The Simple Wild

Rating: 
Author: K.A. Tucker
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Pub date: Aug. 2018 (read Nov. 2018)

5 Stars?! Are you okay Maria? Are you really going to give a romance novel 5 stars??

This book was so out of my element that I feel like it actually came full circle so that it was exactly in my element. I don’t read very many purely romance novels, but I definitely love a good romance subplot in other genres. However, I was drawn to this book for the setting over the plot. I’ve been obsessed with Alaska ever since I read The Great Alone earlier this year and I couldn’t turn this book down,

I say it’s out of my element because it’s romance. But the setting is right up my alley. I’ve been living in Vancouver for the last five years and I’ve become a little bit obsessed with the great outdoors. I spent almost every weekend this summer either hiking, backpacking, camping, or kayaking, so I love books with isolated settings. Even though I would have had a totally different approach to visiting Alaska than Calla did, I still found this book very relatable.

Calla Fletcher was born in Alaska, but she’s spent her entire life in Toronto. Her mom fell in love with an Alaskan bush pilot, but she couldn’t handle the Alaskan wilderness and moved back to Toronto when Calla was only 2. Her dad, Wren, couldn’t bear to leave his plane company, Alaskan Wild, and over time, Wren and Calla became estranged.

Fast forward 24 years; Calla is 26 and has just been restructured out of her bank job. She loves city life and has been pursuing fashion and lifestyle blogging with her best friend Diana when she receives a call from Alaska that her Dad is sick and this may be her only chance to finally re-connect with him and re-visit the place where she was born. She’s out of a job and her and Diana think the photos would be great for their blog, so she makes the trip up to Bangor, Alaska.

In the beginning, Calla struggles with Alaskan life. She’s used to fast paced city life, being able to get a soy latte where ever she wants, and spending lots of time every day making herself look good for photos. Next to the wild people of Alaska, she seems vapid and vain. I’m a lot different than Calla. I don’t wear very much makeup and I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at wearing the same grungy outfit every day if I had to (I certainly would never bring two large suitcases on a one week trip to the wilderness). But even so, she’s very relatable. I understand her desire to look good and take beautiful pictures. She’s in the great unknown and I would definitely be posting pictures all over my instagram if I was her. But she has a hard time adapting to the change of pace in Alaska and struggles with other emotional issues, like re-connecting with her sick father.

The setting of this story was different than I expected. I was expecting the gorgeous mountain and glacier views that I got in The Great Alone, but what we get instead is a dingy little town in the middle of the flat, Alaskan bush. I thought Tucker’s description of the run-down buildings when Calla first drives through town was so great because I could just picture this little town in my head and because it doesn’t have the stunning mountain backdrop that I was anticipating, it was a lot easier to relate with Calla’s initial culture shock. This book ended up being a lot more than just the setting of Bangor, but the community of it. You really get a sense of what it’s like to live in a backwater community in rural Alaska – the way people depend on one another and support each other. It gave the setting depth. And though Calla was slow to appreciate it, she got there in the end.

This was my second romance book in the last month (recently read Colleen Hoover’s, All My Perfects) and what I liked about both books was that they weren’t solely romance novels. I wouldn’t really even call The Simple Wild romance because it has so much else going for it. This book is really about all the different kinds of love in the world. It’s about making peace with your past, being open to new experiences, and making time for the things that really matter to you. Tucker strikes a wonderful balance between Calla’s relationship with her dad, the romance, and all the different kinds of platonic love that are showcased in this book.

So on to the romance! I haven’t even mentioned Jonah yet. It’s obvious from the synopsis where the book is going, but it was a super fun ride. Jonah is Wren Fletcher’s best pilot. He’s a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he has a lot of love for his job and helping the villages scattered around Alaska get the supplies and resources that they need. He will go above and beyond to help someone in need. But this is not the person Calla first meets. Wren sends Jonah to pick Calla up in Anchorage and they get off to a bad start. Jonah has seen girls like Calla before and he doesn’t have any patience for them. He thinks she’s entitled and vapid. But Calla also has little time for Jonah. He’s rude to her from the get go and dismisses her intelligence. It’s the classic couple hates each other, misunderstands each other, and then loves each other dynamic. But it worked.

