Spoiler Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #5)

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“Empire of Storms” by Sarah J. Maas

3 1/2-4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?”

So, I have mixed feelings toward “Empire of Storms.” Don’t get me wrong, I think that Sarah J. Maas’s fifth “Throne of Glass” novel was very well-written and had an engaging cast of characters, but I think my problem with it was the fact that I felt like I had read “Empire of Storms” before; the plot and main romance between Aelin and Rowan did not strike a chord with me because I had already seen and experience a painfully similar romance in “A Court of Mist and Fury.” Beyond the nearly verbatim lines and predictability of Aelin and Rowan’s romance, though, I also found the plot of “Empire of Storms” to be repetitive of what us readers have already read by this author, and it was frustrating to me that the supposedly suspenseful moments ended up being fairly anticlimactic. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat, but I felt like I had already read “Empire of Storms,” just under a different title, and that sometimes killed the momentum of my reading experience. If it hadn’t been for Dorian, and Elide and Lorcan, I probably would have skipped half of this book. But let me tell you, Elide and Lorcan were completely worth reading this novel.

I was completely enraptured by the dynamic that existed between Elide and Lorcan and the relationship that slowly bloomed between them in “Empire of Storms.” I adored Elide as a character because she was one of the few human characters in this book; she had no powers, no special abilities beyond her own courage and cunning, and that made her such a compelling character when compared to the “perfectly” gifted Fae and their robotic queen, Aelin. Elide was a wonderful character to read about, and I adored the chapters that were written from her perspective because she had such a dynamic voice and moving past. Elide and Lorcan probably only got about two hundred pages of screen time out of this seven hundred page novel, if even that, but every moment, every word between the two of them was impacting. If anyone were to ask, I’d say Elide was the queen of this book (Manon also, but we’ll get to here in a minute), not Aelin. And Lorcan wasn’t hurting matters, either…

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Just yes, yes to everything about this character and his relationship with Elide. Lorcan was a real tool in the previous “Throne of Glass” books, and I had had zero affection or interest in the coldhearted Fae when Sarah J. Maas first introduced him, but the first chapter of “Empire of Storms” completely changed how I perceived this character. I had forgotten how good Sarah J. Maas can be at introducing new characters and shaping them into dynamic, key-players in her series, so at first I was taken aback by how interesting and layered I found Lorcan’s character to be from the very first chapter of this book. It was nice to find a character who completely captured my attention, and after his and Elide’s entrance into “Empire of Storms, ” I was wholly invested in them as characters, as well as in their romance.

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One of the things that I loved most about Elide and Lorcan’s sections of this book was how the tension just crackled between them. It has been a while since Sarah J. Maas has written a good relationship with that kind of ever present tension that is not angsty, but it is always there, keeping you on the edge of your seat. “Heir of Fire” was a great book, second only to my beloved “Throne of Glass,” but even in that book I did not feel the same kind of tension between Rowan and Celaena/Aelin. Dorian (be still my heart) also had a romance in that book with Sorcha, and although I shipped their relationship to the ends of the earth and back while it melted my heart into a puddle of feels, theirs was a romance built on friendship and partnership, as well as blossoming affection. Dorian and Sorcha were beautiful and perfect together, but they did not have the same tension between them that Elide and Lorcan had in “Empire of Storms,” which was due to their differing circumstances. Elide and Lorcan’s sections in this book were always weighty and interesting, and the two characters and their reluctant partnership made for an insanely dynamic story. I was honestly on the edge of my seat while reading from Elide and Lorcan’s perspectives, not just because of the amazing tension and character development that they experience, but also because of everything that was at stake for both of them. Elide and Lorcan’s story was unrivaled by anything else in this book, and I honestly wish that “Empire of Storms” had just been about the two of them and their journey, rather than having six additional characters thrown into the mix. Despite my desire to read a book about just Elide and Lorcan’s journey, I still loved seeing Dorian and getting to know Manon.

