of Erawan and his influence may or may not have already beaten them there. There’s someone or something there that is up to something that may involve the other healers like Yrene, and they’re trying to stop Chaol and everyone from learning more. There’s some mystery attacker who targets them, but who is it? Who’s been taken over by the Valg? It could be anyone…
  5. More Amazing Worldbuilding! Somehow SJM manages to have created a whole new world within this series that was already so rich with history and lore; there’s enough world-building in this book that could easily fill another whole new series all together!
  6. Let The Ruk’s Fly! Going off the world-building and vast list of newer characters, there are some new creatures that I absolutely loved being added to this series, and they are called Ruks. They’re not an entirely new concept, they’re pretty much gigantic eagles that people can ride on, but Prince Sartaq is in charge of an army that specifically rides these magnificent kings of the sky into battle, and it fills me with glee as I fantasize about epic battles high in the sky with the Ruks taking on the Wyverns and Ironteeth Witches!

A gift.

A gift from a queen who had seen another woman in hell and thought to reach back a hand. With no thought of it ever being returned. A moment of kindness, a tug on a thread.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “Tower of Dawn”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. No Aelin and Others…This book occurs side-by-side with Empire of Storms while Aelin, Rowan, Aedion, Dorian, and the others are battling it out at Skull’s Bay and elsewhere. We should all know they aren’t physically in this story at all, but with how Empire of Storms ended on such a dramatic cliffhanger, the thing fans wanted most was to see what happens to Aelin next after what she endured, so it’s a bit understandable that fans are frustrated how this book comes out a year later, and there are still no answers. No new answers to that specific question, and with what’s revealed about the Valg in this book makes us squirm even more so and practically want to beg SJM to give us some sort of scrap of details. We had to wait another whole year to find out!
  2. It’s Slower Paced…This book does feel like it moves a lot slower in terms of pacing, especially with all that happens in Empire of Storms. A lot of it involves Chaol’s road to recovery along with his growing relationship with Yrene. I wouldn’t say it all makes it a bad book, far from it, but I think it’s just not what we want when it’s so far into the series, and we all just want more answers about EVERYTHING by now!

We don’t look back. It helps no one and nothing to look back.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “Tower of Dawn”

Conclusion:

Overall, yet another impressive installment into one of my favorite book series ever, and while it doesn’t exactly give us answers to everything that happened in the previous book, but what it does do is allow us to maybe take a step back and breath and relearn to love a character who’s been with us since the beginning and who’s not gone down the brightest of paths. His treatment hasn’t been the greatest, but Chaol seriously redeems himself in this book, and we do learn even more important information + key characters who will play a HUGE role in things to come!

The world-building, the large cast of new characters, and newly revealed information about both Maeve and the Valg will make this side story worth it. To some readers, it will remind them of Sarah’s earlier work like when the first two books had come out. Her descriptions and writing in this book feel very similar to how those earlier works were written, but of course need to remember that things have changed so much since those simpler times. While we can appreciate those simpler times, we can’t look back too far because let’s remember: the next book, Kingdom of Ash, is the final book in this series!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: September 6th, 2016
Number of Pages: 689 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for previous books in the whole series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review for book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Heir Of Fire – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Queen of Shadows – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

For me, Sarah J. Maas is one of the few authors who can make a near 700 page novel feel like it barely surpassed 300. Empire of Storms moved incredibly quick, even though it’s become one of her more intricately plotted books to date. Right away you’re brought right into the thick of what is all going on, and just as quickly takes off with Aelin, Rowan, Lysandra, and company traveling to look for allies, Dorian is attempting to help rebuild Rifthold heal from its past horrors, Manon and the Blackbeak Clan continue to clash with the other Ironteeth clans and Erawan, plus many more going on behind the scenes!

This book is also the source of a lot of controversy and criticism because of its more erotic scenes involving certain characters, and how they’re worded on paper. I can admit, some of it’s pretty cringe, and some readers don’t like that this series has shifted yet again, and now has similar adult content like her other popular series, A Court of Thorns and Roses. I love both of her series tremendously, but I can’t entirely discredit the concern some people have when they count as Children’s/Young Adult literature. Sex is a topic that teenagers should be able to explore and figure out for themselves what they feel and think about it, and it is a big coming of age theme depending on how it’s handled within a story. In this story, it can be viewed more as purple-prosed erotica, and while I was fine with it, I am able to recognize that some readers may be turned off to it, no pun intended.

