Sunday, August 26, 2018

Review - Heir of Fire

Original Title: Heir of Fire
Series: Throne of Glass, #3
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: September 2nd, 2014

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
I’m going to start this review with a quote:

She darted to the next tree […], cursing silently at the slowness of her pace.

That was me during the first two quarters of the book. To give you an idea, in my previous review I said that with Crown of Midnight I didn’t have time to take notes, because it was so intense, but here, I could not only do that, but also go get coffee, and even take a nap. Don’t get me wrong, I did like it, but the first half was very slow and heavy with details, and the only truly intense, fast-paced part was the last quarter, the way I wish the entire book had been. 

The first thing I noticed is the characters’ evolution. They undoubtedly got deeper, and it is very noticeable how things have changed since the first book, not only around the tone of the story, but also on Sarah J. Maas’s writing, in the way that now the twists and turns of the story are truly surprising, and well done. I mean, remember the very first book, when they all suspected Cain was guilty, and in the end, it truly was him, no plot twist there? Well, that doesn’t happen anymore. More than once I thought something would happen, and in the end, it went the opposite direction. Bravo! That’s how it should be.

I have mixed feelings about this book. At first, it was a three GR stars, but the last quarter of the book turned them into four. I feel like it wouldn’t be fair, given how the story takes a dark turn by the end, but still, I have a few things to say. It took me forever to finish it, and there’s plenty of reasons for that. After Crown of Midnight, I was hoping for a novel as intense and action-packed as that one was, but, considering how and how long this one is, I believe that it could have been so much shorter! The most that happened by the middle of the story that made me say “I have to keep reading” was the scene with the cave, the frozen lake, and the monster with the red eye. It was the only part I didn’t said “I will keep reading but the next chapter can wait until I feel like coming back.

To be honest, it was the same problem I had years ago with Eldest, by Christopher Paolini. Just like that one, the plot revolves mostly around training. It’s not badly done, don’t get me wrong. It’s good to see Celaena making mistakes, slowly accepting her destiny, and getting in control of her magic. If she had been good from day one, just because she’s Fae, I wouldn’t have bought a single page of this story. She has to start the climb at the bottom of the stairs, just like any other warrior in training. But it bothered me that the whole thing took that many chapters, and I seriously questioned Rowan’s method so much! Because Celaena trained page after page without making any real progress, with a teacher that didn’t really help, and I didn’t like that. All Rowan did was pointing out to all her mistakes without actually telling her how to do the things he asked from her, and then even found ways to make her pay for that, like giving her double shifts at the kitchen and things like that. All he did in every lesson was ordering “shift”, and with only that, I ended up a bit confused about what she was supposed to learn.

About that, at first I couldn’t understand how other readers said they ended up with a massive crush on Rowan, because… well, I never like characters like him, who think so highly of themselves to the point of not even deigning to talk to other people. Rowan and Celaena ride for days without speaking to each other, but simply because Rowan won’t talk. He has lived too long and too much, so he’s above that. I found that sense of superiority very irritating. Plus, this line about Rowan’s tattoos had me rolling my eyes:

She had debated asking him what the words meant, but that would involve talking. And talking meant building some sort of . . . relationship. She’d had enough of friends. Enough of them dying, too.

Oh, my God. *deep breath* It’s just asking him, don’t exaggerate! You won’t build a deep bond by only asking him a question. Come on, Celaena, is not that big of a deal. You are smarter than that.

Anyway, I disliked Rowan until I saw how their relationship moved forward, and they could truly form a deep, meaningful friendship, especially after her burnout, and after he discovered her scars, and her past as a slave. Rowan is fiercely loyal, a true warrior, and I ended up liking him a lot, because at one point he stopped acting like he didn’t have all those scars and sad history, and both he and Celaena let themselves be vulnerable around each other. I really want to keep reading about him and see his part in the whole mess that will ensue. And honestly, I’m not opposed to a romantic relationship between them. After all, it would make so much more sense with him that with Chaol. 

And talking about Chaol… I honestly don’t love him. It’s ok as a character, but in this book is he constantly thinking about why he sent Celaena to Wendlyn, and sulking about their relationship, after what happened with Nehemia in Crown of Midnight. He spends the entire book (literally) saying that he will go to Anielle to accept his courtly duties as the heir to the throne, but nothing ever happens around it. He just says it over and over again, and I found myself thinking “are you going or not?”. He’s still this guy who shows no emotions externally, but he’s cracking up internally, and now that he has left the king’s service behind, I want to see him as a rebel, and seeking to help his best friend Dorian. That “I love you” there, by the end, was totally out of brotherly affection, and I really liked it, because it could be said without being romantic at all, and it was still heartbreaking. I can’t wait to go with them to save Dorian and Aedion.

Oh, and Aedion! I loved him! I completely loved him. When he first appeared, I was ready to hate him for having betrayed his lineage and serving the king, but then everything changed. It was all a carefully built fa├žade, because he was still fiercely loyal to Aelin and the Ashryver-Galathynius bloodline. He has this fire on him that will help him not to break as long as he is in shackles, and I loved how happy he was when he heard Aelin was still alive. Now I need that reunion. I need Celaena and Aedion to meet again and fight together for Terrasen and Eyllwe, and for all those people who gave their lives for the queen to survive. That will be epic! 

