Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

Digital Artists You Absolutely Need To Follow! – Part 2

Image created with canva.con

CLICK HERE to see Part 1!

Welcome back readers! If anyone remembers back to about a year ago actually, I posted a rather lengthy article on a list of digital artists that I think anyone who loves to look at art should absolutely follow; anyone from video game concept artists to professional illustrators to graphic designers and even tattoo artists, I made sure the list had some variety besides just some of my favorites who create amazing fanart commissions of my favorite books and series.

Well if it’s been a year later since then, it makes total sense that I’ve discovered even MORE artists that I want to showcase and organize into a beautifully displayed part 2 to my list. Art matters, and this new addition of artists also have quite a plethora of talent. I’ve only just begun getting back into drawing and I have began on the IOS app, Procreate. I know a few artists on here and part 1 use that program as well, but it’s for sure made me appreciate their work even more and aspire to have my work become even a fraction of how good these artist’s work looks!

Once again, I think this has a great amount of variety in terms of style and subject matter, I hope you discover a new favorite artist yourself! Find their profiles, give them a follow, go onto their websites, buy their prints, support your favorite artists!

Enjoy this list, the names and artwork are in no particular order!

***I do not own any of these artists’ work, and while all work is shared from their individual Instagram profiles, if any of them find this article and wish to have their artwork taken down, please reach out to contact me and I will happily do so!***

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Jen Bartel

Instagram: @heyjenbartel

Website

I discovered this artist by her work illustrating a graphic novel titled “Blackbird,” and I absolutely loved her style and felt like she had a similar style to how I draw. I was happy to learn that this artist uses the program/app Procreate just like I do too! What really draws me in is her use of really bright and vibrant colors that really pop out at you and make so that there’s no way you can’t notice it!

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Marc Simonetti

Instagram: @marc.simonetti

Website

Marc is a concept artist who specializes in environments and has an eye for the little things. As you can see by his work shown above, he is able to capture amazing detail in the smallest of spaces. I guess I could say his work that really captured my attention was his work of the Iron throne image above that’s from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series that everyone knows as “Game of Thrones.” The throne from the HBO show is iconic, sure, but Marc’s throne is actually a much more accurate portrayal to how the author describes it in the books, plus it’s about five times more intimidating looking!

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Lizzart

Instagram: @lizzart_zardonicz

This artist creates some absolutely gorgeous character design in their work and is a master of fantasy-genre artwork. I discovered this artist thanks to some artwork they did of a Sci-Fi series I’m reading: “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown. It’s a space opera that’s like Greek Mythology + The Hunger Games + Game of Thrones but in space! I definitely recommend giving the books a try if that sounds interesting to you at all!

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Philippe Lozinski

Instagram: @philippezolinski

Philippe creates some visually stunning environment concept art and really has a unique style that shows so much texture and really knows how to drive the eye across the canvas with well placed movement either in the environment or the characters he’s placed within. Some of his work really reminds me of the game “Journey” especially with the cloaked character you see in some of the work on the top of his section. I’m not sure if he’s actually worked on that game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he did!

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Rovina Cai

Instagram: @rovinacai

I discovered this australian artist when she illustrated the fourth book in Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” series (as you can see by some of the images I selected.) I really dig her enchanting, gothic, fairytale-like drawings that are both whimsical and ominous and creepy, and I’d say you should go grab a copy of that book just to see these images up close for yourself!

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Jo Painter

Instagram: @po_jainter

This artist has commissioned fanart for a few of my favorite book series, so of course it was only a matter of time before I’d notice her work and fall in love with it. She’s made artwork for Sarah J. Maas’s “Crescent City” and “Throne of Glass” series, as well as Jennifer L. Armentrout’s “From Blood and Ash” series that is so so quickly becoming an all-time favorite of mine as well!

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Joon Ahn

Instagram: @joon_ahn_art

Joon is a concept artist out in Los Angeles, and I love all the work he’s done with both environments and characters. He really seems to specialize in either high fantasy or cyber-punk settings and looks like his work should be in video games, and I was first introduced to this artist by their artwork of the knight riding atop a giant eagle as seen above!

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Sam Yang

Instagram: @samdoesarts

Sam Yang seems to really focus on girls who have what I call the “Disney Princess” aesthetic, as in they look like they have very similar facial distinctions to the 3D animated princesses like Rapunzel, Elsa, and Anna. His artwork is so warm, welcoming, and soft with subtle texture infused to make his work stand out on its own. I especially love how he plays with light in his artwork that places his females in a setting like in a car; that’s where I truly think his art shines, no pun intended.

