In the interest of easily accessing the reviews I’ve written for the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas, I have decided to combine them into 2 larger review – books 1-3 (review is now available here) and books 4-6. The Assassin’s Blade and Tower of Dawn will remain independent, as they are not directly part of the Throne of Glass timeline.
This second half of the series review will feature Queen of Shadows, Empire of Storms, and Kingdom of Ash. Overall, I feel that Maas really found her stride in the second half of the series. With world-building (mostly) out of the way, and a plethora of well-developed characters and plot points to choose from, Maas was able to focus on weaving an intricate plot that, at times, left me reeling in awe and wonder.
Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume, Queen of Shadows, which sees Aelin Ashryver Glathynius return to Rifthold with a burning motivation for vengeance against the people who destroyed her family and her nation. Queen of Shadows will hold readers rapt as Aelin’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.
After Heir of Fire, I could hardly wait to pick up Queen of Shadows and rejoin Aelin, Rowan, Chaol, Nesryn, Dorian, Manon, and Aedion’s battle against the darkness that is slowly destroying their world. As the full cast of characters collides in a twsiting, complex narrative in Adarlan’s capital, Maas seamlessly weaves personal and political narratives, and creates a world on the brink of disaster.
Queen of Shadows is (perhaps) Maas’ coming-of-age as a writer, in terms of the maturity with which she tells the story. While Crown of Midnight was an example of a complex narrative gone wrong, lined with messy plot lines and poorly resolved questions, Queen of Shadows is a shining example of how such complexity can be done right. Maas weaves several plots together, utilizing the perspectives of a variety of characters, new and old, to tell a tale far grandeur and more powerful than any previous story she has told. From Aelin’s plot to bring about the demise of her old master, Arobynn, to the politics emerging in the witch covens, to Elide’s experiences in Morath, nothing is forgotten. And unlike Crown of Midnight, the strings all come together in a neat way at the end, leaving the reader feeling satisfied and excited for Empire of Storms.
Most importantly, Queen of Shadows is a tribute to strong, tough heroines, main and secondary alike. From Aelin, to Manon, to Lysandra, Nesryn, and Elide, Maas really made sure the women of this tale stole the spotlight from their male counterparts. Aelin (no longer Celaena, having accepted her true identity and the responsibility it entails), has grown into an exemplary character. Every trait of Celaena Sardothien is magnified and combined in such a masterful way to create Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. She’s still an arrogant, stubborn, brave and sassy young woman, but she has also undergone spectacular character development in Heir of Fire, resulting in a more mature character who has shed her impulsiveness for being open-minded, calculating and often kind. Onto Manon – if you’ve read my Heir of Fire review, you’ll know I wasn’t a fan of the Thirteen or the witch coven POV initially, but Manon (and Asterin, and the rest of the Thirteen) inevitably grew on me in Queen of Shadows – in part because she’s defiant, independent, driven, and utterly wicked. It’s impossible not to grow to like her, especially in regards to her behaviour towards Dorian. Lysandra, Nesryn, and Elide really shine in Queen of Shadows too – each in their own ways. In particular, I really enjoyed the addition of Lysandra to Aelin’s “court” – her sassy, no bullshit attitude, and vendetta against those who had oppressed her was very enjoyable, and she paired quite well with Aelin.
But as awesome as these characters are, they are nothing without each other – really, their relationships define them as individuals, and they make this tale so utterly enthralling. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships – although to be honest the burning tension between Rowan and Aelin is impossible to ignore and is so frustrating – but also about friendships. Aedion and Rowan are a formidable pair to be reckoned with, an even better “bromance” than Chaol and Dorian. Aelin and Lysandra will quickly become the reader’s go-to female friendship – and it is so nice to see Aelin having a positive female relationship again. And Manon and the Thirteen are – and I really can’t think of a better way to describe this – squad goals, a fact which is made even more awesome by the fact that they are a band a kickass women, rivaling even Aelin is her most fiery moments.
Now, this exemplary cast of strong, female protagonists would be nothing without good villains, and Maas certainly made sure there were plenty of antagonists to balance out the cast, including Arobynn, Lorcan, the King of Adarlan, and Duke Perrington, among others (Note: Manon could also still be considered a villain, but I’ve included her as a protagonist, because we all know that’s where she’s headed!). Queen of Shadows is the first time readers have really gotten much interaction with Aelin’s notorious former master, Arobynn Hamel (excluding The Assassin’s Blade) and he did not disappoint with his cruel, scheming, controlling self. He was a ruthless bastard, and as a reader, it’s pretty much impossible not to despise him by the end (if you didn’t already despise him for Sam’s death).
