Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Fiction, young adult, fantasy, magic, faeries, but … but why?
Rating: 4.15 out of 5 stars
Summary: After learning to control her powers and gaining the first member of her overly muscular court, former assassin turned King’s Champion Celaena Sardothien is ready to reclaim her stolen crown and kill the man who took everything from her. But first she must rescue her only family member from almost certain doom, locate an ancient magical relic and figure out how to free her friend from demonic possession, not to mention return magic to the entire world. Psh. Child’s play.
I will admit that I am late to the Throne of Glass game. In fact, despite purchasing A Court of Thorns and Roses for myself on release day, I did not read anything by Sarah J. Maas until this September, when I was gifted some old copies of Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight by my Spines with Wines buddy Kristin.
While I sped through the first two books, I found the third book (Heir of Fire) to be so different from the initial novels that it took me a really long time to get into it. I still enjoyed it, but let’s be honest, it’s no Crown of Midnight.
Understandably, it was with trepidation that I picked up the latest book in the series: Queen of Shadows, especially because I’ve been hearing such mixed things about the course of the plot.
That being said, there were plenty of twists and turns to keep my interest and despite my inner turmoil and painful resignation at some of those turns (not to mention a decidedly slow start), I have no plans to give up on the series just yet.
Unless they kill my faves, then I’m out!
The story begins with Celaena (now going by her birth name Aelin Galathynius) returning to kill the king who murdered her family, release Prince Dorian from demonic possession by whatever means, recover her family amulet from her former assassin mentor, free magic and systematically rip out my still beating heart.
Largely due to the events in the last book, Celaena/Aelin and Chaol are both very different people from the ones I’ve grown to care about — hell, even Aedion seems different — which you could blame on either the plot development or a whole lot of shoddy characterization.
Chaol is broken because of what happened to his friends and angry at Celaena for a lot of these circumstances, a fair and unfair commentary all at the same time. Conversely, Aelin is more in control of herself and her powers than when we saw her as Celaena. That’s not to say she’s not rash, abrasive, extremely flawed and prone to murdering sprees — she definitely still is — but the other characters can’t help but notice how much she’s changed since finally accepting her birthright and neither can I as a reader. Except for all that annoying flouncing around in lingerie stuff, that was pure Celaena nonsense. I mean, GTFO.
While I appreciate that all these characters have developed (albeit in a surprisingly and unrealistically short amount of time) this does seem to spell doom for my favorite ship and I don’t know how I feel about that yet. I was promised things in Crown of Midnight and it appears that promise has been broken. I don’t know why, but I know the long blond-haired bastard who is to blame. Go back to Heir of Fire where you belong!
Anyway, in addition to finally meeting the scummy King of the Assassins (Arobynn) because I have yet to read any of the prequel novellas, Maas also introduces us to two new bad ass lady characters: rebel fighter Nesryn who deserves better than to be a Celaena replacement and tender-hearted courtesan Lysandra. Add in the witches finally doing something useful and poor tortured Kaltain getting some agency and you have a book that is killing it in the diverse females department.
The witches especially shine in this book and I found their scenes to be some of the more interesting and horrifying moments in the text. From Asterin’s back story to Manon’s growth and Abraxos’ love of sniffing flowers, I was shocked at how much they grew on me. Go team witches?
While I loved all the ladies, I did have a problem with all the territorial and misogynistic fae bullshit throughout the story. Fae men and women are both incredibly skilled, so why is there even an evolutionary imperative to protect the women? I understand that Aelin is a queen and should be well guarded because of her status, but all the gentlemen fae need to calm down with their manly macho man bullshit and let Aelin do her thing without treating her like she’s a fragile snowflake. Also, stop smelling people dammit, it’s weird!
The only other main gripe I have is the continuation of this idea that Rowan and Aelin know each other so well that they can have conversations without saying anything. Are they psychic? Nope, but Maas treats them as if they are.
I don’t care how in tune you are to someone, there is no way to express to another person using just facial expressions that you’re not wearing underwear or that child you could beat up child them. None!
(SIDE NOTE: While reading both Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows I went back and forth on whether they could actually speak inside each others minds or it was just a really annoying way to prove how in love they are. I’m almost positive it’s the latter.)
Despite these complaints — which really did bother me a lot — I actually enjoyed Queen of Shadows. There was plenty of action and although I could have done without the repeated kidnappings and rescues, the plot was mostly fast-paced, it kept me guessing (and gasping) and I sped through the last 150 pages as if they were nothing.
- Stellar character and world-building that continues to impress me
- Had me constantly on the edge of my seat, the ending especially was an insane roller coaster
- Twists and turns that I didn’t necessarily see coming
- The witches actually got really interesting
- Aedion, because Aedion is the best
- Mother fucking ghost leopard!
- Misogynistic fae bullshit got on my nerves
- The same with Rowan and Aelin’s “psychic conversations” — calm down you guys
- Why did you sink my ship?
- “You and I are nothing but beasts wearing human skins.”
- “She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.”
- “… Maybe this city should burn … Maybe the world should burn.”
- “She did not falter. She did not do anything but plow ahead, burning bright.”
- “She’d forgotten the name she’d been given, but it made no difference. She had only one name now: Death, devourer of worlds.”
- “… She smiled with every last shred of courage, of desperation, of hope for the glimmer of that glorious future. ‘Let’s go rattle the stars.'”
- A bunch more that I forgot to write down because I was so into the story.
The Throne of Glass series will return in 2016 with a fifth book and I assume in 2017 with the sixth and final book in the series. Be still my broken heart.