Unlike the previous books, Heir of Fire is told in three different perspectives, showing how everyone is fighting their own little wars where they are, inside the big war that drives the plot. And one of those fronts is the story around Manon Blackbeak the witches and the wyverns, a plot I just couldn’t care so much about, basically because, as if we didn’t have enough of Celaena’s training, we need a complete side story about the same thing. I can tell that they are going to have a big role in the upcoming story, but still. I think I grumbled a couple of times when, turning the page, I found out that the next chapter was about Manon. But it was good from the moment I noticed that Abraxos, even having ripped off Titus’ head, still could be loyal and defend his rider, like the rest of the wyverns. And the last scene was just… so great! With the Crochan witch they forced Manon to kill, that said that everything is a lie, that those heartless witches are not born, but made, meaning that Manon can change her fate, that of her of people, and make the whole plan of a witchy army backfire on the king. I don’t –yet– see why she wouldn’t take Celaena’s side on the future, but I hope she does.

The part that really gave me goosebumps, because it was so great in its simplicity, was when the rebellion slowly started to show on Adarlan, after the massacre on the labor camps of Endovier and Callacula, and the orchestra played the songs of those nations that suffered because of the king. It was terrible, but realistic, if you know what I mean. It made me want to cry so badly, because that was a quiet rebellion. The king is the origin of all these sorrow and death, and his people won’t support that. I love it. And think this. That little girl who started the rebellion by killing the guard in Callacula (I wanted to know what had happened to her), did it in Nehemia’s name, and that inspired the slaves in Endovier. See how greatly done it is, that Nehemia, even being out of the picture, still lived a little longer in them, and how she inspired them in giving her life for what she thought was worth it. I still think that killing Nehemia was a waste of character, because she had a lot of potential, but without that, Celaena couldn’t have become Aelin, and at least we can say that it was worth it.

I really liked to see the king angry when Aelin defied him, because he can’t orchestrate everything, and that was something he did not see coming. In your face, you damn bastard! But I need to say this. He is this massive villain, the main source of terror, but he’s barely on the book. He has only a couple of scenes, and very little dialogue, but still, he is this scary, permanent presence that rules everything and everyone, and the characters in the three fronts this book narrates are directly linked with him, under his influence in a way or another. That is honesty so well done!

And Dorian! Dorian, for the love of… well, whatever deity they have in Erilea. He’s a prisoner now and I swear I never, ever saw that coming. I’m desperate to know what will happen to him now. I need to keep reading. When the king took Sorscha, I seriously thought she would be saved, in one way or another, that Dorian would blast the king and freeze the guards with enough time to save her. Honestly, I was really liking their storyline, with Dorian recognizing that he and Celaena are not meant to be. I loved this line:

He’d been a fool once, swearing he would tear the world apart for Celaena. A boy in love with a wildfire—or believing he was in love with one.

Of course, all this only helps me to state my claim once again: the love triangle is not necessary. Look how easily it went out of the picture, hardly disrupting the plot. I liked that Dorian recognized this girl, Sorscha, and truly valued her as a person that did so much for them, and kept her mouth shut, that had to tread as carefully as everyone else in the castle. She did not deserve to die, she never hurt anyone, and ended up paying the price it entailed. Just as those poor slaves in Endovier and Callacula. When she was beheaded, my mouth fell open, and I couldn’t react by several seconds… Completely. Stunned.

I just don’t understand how Dorian’s magic works in a land where the king has banished magic, I hope there’s some sort of explanation behind it, and also about the towers, the Valg, and Perrington, Roland and Kaltain, who did not appear in Heir of Fire. I want to know where they are, and what role will they have in the future.

God, there’s so much in front of us! Considering what Sarah J. Maas did in this book, I positively think that we can expect anything from her. I really like it, even when this book was very slow at times, and I hope it gets better. I’ll grab Queen of Shadows soon, and see how it goes! Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review - Crown of Midnight

Original Title: Crown of Midnight
Series: Throne of Glass, #2
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: August 27th, 2013

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

That’s literally all I can say right now. I am stunned. Truly, and utterly, stunned. Never before a book series made me take back my words. I feel like giving it less than five stars wouldn’t be fair, because this sequel has been a wild ride. Wild indeed. If I had to describe it with one word, that would be intense. There’s not a moment to breathe as you read, as the events unfold and there’s simply… magic.

Although I’ve already put the spoiler alert, I’ll say it again. Don’t read this if you don’t want to be spoiled. Stop right here. 

First of all, I want to say that I stand by everything I said about the first book of the series. That was full of suspense, but mostly romance, and court drama, and did not fulfill my expectations. But Crown of Midnight was everything I wanted that first book to be. It was captivating from page one, in a truly unique way, keeping me up at night, saying “just one more chapter”. I normally take notes as I read so I don’t forget about the things I want to say later, but with this book, I didn’t even stop to do that. I’d never thought I’d be so hooked by a story that starts with a gruesome murder that had me wrinkling my nose in the first few pages. But that is exactly what happened, and as I write this, I realize that it rendered me speechless. It went exactly in the opposite direction I thought it would take. The gap between this book and the previous one is enormous. 