My heart hurt this entire book for the wonderful but forsaken Dorian Havillard. He has been the best and most consistent character throughout this entire series, and he has been the one to keep me coming back for more torture and torment with this series. Dorian was and is my everything, and that was why it was so heartbreaking to read about how his character changed in “Empire of Storms.” Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed every moment I got with him, but I feel like Sarah has tormented and abused this character too much to not give him more page time. Dorian deserved more time in this book, and so did his fans, to rediscover the recognizable but altered boy with the sapphire blue eyes. I understand that his experiences at the end of “Heir of Fire” and through all of “Queen of Shadows” justifiably broke him, but I wanted to get to know the new, haunted King Dorian for longer than Sarah J. Maas allowed me to. I have loved Dorian as a character since the first chapter of “Throne of Glass,” and I continued to love him in this book, but I was not a fan of how Sarah J. Maas approached his shift in character. I was also very frustrated by how carelessly Sarah threw together the romance between Dorian and Manon.

After the end of “Queen of Shadows,” I was rooting for Manon and Dorian to get together, especially since Manon was the only person who believed that Dorian was still alive despite the awful things that Erawan had done to him; Manon’s also pretty epic, so it was kind of a given that I would want them to be together eventually. I was still really rooting for their relationship throughout this book, but I did not fall in love with them as a couple because Sarah J. Maas never gave them enough time! I was pretty frustrated with the lack of development in their relationship, and I felt thoroughly disappointed with how little effort Sarah seemed to put into writing the romance between these two characters. All that happened between Dorian and Manon was that she saved him a couple of times from and dying and he saved her multiple times from being killed, and then suddenly they were a couple.

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It was a bit disappointing to be anticipating these two amazing characters getting to know one another, and to help each other heal from their broken pasts, only to get a few minuscule conversations that barely even developed a connection between them. The romance of Dorian and Manon felt vague and carelessly thrown together, when what they deserved was some epic development like Lorcan and Elide received. I still loved Dorian and Manon, but there were just some things that Sarah J. Maas did that really frustrated me, and I am pretty disappointed and heartbroken over the lack of respect with which she treated Dorian, Manon, and their romance. I am also pretty angry at what this lack of development means, but we’ll get there a little bit later.

Besides Manon, Dorian, Elide, and Lorcan, there were about four or five other characters who played a central role in “Empire of Storms,” but since a blogger only has so much time to analyze a dozen characters before they drive their readers to boredom or irritation, I will just finish up talking about Aelin and Rowan.

I had really liked Celaena as a character for the first three books. I thought that she was entertaining, intelligent, clever, and caring character when she wanted to show her heart, and I enjoyed the fact that Celaena was a flawed person. She did not always have the answers or solutions to every problem, nor did she always make the right calls during certain situations, but that was a part of her draw as a heroine; she failed many times, but she never stopped getting back up and dusting herself off. Celaena was a well-developed and interesting leading lady, if a bit overpowering at times, yet it has felt like the heroine of this series has been missing since “Queen of Shadows.”

I know that Celaena was just a name that Aelin chose to hide her true identity, but I found it frustrating that the dynamic and flawed Celaena suddenly disappeared after Aelin decided to use her given name again. The experiences and trials that Celaena had gone through, her flawed personality and decision making skills, were suddenly non-existent when she donned her royal name, which just seems silly to me because our experiences and memories make us who we are. Why did Aelin suddenly have everything figured out when Celaena did not? The swagger and charm of Celaena seemed to disappear with Aelin’s rise to power, and now I find everything Aelin-related to be very anticlimactic because I know as a reader that she already has the perfect plan up her sleeve, and that she’s going to make it out on the other side smelling like a rose. Even her romance was too good to be true with Rowan.

Personally, I had really liked Rowan in “Heir of Fire.” Dorian shall forever hold my heart, but it was really nice to have a sexy adult male as a lead character. Rowan had presence in every scene that he was in during Heir of Fire,” and I am going to be honest, I enjoyed the fact that he did not take crap from Celaena and occasionally (but only when justified) put her in her place. I was even rooting for their relationship after finishing the third “Throne of Glass” book, but when “Queen of Shadows” came out, their romance just did not seem as good as it was in “Heir of Fire.” I also felt like Rowan got less time to shine than he deserved in the fourth book because of Aelin overwhelming the show with her queenlyness. Because of the previous book, I was not particularly excited for a lot Rowan time in “Empire of Storms,” so I was quite surprised when I found myself liking this character again.