Calla is many of the things Jonah thinks of her, but she is not dumb and she does care about her dad and his business. In the same way, Jonah was many of the things she thought about him, he was very mean to her and his honesty starts them off on the wrong foot, but he is also a deeply caring individual. I definitely loved Jonah. Any guys who loves the outdoors already has brownie points in my book and I liked that he was honest, even though it was sometimes hurtful. He realized his mistakes and apologizes in his own way, but I think he also had a lot of fun bantering with Calla and kept it up because it was fun for him to set her off kilter. I also loved that he was able to laugh at himself and his joy for life.

I definitely got a kick out of all the pranks they played on one another. I was a little concerned when he stole her make-up bag because make-up is definitely a crutch for some people and has the potential to be pretty traumatizing (plus there’s absolutely nothing wrong with loving make-up). But I ultimately decided it was okay because Calla’s prank on Jonah was pretty bold and could easily have crossed the line. She pulled a prank on him that made him more attractive to her and by swiping her make-up from her, he was essentially doing the same thing.

Overall this book makes me yearn for more quality new adult fiction. I am years past lusting over the 17 year olds in YA contemporary and most YA fantasy, but I can’t yet relate to books about parents, their kids, and their failing marriages. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good family drama, but I think the romance in this book appealed to me so much because it’s actually where I’m at in my life. I’ve talked a few times about how literature needs more books about college and university (which I still think it does), but I also think we need more books about mid to late twenties, when people are out of school and starting to figure out their lives, but haven’t yet settled down into the standard family dynamic. I would love some great new adult reads. I’m sure they’re out there already, but they definitely aren’t getting the kind of love and promotion that other types of books get.

Finally, I loved the ending of this book. I love books that hit me with tough choices. Nothing annoys me more in love triangles then when the author makes one of the triangle into a jerk so that we don’t have to feel bad for them getting the axe. There’s no love triangle in this book, but I love stories and decisions that have two equal sides that are both valid. I love when the author doesn’t try to push us toward one ideal or the other or write the story in such a way as to make one choice easier or more obvious. Calla and Jonah are basically re-living her mother and fathers love story. Calla is a city girl, Jonah’s in love with the wild. They know there’s an expiration date on their relationship, but they fall in love anyways. There’s no easy answer to their dilemma. One of them has to be willing to move for the other to make it work and no one wants to be the one to either give up their life, or ask the other to give up their life. I thought the ending happened just a little bit too fast, but I really liked how Tucker approached their conflict.

So overall, I really liked this book. My only problem was that it took me a little while to get into it at the beginning. I’m not really sure why. I wouldn’t change the beginning. Overall it’s a bit of a slow burn type novel, but it reads really fast and once I got invested in the characters, I totally flew through the book!

 

SPOILER: The ending is still left pretty vague, but I really liked Jonah’s compromise. It actually broke my heart to see him in Toronto because it’s obvious he wouldn’t be happy there and that it would never work. But he wasn’t willing to give up and he was still willing to move somewhere where they might both have a chance at being happy. Would moving to anchorage so that Calla could still have a semblance of city life be enough? Maybe not, but I loved that he recognized what wouldn’t work for them and decided to try and find something that would work. With this approach, I feel like there are a lot of places that the two of them could be happy. There are many Canadian centres where Calla and Jonah could make a life and still be on the brink of rural life. It was such a simple approach and I really think it could work for them. Relationships don’t have to always be about sacrifice – they shouldn’t be about sacrifice – but about compromise, and this compromise made me really hopeful for this fictional couple. Plus I think it sends a way better message then having Calli give up her life in Toronto for a guy. Women and girls have been preached that message enough.

Saga, Volume 9

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Genres: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Pub date: Oct. 2018 (read Nov. 2018)

So I can’t stop talking about Saga this year. For some reason Volume 8 affected me more than any other volume and I found it incredibly meaningful. So I was really looking forward to Volume 9, but apparently Vaughan decided that this will be the volume in which he kills us all.

This volume was brutal. I loved it in the way I’ve loved every issue of Saga, in that it’s very original and fun, but it also destroyed me and left me feeling a little concerned for the series. Vaughan took some risks in the plot and I’m interested to see where it goes, but also a little worried! I’m trusting him to bring this story back from the brink, but losing it over the fact that Vaughan and Staples appear to be taking a bit of a hiatus after this volume!

