Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Queen of Shadows - Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #4)

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)So, as you can find in my reviews or pretty much anywhere else on the internet that deals in book reviews, the Throne of Glass series got off to a rough start.  Throne of Glass introduced us to hidden princess/kick-butt assassin Celaena Sardothien, who despite being entered into a competition to fight for her life spent most of her time playing piano, wearing pretty dresses, and eating sweets that just appeared in her room.  You know, despite the fact that people wanted her dead...  There were some cool fantasy aspects to it, but overall it was rather lackluster.  However, the general consensus has been that the series has drastically improved over time--and I have to agree.

The third book in the series, Heir of Fire, ended with Celaena (now known by her real princess/queen name of Aelin, by which I will refer to her from now on) heading back to Adarlan after gaining control over her magical abilities in the realm of Wendlyn and getting a kick-butt blood-sworn fae companion in the form of Rowan.  Now, Aelin is actually back, and she has a list of things to accomplish.  First, she needs to rescue her cousin Aedion from certain death.  Second, she needs to get back a Wyrdkey which is currently in possession of her former master, Arobynn Hamel, the King of Assassins.  Third, she needs to either save or kill Dorian, who has been possessed by a demon, courtesy of his father.  Fourth, she needs to free magic, and kill the king, and...uh, list keeps going on.  But Aelin is now equipped to handle it, with or without magic, because of the events of Heir of Fire.  She's now a heroine who I can actually root for, and a heroine who very obviously starts to become not just an assassin or a lost princess, but a queen.

Meanwhile, the Blackbeak witch Manon is going out of her mind with frustration and boredom in Morath, where she and her witches await orders.  But as they wait, sinister things start to arise at Morath--things that impact the witches.

Queen of Shadows is a book in which things come together.  Manon and Aelin encounter each other, Rowan comes to Adarlan, Chaol and Aelin must work together once again, and Aelin's path to reclaiming her realm starts to become clear.  But that doesn't mean that everything is resolved.  Nope.  In fact, Maas drops a real bombshell at the climax of the book, revealing that all of the troubles up until this point have only really been the tip of the iceberg.  I have mixed feelings about this, because on one hand, it's very cool and very clear that things are about to go to hell in a handbasket quite quickly from here on out.  But on the other hand, I think that revelation could have pretty much been cut out, along with the bits about what's going on in Morath, and we still could have had a pretty satisfying conclusion to the series.

Now, the other thing that bothered me about this book: the ending dragged so much.  The last ten or so chapters all seemed like they could have been satisfying final chapters for this book, but they just kept on appearing.  Every character needed two or three chapters to wrap up what happened to them, which seemed excessive.  I think some of those could have easily been trimmed, or maybe shifted to the start of the next book instead.  As it was, I kept thinking the book was over, but it wasn't, and it kind of soured the end a bit for me.  It's like with the movie Lincoln.  You know, that amazing shot where he puts on his hat and walks down the White House stairs to go off to see the performance at Ford's Theater, that shot that would have been such a lovely, dignified ending, because we all know what happened afterward.  But that shot wasn't the ending: it then had to go on for another then minutes of his kid screaming and shots of him dead on a bed, which were completely unnecessary because it wasn't a movie about Lincoln's assassination.  This book was like that.  It was great, until the end, which then just went on way too long.

Finally, let me briefly speak about Rowan and Aelin, who seem to be a point of some contention among Throne of Glass fans.  I like Rowan.  He is awesome.  I totally support him and Aelin (Though that kiss at the end; what?  You built it all up for just THAT?).  That said, I still like Chaol and I don't hate the idea of him and Aelin together (this is the other main pairing right now, guys) but I do see how they have some serious issues with each other at this point, issues that are going to take two more books to resolve in their entirety if they can be resolved.  Right now, Aelin and Rowan seem like a more solid pair, connected as they are, though it'll be interesting to see how/if Maas resolves the whole "one is immortal and one isn't" thing if they stay together.  That said, I'm not placing all my bets on it, because Aelin has had three love interests in four books so far (and a fourth in the prequel novellas) and I wouldn't be surprised if something happened to introduce another suitor into the fray--though so far most blatant love triangles have been avoided, which I appreciate.

Overall?  A solid book.  It went on a bit too long past the climax, making the ending seem really interminable, but the story itself was great.  Things kept tying back into each other, and more very cool worldbuilding bits were brought up--the bones of the god of truth, anyone?  Still, I think it would have been easy for the series, with a few modifications, to end here, and while I'm sure the final two books will be good, I'm hoping that continuing this storyline doesn't end up being something we regret.

4 stars out of 5.

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