At first, I felt like I was greeted with a watered down version of the Rowan that I had liked in “Heir of Fire,” especially when he was around Aelin, but as this book went on, I kind of started to like Rowan again. He and Dorian had this epic bro-cation, and it was interesting reading how much the two of them had in common, other than Celaena/Aelin, with their first loves being murdered and losing their way a bit. Rowan all by himself was great in this book; he was a strong and decisive character, but it was the romance between him and Aelin that really felt kind of lame.

“Where have I have seen this romance before?” That was the question I kept asking myself every time Aelin and Rowan had a moment together, and the answer was always the same: I had already seen it in “A Court of Mist and Fury.” For all of you who adore the romances between Feyre and Rhysand and Aelin and Rowan, I am truly happy for you. I think my problem with these two romances, though, is how identical both of them are. Both Feyre and Aelin went through a couple of boys before they got to there current romantic interests, and now they are perfectly matched to their perfect life-long mate, and they are all going to live happily ever after (for all eternity) because their all freaking Faeries! Oh, yes, and let me throw a spoiler for the end in for you! Aelin ended up offering herself to her foe and was taken captive by enemy forces at the very end, and Rowan vows to not rest until he finds and saves her. Sound familiar?

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* sighs * Please, Sarah, I beg of you to throw in something that is not exactly like your other series, or something that is at least a tiny bit less predictable! I’m sorry to all of you who adore the romances in Sarah’s two series, but I just don’t feel any sort of attachment to either couple.

In the end, I enjoyed “Empire of Storms,” but I did not love it nor did I feel held in suspense by its ending. I have a strong sense of what is going to happen in the final book, and everything that Sarah J. Maas wrote in “Empire of Storms” has led me to the conclusion that she is going to kill off Dorian in the sixth “Throne of Glass” book. Aelin will get her happily ever after, Elide and Lorcan will probably survive, (or he’ll redeem himself by dying *sobs*), and Dorian will sacrifice himself in order to make the lock that can save everyone he loves. * sobs harder * It just doesn’t seem fair that this amazing, beautiful character will get the short end of the stick by being the emotional martyr of the series. Someone important but expendable (in the the author’s eyes) always gets sacrificed in the end of a series, and Dorian has the emotional connection to bring tears to the audience. He is also technically expendable because he does not have a solidified romantic relationship with anyone (maybe the romance that Sarah ended up giving him was vague and haphazardly thrown together for a reason!). My heart and soul have dreaded this truth for about four books now, and I feel like Sarah is just that cruel of a writer that she would kill off this wonderfully written character in order to preserve her beloved Aelin.

Due to my dread of impending events, I honestly do not know if I can read the last book. Dorian was my reason for continuing on with this series, and I kind of just want to ignore any ending where he does not get his own happy ending.

Besides my whole Dorian theory and Aelin’s predictably happy ending, I did enjoy reading “Empire of Storms.” Elide and Lorcan were the heart of this book because they were such amazingly dynamic characters with an insanely gripping story, and I am anxious to see where Sarah takes them (if I can somehow pick up the last book). Dorian was still absolutely fantastic, and I’ve enjoyed watching him come into his own over the course of this series; he has always been dedicated and invested in protecting his friends and people, and he did what was necessary in this book to get business done. I do hope that Sarah J. Maas develops his and Manon’s relationship more, because there was a lot of potential for the two of them together. I think that my only major problem with this book (besides the whole Dorian thing, and the plot holes that I don’t have the energy to discuss right now) was that Aelin felt kind of worthless toward the plot. I felt like this massive book would have kept moving without her presence, and I might have liked it more if there had been King Rowan and not Queen Aelin as the star of this series. I also found things involving Aelin to be very predictable, which killed the suspense of this book for me. We all know that Aelin will survive and rise again, so there’s nothing to be anxious about concerning her character and her relationship with Rowan. Despite this book’s predictability, it was a fast read, and I did find myself enjoying most of it. “Empire of Storms” couldn’t beat the first three books of this series in quality or original plotline, but it was still interesting and enjoyable to read.

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Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare (The Dark Artifices #1)

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“Lady Midnight” by Cassandra Clare

4 out of 5 stars.

Goodreads summary:

“In a kingdom by the sea…

In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight demons, parabatai is a sacred word.

A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.

Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.

Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?”

Alright, it is high time for a review of “Lady Midnight,” especially since I finished it a month and a half ago. *sighs* At least I am keeping up with reading, if not reviewing!

