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!

Heir of Fire

Rating: 
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub Date: Sep. 2014 (first read June 2016)
Series: Throne of Glass Book #3

I flew through this 600 page book in a whopping 3 days! I remembered Heir of Fire as my least favourite Throne of Glass book, but it was sooo much better the second time around. I remembered this being so slow moving, and it was for about the first 100 pages, but I was so much more enthralled in the characters.

The first time I read this I gave it 3 stars, I think I was disappointed that our 3 main characters were no longer together and I struggled to get invested in Manon’s storyline and I wasn’t really interested in Rowan. But since I already know these characters now and I know that Celaena is going to be in Wendlyn for the whole book, it was easier to settle in and just enjoy the story.

I loved Rowan at the beginning of this book for being so mean and not taking any of Celaena’s shit. She makes some of the stupidest decisions and no one ever calls her out on it, so I loved Rowan for not coddling her. But I also loved how their relationship changed and it even made me appreciate Celaena a little more. She is so broken in this book. She has always been broken in this series, but Nehemia’s death really did a number on her and she can only see herself now as a coward and nothing else. She never makes any excuses for herself when training with Rowan, but when Rowan realizes how shitty he’s been to Celaena and why some of the things he said to her may have triggered her, I felt empathy for her in a new way. This book has a very different pacing from it’s predecessors, but I feel like we got some more depth to Celaena’s character. It’s easy to be mad at her for running from her birthright, but when you get her full backstory towards the end of the book, it helped me to understand her character a little more. Plus I loved FINALLY seeing her embrace who she is and actively make a decision to do something good.

With each passing novel I love Dorian more and more, and I was sooo dreading the ending of the book throughout the entire thing. Dorian finally moves on from Celaena with one of the castle healers, Sorsha, and while I didn’t really care for Sorsha – I found her personality pretty lacking – I loved watching Dorian become a man and a king. Chaol is so caught up by the notion of honour that it’s almost paralyzing for him. He has no idea what side of the war he is on and his opinions of honour and duty prevent him from listening to his heart. I love how simple it is for Dorian though and I love when he called Chaol out on touting his love for both Dorian and Celaena, but not really being able to accept either of them. Dorian knows what his father is doing is wrong. He values his friendship with Celaena and accepts her for who she is because they were friends and that is what friends do. He is not threatened by her power or the ‘what if’ of the future. He believes in the love that Celaena had for him and that they will work things out between them when the time comes. Dorian is absolutely the king that Adarlan needs and it has been so wonderful to watch him become that person.

Poor Chaol is just trapped in this novel. My love for Chaol diminished with each book in my first read through because I was so enamoured with him in the first two books that I thought Sarah J Maas had forgotten who his character really was. But on the second read through, I think it was really me who didn’t see Chaol for who he is. Chaol wants the world to be simple. He wants to just be able to live his life serving the King and Dorian, he doesn’t want to have to deal with all the blurred lines of right and wrong, duty and honour. He made an oath to protect the King, which he wants to honour, but he struggles to realize that honour isn’t always about keeping promises. If you made a promise to serve a bad person, sometimes the honour comes from recognizing that mistake and taking action to make things better. He knows the King is a monster, but he can’t admit it to himself because then what does that make him. He keeps making decisions based on what he thinks is best for other people, and never on what is best for himself. I would say that one of his flaws is in that selflessness. Was it a good thing that Celaena went to Wendlyn? Yes, but I would be pissed if I was her and Chaol had made that decision for me. Chaol has a need to always be in control and that just keeps getting harder and harder for him.

I was definitely more into Manon’s storyline this time around, but it’s still probably my least favourite of the book. I was super invested in Celaena’s storyline in this book and I got frustrated whenever it would switch. I don’t really have a whole lot to say about the witches. There are some interesting dynamics with the different covens; I liked Asterin and I’m interested to see what happens between the Blackbeak and Yellowlegs covens (I honestly don’t remember). But I really didn’t care for the extended scenes about wyvern training. I personally didn’t care about all the drama with Manon and Abraxos, but I guess it serves to help us get to know Manon’s character. Everything that happens to the witches in this book is really just about setting the scene for the next book.

Overall there are so many new characters in this book. Honestly I’m even more excited for Queen of Shadows when the cast will grow further. I liked getting introduced to Aedion and getting to understand his character, but I am so excited for Arobynn to finally re-enter the story in the next book. It never really bothered me in my first read through that he’s not in any of the books, because he’s only every mentioned in relation to Celaena’s history, but now that I’ve read The Assassin’s Blade, I’ve been dying for him to re-enter the story. He and Celaena have so much unfinished business and it’s been killing me to read 3 whole books with no resolution on how they left things at the end of TAB. I’m also dying for Lysandra to enter the story again for all the DRAMA.

We get a brief intro to Rowan’s cadre in this book and we meet Maeve for the first time, who we all know is freaking Undesirable No. 1. Maeve is like the Umbridge of this series. She’s not the main villain and she’s not as classically evil as the main villain, but you hate her SO MUCH MORE. She’s barely even in this book and she still made me feel so much rage at the end.

