The Wicked King

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Author: Holly Black
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Jan. 8, 2019 (read Dec. 2018)
Series: The Folk of the Air #2

Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Unpopular opinion: I liked The Cruel Prince (3 stars), but I definitely didn’t love it and it was so hyped up it kind of left me wondering if maybe there was something I was missing not loving it as much as everyone else. The Wicked King started off much the same, with me wondering what the big deal was. I still kind of don’t understand the insane level of fandom that some readers have over this series, but I think I did like this book more than the first one.

So I was not really feeling this in the beginning, but then once I got about a third of the way through I thought it picked up a lot and I pretty much speed read through the rest of the book in 2 days. I think my biggest issue that I don’t particularly love Holly Black’s style of writing, but I may be the odd one out here. I said this about The Cruel Prince, and I had the same thought with this book, that I felt like I was reading a middle grade novel. The plot is so obviously NOT middle grade (it’s brutal), but something about the writing strikes me as a little immature. I’m not really looking for flowery writing in my fantasy books, but something about Black’s style is just a little to simplistic for me. That said, I have a feeling the writing may be one of the reasons other readers like this so much – it is definitely a different style of writing from most other fantasy books and the characters and plot read a lot different.

The middle grade feel ends there though because the plot is anything but middle grade. My favourite part of the first book was how unpredictable the plot was and Black definitely continued that theme in this book. I didn’t see any of the plot twists coming and I was continually surprised by where she took the story. It reminds me a little of Game of Thrones in that you really don’t trust that any of the characters are safe and that really anything could happen to them.

It’s definitely a political book and it does get a little confusing at times. I may have benefited from a re-read of The Cruel Prince before jumping into this book because I forgot some of the details about Faerieland and who was good and who was bad (although do we ever really even know? Everyone flipflops so much). I thought it got really interesting in part 2 of the book when we learned more about the sea kingdom and Cardan finally stopped being a little puppet king. I like that you never know which characters you can trust, even though it makes you want to pull your hair out sometimes. Plus I thought Jude was really clever when she was in the sea kingdom. You can tell she’s really struggling in the first half of the book to maintain any kind of power and it was kind of fun to see it all stripped away from her and see her still use her wits to succeed.

I liked that Jude and Cardan both grew a lot in this book. I’m still not entirely sure what the source of attraction is between them, but I was feeling it in the second half of the book. I think I liked Cardan’s development the most. He really came into his own in the second half of the book as well and I wanted to love him, but at the same time you can’t help but be weary of trusting anyone in this book. I still don’t really know what to think about him, even after that brutal ending. WHAT IS REAL?! It’s the perfect kind of ending though in that it’s not really a cliffhanger, but it makes you desperate for the next book. It reminded me a little of the ending of ACOMAF, which also has that perfect hook to draw you back to the next book without really being a cliffhanger.

On a side note, I don’t really get Taryn and Locke. They’re a mystery to me and I really don’t know what the hell Taryn is playing at (and Locke is like the world’s biggest ass). I think I may have to read the novella because I think that gives us some more insight into Taryn’s character.

I really wanted this book back in the summer when everyone was getting arcs, but I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get it until now because otherwise it would be a SUPER long wait to the next book. Plus Hatchette Canada was so kind as to send me a finished copy, which I really appreciate. It’s still not one of my favourite fantasy series, but it is fun and I will definitely be anxiously awaiting the final book.

The Wicked King will be available in stores on Jan. 8th, 2019

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The Poppy War

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Pub date: May 2018 (read Nov. 2018)

Disclaimer: Spoiler Review

I’ve been postponing writing this review because I’m not quite sure how to rate or review this book. I read a lot of YA Fantasy and this was so different than everything else I’ve read, it was really refreshing.

The Poppy War falls into the historical fantasy genre. It is set in the fictional Nikan Empire, who has survived two Poppy Wars and is on the brink of a third war with the Federation of Mugen. This world is very much based off of China and Japan and the Second Sino-Japanese War. I think one of the reasons I’ve been postponing this review is because this is based on a conflict I’m not very familiar with and because I think that it’s important to recognize that the author did not write this book for me. I’ve heard that this book is super important and meaningful to many Chinese people and I think the author is really trying to be a voice for that pain in this book.