Wow, “Lady Midnight” was a big book. Personally, large books do not intimidate me, and I actually like the fact that I get more book for the same amount of money, which is the deal-seeker in me coming out. The only problem with large books (more than 500 pages) is that there is a recovery time for the hands and wrists after reading one. I was prepared for this after seeing the page count of Cassandra’s newest book, but I was personally not prepared for the C.C.H. (Cassandra Clare Hand is an acute case of carpel tunnel that only reading “Lady Midnight” can produce) that ensued after I finished reading this book. All that being said, just have a wrist brace on hand when you pick up Cassandra’s latest book, and you’ll be fine.

Dramatics aside, after having finished the monstrous beauty that is “Lady Midnight,” I had (almost) no regrets. Cassandra Clare has written another wonderful and adventurous novel, and I was so excited to get to know some of the new characters that she had written in “The Dark Artifices” trilogy. Per usual, I was just as anxious about meeting the characters as I was excited to get to know them, because sometimes I just don’t connect with the individuals in new series of a well-liked author, even though I really want to. But I shouldn’t have worried, because Emma Carstairs and all of the Blackthorns were such great characters, and I fell in love with them while reading “Lady Midnight.” I personally don’t think that any of Cassandra Clare’s other characters, past, present, or future, could ever take William Herondale’s place in my heart, and no parabatai bond is as precious to me as his and Jem’s, but I still felt myself fall a little in love with everyone in “Lady Midnight.”

I liked Emma Carstairs a lot, not just because she was a distant relation to Jem, but also because she was a fun, albeit wild, heroine who kept me interested in “Lady Midnight” as I read her parts of this book, and her past was as interesting as it was heartbreaking. I still have not read Cassandra Clare’s “The Mortal Instruments” series, so when I first started “Lady Midnight” I was a tiny bit lost with some of back stories of certain characters and with what happened in the war that went on before this book began. Emma’s background was tied closely to “The Mortal Instruments,” so it did take me a little bit of time to put the pieces of her past together, how some things went down in the other series, and how Emma ended up becoming a part of the Blackthorn family. Once I kind of deciphered those few things, I was able to follow along easily with what was going on within the Shadowhunter world, and how Emma and the Blackthorns were affected by the Cold Peace that came about as a result of the war. Cassandra did a good job of not making some of the rehearsed facts about the Shadowhunters become mundane (no pun intended!) or arduous to read, and I feel that anyone, regardless of whether they’ve read “The Mortal Instruments” or not, could easily pick up “Lady Midnight.” Oddly enough, though, I do think that reading “The Infernal Devices” could be far more helpful to readers coming into this book because of how those events people in Cassandra’s historical Shadowhunter novels are tied so closely to everything in “Lady Midnight.” It is not absolutely necessary to read “The Infernal Devices,” but it seemed like, having read that trilogy, I was able to understand the underlining tones that were going on within this book, because the history behind “The Infernal Devices” was not described or eluded to, whereas the events of “The Mortal Instruments” were broken down for readers in “Lady Midnight.” All of that being said, I felt that jumping right into Emma’s story was pretty easy, and I thought that she had a much more enjoyable and active protagonist, especially when compared to Tessa Gray.

The only thing that really saddened me about “The Infernal Devices,” other than its soul-shattering and sob-worthy ending, was that Tessa ended up being the kind of female character who felt mildly worthless and ineffective. I know the story was technically about her, but I felt like Will and Jem, as well as the other Shadowhunters, carried the story so effectively all by themselves that if Tessa had disappeared from the trilogy, I would not have felt impacted by her departure. With Emma, however, I felt like she played a truly important role in how the story of “Lady Midnight” unfolded, and despite not always agreeing with her brash behavior, I appreciated the fact that she was an active protagonist who was fairly impacting. Although I liked Emma, the characters who really stole my heart were the Blackthorn siblings, especially Julian.