On a more positive note, there were plenty of things in this book that I loved! Manon Blackbeak and her developement being the biggest factor for me. Usually I’ve been finding her storylines boring even as I love the character, but this book changed that tremendously! I also loved the storyline/development of Lorcan and Elide, a.k.a. “Elorcan” as most fans put it. They were a couple I had no idea I’d love so much until they meet in this book, so what a happy surprise! I also am one of the readers that actually did appreciate the more mature romance. While it was worded strangely to avoid using certain terms, I thought it did add to the story and make it that much more impactful.

That being said, there were of course some other things I didn’t like as much: The big one being the lack of Chaol and Nesryn. Dorian’s character has taken a weird shift too, to which part of me was disappointed with as he’s my favorite character in the whole dang series!

There’s yet another shift in the series that’s different than the first two books, and even the third and fourth novels. There’s no denying that SJM can write, and the series started off as a much simpler story with just Calaena, Chaol, Nehemiah, and Dorian that made you feel really close to them, and then it shifted into a much broader epic fantasy series with a large cast, each having their own stories and developments, comparable to popular series like Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. I can appreciate both types of stories, but I do like how this series has shifted from one to the other. I think it served as a good basis to get to know the core characters, and then allowed it to branch off like it has with more intertwining subplots, more characters, and raising the stakes with every page.

Some readers miss the simplicity the first two books had, but I personally think SJM works better with these larger casts of characters stories; something lost but something gained.

Overall, I immensely enjoyed this book; it’s at this point in the whole series that I really just love where the everyone is at and so many characters have been introduced in varied ways. Some are more fleshed out than others, but part of the journey of reading a book series is slowly learning more about the newer characters as they stick around. The action was absolutely riveting, especially the events in Skull’s Bay! The romance was scorching—or earth shattering—and somehow the stakes continue to rise as even more secrets are exposed, and certain characters that we haven’t seen or heard from in awhile make a unexpected return.

Hearts will pound in anticipation and break over the loss; you’ll be on the edge of your seat either way!

Where do you think you’re going?’ Darrow demanded.

She looked over her shoulder. ‘To call in old debts and promises. To raise an army of assassins and thieves and exiles and commoners. To finish what was started long, long ago.’”

— Sarah J. Maas, “Empire of Storms”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Kingdoms will collide.

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius as war looms on the horizon. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what—and who—to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

Dorian offered a lazy grin in return. ‘Believe it or not, this ship has an unnatural number of attractive men and women on board. You’ll fit right in. And fit in with the cranky immortals, I suppose.’”

— Sarah J. Maas, “Empire of Storms”

What I Liked:

  1. Manon Blackbeak’s Character Development! Very easily the MVP of the whole dang book, Manon is by far the best character with the way her storyline progresses and how she grows as a character. So much happens to her, and unlike the other books, I was completely riveted with the words on the page whenever she was the main focus for the chapter. Before Empire of Storms, I was never really fully invested in her… Her as character YES, but her storyline wasn’t too thrilling, but that changes in this book HEAVILY! I can’t give away what all happens just because I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone who’s a first time reader, but Manon fans will REJOICE!
  2. Lorcan and Elide! This was such an unexpected surprise; these two interacting the way they did, and how their relationship developed was such a delight. Elide had finally escaped from the clutches of her uncle and is travelling back to Terrasen in search of both Calaena and Aelin—oh the irony—while being tailed by Lorcan. I never thought they would ever interact, but then SJM goes and gives us ANOTHER couple to completely obsess over. The last couple of chapters put them through so much, but I was so into it!
  3. The Mature Shift of the Romance! This is perhaps the most controversial topic of this book—no, this whole series by this point! There has been a shift being seen since Heir of Fire (book #3), but there’s ANOTHER shift with this book particularly where the lines of YA become mixed with NA, and yes….there’s sex. Pretty graphic sex too I will add. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it as much as a lot of other readers do… I mean, yeah, maybe some of the descriptions were really cringe and apparently I find it funny that Rowan’s orgasms can cause earthquakes, but hey, in the moment…. you know what, not gonna go there! To me, it’s like these books have grown and matured along with SJM and her career, and I really like that idea, but I can also agree that the younger readers in the fandom might be a little wide-eyed and blushing like they’re stashing a copy of 50 Shades underneath their pillow whenever their parents come in. I was also reading erotic romance in like 8th and 9th grade, so I say it all just depends on the reader specifically. If you’re uncomfortable with sex scenes in a book, that’s cool. If you’re all for it, that’s cool too!
  4. Aedion’s Confession! I so wish there was more exploring of this small tidbit…
  5. Fenrys and Gavriel! You kind of met Gavriel in Heir of Fire, but he returns with another alpha-fae in the form of Fenrys—who is just such a delight. These two are total opposites, and Gavriel had a much deeper story arc, but they could only add more to the cast that is already stacked with so many names!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. No Chaol and No Nesryn…Despite what a lot of people say about him, plus my own disappointment with some things he’s said and done, Chaol is still one of my favorite characters! At the end of Queen of Shadows, he’s brutally injured and can no longer walk, so him and Nesryn head down to the Southern Continent to look for a healer and to gain some new allies for the war ahead. I’m not gonna lie, the two of them not being in this book felt like such a large chunk was missing. HOWEVER, I do know that the next book in the series, Tower of Dawn, will focus on them as it will show what happens parallel in this book. I can agree that if they were to be combined that it would be too much at once!
  2. Dorian’s Character Felt Off…LOVE LOVE LOVE Dorian, he’s easily my favorite character in this whole series! That’s why it feels weird to say how I’m not entirely sure I was 100% behind him in this book. Sure, he’s just faced a huge trauma of losing Sorscha, being possessed by a Valg Prince, killing many people under its control, killing his father, and almost losing his best friend, Chaol…. that’s a lot of trauma to deal with! I would love to see if anyone could come out the same after experiencing all that, and not even being in control of his own actions for some of it. Maybe that’s why he felt off, like he was an entirely different character. It felt like pieces of him were no longer there…

Conclusion:

This is the 5th installment to my favorite Fantasy series, Throne of Glass, and it takes yet another shift towards something that’s matured along with SJM’s writing. Gone is the whimsical, lighter tone from the first two books, and now there’s a more erotic mature theme added to the story that have shown up with the mutual maturation of the characters and their development. Like the controversy over her other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, the romance has become intended what most critics would say is more geared towards a New Adult level than Young Adult, what this series is originally advertised and marketed as.

Loved this book so much, I can personally say I appreciate the tone in which these books have shifted to. The whole plot of the series has continued to become more intricate and deeply thought out, and let’s just say to expect some major twists and turns along with plenty of heartbreak, especially with that doozy of a cliffhanger ending!

The biggest disappointment had to be the lack of a former Captain of the Guard, but luckily he’s the main focus of the next book. We’re getting closer to the final battle, and things can only keep getting more intense as Aelin fights for her destiny!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, Romance

My Review: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: March 3rd, 2020
Number of Pages: 803 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Through love, all is possible.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Earth and Blood”

I know, I know…it sounds like a really cheesy quote; like something straight out of a Sailor Moon movie where something flower or heart shaped pops out of Serena’s chest along with some song with those exact lyrics while she saves the world with the help of Tuxedo Mask and the other sailor scouts and everything becomes back to normal…Read this book though, and this quote will have much more meaning to you, along with the characters who say it.

So, it’s been a couple of days since I’d finished this behemoth of a book, and with the time away from it, I was able to fully absorb everything that happens and be able to organize my thoughts. I’ve also been able to get a Fancast for the series going on here as well

You should check out my in-progress Fancast/Dreamcast by clicking the link HERE!

Like any other title SJM has written, I’d gotten completely transported into the story with all its characters, and nothing else mattered to me but finding out what happened next. I know some people aren’t really fans of her work—a few who’ve read this couldn’t get past the repetitiveness of her words—but I can’t help but admit that I just really connect with her books! The plots, the characters, the twists, and the romance; I just can never get enough of it…Plus, isn’t it normal for an author to have similar themes and/or characters in their multiple work projects? If it works for them once, can’t it work again? Also, don’t readers also have a set of similar expectations whenever they check out the author’s other books anyways?