 

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW – Read no further unless you’ve read Volume 9!

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If you’ve read this volume, then you of course know that I’m talking about the high death count in it. Killing off characters can be a great device to move your story forward, test your characters, and inspire your readers. But I fear 3 MC’s in one volume is a bit too much. Honestly, I can totally get over the deaths of the journalist and the robot guy (I’m seriously the worst with names), but you cannot kill off Marko!! This series has a ton of supporting characters, but let’s be real, we’ll all here for Marko, Alana, and Hazel. I’m hoping Marko comes back somehow in the next issue because I seriously don’t think I can do this series without him. Their family unit is the backbone of this series and is what makes it so special!

All Your Perfects

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genres: Romance, Fiction
Pub date: Jul. 2018 (read Oct. 2018)

Colleen Hoover is pretty hit or miss for me and it confuses me how sometimes she gets it so right, and other times so wrong. I loved It Ends With Us and thought it did a great job in helping people empathize with women who are victims of domestic violence and why it is sometimes hard for them to leave abusive relationships. In contrast, I hated Without Merit and thought it had some extremely problematic elements, so much so that I kind of decided Hoover might not be for me.

I had no intentions of reading this one, but of course it came up in the goodreads choice awards under romance and I got curious and checked out what some other readers had to say. Once I discovered what the book was about, I totally changed my mind and decided to give it a chance because it addresses a topic that I haven’t seen discussed in many novels. I’m going to discuss that topic because it’s not really a spoiler, it comes up early in the book, but I know some people like to go into Hoover’s book totally blind, so if that is you, stop reading my review here. Just know that this book did surprise me in a good way. The rest of you, let’s get into it.

This book is about infertility and it is what drew me into it since I’m not a big lover of romance novels. Infertility is something a lot of people struggle with and it really is an invisible grief. Society doesn’t talk about infertility, miscarriage, or people who just plain don’t want children. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that a women’s reproductive decisions are a fair topic in any conversation, and it’s not uncommon to ask women if and when they want to have children. Lots of people aren’t bothered by it, but I think we need to quit asking this question outside of close personal relationships because it can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful, to some people.

I know women who aren’t planning to have kids at all and find this question uncomfortable because they don’t like telling strangers and acquaintances they don’t want kids because it’s not really the acceptable answer in our society and is generally followed up with some flippant comment about how they’ll regret not having kids or change their mind. I know fewer women who have struggled with infertility, but this is likely a by-product of me still being in my 20’s and the fact that unless it happened to a really good friend, most people don’t talk about struggles with infertility. Even the stats are unclear, a quick search on miscarriage rates in Canada reveals that somewhere between 15 and 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 12 to 16% of Canadian couples have infertility. So I was inspired to pick this up and see how Hoover would address some of these uncomfortable topics.

Overall I thought she did a pretty good job. All Your Perfects basically tells the story of a couple, Quinn and Graham, and how they meet, fall in love, and then start to fall apart in the wake of Quinn’s infertility and desire for them to be parents. It’s an extremely emotional read and I would definitely give a trigger warning for those who have experienced infertility. I do want to applaud Hoover for this book because she addresses a wide range of symptoms of infertility, such as how Quinn struggles to answer questions about when she’ll have children and how she had to leave social media because she couldn’t take all the posts about other people’s children because they just continuously reminded her of what she considered her failure as a woman. But Hoover also address how heartbreaking and damaging infertility can be to a marriage when you discover all the hopes and dreams you had for yourselves might be out of reach. The story broke my heart, but I had a huge amount of empathy for Quinn and understood how this one thing could become so monumental in her relationship and how difficult it could be to come back from that.

Like I said, the story focuses not just on Graham and Quinn’s infertility, but also on how they meet and fall in love. It’s told in an alternating time line, switching back and forth between the first time they met and their current struggle to become parents and the effect it has on their marriage. I thought this was a great way to break up the story because even though I was more interested in the infertility story, it was so sad that I think it would have been emotionally overwhelming to only tell that story. It was nice to get a break every chapter to go back to the excitement of when Quinn and Graham are falling in love and discover what it is they love about each other.

