Monday, November 19, 2018

Review - Queen of Shadows

Original Title: Queen of Shadows
Series: Throne of Glass, #4
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: September 1st, 2015

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

If I had to describe this book with one word, that would be intense. The fact that it took me so long to finish it was not the book’s fault. Not at all. It was just life getting in the way. But I did it! And wow, what a ride it was! I couldn’t stop reading, I stayed up late, it was so very intense, and I only stopped because I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

I definitely love Sarah J. Maas’ writing style. It’s utterly brilliant, poetic in the right moments, and raw and direct when it needs to be impactful, like a dagger to the heart. I noticed and loved how well done and fully fleshed-out the worldbuilding is, as she doesn’t try to sugarcoat the world she created. She paints it exactly as it is, with both its bright and dark sides, both with vivid details and without holding anything back. It’s as realistic as it can be, being a fantasy world, and it is incredibly done. Great job, Sarah J. Maas!

Something I really love in this series is that every character is well written, and there for a reason. It’s not that you can remove any of them without disrupting the plot, as it has surely happened before with other authors. Sarah J. Maas makes sure that everyone is there with a purpose, and has their own, unique voice, which is worthy of applause, because you can tell who is speaking even if his/her name doesn’t appear on the page. The protagonist, Aelin –no longer Celaena–, is definitely different from any other character I’ve ever read. She’s a true badass, fearless, and brave, a queen worthy of the name, and not to be messed with. She’s still distrustful but we are far, far away from the characters that started the series in Throne of Glass. That was more like a fairytale –even if darker–, but here, in Queen of Shadows, we are fully into an epic fantasy story, and the characters have evolved accordingly, with deep personalities and complexly layered, and it is good to read the work of an author who actually cares for those aspects.

I was truly impressed and invested in the story of the new people in it. Arobynn Hamel, oh, my God! What a character. Every scene with him made me unable to stop reading, I gasped, and held my breath, and enjoyed that tug-of-war with Aelin, as she fought to get the amulet back without giving in into his requests. She definitely outsmarted him, with a little help, of course, and it was brilliant. The whole trick with the ring, to push him to reveal his true intentions, that was just… Wow. Amazing. Incredibly done. I was truly outraged when it happened. And it’s also greatly done how important the bond between him and Aelin is, how he shaped her identity and her character, and how, through his death, she not only recovered what she needed –the amulet of Orynth–, but also fully stopped being Celaena Sardothien. The ruthless assassin who only yearned for freedom after slavery dies along with him, and a Queen comes to take her place.

I utterly loved the character Lysandra, even though, at first, I thought I’d hate her. What a good addition to the series! I think she’s an expression of how people can actually change, and aren’t always what they seem, something I thought before knowing she was actually a shapeshifter (but that only made it literal). I mean, she was able to deceive with her looks even without her powers, right? Her story was sad, but I liked to see how she was a badass in her own way, not afraid in the least when she had to end Arobynn’s life; and also, her wits, and her selflessness, both sacrificing herself to save this girl, Evangeline, from her own fate as a courtesan, and later coming to help in battle! I really liked her relationship with Aelin, and I’m glad that Sarah J. Maas decided to include female friendships in this series that are far from the typical cat fight, that I despise so very much. First Celaena and Nehemia, and now Aelin and Lysandra. And that is something that needs to happen more often in YA fiction, because there’s already enough books out there filled with girl hating and slut-shaming, as if it were impossible to tell a story without that. But this author proves that is possible, even when one of the characters is, literally, a whore, but with enough depth as to see that she’s a lot more than that.

I have to say it, people. I really loved Manon in this one, even when in the previous book I used to grumble every time I encountered a chapter on her and the rest of the witches. But her character has definitely gone far, proving that the Crochan witch was right, that they are made into monsters, not born. She’s a badass, she demands respect, and doesn’t let anyone control her, and with every chapter, she’s a little stronger and more willing to stand up to her grandmother, changing her fate into what she can be, instead of focusing on what others think she should be. Her fight scene with Aelin on the crumbling temple was absolutely epic, and I loved how she respected the life debt, helping her with Dorian when they had given up all hope on saving him, and were ready to kill him to stop the demon inside of him. Oh, and finally the whole thing came together! Rebels, Valg and witches, all together in the same scene at last. It was about time, and I didn’t want to wait for the next book for it to happen. And also, I don’t know how relevant this is, but I really loved Asterin after she told the story about her love for a human, and the baby she lost. 

As for Dorian, wow, that was depth. He’s king now, but still, he’s not a warrior, and by that, I mean he’s not the typical prince. He’s fragile, broken, and doubtful, and carries very heavy burdens, especially Sorscha’s death, that he should have prevented, but couldn’t. Thanks to an unintentional spoiler before he even met Manon, I kind of knew where the story was heading into, and I wasn’t worried about him, but his scenes fighting the demon inside of him were very intense. I really want to read a further development in his relationship with Manon, because he’s utterly broken, even though he’s free, and that gives a lot of potential to deepen his story. He needs to heal, and I don’t know how he will do that, but I’ll gladly read about it.

Oh, Elide, poor little girl. She’s actually the proof of how much I drifted away during Heir of Fire, because I revisited it and it actually says that she is Marion’s daughter, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when she said so. I really liked her, and I can tell she has a lot of potential. Even though she has witch blood in her veins, she’s still very human and fragile, and has authentic reactions in front of terrifying situations, or under her uncle’s thumb. But she also has this inner strength and courage, not fully developed, but there nonetheless, that will make her a good character to read about. I definitely want to know more about her, and I can’t wait to read her reunion with Aelin, and of course, the moment in which she finds out Celaena and Aelin are the same person, and gives her the stone Kaltain gave her. 