Thirty pages into “Lady Midnight,” and I was in love with Julian as a character. Call it insta-love on my part, but I felt so emotionally attached to this male character only a few chapters in that I became really invested in this fiercely loyal and loving young man by the time I finished Lady Midnight.” His past and present circumstances tugged at my heartstrings, and I couldn’t help but feel the pain and weight that Julian carried around on his shoulders due to the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings his whole life. He was only seventeen or eighteen-years-old, yet he’d had to take on the immense responsibility of keeping his family together when no one else would after the Shadowhunter war ended, and his story and love for his siblings, the sacrifices he had to make in order to take car of his family, made him a truly compelling character. I liked Emma, but I loved and was rooting for Julian throughout “Lady Midnight,” and although this book was supposed to be about Emma’s parents’ murder, it really turned out to be a Blackthorn book. The summary for this book might have been slightly false advertising, but I was personally happy that “Lady Midnight” focused mostly on Julian and his family. Julian was an amazing character, and I thought that Cassandra’s choice to make him an artist was a good one because his gifting and love for it helped to make him feel even more rounded out as a protagonist and hero of this story. I fell for Julian while reading this book for a lot of reasons, but it was mostly how much he cared about his siblings and the dynamic that existed between them that made him such an interesting and compelling character.

The interactions between Julian and his family were what took “Lady Midnight” from being a good book to becoming a great one; I don’t know if any of Cassandra’s other books could capture my heart quite like the “Clockwork Angel” and the “Clockwork Prince” did, but Julian and his sisters and brothers made “Lady Midnight” come quite close to the mark. Each of the Blackthorn siblings were well-written, and I loved their relationship with each other because it felt genuine and real, and everything they went through over the years and getting their brother Mark back, while not exactly getting him back made my heart ache for all of them. Each of the Blackthorns were wonderfully written, and I adored every interaction I got between them and Julian! They were all such great secondary characters, and I loved that they added so much to the story that unfolded in “Lady Midnight.”

Although the Blackthorns made this book for me, I also ended up loving the addition of Cristina Rosales, who was a new Shadowhunter in the L.A. Institute. I thought that she was a cool and very likeable female character, and I wish that there had been a little bit more of this book told from her perspective, since it was so large. Cristina had an interesting and slightly hidden past, which I thought added another great dynamic to this book.

“Lady Midnight” was a large book, nearly reaching seven hundred pages, but I felt like it was well-paced in the fact that I kept reading and was interesting in the story and its characters, despite having my favorites. I honestly don’t have a lot of complaints about this book, but the one thing that did end up bothering me was the romance between Julian and Emma.

At first, I was really rooting for Emma and Julian as a couple, and I was quite torn up over the fact that they were both such awesome parabatai, but because of that bond, they were also allowed to pursuing a romantic relationship. One of the frustrating things in YA books, especially with a story line like “Lady Midnight,” is that miscommunication is used as a plot device most of the time. In this particular situation, I understood why Emma and Julian both kept their feelings secret, because telling each other would honestly do nothing but wreck their relationship as parabatai. I understood why they kept their feelings hidden from one another, and I was shipping them for the first half of “Lady Midnight,” enjoying the tension of untold truths, and even knowing that they both cared for each other when they were both unaware of that fact. But after about halfway through this book, the romance progressed, happening so suddenly and all at once that I was a little bit frustrated because it seemed irrational and to almost belittled what they had. There had been tension throughout the book, but once they had their moment, everything came crashing down around them because they acted without thinking. I know they had history from being friends, so it was not insta-love or anything, but it just happened so fast that it made me like their relationship less because I wanted them to have a few sweet moments, like the scene where they dance together, before it fizzled and crumbled to pieces. I felt like this relationship was over before it ever began, and that was a little disappointing to me, because I had really liked the idea of them together.

Overall, I really liked “Lady Midnight.” I thought that it was a great start to what seems like a promising trilogy, and I really enjoyed the L.A. setting mixed with the world of the Shadowhunters. I found the faerie-related things (the Cold Peace, faerie history, etc) to be quite interesting, and I, as you already know, fell in love with all of the Blackthorns. Their family dynamic and how they got their brother, Mark, back only to have to fight for him to stay was as heartbreaking as it was beautiful, and I adored all of the siblings and thought that they gave this book heart. Julian stole a little piece of my heart away in “Lady Midnight,” but I am anxious to see where Cassandra Clare is taking him after the ending of this book; it did not end on a happy note, and I just hope that he does not go to a super dark and broody place in the second book of “The Dark Artifices” trilogy. “Lady Midnight” was a great new installment to Cassandra’s Shadowhunter world, and if you liked any of her other series or fantasy novels in general, you should definitely pick up this book!