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Dan Mumford

Instagram: @danmumforddraws

Surely you have to recognize Dan’s subject matter in at least one of his pieces I’ve selected above! He adds a ton of detail and heavy outlines to familiar characters and environments in american pop culture history, and while some of it reminds me of some tattoo-like artwork I’ve seen elsewhere, I also appreciate how he also loves to incorporate the creepy factor in his art, or the classic set up of the main character having their back to us as they face out to their setting.

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Yare Yue

Instagram: @yueyare

Amazing environments come with this concept artist, and I’m a big fan of their use of color. I was originally drawn in by their work with the whale swimming through the clouds; the work I seem to love the most is the work of the little kid and his pet cat incorporated into his environment pieces.

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Liang Mark

Instagram: @liangmark

This is an artist where you really need to enlarge the image to enjoy it even more; there’s so much detail work in all of their art! They definitely specialize in dystopian, Sci-Fi settings and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out they’re a concept artist for the newer Star Wars movies, their art just really reminds of it the franchise, especially the newer movies that have been released later than “The Force Awakens.”

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Sasha Lee Coleman

Instagram: @sashac_art

When an artist gets compared to the great Charlie Bowater, that truly speaks to the artist on how great their digital artwork truly is! I can definitely see an influence or inspiration from Charlie’s style of character design, but Sasha is also a really great artist who enjoys making pieces of characters from some of my favorite books! If you don’t recognize some of the characters above, she’s done amazing artwork of Sarah J. Maas’s “Crescent City,” Holly Black’s “Folk of the Air” series, and even Margaret Rogerson’s “Sorcery of Thorns.”

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Rosie Thorns

Instagram: @rosiethorns88

Okay, I absolutely HAD to show this artist because they do so many different styles of artwork both on canvas or digitally, but what I really want to draw attention to is her papercraft fan art of popular YA Fantasy titles! That’s right, some of this artwork is crafted from paper and brought together like a master scrapbooker. She’s done projects of Sarah J. Maas’s popular “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series with Rhysand and Feyre at Starfall, her “Crescent City” series with Bryce and Dana on top, along with “The Folk of the Air” by Holly Black, “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue,” and Kerri Maniscalco’s “Kingdom of the Wicked.”

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Delaney Januzzi

Instagram: @delaneyjanuzzi

Here’s another noteworthy concept artist who specializes in character design! Their cartoony style reminds me of animated movies and I feel like they’d make some amazing work for Dreamworks animated movies. I especially love that they’re one of the only artists I’ve found who’ve created fanart of Madeline Miller’s debut novel: “The Song of Achilles.” Take a closer look at their artwork of when Patroclus meets Thetis for the first time (sometimes meeting your lover’s parents doesn’t end up working in your favor!)

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Sally Pham

Instagram: @sallteas

Sally is another digital artist I discovered because she’s done a fanart for a lot of my favorite book series! She’s done artwork for Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” along with Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows” series, Kerri Maniscalco’s “Kingdom of the Wicked,” plus even Adrienne Young’s “Fable.”

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Vanessa Ninona

Instagram: @nessa_ninona

Vanessa loves ancient Egypt, that much is obvious with her main focus on artwork for a graphic novel she both writes and illustrates called “Golden Brown.” I love her use of colors, especially the complementary use of browns, golds, and yellows mixed with blues to make it really pop!

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Darek Zabrocki

Instagram: @darekzabrocki

Another concept artist I found who specializes in environment design, this is another artist you also need to zoom in on their work to see all the little details he puts into his work. He’s done work for the “Assassin’s Creed” video game franchise, but my favorite work by him has to be either the pirate ships in the bay with the giant windmill, or the one right above of the small party of explorers walking into the ruins with the statue looking down over them like a guardian or an omen.

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Gukkhwa

Instagram: @gukkhwa

This artist does some gorgeous character design artwork with their subject matter focusing on mythological figures. Whether it’s deities of Greek mythology, Egyptian Mythology, Angels or Satan himself out of the christian bible, you have to admit that their work is certainly eye catching!

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Gretel Lusky

Instagram: @gretlusky

Gretel is another artist whose style really reminds me of the “Disney Princess” aesthetic, and that’s not just because she actually posts work of actual Disney princesses either! She switches between digital artwork and good ole watercolor and pastels on paper, but her use of color and the overall style of her work is one that I love, and wanted to showcase on this list to show others and get her name out there!

