Book Review – Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

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TITLE:  Queen of Shadows

SERIES:  Throne of Glass, book 4

AUTHOR:  Sarah J. Maas

FORMAT:  Ebook via Google Play Books

PAGES/LOCATIONS:  573 pages

GOODREADS’ AVG. RATING:  4.69 out of 5.00; 9,154 ratings

SYNOPSIS PROVIDED:

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

DATES READ:  September 3rd to 9th, 2015

MY REVIEW:

She was the heir of fire.  She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers.  She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.~Aelin

I came into Queen of Shadows expecting an incredible story, but I am still unsure if I was properly prepared for this.  This book was such a satisfying read, so much so that I was unable to formulate proper thought upon completing it.  Honestly, Queen of Shadows felt like an epic close to one story arc and the opening of the next – full of infinite possibilities.

The impact of this book greatly stemmed from the death of Celaena Sardothien and the rebirth of Aelin Ashryver Galathynius.  We watched as Aelin got justice for not only herself, but for Sam, for Wesley, for Lysandra, and for countless others who were wronged by Arobynn Hamel.  I discussed my thoughts on Arobynn in my review of The Assassin’s Blade and they most definitely haven’t improved since.  Arobynn was only out to do what was best for Arobynn and no one else, regardless of what he claimed to Aelin.  Yet, Aelin was willing to give him a single chance to prove her wrong and when he instead proved her right she continued on without mercy.  While this moment was a large culmination of Aelin being able to let go of Celaena, I felt that this was further accomplished when she finally visited Sam’s grave.  It was only upon finding that sense of closure that she was ultimately going to be able to move forward in life and I am glad that she found it.  The moment of true rebirth for Aelin is the fight with the King of Adarlan, this is the point where she takes up her mantle and claims it.  In the aftermath of the King’s death, Aelin names herself to the crowd as Queen of Terrasen and states she is seizing control of Adarlan and subsequently Rifthold until such time as their prince is well enough to be crowned king and assume responsibility.  And when all’s said and done, Aelin took the biggest first step in establishing herself as queen – she at long last returned home, her court at her side.

Truthfully, I absolutely love Aelin’s court and her relationships with each of them.  Aedion is Aelin’s connection to the past, to her life in Terrasen before its downfall.  He will ever be the sword at her back and loyal to her as his Queen and cousin, he is the family she has always needed.  Then we have Lysandra, a most unexpected member of her court based on their history.  To find out that Lysandra had ultimately been waiting for Aelin to strike back and wanted to help her do so was shocking.  In The Assassin’s Blade, their animosity towards each other is blatant and yet everything changed for them both after Sam’s death, and Lysandra further after the death of Wesley.  To find out Lysandra helped to spare a child from sharing in her fate as a prostitute by disfiguring the girl’s face was somehow beautiful in its sadness.  I couldn’t help but be proud of Lysandra for saving Evangeline and taking on the ensuing punishment for doing so.  Further, Lysandra is a shape-shifter making her an incredibly strong ally and good in a fight.  In spite of all these things though, I ultimately believe that Lysandra and Aelin just need each other’s friendship more than anything else.  To be raised in such a way where you are constantly being played against others, such as Lysandra and Aelin were, doesn’t leave much room for friendship so to see them ultimately overcome that is beautiful.  It is important to celebrate those strong female friendships when we find them since a great deal of female interaction is typically tearing each other down.  Women should be allies for other women, building each other up rather than tearing each other down.  Last but not least, we have Rowan.

I mentioned in my review of Heir of Fire that I had a deep appreciation for Rowan’s introduction as more than just a potential love interest, I stated that the relationship he had developed with Aelin was everything that she needed and it ultimately was everything he needed as well for them to both move forward with their lives.  Even after the events of Queen of Shadows, I am still left appreciating the relationship between Rowan and Aelin because of how it developed.  Aelin reflects on her relationship with Rowan thinking:

Not a monster—not for what she’d done, not for her power, not when Rowan was there. She’d thank the gods every damn day for the small mercy of giving her a friend who was her match, her equal, and who would never look at her with horror in his eyes. No matter what happened, she’d always be grateful for that.