I had many different emotions while reading this book: the first one being confusion because right off the bat there was a TON of world-building info that honestly didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The next was the usual overall happiness because theres also a group dynamic amongst the main character, her long-time best friend, and their squad of wolves—not werewolves because they can choose when to change. The next was absolute heartbreak…then that turned back into excitement, and I’m not going to lie, I actually cried six times the last 25% of the book too, and now I need to know what happens next when the sequel doesn’t even have a release date yet!

Great…

I did have some initial hesitation going in that I thought was worth mentioning. Once I’d read the blurb, I was worried how similar this plot sounded compared to A LOT of other paranormal romance titles/series out there. One in particular that I’ve become obsessed with in 2020: The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. They both sounded too eerily similar: both include a young, gorgeous party girl who’s easy, party-drug induced world is flipped upside down when someone they care about more than anything else ends up mysteriously murdered. They’re thrust into deadly hunt to find some answers with the reluctant help of Mr. Tall, Dark, Gorgeous…and completely broody, cheeky alphahole. Together, they discover the dark workings of an underworld full of demons and other evil creatures, along with many sketchy beings, and make questionable alliances in order to learn the truth and save the world from impending doom. I was thankfully relieved when after I’d gotten a few chapters in at how different the two stories were able to remain amongst each other, especially as it would’ve looked worse for SJM since the Fever series has been coming out since 2006. She’d dodged the bullet there, and still managed to make another series that’s just as binge-worthy.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Development! So it can’t even be considered a spoiler because of the blurb, but there’s a romantic subplot that occurs between Bryce and Hunt. I would gladly categorize it under the “Enemies-to-Lovers” romance trope, and it’s honestly done to perfection. The two of them become reluctant partners to try and solve the big mystery of the murders, and as the stakes get higher, they grow closer along with the sexual tension rising at a really well drawn out slow burn. Hunt and Bryce really compliment each other well, and as they grow closer and become more vulnerable with each other, they reveal tidbits about themselves and realize how similar they both are. I seriously just loved their relationship, and how they’d come to mean so much to each other in the amount of time they spend together. I really, really hope they’re endgame because based off how SJM book romances go, the first love NEVER works out…Hopefully this relationship breaks the pattern.
  2. SJM Called Herself Out! SJM has gotten a reputation for having the same content in her books, but also excluding certain components too: mainly, people get sick of how she doesn’t seem to try and include diverse characters in terms of both ethnicity and sexual orientation; she only likes to write characters who are straight + white. They also say her male love interests are complete alphaholes— who gets way too possessive, jealous, and the word mixes the word alpha with asshole for those that couldn’t figure it out. He’s usually broody, moody, and scowls a lot while being considered an admirable/fearsome leader, and usually has a tragic background and doesn’t think he’ll ever find love…spoiler alert: he eventually does with the main character. There’s more to it, but I think you get the point…Bryce calls Hunt out right as their partnership is officially formed, and I actually laughed as I’d pictured SJM herself flicking off all the haters to show everyone that she sees them..and she beat them to the punch. It felt like SJM listened to the criticism she often receives from some readers, and showed them how she’s aware of it all, and honestly made an effort to change it for this book.
  3. Ruhn Danaan! I think he’s considered a minor character, but he also feels like a main character because you read his perspective throughout the story, but all I know is, he is by far one of the best characters in this book. He calls himself out on his “chosen one” status everyone has given him as the heir to the Fae throne in Crescent City, but based off his demeanor and how he’s gone all tattoos-and-piercings; he rebels against the expectations everyone has given him. His relationship as Bryce’s cousin…anyways, it’s also quite a treat to enjoy to see how it evolves and uncover hidden depths of its dynamic as you read on, so please enjoy!
  4. The Cover Design! House of Earth and Blood probably has to be her best cover yet! I’ve loved some of the Throne of Glass covers while not really the Court of Thorns and Roses covers, but this one instantly bops to the top!
  5. The Theme of Friendship! The deepest relationship besides Bryce and Hunt’s relationship explored is the friendship between Bryce and her sister from another mister, Danika. Throughout the story, their friendship really goes through the wringer, and is tested as more secrets are unveiled in order to solve the mystery. This was especially shocking because you know about Danika’s terrible fate even in the blurb. It’s a real emotional roller coaster, especially as you learn how hard it is for both women to actually say the words I love you to anyone else and how they’d literally die for each other and sacrifice everything in order for the other to be happy. Nothing exchanged between these two is insignificant, that’s for sure!
  6. The Swearing and the Sex Talk! Honestly, I am here for the amount of swearing there is in this book; it makes up for every “fuck” Aelin wanted to yell but wasn’t able to. I swear a lot when I talk amongst my friends or whenever I’m in a casual setting, so this truly resonated with me, and made the dialogue feel so much more natural! SJM has quite of bit of her characters lewdly talk about topics like sex, drugs, drinking, and partying because it’s stuff that people actually talk about in today’s world. At least, they are amongst my friends and age group of the New Adults aged 18-25. It makes it even cooler that in this book, the people doing it are Fae, Witches, Mermaids, Witches, Wolves, Vampires, and other creatures straight out of fairy tales.
  7. The Evolution of Danika! Like I’d mentioned above, Danika was a huge surprise for this book. Once the inevitable happens, I’d kind of written her off, but her character continued to stay relevant as the plot thickened. It turns out Danika had a lot of secrets to hide, and even has her moral code questioned at one point, only to develop even further, and I was amazed at how SJM was able to do that with a character that was never standing by the rest of the cast in present time. My favorite part of SJM’s writing is her character work, by far. She can even make a dead girl one of the most popular characters of the entire book, not to knock any of the characters still alive—just read the book to see what I mean.
  8. Aidas! A character we see only three times, and of course he’s the most interesting character to me despite that fact. He’s a level-5 demon prince from Hel (not a typo, thats how it’s spelled in this book), and since there’s only two other princes above his status, he’s kind of a big deal. He’s partially at fault with how I want the next book, like, NOW! The very last words are uttered by him, and with that, the torturous waiting has begun…