Because this is such a historically significant book, and there are a lot of plot elements I want to discuss, I can’t write a spoiler-free review for this book. So please don’t read any further if you’re trying to avoid spoilers for this book. In addition, I wanted to acknowledge S. Qiouyi Lu’s review that was posted on Barnes and Nobles website. Because I wasn’t at all familiar with the history behind this book, I had to do some research for this review, and her article was a great starting point for me and influenced my own review. Her review is also a great example of how this book may be more meaningful for Chinese readers and that I likely missed a lot of the cultural and historical context and nuances.

First off, I have to applaud Kuang for this book because it is extremely impressive in scope. It’s a 500+ page novel and I believe it covers about 5 or 6 years of plot. The story starts with our main character Rin at 12 years old. She is a war orphan who wants to prove herself by passing the Keju (national exam) and being accepted into Sinegard, the elite military school. The first half of the book follows the traditional fantasy format, with Rin acing her exam, but then struggling to be accepted among the wealthier students at school. Nikan is on the brink of war and it looms over the students as they study and prepare for eventual positions in the military.

The story followed a pretty predictable arc until the end of Rin’s first year of school. It’s not until Rin pledges Lore that the plot starts to take a turn and you realize that you’ve stumbled upon something totally new. There’s a lot of elements going on in this book and there is really a lot of depth to the plot. In addition to the historical retelling of the Sino-Japanese war, Kuang also weaves a huge element of religion and shamanism into the story, as well as China’s history with opium and drug use. After Rin pledges lore, we learn that, despite what the empire claims about Shamanism being a myth, Rin is indeed a shaman and has the ability to commune with the Gods.

This book has 3 parts, but it kind of felt like 2 separate books to me. The first half of the book is all about Rin getting into school and surviving her studies, but around the 50% mark of the book Nikan is finally catapulted into a war with Mugen. The school term ends abruptly and the students are called upon to defend Sinegard and are assigned to various divisions of the military, This is where I felt like I was starting a new book because the plot changed so drastically in the second half.

The rest of this story is about war and it is gruesome and bloody. Rin’s mentor, Jiang, has always advised Rin against actually calling on the Gods, but in her desperation at the battle of Sinegard, she calls on the fire power of the Phoenix to help the empire win and is subsequently assigned to the special assassination unit of the Nikan Empire. This division is essentially a troop of about 12 shamans, all of who are able to call upon various Gods, with the help of psychedelic drugs, which are illegal in the rest of Nikan, but permitted for the Shamans. I wish I understood enough about Chinese culture to understand the parallels and historical context of religion and drug abuse in China, but unfortunately it was a little over my head, but interesting nonetheless.

It’s a very multi-layered book and the more I reflect on it, the more impressed I am with the author’s ability to weave so many subplots into one novel. I’ve read she actually studied military strategy herself, and it definitely shows. In addition to recounting a piece of history, she also explores many dark themes about power. Rin is conflicted for most of the second half of the book because she spent her entire time at school being taught how to enter the Pantheon (where the Gods live), but is resolutely forbidden from actually calling on the Gods for power. Her and Jiang spend years debating the meaning of life and power. Jiang is reverent about power – there is always a consequence for taking from the Gods and he warns Rin against it.

This contrasts with her commander Altan in the second half of the book, who routinely gets mad at Rin for failing to call on the Phoenix. Rin relates to Altan – she doesn’t understand the point of accessing the Pantheon if not to take a little piece of that power for herself. It is very much a book about war and power. The atrocities of war, the loss of humanity, and how grief and loss can consume a person, transforming them into their very worst nightmare. It explores why genocides are possible and why wars continue to happen over and over again. We never learn from our mistakes. Grief can be blinding and the allure of power can cause people to lose all sense of humanity and commit the same atrocities that caused them the grief in the first place. Rin knows deep down that the power of the Phoenix is too all consuming, that the price will be too high. But there’s only so much pain a person can take before they need to reach out, if they can, and take a piece of that power for themselves. Throw it back at their oppressors.

