***Be warned!! This review contains spoilers from previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk. You’ve officially been warned!!***
To see my review of book #0.5 – The Assassin’s Blade – Click HERE
To see my review of book #1 – Throne of Glass – Click HERE
To see my review of book #2 – Crown of Midnight – Click HERE
To see my review of book #3 – Heir of Fire – Click HERE
To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE
Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars
By now, we’re so far into the series and even further into the evolution that was Celaena Sardothien into Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the long lost heir of Terrassen. We’ve gotten to know her as a character, see her bloody past and her mistakes, and to see her grow before our eyes as readers. We’ve also met plenty of memorable characters along the way too; some that will be major players for the battle ahead!
Queen Of Shadows is a particularly interesting part of the series because of a few reasons. It was obvious—even back during Heir of Fire—that the series had taken a massive shift. A major change to the tone and the overall feel of these books was evident, and whether or not that’s a good thing really depends on who you ask within the Throne of Glass fandom. I for one absolutely loved it—as you can tell by my star rating above—for many reasons. In my opinion, it’d felt like we’d gotten to see a lot that we’d been waiting a long time for: the reveal of the big villain behind everything, the meeting of many new characters, certain character interactions happening, and of course, the possibility of justice to the realm of Adarlan.
For a few though, they say things like how it feels more like fanfiction from it’s own author, how certain characters have been pushed aside, and the series has gone in a direction that may not have been the best choice…They say plenty of other things, but I politely & respectfully disagree as I personally say Queen of Shadows is actually one of the author’s better written books. I felt like the entire time I’d read it that it was filled with so much high-octane events and amazing characters; how could anyone not appreciate that!
You can definitely tell Sarah J. Maas’s skills as a writer has continued to grow in her ability to make the plot of the whole series more complex and twice as dangerous as more and more keeps getting revealed, like the wyrdkeys and their significance, the Valg and how they want to take over, seeing both sides of the battlefield and getting inside the minds of important characters, enticing side-stories, sexual tension between love interests, and continuing to deepen the development of the world she’d created.
For me, she has an amazing talent to be able to make you fall in love with characters, even when you’d barely thought twice about them at first. She makes them feel so personable, memorable, and strong in their own ways; you wish they were real and that you were a part of your squad IRL.
Going off of that, another high point is how newer characters keep getting introduced with each book on top of the already established cast with some that have been there since the beginning, but it never feels overwhelming or unnecessary! You met Rowan, Aedion, Queen Maeve, and Manon in Heir of Fire, but more keep getting introduced in this book along with a few others that you haven’t seen in sometime since the first two books.
What It’s About:
Aelin has returned to Erilea from across the sea, ready to fight it out as she’s now been trained on her Fae abilities–her fire–but she’s going to need some extra help. She seeks out the help of anyone in Rifthold–the capital of Adarlan–even one man whom she considers a great enemy: her former trainer & mentor, Arobynn Hamel. Still reputable as the “King of the Assassins,” he informs her about her cousin, Aedion, being imprisoned and set for execution.
She also meets up with Chaol and a new ally, Nesryn Faliq, and they all get caught up on whats happened since they’d last seen each other, mainly the fact that Aedion and Dorian got captured, the latter now succumbing to the control of the Valg, and they realize just how bad everything has gotten even without them always getting at each other’s throats about it. They both carry valuable information, but neither are willing to share it with one another because of the mutual distrust they now share with their tense history.
More players enter the game as (spoiler alert but not really)…Rowan makes his way over from across the sea too and reunites with Aelin as they try to get ahead of their enemies and learn so much more about the Valg and what exactly has been happening.
Meanwhile, Manon Blackbeak and the other Ironteeth Witch clans are still in Morath training with their Wyverns for when the King of Adarlan finally calls them forth to battle. Her and Duke Perrington butt heads as she tries to figure out what exactly is going on, and he’s having her choose a clan for an experiment with the witches and the implantation of Valg stones to see if they can successfully breed together. She also wonders what role another female prisoner must play, but becomes concerned when her deadly power shows that more is definitely going on than she’s actually aware of. Maybe this isn’t what she signed up for?…She also meets a servant/kitchen maid, Elide Lochan, who may or may not be another key player added to the mix and is more than meets the eye.
So, so, so, so, so many things happen in this book: there are many twists and turns, epic battles, bitter betrayals, new characters introduced, familiar characters that continue to grow, and even more plots become revealed in this next installment in one of my all-time favorite series!
What I Liked:
- You Meet Lysandra (Sort Of)! Lysandra is a former courtesan (prostitute), and the mistress of Arobynn Hamel. If you’d read The Assassin’s Blade—which you totally should if you haven’t already—it was there where you actually first met her and instantly thought of her as the token hot & sexy mean girl who knows she’s hot and is an instant enemy to Aelin because she’s threatened…Obviously, as you get to know Lysandra more in this book, you’ll come to know that is the complete opposite of who she actually is. Her as a character and her dynamic with Aelin throughout Queen of Shadows was excellently done, and as more is revealed about her, you’ll quickly add her to your list of favorite characters.
- You Meet Arobynn Hamel (Sort Of)! The man has quite the reputation, that much is certain…You’ve heard his name thrown out plenty of times, but if you skipped The Assassin’s Blade novellas—seriously, read them if you haven’t—you come face to face with the “King of the Assassins” himself for the first time in person. Aelin returns and reluctantly seeks him out for assistance in rescuing Aedion from the castle, but it may as well be making a deal with the devil, as she learns he continues his deadly mind games and has plans of his own in their uneasy alliance.
