Book Review: Queen of Shadows

I suddenly have a deeper appreciation of book bloggers on YouTube. Making videos takes quite a bit of time, skill, not to mention balls. While writing this, it's dawned on me that video reviews have benefits, namely the ability to give spoiler warnings especially with books in a series which is harder in blogging. 

So I'm going to try another method of book reviewing (especially in the case of series): Part 1, I'll give a completely spoiler-free review. That will be followed a "spoilers ahead" banner, and then Part 2, which will be for spoiler-y discussion up until the book at hand. And lastly Part 3, typed in white font, will be no holds barred. The intention is to cater to everyone - Part 1 for everyone, Part 2 for those who have read up to the current installment, and Part 3 for the fangirls (and boys) who wanna read all my spoiler-y thoughts. Of course, all of this info will also be over here on my brand new review page!


image.jpg

Title: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4)

Auhor: Sarah J. Maas

Publication: 2015

Queen of Shadows, the fourth installment to the Throne of Glass series, delivers pretty much what readers have come to expect of Maas's books. It ups the ante with more assassin action than any book so far and even more answers. It wasn't perfect on a few regards but it damn sure was an excellent installment. I want to reread it already!  

The Throne of Glass series tells the story of Celaena Sardothien, the 17 year old deadliest warrior in the land, dubbed Adarlan's Assassin and feared by everyone. She's spent the last year in the Salt Mines where prisoners are essentially sent to die, until the Crown Prince arrives with an offer she can't refuse: compete as his participant in a competition to be the King's Champion and win her freedom. But of course, it's never that simple. 

[*Note: Throne of Glass is our book of the month, and we'll be linking up reviews on October 6th!]

I can't decide if Queen of Shadows is fast-paced or I just read it quickly because I love Throne of Glass so much, but I found myself physically trying to slow down. I was hooked even though I wanted to savor it so bad.

I was successful on some days and not so much on others, but I always wanted to tear through it like a fantasy addicted fiend. Even now that I'm done, I find myself thinking about it all the time. In my opinion, that's always a good sign. 

Maas continues to deliver, including multiple high stakes fight scenes, fantastic and pointed one-liners, powerful and impressive prose, as well as a storyline that just keeps on giving. She also does an amazing job at depicting both friendships and relationships while maintaining an aspect of self-discovery as well as continued badassery. It's pretty much everything I was expecting. I took mere decimals off my rating for a few small things (discussed in the spoilery sections below), but it was still phenomenal and I cannot wait for the next installment!

Why a whole year, Sarah J. Maas! Why?!!!! 

To hold me over, I've been creating playlists inspired by Queen of Shadows. Here's a playlist inspired by my favorite ship (romantic, friendship, whatever). Check it out while you're reading or to bide your time until next September!

If you have not read up to and including Heir of Fire, skip down to comment section!

.

I can't say much here without spoiling Queen of Shadows, so this will be short. And quite frankly, if you've read all of the books up until now, I'm sure you need little prompting to dive into this massive tome. But if you're getting ready to open this bad boy up, be prepared for a grittier and angry story than before. Also prepare to love the ride. 

QoS picks up right where HoF left off.  Celaena's back from Wendlyn, where she learned to tap into her powers and to accept her fate, and she's out for blood. Specifically her old master's. Her plan is to find Arobynn and get back the amulet, but what she returns to in Adarlan is a lot more than she expected. There's Aedion's imprisonment and the possession of bodies by the Valg, not to mention the Dorian ordeal and what remains of his relationship with Chaol. Queen of Shadows attacks all of these issues and more with vigor and expediency while also setting up some burning questions for the rest of the series.   

spoiler-y discussion of QoS in white font below

(highlight to read!)