This is definitely not a book for the faint of heart. It is gruesome. Kuang is not afraid to paint the realities of war and the impact it has on the human psyche. In the plot, she explores several real historical events, including the Nanjing Massacre (Golyn Niis) and Unit 731 (human experimentation). Knowing that these events are based in reality is horrifying and it does make for a very sobering read. I had to do some research about these real life events afterwards, and again, I’ll refer you to Lu’s review for more information.

There were some other smaller plot points that I found really interesting and just wanted to quickly draw attention to. First off, I really liked that this book didn’t have a love story. I kept waiting to see who was going to emerge as the love interest, and no one ever did! In line with this, The Poppy War included the most ballsy discussion of reproductive rights that I think I’ve ever seen in a book! Rin gets her first period at Sinegard at 14. She has no idea what’s happening and is horrified to discover she will have to put up with it once a month. She makes an impulsive decision to have her womb removed to avoid menstruation in the future. It was an interesting portrayal because I think generally a 14 year girl requesting to forfeit her potential to bear children would never be handled like this. Women are pretty much prized in society above all for their ability to bear children, and there’s almost no way any doctor would encourage sterilization on a 14 year old… except if they were poor or a minority, which Rin was (she was darker than many of the other students at Sinegard). Canada and America both have a sad history of forcing or tricking poor and minority women to get sterilized, so I found it believable that the government would be encouraging a peasant girl like Rin from Rooster province to part ways with her fertility. I also appreciated Rin for knowing what she wanted and not regretting the decision later.

But alas, I must admit that I did struggle with the story at times, which prevented me from fully loving it. There was a lot going on in this book, but I found the writing a bit detached at times and sometimes I struggled with picking it up again after putting it down. I think this was mostly related to structure. I said earlier that this felt more like 2 books to me than 1, and for that reason, I think it dragged. It was a little on the long side and I struggled with it after a while. However, I can’t deny the importance of this book and overall, I was incredibly impressed with it. Like I said, this book was not written for me, and I appreciate the author for her unflinching look at this piece of Chinese-Japanese history.

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genres: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling
Pub date: Nov. 2018 (read Nov. 2018 on Audible)
Series: Rise of the Empress #2

Well, this was a huge disappointment after the surprisingly good first book, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns. I was not expecting to love the first book because I thought it was a Snow White retelling, and I’m not that into fairytale retellings. But it ended up being a retelling of the evil queen in snow white – her slow descent into evil and how she became to be so obsessed with beauty. I do love a good villain origin story, and this one was an Asian-inspired retelling full of all kinds of nastiness, so I thought it was a great twist of the classic fairytale.

In contrast, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix was the boring Snow White retelling I thought I was getting in the first book. Honestly, you don’t even really need to have read the first book to read this one. The first book is told entirely from Xifeng’s point of view (evil queen), but this book is told from Jade’s point of view (snow white). In this book Xifeng is basically evil incarnate and Jade is the good girl out to save Feng Lu. It made me wonder why Dao spent so much time on Xifeng’s characterization in the first book if she was just going to abandon her in this book. I actually didn’t have a problem with this being a Snow White retelling, it just would have been so much more interesting if it was told from Xifeng’s point of view.

But Xifeng has basically lost her humanity in this book, so instead we get to listen to Jade’s inner monologue for 300 pages. Jade is the daughter of the late Empress Li-Wa (sorry, listened to this on Audiobook and can’t find the spelling), who Xifeng usurped in the last book. Xifeng didn’t want any of Li-Wa’s children around, so she sent Jade off to live in a monastery, thinking she would bear the Emperor new male heirs, and more or less forgot about her. However, Xifeng has been unable to produce an heir and calls Jade to the royal palace.

Up to this point, Jade had no idea that she was the lost princess, the true heir to the throne. So she struggles with suddenly being Royalty, but becomes indignant when she arrives at the palace and discovers how much her people have been suffering under Xifeng. She discovers that Xifeng is a servant of the Serpent God and has been killing women and eating their hearts to remain young, so Jade sets off on a quest to collect the dragon relics so that she can raise the lost dragon army (she is apparently the daughter of the Dragon Lord). She teams up with Ren, a young girl and warrior from the palace, and Koichi (again, not sure of spelling), who is a little person and Shiro’s son.

