Written by: Sarah J. Maas
Book # 4 / 6 of the Throne of Glass series
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Summary: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past. She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight. She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.
“Sometimes there won’t be a right choice, just the best of several bad options.”
Review: To be honest, I’m having a hard time recognizing this book as belonging to the same series as Throne of Glass and even Crown of Midnight – but I love that, because I kind of hated those books. They were slow, Celaena was petty, the villains were so-so or hadn’t played their big cards yet, a lot of things went unexplained but not in a very satisfactory manner… the list goes on and on. I’m not sure if Maas has gotten better at storytelling or what with time, but I’m definitely much more impressed with the later books in the series than their predecessors.
This is the first of the series where I felt that each part of the plot smoothly played into the next, that all was thoroughly explained or left with just the right amount of mystery that wasn’t too annoying, that the story actually was going somewhere. Although there were definitely parts that weren’t necessary or could’ve been shortened without any issue, I think that each additional part added another piece to Maas’ world, giving us a further glimpse into it. The dialogue, admittedly, was about the same caliber as it was in all of the other books – which, is to say, not high quality, generally – but many things were explained or given more detail so that the reader could better understand Maas’ mindset when she had created certain subplots and caveats. What’s really important though ,is that I loved the plot twist at the end – LOVED – and that’s what saved this book from dipping below a rating of 4 stars. I had guessed at something kind of similar happening but was missing a large piece of it, so props to Maas for actually surprising me. Although I think she kind of cheapens this big plot reveal by ending the book on a really happy note that, if you didn’t know better, almost implies it’s the end of the series, it’s still a plot twist that I’m excited to unravel in the next book.
The only problem is… Maas still has a hard time with her characters, in the sense of how she sets them up and develops them. Celena/Aelin is about the same, to be honest, which is actually not a good thing. She’s come back from her training with Rowan, prepping for the next step in the rebellion so she can claim her crown… and she’s still a vain little girl who, while brilliant, rarely thinks of anyone but herself. Her trainer, Rowan was a badass in the previous book, but I kind of hated him in this one. Although I actually really liked the idea of him having to go without magic for once in his life, any sense of wonder I had at seeing how strong he was despite that was diminished by the puppy-like manner of which he followed Aelin. Not only does she have one puppy followed, but two: her cousin, Aedion Ashryver, the Wolf of the North, Adarlan’s Whore… and her lackey. Honestly, I love Aedion. I love how he has been truly loyal to his cousin since they were little, how everything he has done in his life has been for her and her place on the throne, how he can be sarcastic but full of emotion at the same time. But Maas did the same thing to him as she did to Rowan; she took a man that she had built up to be this impenetrable warrior, and made him almost turn into goo when he first sees Aelin again. His makes a little more sense – it is his long lost cousin and queen afterall – but still, the way they blindly follow her later is kind of nauseating. Also, they way he is slighted by her is awful, and Maas just brushes over it like it’s no big deal. Still bitter.
Another large reason of why this book did not receive the full 5 / 5 stars is because Maas has begun to do the one thing I despise the most: pairing up every main character with another main character, as if that’s how life is supposed to work out. The biggest and most recent victim of this is our dear former Captain of the Guard and lover of Celaena, Chaol Westfall. Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t particularly like what Maas has done with his character in the last few books, basically making his only purpose in life to see Dorian on the throne despite the fact that there’s other things happening with that, but I still like him as an idea. He will still stand, unequivocably, for what is right, and that’s more than I can say for a lot of the characters in the series. Still, Maas ditched him when he became too boring for Celaena’s growing character (okay – fair enough), but now conveniently decides to pair him with another random character they decided to introduce? WHY? Why can’t he just be chill and single? Not everyone has to fall in love! Also, the way that she ends the book as far as Chaol is concerned had me raging, and not in a good way. To me, it was unnecessary and I think even a little offensive to some people, but we’ll see what she makes of it in the next book.
As for the villains of this story (because there are admittedly a few). Whether it be Manon and her coven relegated to following orders, or the king sitting on his throne and ruling with a black-ringed fist, or Arobynn as the King of Assassins taking a bigger role in Rifthold, or Lord Perrington in Morath running sick little experiments… there’s definitely no lack of good villains. All of them are at, at their deepest depths, either dark or just so power-hungry that they don’t have room for anything else to redeem them. Manon is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in the series, as she’s what I like to call a fake villain; she does some horrible things and is definitely seen by people who don’t know her as the villain, but Maas creates some situational irony that makes the reader connect to and sympathize with Manon. As for Arobynn, I was really excited to finally see the character that has been alluded to for the past three books as the main who trained Celaena, and he fell so short of my expectations. First of all – he’s young? I always imagined a cleaner-cut Haymitch-like character as Arobynn. Second of all – his fate in this book is definitely well called for, but implemented so poorly and not characteristic to who he was at all. Thirdly – there was literally no previous implication that Arobynn and Celaena were lovers, and suddenly that’s a thing she brings up every second? Okay, whatever. As for the king and Perrington, they’re more of the same: power hungry and empty hearted and actually very naive. (Again – spoilers.) I’m excited to see the newest villain that Maas has promised for the next book, because I think that they will take the cake and make all the rest of these characters look incredibly lame.
Y’all can see how many feelings I have in regards to this book series now. Maas has made me really connect to the characters and really cheer for the freedom of Adarlan and Terrasen from the atrocities that target their lands. However, I am worried that Maas is still feeding into some of the worst and most annoying YA archetypes, that really don’t add anything to her plot. She also has an issue with overselling her characters, going on for paragraphs about how strong or powerful or intelligent or whatever they are, only to undo it thoroughly by giving them weaknesses that exactly contradict their strengths. However, she really has made such an interesting, tight-woven plot for this story, and I am curious to see how it continues. To be honest, though, this book ended on such a good note that I don’t feel compelled to pick up Empire of Storms right away, and I think I’ll hold off until the last book in the series is published, because I know that shit is going to get crazy.