“Queen of Shadows” by Sarah J. Maas
4 out of 5 stars.
After having faced the shadows and ghosts of her past in Wendlyn, Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen, is ready for war. But before she can take back her kingdom and gain justice for the loved ones she lost so long ago, Aelin needs help and she is determined to find her allies that are still in Adarlan and make good on her promise to come back for her friend. Daring to rescue her cousin, Aedion, from being executed and save Prince Dorian from the unspeakable horrors he has endured at his father’s hands, Aelin soon discovers that, for some, she didn’t come back soon enough to save them.
As war brews in Adarlan between the rebels and the dark creatures in Rifthold, the Queen of Terrasen will need her friends, old and new, now more than ever. Fighting against the tide of darkness and preparing for her own war, Aelin must learn how to let go of the things of her past and hold on to the things and people she has now, to fight for them rather than for herself. Letting go of the past might be possible for Aelin, but that’s if she and her friends make it out of Adarlan alive.
“Queen of Shadows” is a really hard book for me to review. I loved it so much but there were also a lot of things in it that made me want to chuck it across the room, which is something I have sworn never to do to a book that I purchased. I didn’t end up throwing it, but I was definitely tempted to during certain parts of this book. “Queen of Shadows” was a great book and another fabulous installment to Sarah J. Maas’s “Throne of Glass” series, but I do feel a fair amount of strong emotions towards it that are making it really hard for me to form a coherent review! I’ve both longed for and dreaded the moment when I would have to write this review and decide where to begin it, and now that the moment is here, I still don’t really know where to start! I guess the beginning is a good place to start our journey through “Queen of Shadows.” All this talk of journeying forth makes me feel a little Hobbit-esk…
At the start of this stressful adventure I call “Queen of Shadows,” Aelin, Queen of Terrasen, has completely taken the place of Calaena Sardothien, and although I understand why Sarah J. Maas chose to do this, I did not like the change. I had loved Celaena in “Throne of Glass” because of how many layers there were to her, how she tried to appear cold and unfeeling when she was actually just a broken girl trying to survive the world and not drown in her emotional pain. Celaena was broken but strong and she was so human in some of her actions and thoughts that she became an extremely compelling heroine. I wanted to see Celaena grow and heal as a person, keep a little bit of her gusty bravado, and one day be free of the oppressive forces that had buried her for so long. Another thing that I found so fascinating about Celaena’s character was how, despite her anger and bitterness, she became friends with Dorian Havilliard and Nehemia Ytger. Those friendships really rounded out and developed her character, and I loved how Nehemia and Dorian brought out the softer side of Celaena, which she rarely showed. I think that was what disappointed me so much about this book was the Celaena (the warrior) to Aelin (the queen) transition.
I really disliked that Aelin seemed to lose the compelling qualities that Celaena had possessed like strength, kindness at times, and moments where she really messed up. Yeah, sure Aelin was strong, but she came off as an overly self-assured bioch who kind of repelled me; I know that Celaena had her fair share of moments like that, but it came off a lot differently with her than it did with Aelin for me. I get that Aelin was a queen, but just the fact that all her plans were “perfect” and that she seemed to know exactly what was “right” ALL of the time was infuriating to me. The entire time I read “Queen of Shadows” I kept missing Celaena who made my heart break for her because of everything she had been through, and I loved that she made mistakes because those faults helped to humanize her. I just felt so distant from Aelin because she lacked those human qualities that really draw me in as a reader. I’m all about confidence and not letting the opinions of others tear you down, but Aelin came off as having superior airs like she owned the whole world and deserved it and that anyone who got in her way was expendable.
Something that bothered me about both the Celaena and Aelin personas was their pattern of abandoning friends/love interests when it was convenient. Case and point: Celaena completely discarded Dorian Havilliard by the end of “Throne of Glass,” then Celaena nearly killed Chaol for a secret he kept from her in “Crown of Midnight” (she would have succeeded if it hadn’t been for Dorian), and then she officially discarded Chaol as a love interest by the first hundred pages of “Heir of Fire,” and she also left Dorian in Rifthold to face the dangers of being around his father without allies or any way of escape because she had “stuff” to do. *slow claps* No, a good friend is faithful even when their friend(s) hurts them and they stick by them in hard times. I’m sorry, I loved Celaena as a character, but even that bothered me about her, and Aelin was even worse! I think what made me dislike Aelin so much was the ease in which she moved on from certain people and that a large amount of that kind of attitude was aimed at Dorian this entire book.
Dorian charmed me from the first couple of chapters of “Throne of Glass” and ever since then I have never been able to shake how much I love this character and how compelling I find him. I also can’t shake the protectiveness I feel towards him, even though he is strong and capable all on his own, and I just hate how much pain and betrayal that Dorian has experience in this series. Oh, and I especially hate it when people *caughs* Aelin *caughs* pretend to be his friends and then they can just leave him behind or are willing to remove him when he gets in their way.