From there, this becomes a classic kind of fantasy quest novel. Jade, Ren, and Koichi travel around Feng Lu collecting the relics, hiding from the Serpent God and Kong, who is now Xifeng’s hunter. They meet a number of people and ghosts who help them along their journey and learn all kinds of stuff about these individuals, but honestly, I can’t remember half of it now or what the importance was, but I’m sure they would have been somewhat shocking twists had I cared at all about Jade.

That was probably my biggest complaint about this book. I just didn’t care about Jade. Okay, I was pretty into the fact that the main romantic relationship in this book involves a little person, but otherwise I just found Jade such a do-gooder that it was boring. She supposedly doesn’t know she’s a princess, but as soon as she finds out, she’s suddenly like the ultimate philanthropist and all obsessed with ending the suffering of her people. She didn’t care at all about the empire before finding out she was a princess and now she’s all incensed about it and has to like swoop in and save the world. She’s constantly trying to be this good, noble person and it was just sooo boring. Like she tries to save Ren from having to work by making her a fake handmaiden, and Ren is just like, “B*tch, don’t feel bad for me, I could kick your ass and I’m not too proud to work.” And then Jade kept trying to send Ren and Koichi away cause she just couldn’t bear for something bad to happen to them. Like, get over yourself Jade, you would literally be dead 8 times without them and this quest belongs to them just as much as it does you. Just because you’re the princess, you’re no more entitled to take down Xifeng than Ren, whose grandmother was murdered by her.

So yeah, mostly I thought Jade was just like, super boring, and I didn’t care at all about the relics or their quest to find them. Honestly, this whole book felt like it was just a lead up to the real plot. I was interested in Xifeng and the havoc she was wreaking on the empire, and I did want to see a showdown between Xifeng and Jade, but I didn’t care at all about the quest and the relics. It just all felt like filler to me and overall I found the plot disappointing. Plus, like where were the seven dwarves? If you’re going to do a Snow White retelling you should at least commit to the dwarves.

And finally, I really didn’t like the ending. The entire book is narrated by Jade, but then when she goes into her enchanted apple sleep it gets narrated by like 3 other characters in her absence and it just felt really disjointed. Plus, Dao tries to tie the ending back to Xifeng’s story with a few random twists relating to the first book. I think she was trying to make us empathize with Xifeng again, but it just didn’t work at all for me. You can’t have her be this psycho, evil queen for 90% of the book and then try and make us care about her again.

So overall, I was really not impressed with this book. I was so excited to read it and I thought the story had so much potential. I just wish it had been from Xifeng’s point of view. What is Jade like from her perspective? I don’t want to totally discount the book though because it is possible this has some important cultural aspects that I’m just missing as a white person. I also just finished The Poppy War, which is a historical fantasy about China that I’ve heard holds a lot of meaning for Chinese People. This said though, I enjoyed The Poppy War a lot more than this, even though I probably didn’t pick up a lot of the nuances that people more familiar with the culture and history would.

Kingdom of Ash

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Oct. 23, 2018 (read Oct. 2018)
Series: Throne of Glass Book #7

This is going to be a beast of a review for a 1,000 page beast of book. Kingdom of Ash has totally taken over my life this past week and I have so many thoughts on the conclusion to this epic series.

As usual, I’m a little torn on how to rate this. Did I enjoy reading it? Absolutely. Was it intense? Undoubtedly. Am I satisfied with the ending? Mostly. Did it still have problematic elements? Sadly, yes.

This series has had a lot of ups and downs over the years. Upon re-reading the series, I’ve come to the conclusion that Crown of Midnight and Empire of Storms were my favourite books in the series, and Tower of Dawn was my least favourite. KoA kept me on the edge of my seat for the full 1,000 pages, but it could definitely have been shorter and I don’t think it will top my list for favourite book in the series.

Disclaimer, I won’t be able to keep this review spoiler free, so if you haven’t read the book yet, I would hold off on reading this review.