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

sarah j maas queen of shadows“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…

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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.

Oh, Dorian…the office 2

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.

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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,b5122fdf7c5668596b87a104cf94cffd
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.

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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!

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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.”

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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…

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #2)

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“Crown of Midnight” by Sarah J. Maas

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

After winning the position of royal assassin, Celaena Sadothien is assigned tasks by the King of Adarlan and she must carry them out if she wishes to win her freedom and keep her head. Being the king’s lackey was a part of the deal to obtain her freedom, but it was a promise Celaena never intended to keep. With extreme caution and skill, Celaena has be able to deceive the King of Adarlan for the last few months into thinking that she has been doing his bidding when she has actually been undermining his authority. The more time passes, though, the harder it is for Celaena to keep the ruse up, and it is only a matter of time before she will make a mistake large enough for the king to notice.

Added to Celaena’s list of worries is how her desperate need for secrecy is straining her friendships with Nehemia and Dorian, and at times, Chaol. If she is found out, Celaena and anyone who knows her secret, will pay the price with their lives, and so distance might be the only form protection she can offer them. But when forces within the glass castle beckon Celaena to uncover their secrets, she discovers that there is far more at stake than her own life and freedom, and she will need her friends if she is ever going to fix what has been broken.

Time is short and with the King of Adarlan’s power rapidly expanding, Celaena and her friends within Rifthold are racing against the clock before everything comes crashing down around them. As Nehemia is working her angle at court, and Dorian makes a terrifying discover about himself, Celaena uncovers truths that could shake all of Erilea to its core. Can Celaena figure out who she can trust with such sacred and powerful knowledge, or will she place her fate into the hands of someone who could destroy them all?

“Crown of Midnight” was a very well-written book with an even more intricate plot than “Throne of Glass,” and I liked seeing more of Sarah J. Maas’s world beyond the castle in Rifthold. The second book in this series was good, but sadly it didn’t reach out to me quite as much as the first had.

Celaena remained a cool heroine, and despite the hard spot she was placed in as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she figured out how to not be his lap dog, and I also thought that her and Nehemia’s friendship was interesting. Both females were trying to, in their own way, undermine the King of Adarlan’s authority, and they were so brave for not choosing to sit back and wait for someone else to do what was right. Another thing that I thought was interesting in “Crown of Midnight” was how all of Celaena’s relationships were massively tested by circumstances in it, and I liked watching Celaena’s reactions to certain situations from an already informed perspective. After “Crown of Midnight” came out in 2013, my sister told me about most of what happened in this book (same with “Heir of Fire”), and so I went in carefully watching for any subtleties that I might have missed if the book had been new to me. One of the things that I really noticed within “Crown of Midnight” was how Celaena’s and Dorian’s relationship fell apart and then morphed into something new.

You all know how much I LOVED Dorian Havilliard in “Throne of Glass,” and that didn’t change after reading “Crown of Midnight.” Dorian was still an amazing and glorious character in this book, but his and Celaena’s deteriorating friendship in the first half of “Crown of Midnight” broke my heart. I knew they wouldn’t end up together as a couple once I had finished “Throne of Glass” even though they were quite nearly perfect for one another, but even with that knowledge, it was still torturous having to watch Celaena reject and push him aside so efficiently. Dorian was angry and hurt, so he distanced himself from her a bit, but he was never cruel or unkind towards her despite the fact she had torn his heart apart, and he always left the door of friendship open to Celaena.

“Crown of Midnight” was full of rejection and betrayal for Dorian from all of those he cared (namely Chaol and Celaena, but also his father), but he really stepped up his game in every way possible in it. I loved Dorian in “Crown of Midnight” so much because he never changed into something that he wasn’t, he just grew as a person, and I liked that Sarah J. Maas began to make an even more important character in her series. Dorian went through a lot in this book from loosing Celaena, Chaol betraying him in a way, to discovering a huge secret about himself. Depsite all that he went through in “Crown of Midnight,” Dorian stayed true and even became stronger as an individual. Personally, one of the most satisfying things in this book was when Celaena, by the end of it, realized that Dorian was her truest friend and that she would fight to protect him, and he for her, if it came to that.

unnamedIt was so awesome to have Celaena acknowledge the fact that Dorian had always been by her side, on her side; I knew it, but it was still great to see her finally admit it to herself. I desperately wanted Dorian and Celaena to be together, but I was at least grateful that these characters had a really strong connection and relationship, even if it wasn’t the kind that I had originally hoped for.