As I mentioned before, Queen of Shadows was great but not perfect. On one hand, I loved the pacing of the novel, the characterization of many of the characters and most of the plot points. On the other hand, I was saddened by the treatment of a favorite character, Chaol, and a bit frustrated with one of the "reveals."
I'll just come straight out with it. I ship Rowaelin so hard. And although Rowan's persona did shift quite a bit from HoF, I think it flowed from his previous characterization and I'm glad Rowaelin became a thing for a number of reasons. Rowan and Aelin, at this point in their lives, really just fit each other. In many ways they are similar - both are magical, both have lost a lot in their lives and have a hard time dealing with those losses, both can be cold and distant as a protection mechanism, and both are stubborn as all hell. But they are also opposites - the fact that Aelin has fire magic and Rowan is ice/wind is also reflected in their personalities in various ways, Aelin being quite a hot head while Rowan is much more calm and leveled. They enhance each other, sharpen each other, but also balance each other (like the scene in HoF when Aelin damn near overheats and it's Rowan's wind/ice magic that literally saves her life). Every moment between them seems to be teetering on that line between friendship and something more, so it's not surprising that it led that way. It also comments on an interesting concept about romantic love, one that I also subscribe to: romantic love is jut friendship on fire. Some believe that the relationship diminished Rowan a bit because he seemed "softer" this book, but I feel like we caught hints of his gentleness in HoF, especially when he discovers her scars, and that this perceived 'softness' might just be a result of seeing from Rowan's POV much more this book. I really loved the characterization of both Aelin and Rowan.
I didn't however enjoy the characterization of Chaol in this book, who I think was greatly diminished for the first half. I couldn't understand where Chaol was coming from for a while and I found myself getting frustrated by the arguments between him and Aelin. To me, it went beyond misunderstanding and felt very out of character. Chaol, who can usually be relied upon to be a very stable and sure presence, departed quite a bit from this and because this development seemed to come out of nowehere it felt weak. Although I did like how Chaol was in some ways the voice of reason, the Chaol we met at the start of QoS is stubborn and unsympathetic and much too self-loathing in comparison to the Chaol we've grown to love. He does seem to get it together later on, although I have to say I wasn't happy with the conclusion of with the Chaolena relationship or his story arch (paralyzed?!). I understood why she and Chaol couldn't be together after Nehemia's death. Whether Chaol was responsible is debatable, but it's definitely understandable that tragedies like that tear relationships apart. It hurt, but I got it and even agreed with it a little. However, in QoS, it felt like their relationship was written off by angry words thrown at each other and no real resolution, which made it seem like the relationship never really mattered at all.
Aside from my sadness over Chaol, I am absolutely over the moon about the women in this series. OMG the women are so badass. I LOVE THEM ALL! Nesyrn is a great addition to the cast and right off the bat, we can see why she and Chaol would make an excellent fit. She's beautiful, strong, reliable and easy-going. And she's got this understated killer instinct that even Aelin has to take notice of. We see Kaltain this book, which is a surprise (I totally forgot about her!), and although it seems like she's being controlled for her scary powerful shadowfire, it turns out she's been playing these men for fools and burns half the sanctuary to the ground. I legitimately cheered. I also cheered so hard for Lysandra, who might have been my favorite character in this book. I love that he depth that comes with the revelation that she is a shape-shifter and that she enjoys being a vicious as well as sexy. I also love that Maas explores her many talents that she's picked up, adding dimension to her character that I didn't expect. But most of all, I love how loyal and brave she was. Before magic was lifted, she was just as down for the team although she wasn't a fighter or a big bad assassion like the rest. And when she finally got her magic back, she returned when she didn't have to. She killed (literally) in that final battle and I love the genuine friendship developing between her and Aelin. Lysandraland, forever!
Speaking of that final battle, I'm still on the fence about that reveal regarding the king. I admit that I definitely did not see it coming at all, and so that made it an interesting enough twist. The only thing is I'm not sure how believable it was. There's a good chance I'm missing something, but I didn't think it was possible to control other Valgs if you are a Valg yourself. I mean I suppose if you were a Valg king but I don't think that was what happened. I also feel like this revelation wasn't foreshadowed enough in the previous books so it almost feels like it was tacked on. With that said, I'm very interested to see where Maas goes with this, and I have to say that I was glad Dorian killed the king. Dorian Havilliard during that final battle - ain't no weak ones over on this side. (I know, silly... but legit).
And lastly, the standout for me (aside from Lysandra) in this book was Manon Blackbeak and her Thirteen. Manon slays. Big time. I can't even get into all the things I loved because this review would be longer than it already is. However, my favorite moments include her general protectiveness over Elide (sings Manon has a heeaarrtttt) as well as all the tension surrounding the impregnation of the witches (gross). I loved how her Thirteen began to depart and shine as individuals, especially Asterin. Although I thought the Manon chapters were a bit more interesting in HoF, I still really enjoyed these. By far, the best thing ever was Manon meeting the crew :) The fact that her Blackbeak eyes somehow were capable of reaching Dorian in all that darkness (is this ship sailing yet?) and then we get the fight and mutual respect budding between her and Aelin, two of the most badass bitches in all the land. And then Manon's all running flying around doing good deeds and whatnot. Gah! Just gahhhh, I love.
I wish there were 600 more pages, seriously!

What are your thoughts on the series? Be sure to use spoiler warnings in the comments below!