First off, the beginning of this book is really dark. I mean, I was expecting it to be dark based on how Empire of Storms ended, but I was not anticipating just how far into the depths this would go. We know at the end of EoS that Aelin is trapped by Maeve and likely to be tortured, but it was so much darker and worse than I expected. In fact, my spirits were so low in the first 300 pages of this book that I almost had to put it aside for a while and I was unsure whether Maas would be able to redeem the story after bringing it to such a low point. However, though I could have done without some of the descriptions and inference of how Aelin was tortured (I really hate any depictions of torture), I appreciate that Maas didn’t shy away from the impact it had on Aelin. Aelin is a mess after escaping from Maeve and she doesn’t bounce back. Every day is a struggle and she tries to put on a brave face for the people around her, but we know she has been broken. She is so tired of the war and the sacrifices demanded of her and she repeatedly says she just wants it to be over. Her feelings rang so true for me and I was really glad Maas wrote Aelin this way and didn’t shy away from the impact it would have on her. As a side note, I also loved the inclusion of Rowan asking Aelin for consent before touching or kissing her again after she escapes Maeve. So overall, I thought Rowan and Aelin were really well done in this book. There were still a lot of sex scenes (overall, not just Aelin and Rowan), but they were definitely more low key and background to the plot.

My second favourite part of the story was by far Dorian. I thought Dorian kicked some ass in this book. He was really more of a tag along character in EoS. He was recovering from his ordeal with the valg prince and didn’t contribute a lot to the story. But Dorian is a king in his own right and I wanted to see him play a larger role in the story. Maas definitely delivered in KoA. He takes control of his own power, makes his own decisions based on the needs of his kingdom over his personal (or anyone else’s) wishes. He is not afraid and takes on the enormous burden of finding the third wyrdkey. My favourite moment in his story arc was when he tricks Maeve. I figured he had some other plan up his sleeve, but I ultimately expected him to be overcome by Maeve and I loved when he destroyed Morath all on his own. The only thing I wasn’t into was Dorian and Manon’s relationship. There’s not really any chemistry between them and I found it hard to believe someone as badass as Manon would be into someone like Dorian. I didn’t like when he basically made her ask him to stay, but I did like that they both understood that she would ultimately never be happy with Dorian, and that while she liked him, her Queendom meant way more to her. She wanted to win back and live in the Wastes and Dorian wanted to rebuild his kingdom.

Finally, I was pretty into Elide in this book. In my review of Empire of Storms, I talked about how important of a character Elide is because she’s essentially the only one without any physical strengths, but she gets by just fine on her wits. I was thrilled to see her play spy in Doranelle at the beginning of the book and to see her repeatedly save her friends throughout the story. She plays a huge role in winning the war and I was shocked at how important her and Yrene were to the conclusion of the story. I just expected Maas to give the glory to one of the other characters, and I actually thought it was great that she wrote Yrene and Elide as two of the heroes of the story. The only thing I didn’t like was how mean Elide was to Lorcan at the beginning. I thought it was justified at the end of EoS, and I could see her just ignoring him through this book, but she was actively mean to him, which I didn’t like.

That said, I did really like Lorcan in this book and I LOVED Fenrys. Fenrys was kind of irrelevant in EoS, but his story in this book is devastating, yet beautiful. He and Aelin suffered so much and I really liked the relationship Maas developed between them. How two people who had suffered so much, could understand each other so well and be a comfort to one another while they both tried to heal themselves. Plus I thought their storyline was clever and I loved their secret code. As for Lorcan, he’s a character who has developed so much since the start of EoS, when he was basically just a mindless killing machine, to finally finding some humanity and reason for living. He ended up being a very sensitive character and proves that even after 500 years, people are still capable of change.

While we’re talking about the cadre, I will say that I’ve never really cared for Gavriel. He was arguably the nicest of the cadre at the beginning, but he kind of just felt irrelevant. I didn’t care at all about him being Aedion’s dad and thought it was totally unnecessary filler. Plus I thought his reunion with Aedion was actually the worst thing ever. I was not impressed that Maas brought them together for like a minute, only to tear them apart again. I feel like she was trying to make this into a great sacrifice, but like, I never really cared about Gavriel and I think she only wrote this scene to get out of having to harm any of her other more important characters. It just felt kind of cheap.