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Massive Info Dump at the Beginning…One of the biggest critiques this book has been receiving is the massive info dump that occurs within the very first few chapters, and I gotta say I’m in total agreement here. 80% of Chapter 1 is an info dump, and it’s just way too much too soon, and it hardly made any sense as quite a bit of the information doesn’t really come into play until much later in the book. I say, SJM should’ve spaced it out more to make even the opening chapter less overwhelming for everyone reading it for the first time. I can say, however, once you get past this initial set up, the book gets a whole lot better, and even the last third of the book is balls to the walls amazing! Seriously, if the book is dragging for you, PLEASE wait until the last 200 pages to really give it a chance, because it makes it all so worth it!
  2. The WorldBuilding is All Over the Place! With the info dumps at the beginning, it’s also confusing how so many cities and other civilizations are referenced so much in this story, but we don’t know where they are, or have any map for reference to help my fellow visual learners make reading it any easier. The only map we get is of Crescent City itself, so that was irksome…Hopefully another map of the whole world will be created soon, maybe even before the next book releases. Hopefully!
  3. Compared To Her Other Work…Not that I didn’t enjoy the book, but once people started pointing out certain things, I couldn’t ignore it. They’re saying she’s almost plagiarizing herself with how similar this book is compared to her Throne of Glass series. A lot of the character arcs all seem the same, and I don’t feel like going into detail about it all, but I can say that I definitely see the comparison made there.
  4. It’s Length…No, not the velvet wrapped steel SJM sometimes mentions in her sex scenes….you filthy perverts can go get your minds out of the gutters! I’m talking about how this is one thicccc book, and for those that are already on the fence about SJM and her books, this one will be a major test to see how you fare with her work because of the length, and how no major twists or revelations happen until after the 500 page mark. Even I can agree that the pages before you hit 500 could’ve been condensed a bit more in order to make it an easier read for some people. I remember I had a similar issue like this with The Priory of the Orange Tree, but I have other issues besides the length of that title, and I will say something controversial by stating I enjoyed this title more than the standalone literal brick by Samantha Shannon—check out my review in the embedded link to see my reasoning for that.