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Fran Garcés

Instagram: @dibujantenocturno

Fran is an absolute favorite of mine, I never get tired of his distinguishable linework and ultra amount of detail in his work. His love of dragons is what got him into drawing, but he just loves to draw monsters and nightmare imagery to create visually stunning artwork. I love his style so much that I had to buy his book to show my support!

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Gabrielle Ragusi

Instagram: @gabrielleragusi

I initially discovered this artist for their artwork of a series I’d recently started reading and really enjoy: “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen. Upon further looking into this artist, I found they’ve also done artwork for “Harry Potter” by JK Rowling and “Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas and “To Kill a Kingdom” by Alexandria Christo, I really like their style and think they deserve to be as known amongst all the other artists who (thankfully) make stunning fanart of some of our favorite book characters!

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Abhishek Singh

Instagram: @abhiart

Drawing inspiration from his home country of India, this artist paints such awesome artwork of prominent figures from stories and myth. I love the amount of detail he puts into his work, especially with the costume and accessories of the figures as seen above!

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Marissa Clement

Instagram: @marissasketches

I discovered Marissa thanks to her artwork of Jude from Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” series along with Leigh Bardugo’s Alina Starkhov from her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy that’s gotten a lot of hype lately thanks to the new Netflix show premiering in late April 2021!

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Kelsey Eng

Instagram: @kelseyeng32

This artist has an adorable, cartoony style that I really enjoy, especially her artwork from what i assume is digital stills from actual episodes in “Game of Thrones.” I especially like the contrast she shows in her piece with Dany and Jon Snow, and even the one with Sansa and Arya Stark, the last of the Stark family line!

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Anato Finnstark

Instagram: @anatofinnstark

What initially introduced me to this artist was their artwork that showcases some truly iconic characters/monsters/figures in Fantasy literature: the darker characters from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I instantly fell in love with their work of the Nazgul, or the Ring Wraiths as they’re also known as, but I also adore their art of the Balrog and Sauron as he’s taking on Isildur at the battle at the end of the second age where he fell. I really enjoy their overall dark and creepy vibes in their work and it all truly leaves an impression on the viewer, and someone who I believe is perfect to end this second list on!

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CLICK HERE to see Part 1!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom #1): by Danielle L. Jensen

Publish Date: August 13th, 2019
Number of Pages: 354 Pages
Publisher: Context Literary Agency LLC
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

A princess who’s secretly a trained assassin…

An ACTUAL enemies-to-lovers where one of them tries to kill the other at one point…

A marriage of Convenience…

Twisty political intrigue and espionage…

Lots of exciting action scenes…

Slow burning sexual tension mixed with distrust up the WAZOOOO…

Tropical and lush scenery…

Snarky grandmas…

Um…Yes, LOVE that journey for me!

The Bridge Kingdom was a book that’s been thrown around multiple Facebook groups I follow for Sarah J. Maas and Jennifer Armentrout, and I’ll admit that upon looking into this book that I was definitely curious! I hadn’t heard much about the author nor have I read anything by her—Although I do have a hardcover copy of Dark Shores on my shelf at home to be read soon!—but with how often I saw this title brought up, I knew it’d eventually end up in my hands.

I must say this book surprised me because I was instantly hooked! We have a Game of Thrones Red Wedding-esque scene almost right away in the beginning of the story, and within the first three chapters I’m slightly terrified of our heroine, and emotionally invested in her when a big secret is revealed right away afterwards in explanation of her shocking scene beforehand, and can’t wait to see what else she can do!

The story itself is nothing too groundbreaking or unique or innovative, but my higher rating simply is because of how this story is told. I feel like I’ve read plenty of ‘deadly girl infiltrates enemy kingdom and plans to kill the king after marriage-by-convenience, but falls in love instead,’ but the author just tells it so well; it really draws you in. She also has vivid descriptions of the world as you explore it with one of the main characters, and the pacing keeps you riveted and turning the pages when you convince yourself “Just 1 more chapter…” like 5 chapters ago. The action, plus the agonizingly slow romance building between the two main characters kept my attention, then thankfully making me satisfied when it finally happens (Although, it would’ve been fine to have happened, like, fifty pages ago too, but whatever…) The growth that the main character goes through was also fun to read, both her and her love interest discover the important lesson of how maybe we shouldn’t give in to certain prejudices about people from another culture, but then again, if there’s tension and the threat of war between the two kingdoms, it’s kind of inevitable…but there’s also the idea to consider that you also shouldn’t believe everything someone tells you about a certain group of people either.