Which is really one of the biggest complaints I have about this book. If you’re still reading this review and haven’t read the book, I’m about the get into major spoilers now. My complaint is that it felt unrealistic that nobody from Aelin’s court died at the end. I was gearing myself up for Dorian potentially sacrificing himself, which would have broke my heart, but been meaningful. I never really believed that Maas would see through the “queen who was promised” scenario because I just didn’t think she would separate her star crossed lovers, Aelin and Rowan. But really, no one died (I’ll get to the Thirteen). Aedion and Lysandra were fighting that tedious battle in Terrasen for the entirety of the novel, I found it very improbable that one of them wouldn’t die.

Aedion and Lysandra’s story was easily my least favourite sub-plot in this book. It was boring and so repetitive. Plus, the timeline made no sense. They fought essentially the same battle for the entire time that it took Aelin to escape, travel to Erilea over the span of weeks, take back Anielle, and then travel to Terrasen (again, over multiple weeks). I felt like it was supposed to create this huge sense of urgency, which it did, but it just wasn’t believable. Plus it was really boring! Also, side note, are we seriously supposed to believe this entire SERIES took place in just over a year? Girl please. There is no way Aelin escaped Endovier; dated Dorian and Chaol; saw her friend murdered; spent MONTHS in Wendlyn; met, fought, fell in love with, and MARRIED Rowan; came to terms with her heritage as queen; killed the king and brought down the glass castle; amassed Arobynn’s fortune and multiple armies; was captured for MONTHS and escaped; all in the span of ONE YEAR. Just no, not possible. She cannot possibly still be only 19 years old.

One of the main things I didn’t like about A Court of Wings and Ruin was that it was all about war and strategy and tactics. Maas lost a lot of the character development that made ACoMaF so great by making ACoTaR a more plot driven novel versus character driven (like ACoMaF was). I think she did a better job here, it was definitely still a character driven novel, but after a while battles just get boring and don’t necessarily drive your plot forward. Aedion and Lysandra’s plotline really needed more substance to it, it was just not enough to carry throughout the entire book. Plus, I really hate Aedion. Like a lot – especially at the beginning of this book. He is actually so mean to Lysandra. I said I didn’t like how Elide was mean to Lorcan, but I felt she was at least a little justified, whereas all Lysandra ever does is try to do what her Queen has asked of her and Aedion treats her like shit for it. I’ve never liked Aedion because he is so arrogant and borderline abusive, but he went to full abusive in this book and after he threw Lysandra out in the snow, I finally parted ways with him forever. In my eyes, he lost any chance of redemption and I really hoped Maas wouldn’t pair him and Lysandra together at the end. He was too mean to her and actually abusive. Super pissed about their storyline. In my opinion, Aedion would have been the perfect character to kill off. Someone needed to die, he’s still beloved, but like, we don’t need him.

Have I got through all the characters yet? There’s so freaking many! I don’t have much more to say about Chaol and Yrene or Nesryn. Honestly, did Tower of Dawn really even matter that much? When I read it I was like, oh this is actually really important to the storyline, but Aelin figured out Maeve was valg on her own anyways, so the only thing Tower of Dawn really added to this book was a huge army and a healer. We really didn’t need a 700 page book for that and I just thought all the characters from Tower of Dawn felt really two dimensional in this book. Everyone from EoS had this real depth to their characters, but Nesryn, Sartaq, Borte, and Falkan all felt like fillers. Yrene ended up being important, but for someone who was one of the core characters of the original series, I felt Chaol didn’t add that much to this story. I was glad to see him using his chair, cane, and horse, without complaining about it, and that he let Yrene live her life and wasn’t overprotective of her. I also loved seeing him and Dorian reunited, but overall Chaol just felt a little secondary.

And finally, Manon. I cried real tears for Asterin and the Thirteen! I loved how they died in that I thought it was a really powerful scene, but again, I kind of think Maas set them up to be the sacrifice over other characters. I loved watching them interact with the Crochans and how the Thirteen have always inspired Manon to be a better person. I was disappointed that Manon’s storyline seemed to focus more on Dorian than the Thirteen though. I don’t resent Maas for their sacrifice, because I did think it was really beautiful and well done, but I wish it had maybe been a little later in the plot? I don’t see how Manon could have ever come back from that. It really would have destroyed her. But I did love the scenes with the Bluebloods and that it was Petrah who took down Iskra.