Overall, I really enjoyed Queen of Shadows. Maas weaves several plots together, utilizing the perspectives of a variety of characters, new and old, to tell a tale far grandeur and more powerful than any previous story she has told. And while the story was exceptionally well done, the characters and their relationships are really the stars of this novel (4.5/5).
I’ve been following the Throne of Glass series since (almost) the beginning; I picked up Throne of Glass as soon as it was out in soft cover, and in no time, I was hooked. I, like many other readers, have been eagerly awaiting the release of Empire of Storms for well on a year now, and the wait was certainly worth it! Maas has produced another beautiful written, intricate piece that will leave readers wanting more and utterly shattered.
As a practiced reader, I often find that series begin to die off towards the middle/end of the series, picking up only for the grand finale. One might expect, then, that Empire of Storms would be a book of world-building, character development and minimal action. And while you wouldn’t be wrong about the prior, Maas has somehow managed to infuse this book with plenty of plot development, world-building, character development, all the while maintaining a fast-paced, intense plot riddled with intrigue and action.
Sarah J Maas is undoubtedly a master of storytelling, but before we get into her prowess when it comes to world-building and plot development, we must first look at the detail and care she puts into each and every one of her characters. Empire of Storms brings back old favourites (Aelin, Rowan, Aedion, Dorian, Lysandra, Manon and Gavriel, to name a few), while also adding more detail and development to new characters (notably Elide and Lorcan) and reintroducing old friends with renewed vigor (remember the Pirate Lord from Assassin’s Blade?). Notably absent is Choal, who has, arguably, been a center piece to the plot of the series thus far; however, following his injury at the conclusion of Queen of Shadows, he’s been shipped off and all but forgotten for the entirety of Empire of Storms. Now, back to those old favourites I mentioned:
- Aelin continues to undergo her metamorphosis from feared/broken assassin to fearless leader and saviour throughout this book. She’s just as devious as always, and despite her promises to her court, she’s still got lots of tricks up her sleeves (particularly when it comes to friends/allies from earlier in her career). One aspect which makes Aelin especially endearing throughout Empire of Storms are struggles to overcome her past and to trust her court; even Rowan. Maas acknowledges that Celeana hasn’t just ceased to exist because the girl accept Aelin; they are two sides of the same coin, both shrouds that Aelin must wear as she navigates increasingly dangerous territory in the quest to destroy Erawan and escape Maeve’s tyranny.
- Rowan also undergoes some major character development as well. I know one aspect many readers detest is Rowan’s innate maleness. Yet, we must remember that Rowan, like the rest of his cadre, are not human; they are fae, and Maas has established that they do not play by the same rules as us mere mortals. They are more animalistic in their instincts, including their instinct to protect those they love. Therefore, Rowan is very protective, bordering of possessive, of Aelin. And yet, his time with her has slowly shaped him into something more human, and he actively tries to be less of a “territorial fae bastard”, allowing Aelin her independence and attempting not to be too overbearing when she’s in danger (which, let’s be real, it quite often). I like this course of development for Rowan, although, given the conclusion of Empire of Storms, I have a feeling that we’re going to see a whole lot of angry fae bastard in the finale of this series.
- Aedion also undergoes some interesting development in this one; as with previous books in this series, he starts off worshipping Aelin, wholly devoted to the cause. yet as his feelings for Lysandra grow, so do his doubts and his concerns, leading him to lash out against Aelin and seek more of an independent role. I like this direction – Aedion has far too much potential to always be simpering after Aelin – and I am excited to see where Maas goes with this.
- Lysandra doesn’t really grow much in this book (in my opinion). Her character has somewhat stagnated; she’s devoted to Aelin and Terrasen, and she’s flirtatious with Aedion but still damaged from her past. The one thing which does develop is her power, which was to be expected.
- Dorian is also undergoing some interesting changes throughout Empire of Storms, and while I hate to say it (because I personally love the sad, broken King), I think Maas is leading up to him as the end-game, not Aelin (wishful thinking, perhaps?). We know that him and Aelin share a common ancestor, and while Elena has supposedly selected Aelin to create the lock and pay unknowable price, would Dorian’s largely untested, unexplored power not be able to fulfill the requirements just the same?