This is still ultimately a romance novel, but I like that it’s a romance novel with substance. It’s not all sunshine and roses in a marriage and Hoover’s not afraid to get into the nitty gritty of it. The only thing I have to say though it that as sweet as Graham was, I still had some problems with his character, or more specifically, how Hoover writes his character. Graham was definitely a sweet guy like 90% of the time, but he had some problematic behaviours that I’m almost certain Hoover doesn’t recognize as problematic. What I mostly had a problem with is that Graham actually had some questionably abusive behaviours that were sometimes passed off as romantic. The most concerning to me was how he would punch and hit things when he was upset. Just because he’s never physically violent against people, when you hit things it still conveys a message of the violent feelings you have for a person, even if you don’t take them out directly on that person. I don’t find violent expressions of rage attractive ever and I’m not going to be impressed just because you never actually hit people. Plus Graham comes on really strong in the beginning of the novel and I thought it was just too much and he needed to respect Quinn’s space and her relationships. That was my main beef with the book, because we’re obviously meant to like Graham, but he was never going to totally win me over because of some of these behaviours.

That said, I just have to say that Colleen Hoover is the MASTER of first chapters. This is my third CoHo book and as much as I disliked Without Merit, all three chapters have had dynamite beginnings. You wouldn’t think that romance books would be capable of totally hauling you into a plot in the first chapter, but Hoover has first chapters on lock.

So overall, still not the biggest fan of how Colleen writes romance, but really into how she’s not afraid to tackle important women’s issues in her books. I do like a good romance novel every now and then and I like that this is more than just a romance book and that it has a plot that I’m sure will mean a lot to many women who share this pain, but have never seen it written to paper.

November Monthly Challenge

Okay, I have to admit, I discovered and read some great new books earlier this year thanks to my monthly reading challenges, but I’m now feeling burnt out by them. There’s definitely a benefit in being intentional about what books you read, but it also removes the spontaneity of choosing a book based on your emotional needs at that exact moment. My monthly TBR’s were getting onerous by trying to accommodate my challenge, book club, and ARCs each month and it didn’t leave much (or sometimes any) room for spontaneity.

Book club is pretty much the highlight of my month and I’m really enjoying starting to work with publishers, so I think I will probably part ways for with my monthly challenge in the new year, but I’m going to try my best to see it through the rest of this year. As a side note, it’s coming up on my 1-year anniversary of starting this blog and I just want to say a huge thanks to all my followers and everyone who reads my reviews! I just surpassed 100 subscribers a few weeks ago and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, I really appreciate everyone who has given my voice power by reading and subscribing. I started a travel blog in 2010, but I didn’t really post in it that much the last few years, so I wasn’t sure how this experiment was going to go, but it has been a tremendous amount of fun for me. I’ve really enjoyed having a platform for my bookish thoughts and I’ve started actually building some relationships with publishers, which has been a really interesting learning opportunity for me and I’m really excited to see where it will go in the future.

But back to my monthly challenge. This challenge feels like a bit of a cop out, because I was totally going to do this anyways, but hey, you have to go with what inspires you. November is pretty much my favourite month as a reader because of the Goodreads Choice Awards. I LOVE reading new releases because it makes me feel hip and ahead of the curve, and I love celebrating those new releases by having the opportunity to vote for them. Since I’ve been more involved in the book world over the last year or so, I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing what books might be nominated for certain categories and once the nominees are announced, I always try and read as many as I can before the end of the voting period. This year I have already read 25 books that were nominated in the first round (more will be added in the second round), so I had a pretty sweet head start and have already voted in several categories.

So my challenge for November is to read as many of the Goodreads Choice Award nominees as possible.

I tend to read a lot of books in the fiction, mystery, historical fiction, young adult, and YA Fantasy categories and then focus on some of the other categories in November. Since the nominees were announced I’ve read All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover (romance) and For Every One by Jason Reynolds (poetry). I just started Everything’s Trash, But That’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson (humour) as an audiobook and I’m about halfway through Vicious by V.E. Schwab, with the intention of reading Vengeful, the sequel which was nominated in Sci-fi.

Once the winners are announced, I’ll follow up with a list of all the books I decide to vote for! In the meantime, I love hearing from you, so let me know if you’ve read any of the nominees? If so, what books did you love? Are there any nominees you’re planning to read this month?

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!