Conclusion:

At this point, I really take a lot of the criticism SJM books receive with a grain of salt. I’m always extremely emotionally invested in her stories whenever I open the pages of my copy of whatever book it is of hers, whether it’s for the first time ever or I’m able to squeeze in a reread of the previous book before the next one releases. I just connect with her style of writing so much, and enjoy her work more than so many other authors. I can recognize her faults as a writer too, and still be able to look past them to still be able to enjoy her stories. I just hope some people will learn to go out and find other authors that they can enjoy and praise more instead of wasting so much time and energy bashing her work just because she won’t include certain components into her titles. No writer should be forced to do something like that, to change how they tell a story just because certain members of the target audience require X,Y, and Z in order to be able to enjoy a work of fiction. Like I said, if you don’t like an author, simply go search for someone else’s work to praise instead. SJM has a huge following, her books are always popular, so some negative reviews on Goodreads aren’t going to change that anytime soon! Okay…rant over on that, now back to House of Earth and Blood:

Was this book perfect? No.

Is this book my new favorite? I’m not sure, but it’s defs up there!

Did I still enjoy this book? Hell yeah!

Did I cry while reading this book? Oh, you bet’cha…

Do I need the next book? Immediately!

I recommend this book to anyone who already enjoys Sarah J. Maas’s other books, maybe more her later work that gets more mature themes. Personally, I would be fine if she decides to stay this route and not continue with YA anymore just because I can tell she enjoys the more mature themes, like the swearing and sex scenes themselves that can only get a whole lot better as she keeps writing! I also recommend this book to people that enjoyed titles like the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning; Bryce Quinlan has a lot of similarities to Mackayla Lane that I think fans of both series will immensely enjoy, and might also enjoy comparing Hunt Athalar to Jericho Barrons! Total side note: but wow, their names sound so much more crazy when they’re next to each other like that… It’s a good thing I’m still crazy about those two alphaholes!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: September 1st, 2015
Number of Pages: 648 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

***Be warned!! This review contains spoilers from previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk. You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE

To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

By now, we’re so far into the series and even further into the evolution that was Celaena Sardothien into Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the long lost heir of Terrassen. We’ve gotten to know her as a character, see her bloody past and her mistakes, and to see her grow before our eyes as readers. We’ve also met plenty of memorable characters along the way too; some that will be major players for the battle ahead!

Queen Of Shadows is a particularly interesting part of the series because of a few reasons. It was obvious—even back during Heir of Fire—that the series had taken a massive shift. A major change to the tone and the overall feel of these books was evident, and whether or not that’s a good thing really depends on who you ask within the Throne of Glass fandom. I for one absolutely loved it—as you can tell by my star rating above—for many reasons. In my opinion, it’d felt like we’d gotten to see a lot that we’d been waiting a long time for: the reveal of the big villain behind everything, the meeting of many new characters, certain character interactions happening, and of course, the possibility of justice to the realm of Adarlan.

For a few though, they say things like how it feels more like fanfiction from it’s own author, how certain characters have been pushed aside, and the series has gone in a direction that may not have been the best choice…They say plenty of other things, but I politely & respectfully disagree as I personally say Queen of Shadows is actually one of the author’s better written books. I felt like the entire time I’d read it that it was filled with so much high-octane events and amazing characters; how could anyone not appreciate that!

You can definitely tell Sarah J. Maas’s skills as a writer has continued to grow in her ability to make the plot of the whole series more complex and twice as dangerous as more and more keeps getting revealed, like the wyrdkeys and their significance, the Valg and how they want to take over, seeing both sides of the battlefield and getting inside the minds of important characters, enticing side-stories, sexual tension between love interests, and continuing to deepen the development of the world she’d created.

For me, she has an amazing talent to be able to make you fall in love with characters, even when you’d barely thought twice about them at first. She makes them feel so personable, memorable, and strong in their own ways; you wish they were real and that you were a part of your squad IRL.

Going off of that, another high point is how newer characters keep getting introduced with each book on top of the already established cast with some that have been there since the beginning, but it never feels overwhelming or unnecessary! You met Rowan, Aedion, Queen Maeve, and Manon in Heir of Fire, but more keep getting introduced in this book along with a few others that you haven’t seen in sometime since the first two books.

What It’s About:

Aelin has returned to Erilea from across the sea, ready to fight it out as she’s now been trained on her Fae abilities–her fire–but she’s going to need some extra help. She seeks out the help of anyone in Rifthold–the capital of Adarlan–even one man whom she considers a great enemy: her former trainer & mentor, Arobynn Hamel. Still reputable as the “King of the Assassins,” he informs her about her cousin, Aedion, being imprisoned and set for execution.