- Finally, Manon. Now, let me preface this brief discussion by saying that, initially, I did not like Manon, or the witches, or the whole Blackbeak plot line. It was too removed from the main plot, and I just couldn’t bring myself to really care about it. Now, however, Manon has launched herself into the thick of things through her betrayal, throwing her lot in with our favourite heroes, and tangling with Dorian (yes, I ship it). Her and Aelin are basically the dream-team, and I am excited to see more of her, and the Thirteen, in the finale of this series.
In the interest of time (and length), I won’t get too into depth with some of the other characters, but I do feel that they merit some discussion.Rowan’s cadre (Gavriel, Lorcan and Fenrys) are especially present in this story, which was interesting addition, allowing the reader to see that, really, Rowan isn’t the only territorial fae bastard out there – Gavrial is bordering on dangerous waters when it comes to defending hi son, Aedion; Lorcan is downright defensive and aggressive when it comes to Elide’s safety (which she responds to about the same way Aelin does), and Fenrys is equally devoted to his brothers-in-arms, despite his obvious disdain for Maeve. I felt that they added an interesting element to the melting pot that has become Aelin’s court – sorcerers, demi-fae, fae, shape-shifters, the old powers of Terrasen and witches, to name a few.
Speaking of Terrasen, Maas gives us some more insight into the past of the doomed country, through the eyes of Elena, Aelin’s ancestor, the last of Brannen’s line to weild quite so much fire int heir blood. Readers get to glimpse how Erawan was slowed (never stopped) a millenia before, and to witness the damning deal Elena made with the gods in order to save her Terrasen. These brief glimpses into the past go a long way to filling the gaps in the knowledge of Aelin (and by association, the reader) in regards to the Wyrd keys, the Lock, and the Valg King. Piece by piece, the puzzle which spans generations and continents is coming together, building towards what is sure to be a heart-shattering conclusion.
And like a puzzle, perhaps my favourite bit of world building that occurred within Empire of Storms was the linking of novels through characters. Previously, Assassin’s Blade, and even the first two novels in this series, felt somewhat disjointed from the later books, and the overarching plot. Assassin’s Blade, especially, introduced a plethora of players who simply never came into play. Until now. Aelin intends to win this war, and she’s calling every single favour owed to Celaena Sardothian and Aelin Ashryver Galathinius. This includes old favourites like Ansel and the Silent Assassin’s (The Assassin and the Desert), the afore mentioned Pirate Lord and even the Crown Prince of Wendlyn. Rowan adds his own armada to the mix, calling in his right as a Prince (in case we forgot about that), urging his family to turn against Maeve in that final battle. Within one novel, Maas seamlessly ties her broad world together, bringing so many tiny aspects together at the tipping point Aelin has been leading us towards for so long.
Truly, Empire of Storms is a beautiful bit of storytelling. Every single moment is pivotal, every action has an impact on the larger plot, and every character plays a role in the eventual, disastrous outcome that can only be described as heart-breaking. We all know that Maas loves to go out with a bang, but Empire of Storms was something else entirely.Just as the tide of the battle is turning in their favour (through the help of the Whitethorns), Aelin engages in a disastrous battle with Maeve, resulting in her eventual capture, whipping and kidnapping. The entire time, my heart was breaking, but it shattered the moment Rowan demanded to know where Aelin was. Rowan and Aelin, are, in my opinion, Maas end game when it comes to Aelin’s love life. However, knowing Maas, I have a feeling the brief happiness they shared is going to be short-lived, and my heart hurts because of it. Aelin is Rowan’s equal in every way, and while in previous relationships she was subservient to the other, or them to her, in this relationship neither bows to the other. Plus, they’re mates.
Overall, I loved this book, even though it broke my heart in a thousand ways. Maas showed that a woman can be strong and fragile at once through Aelin’s struggle to trust, to love, and to fight. Not only that, but this was a beautiful piece of storytelling that is unrivaled in this genre; never have I seen a YA fiction novel so masterfully wrap together plots from previous novels within the current, all the while maintaining the plot development of the new. There’s romance within this novel for everyone; love through Aelin and Rowan, healing through Manon and Dorian, budding romance through Lorcan and Elide, and even a platonic relationship growing into more through Aedion and Lysandra. There’s no lack of action, with this book peppered with battles, both physical and intellectual, escalating to all out war before the final pages. So if you’re a fan of this series, you’re not going to want to miss out on this one!