The first noticeable thing is the character development and the incredibly well done worldbuilding (so far), not only because of the places they visit, but for the people. Sarah J. Maas gave every character their own voice and depth, you can tell who is speaking simply for the words they use. Here, we can truly see Celaena as the feared assassin everyone said she was, but without solid events that could truly prove it. This woman is not perfect. She has a temper, she’s a badass, but even with all that, she’s still human, she still loves and fears, and that is incredibly well done. She’s not to be messed with, and she turned very scary when angry. I was particularly moved by the scene in which she remembers her past, and mostly with the part that, in the previous book, had been told as her attempt to escape from Endovier, because, in this book, we learned that her intention wasn’t escaping, but taking revenge. A payback for what happened to Sam, her first love. It was truly chilling. Well done, Sarah J. Maas! 

Can we talk about Dorian for a minute? I really liked the fact that he’s not the typical prince, trained to be a warrior, and the pride of, if not his father, at least his people. No, not at all. Instead of the fairytale cardboard royal, we are met with a fleshed-out character filled with fear and doubts, fragile, treading carefully in a court in which a misstep can have terrible consequences. And now he has found out he has magic! I definitely want to know more about that, since magic has been banned from Adarlan for a long time. Where does it come from? Was he born with it, or Nehemia put it in him when she traced the Wyrdmark over him? Can it get stronger? I have so many questions! Honestly, I don’t particularly love Dorian, but I do like him and I want to keep reading about him. 

Oh, my God, the love story! Although this book took it not one, but a million steps further, I still stand by what I said in my review of the previous book. The love triangle is simply not necessary. It doesn’t have to be there, it only tires me as a reader. Because, in the first book, Celaena was mostly attracted to Dorian, wanting to kiss him constantly and opening up to him, and in this book, she turns to Chaol. Here, their relationship is a lot darker, and deeper, and when they started to be happy together, I simply knew that couldn’t last. When things go too well in books, distrust shows its face, and I was not proven wrong. But the thing is that I don’t really like having both Dorian and Chaol having feelings for Celaena, and having Celaena going back and forth between the two of them and their load of qualities. It is like the line between the two is constantly blurred. Celaena certainly is unique, I give it that, but I don’t particularly root for this love triangle. Luckily, the story has a lot bigger pillars to sustain it, and it is not based solely on the romance, because I couldn’t read that without rolling my eyes. 

With that said, let’s go to the plot twists. I swear I never, ever, saw Nehemia’s death coming. I honestly thought Celaena would make it on time, but… *painfully sobbing*. I found myself in complete denial. Literally. All I could think was “Nehemia, no. No. That didn’t happen.”. I tried to think things like “I’m sure this is a ruse, she will turn up alive in one of next books, or something like that”. That won’t happen, but I want you to understand the level of my denial. I truly loved Nehemia, she had so much potential to be a badass, indomitable character with the temper and the attitude to be an awesome queen. I found her to be a character worth of admiration, an inspiration for her people, and I was seriously not ready to see her gone. I wanted her to be happy. It completely broke my heart. But, if I have to see the bright side, it means that I’m in for a story with great plot twists, and unpredictable turns, filled with deep, raw feelings. After Nehemia’s murder, Celaena went completely wild with anger and pain, and I could truly feel it, it is incredibly well written, and I can positively affirm that I love Sarah J. Maas’ writing. 

As for Archer, oh, my God! I knew that he was lying about not being involved in a rebel movement, but never, in a million years, could have guessed he was the one who had Nehemia killed posing as Lord Mullison! It took me completely by surprise, and I was actually glad when he died. I just thought that he, just as Nehemia, would stay for the next books. But good riddance, I say. Archer, you damn bastard!

As for Celaena being Aelin, I could deduce it at some point, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not intrigued. As I said in my review of the previous book, Celaena has a past that goes beyond the point in which we can start reading her story. I was glad that, when Chaol knew she was Fae, she was able to provide an explanation, if short (which is ok, it was not the time for it). My point is that it’s not that she knows nothing, and it took her by surprise too. She is aware of her nature, and the fact that she didn’t mention it before doesn’t make it a bad plot twist. On the contrary, it makes me ever more eager to get to Heir of Fire to know more!

Damn, this is what happens with good books. I end up so excited that I can barely review them. There’s so much happening in Crown of Midnight, that I simply can’t cover the details, but I’m definitely looking forward to read the rest of the books. There’s so much I want to know! What is up with Perrington, Kaltain and Roland? What will happen with the Wyrdkeys? What about Dorian’s magic, the portals, the mythical creatures, the Fae, the king’s twisted plans…?

In short, this book is simply brilliant. I could guess some things as it progressed (like the clue about the Wyrdkey on Elena’s tomb), but in general terms, it was amazingly done, and I wish I could say more about it, but I simply can’t cover all the details. I will for sure read the next books, and I hope the series only gets better and better!