She also meets up with Chaol and a new ally, Nesryn Faliq, and they all get caught up on whats happened since they’d last seen each other, mainly the fact that Aedion and Dorian got captured, the latter now succumbing to the control of the Valg, and they realize just how bad everything has gotten even without them always getting at each other’s throats about it. They both carry valuable information, but neither are willing to share it with one another because of the mutual distrust they now share with their tense history.

More players enter the game as (spoiler alert but not really)…Rowan makes his way over from across the sea too and reunites with Aelin as they try to get ahead of their enemies and learn so much more about the Valg and what exactly has been happening.

Meanwhile, Manon Blackbeak and the other Ironteeth Witch clans are still in Morath training with their Wyverns for when the King of Adarlan finally calls them forth to battle. Her and Duke Perrington butt heads as she tries to figure out what exactly is going on, and he’s having her choose a clan for an experiment with the witches and the implantation of Valg stones to see if they can successfully breed together. She also wonders what role another female prisoner must play, but becomes concerned when her deadly power shows that more is definitely going on than she’s actually aware of. Maybe this isn’t what she signed up for?…She also meets a servant/kitchen maid, Elide Lochan, who may or may not be another key player added to the mix and is more than meets the eye.

So, so, so, so, so many things happen in this book: there are many twists and turns, epic battles, bitter betrayals, new characters introduced, familiar characters that continue to grow, and even more plots become revealed in this next installment in one of my all-time favorite series!

What I Liked:

  1. You Meet Lysandra (Sort Of)! Lysandra is a former courtesan (prostitute), and the mistress of Arobynn Hamel. If you’d read The Assassin’s Blade—which you totally should if you haven’t already—it was there where you actually first met her and instantly thought of her as the token hot & sexy mean girl who knows she’s hot and is an instant enemy to Aelin because she’s threatened…Obviously, as you get to know Lysandra more in this book, you’ll come to know that is the complete opposite of who she actually is. Her as a character and her dynamic with Aelin throughout Queen of Shadows was excellently done, and as more is revealed about her, you’ll quickly add her to your list of favorite characters.
  2. You Meet Arobynn Hamel (Sort Of)! The man has quite the reputation, that much is certain…You’ve heard his name thrown out plenty of times, but if you skipped The Assassin’s Blade novellas—seriously, read them if you haven’t—you come face to face with the “King of the Assassins” himself for the first time in person. Aelin returns and reluctantly seeks him out for assistance in rescuing Aedion from the castle, but it may as well be making a deal with the devil, as she learns he continues his deadly mind games and has plans of his own in their uneasy alliance.
  3. You Also Meet Lorcan Salvaterre and Elide Lochan! Even more new-ish characters! You’d kind of met Lorcan in the previous book, but he wasn’t there for too long, so it would’ve been easy to write him off and assume you’d maybe never see him again….WRONG! The legendary warrior is back with a vengeance under the orders of the Fae Queen Maeve after how things ended between her and Aelin’s confrontation across the sea. He hunts for the ring to return to his master, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it back, including going head-to-head with Rowan. Next, we’ve got Elide Lochan, who meets and reluctantly befriends Manon. I liked her instantly because despite her limp and her misleadingly weak demeanor, it was revealed how crafty she is and how she’s a survivor. There’s definitely more than meets the eye with her, so watch out!
  4. So Many Strong Female Characters! You already know Aelin and Manon, who are both total badass babes, but literally EVERY female character in this book is too! There’s Elide, who has mastered the art of deception in order to survive, Nesryn Faliq is a master archer who becomes a big help in the many rescue missions, Lysandra shows so many hidden depths to her character, you learn more about Asterin Blackbeak as her character is explored more, and even (spoiler alert!!)…………..Kaltain Rompier makes a surprise reappearance and is able to change the game in her own way!
  5. The Big Bad Guy Revealed! I’m going to say this is a major spoiler for the book, so readers beware!…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Okay, so we’ve known about the Valg, right? The shadowy demons from another dimension that have come into this world through ancient wyrdgates and plan to take over and turn it into a dark, icy, windy wasteland much like their homeland. There have been a few higher ups–the Valg Princes–but now it’s revealed there’s an even BIGGER villain that’s in charge of it all: it turns out there are actually three Valg Kings, and one of them has come over and goes by the name Erawan. He was locked in a tomb deep beneath the mountains many years ago, but was also revealed to have been let out, and has been let loose into their world this whole time! I know, this plot twist sounds eerily similar to the White Walkers, wights, and Night King story arc from Game of Thrones, but you have to admit that it certainly raises the stakes, and makes you rethink everything about a certain character that has always been there, but had remained in the background until now…creepy stuff!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A Sudden Shift With The Romance…Now hear me out, I am a big supporter of romantic subplots and am a firm believer in OTPs. It’s even better when the romance is a subplot and it doesn’t interfere with the main storyline, which is a case in this series when it comes to budding romance between Aelin and Rowan. I think this is a big part of why some people don’t like this book because they were major shippers of Celaena and Chaol from the first two books in the series–I was too, but at the same time I also figured with how they’d developed that they weren’t actually right for each other. Once it was revealed that she was Fae, he just couldn’t see past that and couldn’t look at her the same. It made sense because that’s the kind of character Chaol is: very traditional, raised a certain way, and has a certain set of beliefs. I get it, but was disappointed with him nonetheless. Aelin wasn’t all that innocent either; both of them made mistakes, and they call each other out on it in this book. Anyways…Now it seems her and Rowan have a thing going on, and while I do see it, I felt like it was a bit of a jump that could’ve been smoother. In Heir of Fire, the two of them had a complex relationship that’d felt more platonic and friendship based, and then we get here and there’s suddenly romantic feelings beneath the surface that neither fully admit to, sexual tension that burns them from the inside out…and like I said, it just could’ve been a smoother transition. It feels like this subplot was added just so there could be at least ONE major romance going on in this title. All I can say is, I agree when it’s said that Chaol was good for Celaena but Rowan is good for Aelin, and there is a difference there.
  2. Chaol Reduced to the Bitter Ex…While part of me knows this isn’t necessarily true in some regards, I consider my biggest disappointment with the series how it’d felt like Chaol and Dorian got done dirty and were pushed aside to make way for Rowan and Aedion. Nothing against those two, but I have a thing against social climbers who ditch their old friends for people newer and “better,” and it felt like that with Sarah’s treatment of continuing to break up the original trio who we’ve all come to know and love. In this book, Chaol and Aelin reunite, but it’s clear they’re both still harboring some ill will towards each other. Chaol seemed to have been reduced to the bitter ex role, and just becomes the antagonist who questions Aelin at every opportunity that arises. Not that it isn’t completely unjustified; Aelin has screwed up too, and it’s nice to see that Chaol still isn’t afraid to call her out on her faults, but it still felt at some points it was like he purposefully got in her way or poked at her sides in some petty act of revenge of a bruised ego. Maybe that’s not how others saw him in this title, but as a serious fan of him and his quieter, more stoic demeanor; I was continued to be disappointed to see where his character has gone by this point.
  3. “Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?“…It’s gotten quite repetitive with how many times you hear how amazing Aelin/Celaena is by now. Everyone still seems to fuss over her, obsess about her, is in love with her, in awe of her, etc….like okay, fine, she turns out to be the long lost heir to the throne, her power is pretty cool if not the most original special ability to have even if the amount of her power has never been seen before…Believe me, we get it by now Sarah…She’s fire, she’s ash, she’s light, and she’s embers. She will bow to no one and take what is rightfully hers by blood-right. Why are we hearing the same pep talk over and over again?

Conclusion:

A thiccccc addition to this action-packed, high fantasy series! The book’s substantial size may seem intimidating, but let me assure you that it doesn’t slow down or bore you to tears. Lots of things happen–some you’ve been hoping to see since the beginning–and lots of new characters to get to know! Some you may have met if you’d read The Assassin’s Blade—One last time: READ IT—but still plenty more where they come from, and the plot thickens with the reveal of a major villain!

The series has shifted since the first two books, and honestly kind of has an even bigger Game of Thrones feel to it overall, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from it in any way! There’s still plenty to get excited about with all the intrigue, the danger, the monsters, the romance, the brutality, and the strong bonds formed between the characters. Also, total side note, but who else totally jammed out to Halsey’s “Castle” (The Huntsman version or the original) while reading this?

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell