“Empire of Storms” by Sarah J. Maas
3 1/2-4 out of 5 stars.
“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…
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.
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.
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?
* 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.