I read an observation recently about how Manon should have been gay in this series and now I can’t stop thinking about it now. Maas has gotten push back about her books for not being diverse and being super straight. She tried to address this in ACoWaR by having Mor come out as gay, and the more I think it about it, it would have been so easy for Manon to have been gay. The witches totally don’t care about men at all, there are no male witches (well some in the Crochans I guess), and Manon is all about the sisterhood. Like, Manon and Asterin would have made the best couple ever. They definitely had more chemistry than Manon and Dorian.

Anyways, it brings me to another complaint about Maas’ books in general. I don’t get what the weird obsession is with mates and how the mating bond is like the strongest thing in existence. There’s definitely some abusive mates out there who probably trap each other in crappy relationships. In ACoMaF, Rhys even talks about how his parents were mates but weren’t actually that great together and that mates don’t always love each other, so it just seems like a really crappy system for finding your life partner. And I don’t get why is Maas so obsessed with pairing off every single one of her characters. Are there any single characters in this series? Because I can’t think of any? Fenrys and Gavriel are the only ones that come to mind, but not even Gavriel really because he’s supposedly still in love with Aedion’s mother who died. It just gets a little tedious and repetitive when every single main character turns out to be mates with another main character. Even Aedion and Lysandra? Like I knew they were going to end up together, but I didn’t think Maas was going to push the mate thing on them too. (and even the wvyerns have mates, lol, although kind of cute because Abraxos is adorable)

So I obviously have complaints about this book/series. I thought the whole Aelin escaping death thing was too convenient. It kind of cheapened the whole “queen who was promised” storyline and the fact that the Gods didn’t even take Erawan with them? What the hell?! Why did we just waste 3 books searching for wrydkeys, who even cares if it doesn’t get rid of Erawan?

Maas had the perfect setup to save both Aelin and Dorian, I don’t know why she didn’t use it? It made sense that Aelin would want to take the burden upon herself, and her asking Dorian to share the burden would be a great lesson in relying on your friends. You don’t have to do everything yourself, take everything on yourself – arguably one of Aelin’s biggest flaws. The idea that the two of them could each give half of their power was such a brilliant plot element in my opinion and would have been a really nice and sentimental moment about friendship. But no, Aelin had to take it all on herself and then have Maas make up some stupid way for her to escape it all. Did anyone else pick up on that Rhysand cameo by the way? I thought that was the freaking weirdest thing ever. I also missed the part in the plot where the keys were about sending the gods away… I thought it was just about sealing the gate Erawan was using and sending him back. I didn’t realize we were going to banish the gods as well. Ballsy move Maas, but it just didn’t really seem to fit the rest of the story.

However, I did like that Aelin actually lost her powers (though this still could have been accomplished with each her and Dorian each giving half their power). But I didn’t like that she had to lose her humanity. Also just felt very cheap. But I liked that she ultimately learns to rely on her friends by letting Elide, Yrene, and Dorian take care of Erawan, and that she took on Maeve without her powers. It said more about the character of the cast that they weren’t afraid to take on these two demons, even with reduced powers. So I actually did really like the conclusion of the book, with the exception of the random wolf tribe faes coming in at the end. They are literally never mentioned anywhere in the book, so it felt really anti-climatic and cheap. Plus, I need someone to explain to me how Aelin opened up all the portals, because that felt like a huge plot hole to me.

Mostly the battle scenes just felt really repetitive. I was nervous that this would happen after how ACoWaR ended. There were a lot of battles going on in this book, and they were constantly saved by a new ally showing up in the nick of time, only to have Erawan again send more forces that again warranted the arrival of yet another ally to save them. But the wolf tribe was by far the weirdest, because it didn’t even seem like it was really necessary. The Khagan’s forces seemed to mostly have everything under control, and if you’re just going to have all the armies collapse when Erawan dies, than you didn’t really need an extra army anyways.

I think that’s most of what I wanted to say. I do have one last comment about how Maas seems to have lifted a few plot points and phrases out of the Lord of the Rings movies/books. I picked up a few of them myself and was kind of like, “I think that’s from LoTR”, but didn’t think that much of it, but then I read this review about it and realized just how many times some things seems to be lifted from LoTR, so I think it’s worth mentioning.

