Friday, July 26, 2019

Review - Tower of Dawn

Original Title: Tower of Dawn
Series: Throne of Glass, #6
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: September 5th, 2017

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
This may be the fastest I’ve ever read a book in the Throne of Glass series. The reason it took me so long to get to it was that the whole book was about Chaol, and he has never been a favourite of mine. However, the promise to see Yrene Towers back, and to travel and visit other places created by Sarah J. Maas, ended up convincing me. And I could not give it less than the five stars it deserves. It was fantastic, in every sense of the word. 

The whole book was a breath of fresh air, after five instalments written to knock the air out of you, and give you shivers. It was very engaging, and definitely less intense than the previous books, with a smaller cast of characters, although equally captivating, and wonderful enough that I didn’t even miss Aelin, or Rowan, or Manon, or anyone who, at the same time, is in the other side of the world, engaged in the events that take place in Empire of Storms. Sarah J. Maas’ narration, as always, is more than great. She has an incredible style, it’s both strong and poetic, and her sentences are impactful, even when they are very simple, something that happened in all the previous books in the series. As for the representation, I’ve seen a lot of other readers making a huge deal about how, in the other books, there’s so little diversity in the cast of characters. I honestly don’t care about that, as long as the story is good and engaging, and the representation isn’t offensive. But here, Sarah J. Maas did her job, and I don’t think anyone can complain. There are strong female characters, people of colour, LGBT couples, and, of course, a hero with a disability. And the best part is that the author didn’t do this for the sake of it, or as fan service, because all these characters have their own personality, beyond those features that would make them, precisely, diverse. They are not there just because. The author makes sure that every single one has a purpose. 

The worldbuilding in Tower of Dawn is incredible, not only because of the details and the vivid descriptions, but because we get to visit a part of the map that, so far, has only been mentioned a couple of times. I was so invested in the story and the details of the world, that I couldn’t stop reading. Antica, with its court and sovereigns, made me think of Ancient Egypt and the pharaonic courts, and, truth be told, I liked a setting in which there’s no slavery or forced servitude, as servants, in the palace, get paid for their work, and the healers in the Torre Cesme both use their gifts for free, and take orders from no one. Not even the khagan has authority over them, and I loved that. As for the place they live in, the Torre itself, I found it fascinating, especially the library, and the Womb, with the pools, and the bells left by each healer who ever went there. But my favourite, of all places in this book, is the Eridun aerie, with the rukhin, and their lifestyle, so free and amazing, flying across mountains and going where the wind takes them… *sigh* I want to be there too, have my own ruk, and soar over the lands, going on adventures with Borte, Sartaq and Nesryn.

I thought that the whole recovery process Chaol had to go through would be boring to read, but, surprisingly, I ended up enjoying it. It’s so well done, and clearly, it entailed a lot of research for Sarah J. Maas. But she was able to take the real medical process from our own world to a fantasy setting, and she did it smoothly. Not only that, but Chaol’s feelings during the whole thing are so well depicted! The hopelessness, the depression that takes over him and how he feels, thinking that, as he needs help for nearly everything, is absorbing Nesryn’s life, and at the same time, he knows nothing of the people he loves and had to left behind, like Dorian, who is practically his brother. He still has pride, and although his bad mood is annoying at times, it’s perfectly understandable. It’s realistic.

I absolutely loved Yrene! I already liked her in the novella she appeared in, back in The Assassin’s Blade, and I was excited to see her again. She’s everything I love in a female character. She is strong, and determined, and although she’s not a warrior the same way Aelin or Nesryn are, she has her own personality and passion, and deserves this whole book for herself. Just as it happened with Elide in the previous books, Yrene’s strength isn’t exactly physical, but she proves that she doesn’t need to wield a blade to be a badass and that she’s as much a heroine as the rest of the characters. I love that she doesn’t let anything stop her from reaching her goals, and crossed mountains and seas to honour her unique talent and put it to good use, after the terrible fate her mother met at the hands of the king when she was a child. But besides that, healing is her passion and her life. She loves what she does, and she’s committed with life, because, although she could have made the choice of not healing a man from Adarlan, she understood that he needed her, and didn’t place the blame on him, deciding not to deny her help to those in need, and always remembering the chance to live given by the stranger that saved her and taught her self-defence back in Innish, that was none other than Aelin herself, back in her days as Celaena Sardothien. The only thing that I just have to mention, is that, if Yrene and Chaol could actually see each other’s memories and thoughts during the healing process, how is it that she didn’t recognize Aelin, as she was sitting with Rowan during that scene inside Chaol’s head?

