Her name is Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, and she will not be afraid.
After nearly a decade of denying her identity, Aelin is back from Wendlyn to embrace her birthright and take down the monsters who destroyed her childhood and murdered her people. She’s ready to fight for freedom — but first thing’s first: revenge.
Revenge for Sam, the love who taught her to live again. For Nehemia, the best friend who always believed she could be so much more. For Aedion, the family who never lost faith in her. And for Dorian, the enslaved prince she once believed to be the only friend she had left in the world.
And of course, Aelin is seeking vengeance for Celaena — the child manipulated by kings into becoming a monster unto herself. For once last encore, Celaena Sardothien’s back. And gentlemen, you reap what you sow.
‘Queen of Shadows’ review
Can there ever be too much of a good thing? Queen of Shadows gave me everything I wanted, until I realized I didn’t really want it anymore.
In theory, Queen of Shadows delivered on every promise the series has made to the reader. And yet, when I finished the book, I was left conflicted. Queen of Shadows lacked the subtle grace of Heir of Fire and the emotional whiplash of Crown of Midnight. Despite leaning so heavily on the plot threads left over from The Assassin’s Blade, it paled in comparison to the organic romance and heart-stopping betrayals of the novellas, as well. At times, for me, Queen of Shadows read like an alternate-reality fanfiction.
It’s important that I be clear that my overall disappointment in Queen of Shadows has to do with my own personal preferences, and that many readers — in all likelihood, most readers— will find the fourth installment in the Throne of Glass series to be a logical, enthralling follow-up to Heir of Fire. Readers who found the third book to be too slow will likely enjoy the nonstop, page turning action Queen of Shadows provides.
However, while Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire diverted expectations to deliver heartbreaking surprises for the reader, Queen of Shadows reminded me of the originally divisive Throne of Glass in its exploitation of predictable YA tropes, particularly in regards to romance. I mean, we get it: Aelin’s super hot. But after making it this far in the series, it’s just getting a little bit exhausting to read about how every.single.man. she meets must fall head over heels for her in book after book after book. The blind loyalty with which some men follow Aelin comes off as unhealthy to me, to the point of being just plain creepy. Which brings me to the true shining light of wisdom in this book: Chaol.
Grappling with the loss of everything he’s ever believed in, and desperate to save his true king and dearest friend, Chaol spends the book struggling to redefine his sense of self. He’s moody, and grumpy, and determined to be miserable as penitence for what he feels was his part in what happened to Dorian, Sorscha, and Nehemia.
And yet, through his veil of misery comes a sense of clarity. As always, he’s bringing up sound, logical arguments that everyone else would rather ignore. Yes, Aelin’s raw power could save them all. And yet, left unchecked, she and her court’s unstoppable, inhuman power is dangerous and terrifying — just the other side of the coin to the king’s world-dominating influence.
Rounding out the Throne of Glass trio is Dorian, whose kind, gentle nature I’ve always felt has been severely underrated in a series where everyone else has been bred to assume the worst of humanity. He continues to shine in this book with a storyline that will break your heart. Sarah J. Maas is an expert at creating flashy new characters for readers to fall in love with, but for me, the heart of this series has always been the three leads, and their fragmented, ruptured relationships with each other. With Celaena gone, Aelin’s disconnect with the two men feels tragic, yet evolutionarily necessary for them all to grow.
With that being said, I have to say that where Queen of Shadows truly succeeds is in the evolution of its friendships between women. Some fascinating new (and old!!!!!) characters come into play in Aelin’s life, and since I’d hate to the ruin the surprises that are in store, I’ll just say that each of the women introduced is striking, bold, and brilliant.
The storyline with Manon and the witches was a particularly welcome surprise! Though I found Manon’s story to feel somewhat out of place in Heir of Fire and thought that it dragged on unnecessarily, in Queen of Shadows the witches are further developed beyond Manon, and her unique relationships with each of the members of her Thirteen are explored in a way that I found to be downright moving. It’s an interesting take on a culture that places no authority on a patriarchal system, and yes, it is pretty empowering to read about women banding together to take control of their own destiny.
All in all, I have to give the fourth installment in the Throne of Glass saga 4 out of 5 stars. Despite my disappointment, any Sarah J. Maas book is still better than most other books, and it is infinitely better than most young adult fantasies. I’m choosing to take my disappointment as a sign that what the author is doing is working in favor of the series, because it means that five books in, I still deeply care. It means that I have come to expect unexpected greatness from the series, and refuse to settle for anything less.
Because what the Throne of Glass series has going for it is that for once, the YA heroine hasn’t stumbled upon her power in a “Golly, geez, why me?” Mary Sue scenario. Aelin is purposeful, Aelin is ferocious, she is, as Elizabeth Bennet would say “A fearsome thing to behold.” She’s brilliant not because the fates gave her a birthright, but because she’s simply the best, and only person capable of doing what she does. Yes, Aelin is, and has always been, beautiful. But more importantly, she is deadly. She is broken. And though she’s doing her best to put herself together, she still has so much room in which to grow.
Queen of Shadows,the fourth installment in Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series, is out today, September 1, 2015. You can add it to your Goodreads list, or purchase it from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or IndieBound.