Queen of Shadows

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Sep. 2015 (re-read Oct. 2018)

I’m five books in and still going strong! I’ve decided not to re-read Tower of Dawn since it’s just too soon since I last read it and I’m not ready to sit through it again. That said, Tower of Dawn is the only book I have already written a review for (prior to my re-read), so I will post that review on my blog before Kingdom of Ash comes out in case anyone is interested. So I’ve got 10 days to read Empire of Storms, which should be a breeze because I remember Empire of Storms being SUPER INTENSE.

Back to Queen of Shadows. Everyone rags on this book and I’ve never really understood why. Heir of Fire was definitely the dud of the series for me on my first read through and I thought Queen of Shadows picked up the pace again by bringing all our beloved characters back together. However, on the re-read I absolutely loved Heir of Fire and while I still liked Queen of Shadows, it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it. I disagree with anyone who says this book is slow – I thought it had so much action, but I did notice a few slower parts between action scenes the second time around. Maas gets more indulgent with each book and because of her popularity, her editors seem to let her. I thought this book had a small case of overindulgence where some parts could have been shortened up.

My favourite part of this book is the resolution of Sam’s murder and Aelin finally being reunited with Arobynn. We’re introduced to this juicy origin story in The Assassin’s Blade and it is then suspended for 3 entire books. I loved watching Aelin return from Wendlyn stronger and ready to confront her demons. Lysandra is pure brilliance and I’m so glad Maas brought her back into the story and created a new female friendship for Aelin. She’s constantly surrounded by petty, possessive men and she definitely needs a female friend. Plus, Lysandra is hilarious and my hero and I LOVE HER.

Arobynn makes me cringe. In my opinion he is a textbook abuser. Everything is about power and dominance for him. He tries to control Aelin with gifts and affection, seeking influence over her as a sort of creepy father figure, but it is all about power for him. He is a great antagonist though and I thought Maas wrote Aelin and Arobynn’s reunion and resolution so well. It was clever and I loved how it tied in to the greater plot of the series.

I can’t help but dig Rowan. In my first read of the series I still harboured feelings for Celaena and Chaol and hoped they’d make things work. But my second re-through of the series has just totally changed the way I feel about Chaol, even in the first two books. I’m just going to say it – Chaol sucks in this book. I appreciated that through Chaol’s inner monologue, Maas raises moral questions on who will keep magic wielders in check if magic returns. It really is an important question. Aelin threatens to burn a city to the ground in Heir of Fire and she’s proven again and again that she’s not the most emotionally stable individual, so the idea of there being no checks on her power should be a concerning one. But Chaol is just so whiny and ‘woe is me’ that I really just didn’t have a lot of sympathy for him. He lets his guilt and shame rule his life when he really needs to come to terms with it and forgive himself and forgive Aelin.

As for the other characters, Dorian breaks my heart in this book. He’s controlled by a valg prince, so he’s more or less absent from the story and I did really miss him. He has become one of my favourite characters in my re-read and it was actually heartbreaking to see him broken in this book. He is just so pure and precious and it’s upsetting to know he’ll never really be that way again after what has happened to him. Manon’s mostly just doing her thing in this book, being angst-y and unforgiving, but she finally grew a backbone towards the end upon learning the truth about Asterin and I am so ready for her to kick some ass in Empire of Storms. Elide is an interesting character, but I find her kind of boring. Elide is to Queen of Shadows what Manon was to Heir of Fire. She’s the newest character being introduced to us, but she doesn’t serve a whole lot of purpose to the plot at this point and is mostly just there for character development. Lysandra is new to the series in this book too, but she carries plot and development – she’s easy to love quickly, whereas with Elide and Manon, it takes longer to really care about them when they are first introduced (or at least that’s how it was for me).

What didn’t I like about this book? Aedion, Rowan, and Aelin’s weird little love/power triangle. I hate how Maas talks about fae dominance and power struggle. I don’t like how Rowan and Aedion were always competing with one another over Aelin and who treated her better, should be her protector, take the blood oath, yadda yadda yadda. She can take care of herself and make her own freaking decisions! She’s been looking out for herself for like 8 years before either of these sods came along, so give it a break already. I also hated how they would constantly refer to her as ‘the queen’ and treat her like a god. She is a human being and Rowan and Aedion are the backbone of her court. If anyone should treat her like a normal person, they should. She doesn’t need groveling and deference from them, she needs a friend and someone who will respect her decisions, but call her out on her bullshit.

I have to admit though… Aelin and Rowan’s flirting in this book was kind of sexy. I know all the weird ‘mate’ and ‘claiming’ business is coming up in the next book, but I was kind of into Aelin and Rowan in this book. I just think they’re kind of bad at actually treating each other like equals. Rowan (and Aedion) give Aelin too much license, while at the same time being too controlling about what she does on her own. I’m not really sure what the right balance is, but it’s off in this book, between both Aelin and Aedian and Aelin and Rowan.

But overall, still a great read. I’m pumped to read Empire of Storms and to be honest, slightly terrified of how Maas is going to end it all in Kingdom of Ash. A Court of Wings and Ruin was a bit of a disappointment for me as a series conclusion and I’m nervous about how this series is going to play out as well. But only one way to find out – so it’s on to the next book and then finally the epic conclusion!

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