I honestly didn’t think I’d like the romance between Chaol and Yrene, but I did! And very much. It made so much sense, and it’s so well written! And the best part is that they help and support each other, and they are better people when they are together. The healing goes both ways, because Chaol stops being so resentful and starts moving forward, physically and emotionally, finding hope and meaning once again, while she is able to make peace with her past and embrace her future. They both see each other at their worst. They learn not to judge one another on a first impression, past pain, and the things they know by hearsay. They peer into each other’s memories and feelings, and see both their strengths and weaknesses. They clash and disagree at first, of course. Anyone would in their situation. But they get to know each other, and their love is, for that, believable. To give you an idea of how much I loved this, in the previous books, if Chaol had died, I wouldn’t have cared. But when he almost died in this one, I was really scared for him, and heartbroken for Yrene. She loves him so much that she agreed to pay an unknown price to save him, tying is life to hers, and that took me back to Greek mythology, as it reminded me to myth of Philemon and Baucis, an old couple that loved each other so deeply that, upon helping the gods and them granting them whichever they asked for, they asked for them both to die at the same time, so they wouldn’t have to be separated. And that goes beyond mere romance. That is love, and there’s no other way around it. 

“Using the chair is not a punishment. It is not a prison,” he said. “It never was. And I am as much of a man in that chair, or with that cane, as I am standing on my feet.” He brushed away the tear that slipped down her cheek.
“I wanted to heal you,” she breathed.
“You did,” he said, smiling. “Yrene, in every way that truly matters … You did.”

*crying silent tears* Good that Chaol could understand that.

Back when I read Empire of Storms, I was annoyed by the so very graphic sex scenes, and although this book has them too (I knew they were coming the moment they said they were going to the oasis), they were better in the way that they were romantic, more focused on feelings than in physical sensations, and that made them more bearable. All the love stories in this book are beautiful, and lust has nothing to with it (well, partially). I mean, Chaol falls in love with Yrene, right? It happens after we are told how beautiful she is, with the inevitable mention of her body, her curves, her dresses, her hair, and every physical aspect she has in her favour. But when it comes to Nesryn and Sartaq’s story, it’s different. 

Before Tower of Dawn, I wasn’t a big fan of Nesryn. But I’m glad she got her own story, and we could get to know her through her own eyes, and not through Chaol’s perception. She’s deep and layered, and a warrior with all that it means. She’s brave, and strong, but also has this tender heart, with a profound love for her family, and for Antica and its people, that we barely get to see before this book. I personally never liked the idea of her and Chaol, simply because they didn’t fit together as more than just friends. There is not enough chemistry between them for that, and the proof is that, during the whole book, they spend most of their time apart, with other people, and they don’t miss each other. Yes, they slept together several times, but it never led to love, and I’m glad it didn’t. Nesryn can stand on her own, and doesn’t deserve to be anyone’s consolation prize. Chaol briefly saw a chance with her after he lost Aelin, but Nesryn is not there for that. She won’t be anyone’s second choice. And I love her for that. 