- You Also Meet Lorcan Salvaterre and Elide Lochan! Even more new-ish characters! You’d kind of met Lorcan in the previous book, but he wasn’t there for too long, so it would’ve been easy to write him off and assume you’d maybe never see him again….WRONG! The legendary warrior is back with a vengeance under the orders of the Fae Queen Maeve after how things ended between her and Aelin’s confrontation across the sea. He hunts for the ring to return to his master, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it back, including going head-to-head with Rowan. Next, we’ve got Elide Lochan, who meets and reluctantly befriends Manon. I liked her instantly because despite her limp and her misleadingly weak demeanor, it was revealed how crafty she is and how she’s a survivor. There’s definitely more than meets the eye with her, so watch out!
- So Many Strong Female Characters! You already know Aelin and Manon, who are both total badass babes, but literally EVERY female character in this book is too! There’s Elide, who has mastered the art of deception in order to survive, Nesryn Faliq is a master archer who becomes a big help in the many rescue missions, Lysandra shows so many hidden depths to her character, you learn more about Asterin Blackbeak as her character is explored more, and even (spoiler alert!!)…………..Kaltain Rompier makes a surprise reappearance and is able to change the game in her own way!
- The Big Bad Guy Revealed! I’m going to say this is a major spoiler for the book, so readers beware!…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….Okay, so we’ve known about the Valg, right? The shadowy demons from another dimension that have come into this world through ancient wyrdgates and plan to take over and turn it into a dark, icy, windy wasteland much like their homeland. There have been a few higher ups–the Valg Princes–but now it’s revealed there’s an even BIGGER villain that’s in charge of it all: it turns out there are actually three Valg Kings, and one of them has come over and goes by the name Erawan. He was locked in a tomb deep beneath the mountains many years ago, but was also revealed to have been let out, and has been let loose into their world this whole time! I know, this plot twist sounds eerily similar to the White Walkers, wights, and Night King story arc from Game of Thrones, but you have to admit that it certainly raises the stakes, and makes you rethink everything about a certain character that has always been there, but had remained in the background until now…creepy stuff!
What I Didn’t Like:
- A Sudden Shift With The Romance…Now hear me out, I am a big supporter of romantic subplots and am a firm believer in OTPs. It’s even better when the romance is a subplot and it doesn’t interfere with the main storyline, which is a case in this series when it comes to budding romance between Aelin and Rowan. I think this is a big part of why some people don’t like this book because they were major shippers of Celaena and Chaol from the first two books in the series–I was too, but at the same time I also figured with how they’d developed that they weren’t actually right for each other. Once it was revealed that she was Fae, he just couldn’t see past that and couldn’t look at her the same. It made sense because that’s the kind of character Chaol is: very traditional, raised a certain way, and has a certain set of beliefs. I get it, but was disappointed with him nonetheless. Aelin wasn’t all that innocent either; both of them made mistakes, and they call each other out on it in this book. Anyways…Now it seems her and Rowan have a thing going on, and while I do see it, I felt like it was a bit of a jump that could’ve been smoother. In Heir of Fire, the two of them had a complex relationship that’d felt more platonic and friendship based, and then we get here and there’s suddenly romantic feelings beneath the surface that neither fully admit to, sexual tension that burns them from the inside out…and like I said, it just could’ve been a smoother transition. It feels like this subplot was added just so there could be at least ONE major romance going on in this title. All I can say is, I agree when it’s said that Chaol was good for Celaena but Rowan is good for Aelin, and there is a difference there.
- Chaol Reduced to the Bitter Ex…While part of me knows this isn’t necessarily true in some regards, I consider my biggest disappointment with the series how it’d felt like Chaol and Dorian got done dirty and were pushed aside to make way for Rowan and Aedion. Nothing against those two, but I have a thing against social climbers who ditch their old friends for people newer and “better,” and it felt like that with Sarah’s treatment of continuing to break up the original trio who we’ve all come to know and love. In this book, Chaol and Aelin reunite, but it’s clear they’re both still harboring some ill will towards each other. Chaol seemed to have been reduced to the bitter ex role, and just becomes the antagonist who questions Aelin at every opportunity that arises. Not that it isn’t completely unjustified; Aelin has screwed up too, and it’s nice to see that Chaol still isn’t afraid to call her out on her faults, but it still felt at some points it was like he purposefully got in her way or poked at her sides in some petty act of revenge of a bruised ego. Maybe that’s not how others saw him in this title, but as a serious fan of him and his quieter, more stoic demeanor; I was continued to be disappointed to see where his character has gone by this point.
- “Why Are You So Obsessed With Me?“…It’s gotten quite repetitive with how many times you hear how amazing Aelin/Celaena is by now. Everyone still seems to fuss over her, obsess about her, is in love with her, in awe of her, etc….like okay, fine, she turns out to be the long lost heir to the throne, her power is pretty cool if not the most original special ability to have even if the amount of her power has never been seen before…Believe me, we get it by now Sarah…She’s fire, she’s ash, she’s light, and she’s embers. She will bow to no one and take what is rightfully hers by blood-right. Why are we hearing the same pep talk over and over again?
A thiccccc addition to this action-packed, high fantasy series! The book’s substantial size may seem intimidating, but let me assure you that it doesn’t slow down or bore you to tears. Lots of things happen–some you’ve been hoping to see since the beginning–and lots of new characters to get to know! Some you may have met if you’d read The Assassin’s Blade—One last time: READ IT—but still plenty more where they come from, and the plot thickens with the reveal of a major villain!
The series has shifted since the first two books, and honestly kind of has an even bigger Game of Thrones feel to it overall, but that doesn’t necessarily detract from it in any way! There’s still plenty to get excited about with all the intrigue, the danger, the monsters, the romance, the brutality, and the strong bonds formed between the characters. Also, total side note, but who else totally jammed out to Halsey’s “Castle” (The Huntsman version or the original) while reading this?
Thanks For Reading!
— Nick Goodsell