So in conclusion, I am definitely knocking my 3 star rating up to at least 4 stars. My main criticisms would be that it was too slow at the beginning and that overall, a lot of what happened with the witches just wasn’t really that important to the rest of the story. But I know there are some pretty die-hard witch fans out there, so many this storyline was a highlight for other people, it just didn’t really do it for me.

I did not find this book boring this time and I was totally on the edge of my seat for the last 200 pages. It’s crazy that I’m 4 books in and yet, I feel like this story is just about to get started. I can’t wait for Celaena to get back to Adarlan and wreak all kind of havoc! I’m heading on vacation now in a few days though for the rest of the month, so I’m going to have to wait a few weeks before I read the last 3 books. I’m debating reading QoS, followed by ToD, and then EoS… anyone have opinions on this order? It’s not the publishing order, but since ToD and EoS take place simultaneously, I kind of want to finish with that killer cliffhanger from Empire of Storms. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Crown of Midnight

Rating: 
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub Date: Aug. 2013 (first read May 2016)
Series: Throne of Glass Book #2

OMG, I knew Crown of Midnight was my favourite book, but this was even better than I remembered! There is so much action in this book and I was totally hooked from start to finish!

This was everything that was good about the first few books, multiplied by 10! The stakes are higher, relationships grow closer, and more secrets are uncovered. What mysterious evil is hiding in the depths of the castle? What is this new secret society? What is going on with Dorian? Will Chaol ever realize his feelings for Celaena? How did the King conquer the continent so quickly? What secrets is Celaena hiding about her past?

Crown of Midnight is just so juicy and dark! We get the sense from the start (of the series) that Celaena is running from something, keeping her secrets close to her chest, only looking out for herself and reluctant to be anyone’s hero. In this book she is forced to address some of her demons and finally make a stand for something. She secretly acts against the King in her own way, but Nehemia, Elena, and the rebels keep pushing her to be something more. When her whole world is torn apart in the middle of the book, she is forced to finally take an active role in discovering what the King has really been up to in the last 10 years.

While there’s still many unknowns about this world, we finally start getting some answers in this book about wyrdmarks, wyrdkeys, and wyrdgates. We get a glimpse into another type of magic and learn that magic may not be totally wiped from the continent after all. I loved the mystery element of this book and I thought it was a lot more compelling than the mystery of the first book, and frankly downright creepy (all those winding hallways, iron doors, and disembodied eyes give me the shivers).

I love the relationships in this book. I loved watching Celaena and Chaol’s relationship grow, and later Celaena and Dorian’s relationship. Plus I loved the friendship that grew between Celaena and Nehemia. I love that Celaena’s most important relationship is a friendship, I just wished both women were able to be more honest with one another. They both held their secrets so close to their chests. Although that said, I think Nehemia wanted to confide in Celaena, she just knew that Celaena wasn’t ready yet. Celaena does drive me a little bit bonkers sometimes though in that she makes some of the stupidest decisions (what she does at the climax of the novel is the biggest facepalm ever), but she was also grieving her friend and probably having PTSD flashbacks to what happened with Sam, so I guess it’s somewhat excusable.

I alluded to this in my review of the Throne of Glass, but I’m shocked to discover that my re-read has turned me into a Dorian lover! I never spared Dorian a thought in my first read of this series, but I actually love him in my re-read! Even more than Chaol, who I always loved before – I’m shocked! Granted Dorian is pretty mopey in the first part of this book, but omg he is such a good friend to Celaena, I can’t help but love him! I think I used to see him as a threat to Celaena and Chaol, but now I just see him for the caring prince that he is. We’ll see if this love carries through in the next book, but I am 100% aboard the Dorian fan-train! Side note though, can we talk about the fact that Celaena and Chaol are only actually together for 1 WEEK in this book?! I thought it was way longer than that, how tragic.

I am lamenting that I’m now finished the first 3 books (including prequel). I know that the series is going to change a lot going into Heir of Fire and that it becomes very different from what we experienced in the first few books. Heir of Fire is my least favourite book of the series. I remember it being so slow and just not caring about Manon at all. But now that I know where the series is going and actually like Manon, I’m interested to see what I think of this on the re-read. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was my least favourite Harry Potter book for many years, but when I re-read it later after finishing the series, I actually appreciated it a lot more, so I’m hoping that happens with HoF. Fingers crossed!

September Monthly Challenge

I am feeling so re-energized after my August Monthly Challenge! I kind of flaked out a little bit on a real challenge in August and just challenged myself to read as many of my existing books as possible, but this was so successful in getting me out of my book slump and making a dent on my TBR!

I feel like my September Challenge is a bit half-assed too, but necessary. This month I am challenging myself to:

Re-read the Throne of Glass series

Yes, I have already read all the books in this series, but I’ve been dying for a re-read and I’ve been forcing myself to wait until just before the final book in the series, Kingdom of Ash, is released. I’ve been waiting for this book for what feels like FOREVER and I’m really excited to jump back into the Throne of Glass series and see what I think of it the second time around. I re-read The Assassin’s Blade in August so that I could start right with Throne of Glass in September. The Assassin’s Blade is the prequel to the books and I actually never read it until after I’d finished Empire of Storms, and I think the series is going to make so much more sense now that I’ve actually read this book. I would definitely recommend reading this one first if you’re just starting the series.