I loved her relationship with Sartaq, and I was happy when she was able to find not only someone to love, but her own identity. I loved their flights together, and the openness, and how much they came to love each other through going where no one could judge them (and also, that she got her own ruk at the end). I loved everything about the rukhin, the Eridun aerie, and the family he has outside the palace, where he is more comfortable and at ease. I absolutely loved the scene in which Nesryn sings, it’s incredibly beautiful. And that is exactly what I mean. The potential Nesryn has that make her so much more than just a warrior. She’s strong and sharp as a blade, fast as the arrows she fires. But she also has this side that makes her sing the old songs from the land of her parents with such deep, raw emotion, and that makes Sartaq fall deeper in love with her. In this scene, there’s no lust. Not a mention of her body, of her breasts, or anything about her physical appearance, because it’s not what matters in their relationship. Sartaq admired Nesryn long before he met her face to face, and their bond is deep because they share so much more than the physical pull to each other that is the mark of other love stories in the series. 

I almost die when the stygian spiders took Sartaq, the whole thing was heart-stopping. I couldn’t stop reading. I needed to keep turning the pages. It was amazing, and Falkan’s intervention as a wolf, and later as a spider itself, was great. If you paid attention in The Assassin’s Blade, you will know that Falkan is there, in the souk of Xandria, although he doesn’t mention his name, and tells Celaena about the price he paid for the Spidersilk. I like that Lysandra was mentioned as his only living relative, because, if Falkan had appeared out of nowhere in the next book and claimed to be Lysandra’s uncle, it would have felt forced, and out of place. But like this, it’s perfectly done. It fits, that is what matters.

Oh, and by the way, I really liked Borte, her attitude and her badassery, and how she is always there for her family. If it wasn’t for her, they would have died, but she’s not afraid, and I loved when set the webs on fire, like a statement that nobody messes with the rukhin without paying for it. She has a lot of potential to make a great character, and I hope there’s more about her in the next book.

And the plot twists. Oh, my God, the plot twists. I have to talk about them.

They were terrible slaps in the face, and I swear, I didn’t see any of them coming. Not one. I was so distracted by the other plot points that I did not stop to think twice about the hints, and clues. And the best part is that all of them make sense! You wouldn’t think I’d have to mention that, but, oh, dear God! I’ve read my share of books in which the supposed plot twist just fell flat, or didn’t make any sense, but with this book, I ended up staring at the page like dumbfounded, completely stunned. And I honestly love when that happens. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you write plot twists. 

Oh, my God, the Valg Queen! I did not see that coming and it was like being hit in the head with a hammer. It left me utterly and completely speechless. But that explains so much about Maeve, and how she did all the things she did. Sarah J. Maas did a great job adding all the details that would have been clues, had we paid attention to them, like Doranelle being so secretive and hidden, and the owl Maeve keeps at her side at all times. And the Valg being parasites! I honestly didn’t think they would appear in this book, but everything has new meaning now, especially the role of healers as warriors on their own account, without wielding swords, but being equally vital for the war effort. Maeve is definitely one of the best villains I’ve ever read, and she’s more powerful and terrible than it seemed. She’s literally a demon, and knowing it made me see Erawan and the king of Adarlan as mere infants, their actions as child’s play. The Valg are terrible not only because of what they do to the body and mind of the people they use as hosts, but also because they force them to make the most terrible decisions, in order to prevent something worse. Look at the king! He had to have the healers killed because they would be used as chess pieces in the demons’ game. I mean, how do you make such a decision? How can destroying lives and tearing apart families be the lesser of two evils? And yet, here we are. At war with an otherworldly force. This has gone beyond one kingdom against another, and now it is a war between realms. Between light and dark.

And Duva being possessed the whole time! Being Tumelun’s killer! I mean… I would have never guessed it. Sarah J. Maas did a masterful job distracting me from her, because I completely discarded her. A young princess, married off for convenience, pregnant, and with a sweet look on her face… I did not give her a second thought, just like everybody else did. I mean, even Renia –Hasar’s lover– would have been a more likely suspect! But no, it was Duva the whole time! An unparalleled surprise it was, and greatly done. My applause to Sarah J. Maas. 

Phew! This was such a great book! And I honestly smiled at the last scene, with the newlyweds, the chance for Yrene to learn who was the stranger that gave her the note she treasures, and with the whole army ready to go and fight, the ships loaded with soldiers, and the rukhin flying above… It promises epicness, and I can’t wait to see how this continues. I hope it’s more, or as amazing, as this book!


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