I have ended up voicing a lot of complaints here, so despite how it might seem, I did actually really enjoy this book. I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to re-read it and there were definitely problematic elements, but there was also a lot that I really liked about it. Like I said, I actually really liked the conclusion and I will be sad to part ways with this series. It’s definitely been a journey and it’s great to see epic fantasy series like this coming from female authors. Writers are definitely held to a higher standard these days, but it’s not an excuse to not have diversity in your books. Sarah started writing this series like 15 years ago, so it may be interesting to see what she comes up with after finally parting ways with something she’s been working on for half her life. This series was incredibly impressive in scope and I think I’ll always have fond feelings for it. But now I am feeling thoroughly wiped out and I need to go read anything that is not fantasy while I decompress.

Much love!

Tower of Dawn

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Sep. 2017 (read Sep. 2017)

It’s only been a year since I read Tower of Dawn, and it’s my least favourite book of the series, so I decided not to re-read it prior to Kingdom of Ash. Instead I read this recap of the book to remind myself of any major plot points I might have forgotten. But since I did write a review for Tower of Dawn last year that I never published on my blog (only goodreads), I decided to do a few edits and post here prior to Kingdom of Ash! Disclaimer, it is a bit of scathing review… this really wasn’t my favourite book.


Well this book was pretty much exactly what I expected. I was skeptical about the whole novella-turned-novel idea; this story absolutely didn’t fit in Empire of Storms, but it also didn’t need a whole 700 page novel devoted too it.

This book was just straight up too long. I feel like Maas has lost her ability to write 400 page books. She’s had so much success (and deservedly so, I love both her series), but she doesn’t seem to be able to cap things off anymore and understand that sometimes less is actually more. Just because you can write 700 pages, doesn’t mean you should. The book picked up a lot in the second half, but the first half was pretty slow moving and honestly, pretty boring. I think we all knew it was going to take a long time for Chaol to heal physically and emotionally, but god it just dragged on and on.

I absolutely loved Chaol in Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, but I haven’t been that much of a fan in the later books and his character doesn’t improve in Tower of Dawn. I just really don’t like the way Maas wrote him. Chaol had a sorry lot handed to him in Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, so I sympathized with him, but I didn’t buy into his supposed “growth” in this book. I was happy to see him forgive himself for everything that happened in the series (Nehemia’s death, the death of his men, Dorian) – he blamed himself for a lot of things that really weren’t his fault and I thought Aelin blamed him unfairly too. But despite all his growth, he was really awful to both Nesryn and Yrene.

I wasn’t too sorry or surprised to see things go sideways with Nesryn so quickly because I never really bought their relationship and always thought she was a bit of a rebound for Chaol and a way for Maas to console her readers after immediately hooking Aelin up with Rowan. But Chaol was pretty shitty to both Nesryn and Yrene in Tower of Dawn. I know he was so caught up in feeling sorry for himself, but that was no excuse for the way he treated the only 2 people in his life that cared about him. Am I just supposed to pretend like it doesn’t matter that he broke all of his promises to Nesryn just because she fell in love with someone else too? Hell no! Nesryn knew Chaol was using her to fill a void in his life and yet she still helped him and didn’t pursue anything with Sartaq until after she returned to Antica. She deserved better Chaol! Plus I found his whole relationship with Yrene possessive. I do not dig the whole “She is mine and I am hers” thing Maas has going on with the characters in half her books (Aelin/Rowan, Feyre/Rhys). Honestly, I don’t know how the same author who wrote the feminist, dreamboat of a character that is Rhysand could write Chaol so poorly.

Props for Nesryn and Yrene though. I really liked Nesryn in this book. I found her kind of forgettable in the past and I liked how she really came into herself in this book.

That said, Tower of Dawn had some fun elements to it. The whole creeping around the library was reminiscent of the first book and I liked the mystery aspect. It’s hard to keep up though, every time I think I have all these ancient kings and queens figured out and think I might know where the book is going, Maas throws me for a total loop. I don’t know if things might be a little too convoluted? We’ll have to wait and see how she clues things up in the final book.

Anyways, there were definitely aspects of the book that I liked, but overall, TOO LONG. I won’t be sorry to return to Aelin in Kingdom of Ash.