Despite how short the book appears, it felt like a really long story; It was like there was a lot more words crammed in on every page than most other published books, so after reading fifty pages it actually felt like I’d read an additional hundred with all the material that fits just in that small chunk of pages.

A fair heads up, not really a warning, but despite this being within the Fantasy genre, there’s not a whole lot of typical Fantasy elements: namely, a magic system and mythological creatures. It’s a tropical climate setting with islands that makes me think of exotic destinations like Hawaii, Thailand, or the Caribbean with a lot of snakes that inhabit the land while the sharks make several appearances when the characters travel by boat through the water. Not that I’m trying to knock the worldbuilding because it’s still a fictional land and is still wonderfully done, but let me just say that you shouldn’t go into this book expecting wizards casting spells or any dragons flying around. While these aspects of Fantasy may be lacking, the world is still rife with lots of political intrigue and militaristic strategies being made around a particular landscape phenomenon referred to as “The Bridge” (hence the title of the book/series), and for any of you visual learners, the bridge is like the Chinese Wall that travels for miles and miles, except this time it’s not man-made.

Like I said, this book surprised me by how much I found myself enjoying it, and I even already ordered the sequel because that ending……oofda! I need to read on and get some more answers and just see what will possibly happen next! I loved how the author tied in the very beginning of the book to let you see how much the character has changed throughout the story and how the stakes have changed so drastically. If this is the first book I finish reading in 2021, I can happily say that the new year for books is already looking pretty bright!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

What if you fell in love with the one person you’d sworn to destroy?

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil – and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.

But as she infiltrates her new home – a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas – and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?

What I Liked:

  1. The Characters, Especially Lara Veliant! I personally liked them and thought lara especially went through a lot of growth as the story developed. I liked that she was already an established assassin by the time the story takes place, and you aren’t treated to her training and coming into her deadly skills. She gives me some major Aelin Galathynius-Whitethorn vibes with her looks, her attitude, and her physical prowess. I liked Aren too, but not quite as much and didn’t feel like he changed except for his feelings towards Lara. I also feel like he didn’t stand out as much from other male hero/love interests in these types of stories. Sure, he’s brave and noble and caring and charming, but so is every other male character in his position! Hopefully he gets more characterization in the second book.
  2. Good Pacing! There was a lot of action to keep you excited that mixed perfectly with the slower moments where dialogue and character is revealed. I found this surprising since they’re wasn’t an actual villain present for a large chunk of the story; it was more about Lara’s change in attitude and swerving of which side she truly belonged to by the end of the story. I think this also added to why I found this book so easy to want to keep reading, even if I was so familiar with basically all the story’s elements.
  3. They’re Actually Enemies-to-Lovers! A lot of the time people say a romance storyline is this trope when in actuality it really isn’t…I don’t feel like going into examples, but what I liked about this story with the trope is that the two characters actually almost kill each other on several occasions. When they say “enemies,” I want instances where they’re nearly coming to blows, they plot to assassinate the other, and actually have an animosity towards the other…sure, it eventually burns into a passionate love, but they always love and hate have a varied line between them!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Not As Much Romance As I’d Liked… What I mean is that it’s a really really slow slow-burn of a romance, which if I think about it, makes total sense. Lara and Aren are from two different kingdoms and have been raised to believe certain prejudices about each other, so I can say the romance grew rather realistically, but I don’t know…I kind of just wanted some more romance scenes. Maybe there will be a lot more in the next book!
  2. Not Many Fantasy Elements… I mentioned this earlier, but for a book that falls under the Fantasy genre, there’s not a whole lot of elements that show up in this story. There’s no magic, there’s no mythological creatures, no charmed/cursed item or relic, and so on…The world is entirely fictional, but that’s about it. The animals are snakes and sharks; I feel like the author could’ve reimagined them as some sort of creature that’s similar, but more on the mythological side.

Conclusion:

The Bridge Kingdom is an adventurous and exciting enemies-to-lovers tale with plenty of distinctive characters, slow burning romance thick with tension and distrust, bloody action and military strategization, and of course beautiful and exotic locations that are used incredibly well into the story: you could say I definitely recommend this title, just maybe…

…no but actually, READ this book!

Specifically, if you loved books like The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes, Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, and of course, just about ANYTHING by Sarah J. Maas or Jennifer Armentrout, I know you’ll most likely also enjoy this book as well. It’s got all the same elements that these other authors offer to the genre, and is yet another beautifully told story that will wrap you up and drag you in without a second thought.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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:

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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”

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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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