Dorian was, and is, the person with the best heart in this series, and despite all of the betrayal he has experienced (a lot of times at the hands of his own friends), he still believed the best of people and remained a faithful friend to them. Aelin, however, was more than willing to abandon him in his hour of need, and that made me angry and it made me hurt for Dorian even more because he was completely alone. Seeing him so lost, hurting, and abandoned in “Queen of Shadows” completely TORE ME APART. The second or third chapter in, Dorian was already in a prison of sorts and under his father’s control, and he had started to forget who Dorian Havilliard was. At first I was in denial because I didn’t want it to be true and hadn’t expected it to be that bad for him from the start,
but it was. Beautiful, charming, kind Dorian was so broken due to what his father had done and I just couldn’t handle it. I want to storm the glass castle, take Dorian with me, and calmly burn Adarlan to the ground. (Uhhh, I think I went a little far there, but I think you catch my drift.) The small snippets I got of Dorian were so painfully heartbreaking, and each time they came around I got teary eyed because, even though Dorian had forgotten who he was, he still had a good heart. Obviously these moments with Dorian really got to me and it was so hard going from his parts of this book to Aelin’s because she so easily talked about going into the glass castle and eliminating her friend. I assume she thought that was “best” for him, but I had a difficult time watching her so easily cast her friend aside instead of fighting for him. Sure, Aelin came “back” for Dorian, but nearly the entire book she only thought about possible scenarios to dispatch him rather than save him. Maybe I’m stupid or just naïve, but when you call yourself a friend, you fight for the person you love until they are beyond your help, and even then you can still try something. I think that is why I had a begrudging respect for Chaol Westfall in “Queen of Shadows.”
I have not liked Chaol this entire series and I still didn’t love him in this book, but I did end up mildly respecting him. Out of all of the characters in “Queen of Shadows,” Chaol was the only one willing to do whatever it took to get Dorian back and that made me, in a way, like him. It was also nice for someone else to acknowledge the fact that Dorian had done a lot of brave things to save all of his friends and how he had tried to help the people in the awful slave camps, and that made me like Chaol a little bit more. One thing that was kind of weird about his character in this book was how very un-Chaol he seemed. I didn’t like Chaol in the other books, but he was a fairly driven individual who had his crap together most of the time. In “Queen of Shadows,” however, Chaol seemed like an empty shell, a whisper, of the general he once was, and I was saddened by that because it felt like Sarah J. Maas had suddenly and completely altered Chaol as a character rather than writing him a gradual evolution or decline.
Because of all of these sudden changes, my heart ached a bit for all of the Chaol fans and I want to offer them my condolences. I had thought it was just me who felt like Sarah went a little crazy with her changing characters so suddenly and drastically while tormenting them to no end, but then I started looking at reviews and realized I was not as alone in my opinions as I had assumed. A lot of other readers/bloggers were mildly horrified at what Sarah J. Maas had done with Chaol, making him nearly unrecognizable, and tormenting Dorian like she did. A couple of them who had the same opinions about Chaol and Dorian also felt the same way that I did about Aelin and they missed Celaena, too.
I love Sarah’s writing, but sometimes I do dislike the fact that every book, with the exception of Dorian, a character you had known in a previous book will seem like an entirely different person in the next one; I’m all for personal growth, but that wasn’t the case with some of this characters, Celaena/Aelin included. Aelin became very Fae in this book, which was pretty cool at times, but I was a little annoyed that her decision to embrace that side made her very clicky with only the Fae and meant that the humans were left out to dry most of the time. Celaena wouldn’t have done that, but there’s no more of her and it’s just Queen Aelin now. This huge shift in tone made me nostalgic for the good old days of it just being Celaena, Dorian, Nehemia, and dare I say, Chaol.
Aedion was one of my favorite characters in “Heir of Fire,” second only to Dorian, because he was such a decisive and cunning character. He was a general trying to find and help his queen in any way that he could, and he was a survivor who had lived a little in the gray zone to make it through his rough life. Sadly, in “Queen of Shadows,” this Wolf of the North that I had grown to love acted like a college frat boy (my sister’s equivalent that I completely agree with). I feel like Sarah maybe dumbed him down and made him less mature to make Aelin appear more sophisticated, more leader-like. This really bummed my out since I had first fallen in love with Aedion because he seemed like a leader and far more mature than the other characters in this series. I still loved Aedion because I remembered all of the cool, brave, and intelligent things he had done in “Heir of Fire” to help the rebellion out, but I wish that Sarah would have kept him in the more adult male sphere rather than making him seem like a frat boy to make the other Fae like Aelin and Rowan seem more mature.
Rowan was pretty cool in “Queen of Shadows,” but I felt a little bit disconnected from him. He and Aelin confused me due to all of the odd ships and abandonment issues on her part, and her forever and always with Sam. I still haven’t read the novellas, but I really like Sam and think that he was pretty much the only individual Celaena/Aelin ever stayed emotionally consistent towards. Again, Rowan was cool, but I was not particularly worried about anything happening to him, because those fears were justly reserved for Dorian and Aedion.
Okay, so obviously you know by now from my monstrous review that there were a LOT OF FEELS in “Queen of Shadows,” which included the following: irritation, love, sadness, and fear, lots and lots of fear. Let me tell you, nothing in the beginning of this book or the middle of it could have ever prepared me for the last hundred and fifty pages!
Basically no one is safe when it comes to Sarah J. Maas, so I just anticipated saying goodbye to my favorite characters at any time. *weeps* Obviously there were many shocking turns of events at the end of this book, but one that really surprised me was that I, for a brief moment in time, respected Manon. You’ll understand why if you decide to read “Queen of Shadows” and that’s all I can say without spoiling a large portion this book. Another thing that was mildly unsettling about “Queen of Shadows” was the actual ending because, after having had my heart shredding and crying enough to fill a ditch, it was finished and was weirdly happy for the characters who were still alive. It was just off-putting after so much torment, so I was a little disbelieving when I read the last sentence of “Queen of Shadows.”
Overall, “Queen of Shadows” was a really great book. I loved Dorian so much in this book and I will forever cherish the brief moments that I got to see him in it, and the parts with Aedion were also great despite his shift in personality. I do wish that I had seen more Dorian and that some of the other characters would have acted more like their true selves, but other than that I really liked reading this book. I don’t think any of the other books in this series will ever come close to”Throne of Glass,” but I am definitely looking forward to the fifth book in this series. Just a whole year to go until I can get a copy…