When I first got done with Queen of Shadows about a week ago, it was very early in the morning and I had a lot of thoughts that I just dumped into my Notes app before knocking out for the night.
I never ended up refining those notes before I moved onto Tower of Dawn and Empire of Storms, and seeing as I’ve just finished both of those today and have MORE thoughts, I figured I would just post that 2AM rant here. So please enjoy my semi-coherent reaction to Book 4 of the Throne of Glass series by our YA Overlord, Sarah J. Maas.
Oh… and Spoiler Alert.**
From Liv’s Notes App @2:13AM EST:
Queen of Shadows is much slower than Heir of Fire which is understandable since it’s setting so much up for the next few books (I’m assuming). I’m not sure I would’ve been so invested from the beginning without Manon’s chapters since Aelin’s plotline doesn’t really get moving until nearly after the halfway point.
Speaking of characters, they are definitely both SJM’s strongest and weakest links depending on which one we’re talking about. I love Aelin of course, she’s badass and it’s been awesome to watch her grow into herself after knowing her as Celaena for so long. Lysandra and Elide are also fantastic characters that we got to know in this installment. I particularly enjoy how uplifting their arcs are since one is a former sex worker (treated poorly by everyone) and the other is essentially an abused slave to her pervy uncle. I’m glad to see the slut shaming that plagued the first book got corrected at least in this sense. And Asterin??? What an interesting side character! She has one of the darkest arcs in this book and I gobbled it up. I hope the rest of the Thirteen get some of that development too in later books.
Dorian is interesting but he literally doesn’t have a lot of agency for most of the book. That being said, his ✨trauma✨ is compelling. I sure hope he receives therapy after this book. He is Daddy Issues™ incarnate.
Chaol is super boring, as he has been since the end of CoM and I really think this would be fixed if only IF ONLY SJM would grow a pair and actually put a LGBTQ+ relationship in the main cast (considering the fact that EVERYONE gets paired up with someone or multiple someone’s, why are they all so freaking hetero). Chaol x Dorian would not only make sense, it would add some much needed flavor and nuance. No I will not be accepting criticism on this point. Basically my expectations for Tower of Dawn are low but I have heard it’s the book that redeems him as a character, so we’ll see.
Can we talk for a second about how Rowan went from being the most interesting character in HoF and then immediately became a piece of cardboard with abs? With the amount of times Aelin and Aedion (who are cousins btw) have low-key flirtatious interactions, I’m convinced that he and Rowan are the same person in two bodies but only one of those bodies can be romantically involved with Aelin without things getting too weird. I know I’ve been asking for spice, but that’s not what I meant. (I never thought I’d miss Rhysand but here we are. Like at least he kind of has a personality.)
Now for the reason this book is 4 stars and not 3: Manon Blackbeak. What can I say, I’m a sucker for morally grey women that are insanely violent but have just enough heart buried in there to make me want to see how they evolve. Manon carries a solid 85% of this book on her back and I adore her. SJMs world building and plot regarding the witches and their whole deal at Morath is the greatest thing to come from TOG thus far. I can already see that she and Dorian are being pushed together and I’m already so disappointed and over it. I really don’t think Manon needs a love interest, and if SJM truly insists on it, then put her with Asterin since there’s chemistry built in there. Literally, why are you so afraid of making one of your main couples not heterosexual. I don’t understand.
I think I sound madder about this than I really am. I stand by the fact that this book earns it’s 4 stars since it’s so ambitious, complex (plot wise), and generally enjoyable. Plus that final climax was INSANELY good. (Go off, Kaltain, omfg!!) And I’m being extra generous because again, I adore Manon more than anyone else here.
That being said, I still have issues as I’ve mentioned and SJM’s writing, mechanically, is flawed. The fae behavior is super repetitive and cringe-inducing at times. I feel uncomfy every time someone is referred to as a territorial male, every time something that isn’t a dog barks, every time someone makes a vulgar gesture, and every time one of the Fae “scents” something. It comes across like a kink the author has and I feel like I’m intruding on something I’m not supposed to be hearing about.
I know it’s a common meme for people to make the “SJM Drinking Game” joke but I actually think I would die if I took a drink every time I came across one of those occurrences I mentioned.
I sound mad again, don’t I? I’m sorry, I’m really not, and I do like this series a lot so far. I just think it’s fair to humble it a little since it’s touted as one of the greatest YA/NA fantasy/romance series ever by its stans (and there’s an army of them), maybe paling only to ACOTAR which is another series by SJM and also has a lot of the same problems but that’s an essay for another time.
If you actually read all of this, thank you and I’m sorry.
So as I’ve stated I’ve since finished both Tower of Dawn and Empire of Storms so you can expect a tandem review for those soon. I didn’t love them.