Kingdom of Ash
Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion in Kingdom of Ash, which was released on October 23, 2018. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world… As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.
After waiting just over two years to finally read the conclusion of this series, I’ll be honest – I was nervous. I have been following Aelin’s story since the very beginning, and I was scared that this last book, through whatever course it took, might diminish my love for the whole series – thankfully, was I wrong. This book felt wonderfully balance, with each character’s story wrapping up in a meaningful, powerful way as they navigated their way through a story so complex only Maas could have woven it.
“They’d walked this dark path together back to the light. He would not let the road end here.” – Kingdom of Ash, Sarah J Maas
I’m going to start this review with a discussion of the characters because, to be quite honest, they’re the best part about this series. These characters were so wonderful – every single one of them, even the ones I’ve hated for the entirety of this series, have such pivotal and potent roles. And Kingdom of Ash is certainly filled to the brim with characters as well – really, it’s almost impressive how this story has grown from the simple misadventures of an assassin, a prince, and the captain of the guard. From Aelin and Rowan, to Aedion and Lysandra, Chaol and Yrene, Elide and Lorcan, Dorian and Manon, Asterin and the Thirteen, and even non-human beings like Abraxos and the King of the North! For this review, I think I’ll focus mostly on the original three- Aelin, Dorian and Choal. That being said, Aelin and Rowan will forever be my favourite characters in this series – the pain, the growth, and the suffering we have seen them endure together is outstanding, as their character growth has been.
- Aelin in this book feels heart breakingly real – she is broken, and fragile, but trying to heal for her people – trying to be more than she is. Rowan, for his part, also impressed me – he gives Aelin the space she needs to sort through the horrors she has endured and the hardships she still must face, all the while remaining a steadfast support.
- I also adored Dorian and Manon’s story line – the ongoing growth Maas infuses into Dorian’s story, and Manon’s, as they both continue to grow into their roles as Sovereigns and as powerful individual entities (with or without their crowns). Dorian still struggles with the events of he endured while hosting a Valg prince, yet he has become self-assured in his abilities.
- Much the same can be said of Choal, who alongside Yrene Towers has settled into adulthood and his responsibilities well, become the self-less and assured man Aelin always knew he could become – even when he served the King of Adarlan.
Maas is also an expert at pulling those heart-strings, and Kingdom of Ash is no different – seriously, if readers don’t at least find themselves with tears in their eyes at some point during this book, I would be surprised. Honestly, I’ve never cried so much over a book. Never. There were points were I had to stop reading because I couldn’t see the page through my tears. Over the course of the previous six books, and in Kingdom of Ash, Maas has truly made the reader care about each and every one of her characters – even seemingly inconsequential side characters have important roles to play, and hole small pieces of the readers’ hearts.
“Be the bridge, be the light. When iron melts, when flowers spring from fields of blood—let the land be witness, and return home.” – Kingdom of Ash, Sarah J Maas
The seamless weaving of individual characters’ journeys and of their relationships really comes down to the quality of writing and world building. Love of hate Maas (and it seems there are plenty of readers in both camps), she has woven an impressive tale here. A tale which highlights the prowess of her writing abilities, especially in regards to world building. I am always blown away by the tiny details – information mentioned here or there in books prior, small hints scattered like breadcrumbs throughout the thousands of pages – and by how these tiny details all come together to create a stunning tale that feels whole.
“And together, they would do so, cadre once more. They would fight for this kingdom—their new court. Their new home.” – Kingdom of Ash, Sarah J Maas
As I write this review, I am 23 years old. I started following this story, of Celaena in a glass castle, solving mysteries and fighting duels, when I was 18. Now, at 24, I’ve turned the last page of Aelin’s story, but it doesn’t hurt to say goodbye – not like I thought it would. It feels full, like a beautiful finished painting, a tapestry with every thread neatly tucked away, no rock left unturned, no mystery left unsolved. This series has meant a lot to me, and while it has its flaws, it’s one of those stories that I’ll come back to again. Because the themes are timeless, of bravery and love and healing, of family and redemption and above all, hope. Kingdom of Ash perfectly wrapped up this series, and I simply could not have asked for a better conclusion to Aelin’s story – that is to say, the story of Erilea (5/5).