For those of you who are living under a rock and haven’t heard of Throne of Glass, it’s an 8 book series by Sarah J Maas, with the 8th and final book coming out on October 23rd. It’s set on the continent of Erilea, which has pretty much been conquered and taken over by the King of Adarlan. Celaena is from Terrasen, which was pillaged by Adarlan when she was 8 and magic suddenly disappeared from the land. She was found by Arobynn Hamel, the king of Assassin’s and trained to be the greatest assassin in all of Adarlan. The series follows Celaena and a huge cast of characters and as far as epic fantasies go, I do really love this one.

I am going to be on vacation for the second half of September, so I’m aiming to get through Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire in the next two weeks. Then I’ll continue with Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms in October. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to re-read Tower of Dawn or not. I don’t really want to because I didn’t really like it and it is SO LONG. But honestly, I probably will because I want to be totally up to speed when I start Kingdom of Ash and I can’t really remember the important plot points at the end of Tower of Dawn… I just remember they were important to the greater story.

The Assassin’s Blade

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Sarah J Maas
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub date: Mar. 2014 (first read Sept. 2016)
Series: Throne of Glass #0.5

I first picked up the Throne of Glass series about two years ago and flew through the first 4 books during the summer, before picking up Empire of Storms when it was released in Sept. 2016. I used to read a lot of fantasy when I was really young, like elementary school, and then moved on to reading a lot of young adult books in high school. I didn’t read a whole lot throughout University, because I was so busy with school, but I got more into historical fiction and general fiction when I graduated and started reading a lot again.

Throne of Glass was one of the first big fantasy series I picked up after graduating, but since reading this series, I have a read A LOT more fantasy series over the past two years. With the final book coming out in October, I decided I wanted to re-read this series again. Partly because I just really want to re-visit these characters, and partly because I’m curious if I will still like these books as much as I did on the first read through now that I’ve read so much other fantasy.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t get around to reading The Assassin’s Blade until after Empire of Storms, which is definitely not the ideal way to read the series as there are a ton of characters introduced in TAB that appear throughout the series. EoS definitely made a lot more sense once I finally read TAB.

So this time I decided to start with TAB since it is the prequel to the rest of the series. I was surprised I had rated this 4 stars originally because I was kind of remembering it as more of a 3-star read, but after re-reading it, I’m sticking with my 4 stars. The first 2 stories are probably 3 star reads, but the last 3 stories more than make up for it. (TAB is a compilation of 5 novellas set before ToG).

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord is a great introduction to the characters and the world of Erilea, but I do find Celaena pretty annoying in this novella. She has the biggest ego for someone who repeatedly makes mistakes and Sam picks up ALL of the slack for her in this story. I know most people don’t really like the Assassin and the Healer, but I think it’s actually a solid short story about two women bonding and looking out for each other. It doesn’t really add a lot to the book overall, but Yrene goes on to become pretty important to the story in Tower of Dawn, so it’s cool to see this little origin story for her here.

I think the Assassin and the Desert may actually be my favourite novella of the lot. I love Ansel’s character so much and I really loved watching Celaena make a female friend and how the silent assassins challenged her thoughts on how an assassin’s guild could operate. Arobynn has always led his assassins through fear, competition, and intimidation, so it was nice to see a group of people who (while they’re still killers) looked out for each other and created a real sense of community. I really enjoyed the arc of this story and I think that as a stand-alone novella, this is the strongest of the book.

That said, the Assassin and the Underworld and the Assassin and the Empire are the two stories that really dragged me into this world, set the stage for the rest of the series, and broke my freaking heart. I’ll say up front, I’m not a Sam groupie. I know a lot of people love Sam in this book, but I find him a little controlling. Arobynn is obviously all kinds of abusive and manipulative (like seriously, textbook abuser), and I know I’m supposed to love Sam because he threatens to kill Arobynn for hurting Celaena and made him promise not to hurt her again, but honestly Celaena can look out for herself and I didn’t like that Sam was emasculated by her money and wouldn’t let her help him on missions. He always wanted to be there for her, why couldn’t he let her be there for him too.

But I did really like the last two novellas because I thought they had some killer character development for Celaena and they provide SO MUCH context for later books. Not just for all the secondary characters, but for why she is able to be so ruthless and how much trauma she has been through. Knowing what I know from all the other books, there is just so much depth to her character. Celaena’s ego drives me nuts sometimes because in some of the later books it’s like she can do no wrong, but I would say in this book her cockiness is her character flaw and it’s what gets her into so much trouble, and ultimately destroys her.

The ending is brutal. If you read the books in the publication order, you know what’s coming at the end of this book, but it doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. I’m not sure if I would recommend reading this book first if you were reading the series for the first time, but having already read the series once, I think reading TAB first is the only way to read this series. I can’t wait to jump into Throne of Glass and just immerse myself in this series over the next 2 months!