Series: Throne of Glass
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
The queen has returned.
Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…
She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.
She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.
I read the first book in the Throne of Glass series a couple years ago because the premise sounded interesting. While it was an entertaining book, I didn’t read the other books in the series, mostly because I thought Sarah J. Maas, the author, didn’t quite have control over her story or characters.
After hearing all the hype for Queen of Shadows, however, I decided I would give the series another chance. I’m glad I did, even if I don’t think it deserves quite all the praise it’s been receiving.
I think Maas has grown in leaps and bounds as a writer. Maybe it’s because I reread all the available books back to back, but it’s clear to me that this woman has found her voice and has become comfortable with her own writing. I absolutely adore that she’s adding more characters and layers. I wish she had done this more at the beginning, as it would have added more consistency to the books. As she’s gotten deeper into the story, however, she appears to be trying to tie things together that she hadn’t thought out in the beginning. This results in a messiness that I didn’t appreciate in this book.
As a warning, I have to say there will be spoilers for Queen of Shadows and the other books in the Throne of Glass series from this point on.
First, the negatives. I found a lack of consistency in how Aelin treats characters she once considered friends. How she mourns for Nehimia, her best friend whose murder she struggled with in the previous book, is deep and beautiful. On the other hand, within a few seconds of seeing Prince Dorian, Aelin decides that there’s no hope for him and that her only choice is to kill him. This seemed unrealistic for me. Dorian had been one of Aelins’ valued friends, but she doesn’t take even a moment to try to think how he might be saved.
Queen of Shadows relies heavily on a few old tropes for which the fantasy genre is infamous. The first and most obvious is that the heroine, Aelin, has men falling over her wherever she goes. There seems to be two types of men in this series: those who love Aelin and will do anything for her and those who hate her and want her dead. There isn’t a single male character who doesn’t fall into one of these camps. This shows a certain level of immaturity in the writer.
The second fantasy pit that Maas seems to have fallen into is the one where everyone needs to be paired up to be happy. Despite the heavy-handed way readers were informed that Aelin and Rowan could only be friends in Heir of Fire, Maas seemed to change her mind in Queen of Shadows and just as heavy handedly threw the two together. In order for her to do this without feeling writers’ remorse, she decided that Chaol, who Aelin loved in the last book, needed to have a partner of his own. The unrealistic and complex addition of Faliq and her past with Chaol was a distraction, I feel.
Finally, while this might not seem like a big issue for most readers, the constant use of fake jewelry as a distraction in this book seemed lazy on the authors’ part.
Now, while I was upset at how the main characters were changed in order to fit a new goal, there was still so much to like about the book. What really impressed me and convinced me that Maas is growing as a writer is how she used her secondary and tertiary characters, most importantly Manon, Elide, and Lysandra.
I found the storyline of Manon and Elide the most interesting part of the book. While this doesn’t exactly bode well for the main characters or their storylines, it does speak to how carefully Maas crafted characters who might be overlooked in other stories. Maas painted Manon and Elide with such descriptive, sparse strokes that they came alive. No word was wasted with them. And how they tied into the overall story, while a bit predictable, was amazing to read. Every time a chapter with these two characters ended, I couldn’t wait for the next one.
Lysandra was one of the strongest characters in this book for me. She had clear goals and, despite what people thought of her, stayed consistent in reaching those goals. I loved how when she committed to someone, she sacrificed for them. Even before she was given her magical abilities, she was a strong woman. Fiction needs more women like her.
Despite some criticisms, I enjoyed Queen of Shadows. I’m not as attached to the main characters as I once was, because they’ve completely morphed into different people. However, I do enjoy the story that Maas is trying to bring together. And I’m a fan of how she crafts her secondary female characters.