Oh, and Kaltain. Wow. Just… wow. That woman was smarter than anyone gave her credit for. From ambitious court girl to devourer of worlds, capable of standing up to demons when everyone else begged for death, there’s no other like her. I’m just sorry she’s gone, she would have made a hell of a character in battle, although she did make a spectacular final act. She went down but took as many as she could with her, ruining Perrington and Vernon’s plans and destroying the offspring of witches and demons, which I’m glad she did, because after Elide’s description, I’m ok with not knowing more about how that came to happen. Yes, it was that terrible. It is so well written that it is absolutely horrifying, and had me doubting who was the real monster there: the creatures they bred, or the people who forced the Yellowlegs to give birth to them? Again, well done Sarah J. Maas. If I have nightmares, it will be your fault.

I absolutely loved the scene in which Aelin went undercover as a dancer to rescue Aedion, it was so intense, so well written, that I couldn’t stop. And of course, the reunion! Hopes not disappointed at all. Such raw emotion, and open feelings, it was greatly done. I really like Aedion, his attitude and badassery, and I’m happy we got to know a little more about him. The only thing I just don’t quite get is how Aelin, Aedion, and Rowan walked through Rifthold just like that, with no guards looking for them, after the spectacular rescue. One would think that after Aelin herself was in town to rescue his cousin after she openly defied the king, and that the party in which he was to be executed was clearly a bait, every soldier in the city would be looking for her. But they go from here to there like nothing is happening and that felt a little odd. The only thing I really couldn’t care about was Rowan and Aedion’s little alpha male drama. It’s ok, but honestly, I didn’t care enough about their battle of wills as much as I was supposed to. But it’s understandable, as Aedion wanted to be bonded to Aelin for so long and found out Rowan did it before him, so in general terms, it is well done. I’m glad they could eventually work together.

*big sigh*

Can we talk about Aelin and Rowan? The big romance twist in this series. I have to tell you, it makes a lot more sense with him than it ever did with Chaol, a relationship I’m actually glad is over. At least we can say that it was relevant to the plot, because a lot of things that happened wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for their brief, intense romance. But with Rowan is different. He is in her heart the way Chaol never was. I love them together, but at some point I got a little tired with their comings and goings. I ended up yelling at my book “just kiss already!”. They did everything, except kissing, and I ended up begging them to please, once and for all, act on your horniness so I can stop reading pages and pages of every little detail every time you touch each other. But if you, as you claim, can’t be together for the time being, no matter what it costs, the solution is very simple: stop sleeping in the same bed, and save me some time! 

Another thing that bothered me about them is how they both kept sulking about their past loves. Don’t get me wrong, it adds depth to their characters, and their past loss is what, in a way or another, brings them even closer together, because they understand each other better than anyone ever could. I get Rowan though, because Lyria was pregnant with his child, and she shouldn’t have died. But Aelin, I mean… yes, she really loved Sam and suffered a lot when she lost him. But, for the love of God, let him rest in peace! I completely understand that Sam was important to her, being her first love and everything, but it exhaust me to read about someone who isn’t even in the book. He belongs to a past I can only get to know through snippets from Aelin’s memories, but I can’t share her pain, simply because I don’t know Sam enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, as it is all linked to Arobynn’s character. I’m just saying that I prefer to read about characters that actually are in the book, that are relevant to the plot, and that I can care for, because I know them. 

The only character I can’t like, no matter how much I try, is Chaol, and luckily, he barely appears in this one. His attitude, I mean… I don’t know how to explain it. I just don’t like him. But I like the bond with Dorian, their strong friendship, and how Chaol didn’t give up on him, and protected him when Aelin tried to kill him to save him from the demon. As for Nesryn, there’s not a lot about her, but I’m not opposed to read more about her, now that she’s in the king’s army. I can’t say more because the book doesn’t give them a lot of importance, but I wish them well. 

Something I appreciate is when characters spend a big part of the book talking about their plans to do something, and they actually do it before the end, like here, when they said they would blow up the clock tower with hellfire. For a brief moment I thought I’d have to wait until the next book to see that happening, but they did it, and I couldn’t be happier when magic was unlocked. That opens the road for a lot more powers, and to see the real reach of everyone’s magic: Aelin, Rowan, Dorian, the witches… It’s promising. Just one thing: during the battle in the tunnels, I really thought Rowan, Aedion and Lorcan would be killed, but I loved when Lysandra suddenly jumped over them in her animal form and saved them, not only for that, but because what it meant for her to have her shapeshifting abilities back. I let out a breath when she leaped over the enemies and started ripping throats here and there, proving her loyalty and her true power. She truly deserved what she got at the end, and I really hope to read more about her.

Finally… the plot twists. Oh, my God. I’m shocked with the turn of events, because the king is no longer there, and there’s still a lot of story to read. That let me with my mouth open, like, “and now what?”. In one, brief second, Sarah J. Maas introduced a new villain, changed my attitude towards the king, raised a lot of questions, and moved the plot in a way I never saw coming. And that, my friends, is what a true writer does. Well done. Truly, well done. 


Not much else to say, because I can’t possibly cover every little detail, except that I’m very excited now that Aelin is back in Terrasen. I’m really looking forward to know more about Elide, and Manon, and all the consequences left by the events in this book. This one truly is a great fantasy series, I can’t possibly cover all the details here, but I recommend it to everyone who hasn’t read it. Sarah J. Maas is a great author, and I will keep reading this amazing series until I can answer every single one of my questions!


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