I feel like most of the characters in “Crown of Midnight” experience some sort of change or growth, all except Chaol who, once again, irritated me. I think one of my biggest issues with Chaol was that he felt pointless, and if he were to be removed from the series entirely, it would have no effect on the plot. I mean, while Celaena was out getting business done, Nehemia was doing her own stuff at court trying to save her people, and Dorian was discovering quite a few new things about himself, dealing with his evil father, and trying to keep the people of Erilea from getting massacred, Chaol was doing nothing of great use or anything of importance. So, yeah, compared to everyone else in this book, Chaol was pretty useless, and the only thing he actually did that helped the plot of this series along was keep a HUGE secret from Celaena. *slow claps* Bravo, Chaol, bravo.

Although the amount of Chaol and his and Celaena’s romance made me not like “Crown of Midnight” as much as “Throne of Glass,” I still enjoyed reading it. I loved seeing Dorian grow as a person, and I liked learning more about Erilea beyond the borders of Adarlan. I didn’t feel quite as engaged in reading this book (not just because of Chaol/Celaena), but I think that the direction Sarah J. Maas took with Celaena and her relationships with other characters in “Crown of Midnight” was very interesting, and I am curious to see where she plans to take them in future books. Very well done, just didn’t leave quite the mark on me that “Throne of Glass” had.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #1)

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“Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

5 out of 5 stars.

After being a slave in Endovier’s salt mines for a year, Celaena Sardothien is commanded to stand before the Crown Prince of Adralan who has come to offer her a surprising deal. If she travels with him to Rifthold, Celaena will act as his Champion and compete against other assassins in a series of challenges to gain the position of Adarlan’s royal assassin, and should she succeed, Celaena will be granted her freedom after a handful of years in service to the King of Adarlan. But if she should choose to refuse the Prince Dorian’s generous offer, then she will be sent directly back to Endovier to serve in the salt mines for the rest of her life. As repulsive as the Crown Prince’s offer is to her, Celaena chooses to swallow her pride with the knowledge that she can, will, survive the coming trials as the prince’s Champion and gain the freedom she craves.

Once Celaena arrives in Rifthold, she encounters some of the other Champions who are also attempting to claim the title of the King’s Assassin. Celaena’s competitors come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from boys to seasoned warriors, and she begins to wonder if she can really win the coveted position of royal assassin that will one day buy her freedom, or if Celaena Sadorthien isn’t as good an assassin as she once was. Pushing her doubts aside as much as she can, Celaena tries to adapt to life at court and finds some unexpected companionship with Prince Dorian and the mysterious princess from Eyllwe. Even her gruff trainer, Chaol, starts to grow on her despite her greatest efforts to not care for anyone in Rifthold.

But before Celaena can get settled in her new position at court as Dorian’s Champion, the other competitors start getting targeted by something sinister within the great glass castle of Rifthold, and one after another, they are ending up dead. With not only her freedom on the line in this competition, Celaena has to race against the clock to figure out who, or what, is killing the other Champions before she becomes its next victim.

I love “Throne of Glass.” I read it for the first time nearly three years ago, and I had loved it then, but somehow, reading it this last summer made me fall even more in love with “Throne of Glass” and its characters. Sarah J. Maas is a fantastic author and her worlds and the plots of each of her series are all phenomenal, but what I admire the most about her as an author is how diverse and unique her characters always are. I’ve read all of the books that she has written (minus the “Throne of Glass” novellas), and so far there hasn’t been a character who has felt like a repeat; for having so many books written with such a wide range of personalities, that is quite a feat in itself! I really enjoy the fact that each of her books always comes with an original cast of characters who pop off of the pages, and although I liked a lot of characters in “Throne of Glass,” one in particular captured my heart…

Dorian Havilliard, my love! I will sink in his SHIP if it comes to that because of how much I love this character.

warner go down with this shipDorian was my favorite character because of the heart he brought to this story, his sincerity, and, of course, his cheekiness. I was impressed with how much depth he had for a character who didn’t get as much page time as the others, and Dorian just completely won me over while I read “Throne of Glass” for the first time, and reading it again this summer only made me love him more! This male character was swoon inducing for just the pure fact that he was Dorian, all of his good-lookingness aside, and I loved that he and Celaena bonded over literature. I mean, come on, he practically gave her a library, which made my inner Disney fangirl scream, “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.” Yeah, this Disney girl heartily approves of characters who bond over the written word.
beauty and the beastAnother thing that I really like about Dorian was that he was such an aware character. He was watchful and not blind to the things happening within the walls of his home even though his father would have preferred him to be, and he genuinely cared about people despite the indifferent front he would sometimes hide behind. There was a really great moment in “Throne of Glass” where you get to see Dorian feeling the full weight of everything involving Celaena and the people of his father’s kingdom came crashing down on him, and even though he shouldn’t have cared because it didn’t affect him directly, he felt it all so deeply. I loved Dorian so much, and he was without a doubt my favorite character in this book.

Celaena was also a really good character, and although she was intense and abrasive, she grew on me as the book progressed. I cared for her a lot as a heroine, and I think that she became a little less abrasive and showed more kindness towards certain people by the end of “Throne of Glass.” I will say, though, that the moments that really impressed me concerning her character were the ones when she was with Dorian. Celaena and Dorian had a couple of really sweet moments that endeared both characters to me; those parts of this book showed a softening in Celaena’s hard, protective shell and helped me to see the broken girl who had lost everything and had to harden her heart against the world to survive it. Maybe I’m biased because Dorian was in those scenes, but for me they were the moments when I got see the Celaena who had emotional depth beyond anger and who could be a good friend. I liked Celaena as a female character on her own and enjoyed seeing her interact with other characters like Nehemia, but my favorite exchanges were between her and Dorian.

I absolutely loved Dorian and Celaena together in “Throne of Glass,” and although I can’t see Sarah J. Maas writing this series with them ending up together, I will SHIP them together forever.

264c7a50eb3efa86f89c85a3ec5b8204I loved them together, and I enjoyed the fact that they were enemies who became friends before they ever turned into something more. I wish that Sarah J. Maas would write Celaena and Dorian a (fairly) happily ever after, but even if she doesn’t, I shall shamelessly SHIP this couple to the “Throne of Glass” series’s end.

One character, though, that I REALLY disliked in “Throne of Glass” was Chaol Westfall. What is it with people and their love of Chaol and why do they feel so attached to him? Chaol, for me, was a complete flat-liner of a character. I felt nothing for him in “Throne of Glass,” and my dislike for him has carried itself into the other two books in this series. He brooded most of this book away, and there was not really anything for me to grow attached to in this character. There were a couple of scenes between Chaol and Dorian where I could see the history they had, and those moments almost made me like Chaol, but then I remembered that he was trying to take Celaena away from Dorian. I thought that was a really underhanded thing to do to a friend, especially since Chaol had disliked Celaena so much to start with and claimed to be such a great and faithful friend to Dorian.

I understand that Sarah J. Maas was probably trying to write a male character who needed to grow and whose perspective needed to change a bit concerning his initial judgment of Celaena, but even after reading the books that follow “Throne of Glass,” I didn’t see much growth in a positive direction on his part. I don’t understand what people feel drawn towards in this character, and as much as I wish I understood his appeal (even if I didn’t end up sharing it), I just don’t get it!

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 Alright, the last character who played a fairly large role in this book was Nehemia, the Princess of Eyllwe, and I thought that she was very interesting to observe while reading this book. I liked how she and Celaena bonded during their first little bit in Rifthold over their less than ideal circumstances and how they formed a strong friendship by the end of “Throne of Glass.” I think that Nehemia’s presence helped to fill out Celaena’s character a lot, and I really liked the dynamic that her character created. Nehemia and Dorian seemed to humanize Celaena the most out of everyone in this book, and that’s one of the many reasons I like them so much as characters.
Overall, I really ended up falling even more in love with “Throne of Glass” the second time around. The world that Sarah J. Maas created in this book was dark and wicked, but it also had moments of being bright and beautiful, and I loved how she transported me to another place with her words. I definitely recommend the “Throne of Glass” series to anyone who is looking for mature, intelligent high-fantasy books!