Their relationship wasn’t some quick paced new romance, it was a love which grew out of their mutual acceptance and understanding of each other’s past and an eventual friendship which became more.  For me, there is something more meaningful and slightly romantic in the development of their relationship.  Both Rowan and Aelin have expressed the same sentiment stating, “You make me want to live.  Not exist—but live.”  There is something innately sad in those few words because it is a subtle reminder that both of them have spent a large portion of their lives focusing on surviving day to day rather than living it.  One of the great declarations of love in the past has always been expressing a willingness to die for someone, but I think I find the idea of someone declaring they are willing to live for me to be so much more meaningful.  Further, there is this little gem from Rowan:

I spent centuries wandering the world, from empires to kingdoms to wastelands, never settling, never stopping—not for one moment. I was always looking toward the horizon, always wondering what waited across the next ocean, over the next mountain. But I think … I think that whole time, all those centuries, I was just looking for you.

If that isn’t a declaration of love, I don’t know what is!  I look forward to the continuing evolution of the relationship between Aelin and Rowan.  They’ve made their feelings clear to each other, but now we will see how they are able to work as a couple once she is officially coronated and begins to rule as Queen of Terrasen.  There have been subtle mentions at the potential for securing strong alliances through marriage on her part or Aedion’s.  Rowan is a Fae prince in his own right which has the potential to lend Aelin great strength to her lands, however, this also has the potential to alienate human allies as well.  Aedion expressed a willingness to marry for an alliance if Aelin wished him to do so, but I just couldn’t see Aelin honestly following through on that (I also suspect that Lysandra would be most displeased were it to happen as well).  I only hope that the political mumbjo jumbo won’t get in the way of the relationships Aelin has formed romantic, friendship, and familial alike.

On the topic of political relationships and friendship, I am glad that Dorian has now been crowned King of Adarlan upon his father’s death.  Dorian suffered so much through Queen of Shadows and yet some small part of him kept fighting the Valg prince and he was able to be restored.  I think Dorian has the potential to be a strong and wise king, but Adarlan is likely going to be quite weak because it is unlikely that many are going to flock to ally with Dorian and Adarlan after the actions of his father.  Granted, with Aelin and Terrasen as an ally he will have the opportunity to make changes that look toward the future and will ultimately strengthen his position as a leader.  It is just going to take time for him to reach that point, but I have a feeling that when he does Dorian is going to prove himself a capable king.  We can’t discuss the king without mentioning his most loyal supporter, Chaol Westfall.  I am willing to admit that I believe Chaol has finally found redemption, but it ultimately came at a very high cost.  Chaol’s redemption, in my mind stemmed from him being willing to finally fully accept and trust in Aelin – he ultimately trusted in her to save Dorian.  Chaol pinned all of his hopes and dreams onto Dorian and when he ultimately failed him (in his mind) by allowing him to be collared, his world shattered and he felt compelled to make it right.  I don’t dislike Chaol but I am not really a fan of his either, mostly because I felt he had a tendency to externalize a lot of his problems and blame other people which is incredibly unhealthy.  My only hope is that after his experiences in Queen of Shadows he has grown as a character and will be more than he was before.

In my Heir of Fire review I mentioned my love for the story line of the Ironteeth witches and that definitely carried over into Queen of Shadows, specifically Mannon and the Thirteen.  The Ironteeth live by the rules of “Obedience, Discipline, Brutality” and yet, Mannon’s story line has continued to veer away from that singular mindset to allow for other emotions.  There are three events which largely exhibit Mannon’s emotional growth:  her interaction and relationship with Elide, her fulfilment of her life debt to Aelin, and the discussion between her and Asterin.  Mannon’s relationship with Elide begins more as a relationship of convenience, Mannon is able to utilize Elide as a spy in exchange for protection from her uncle after Elide claims her blood runs blue and allies herself with the witches.  Elide represents hope, hope for the future – a feeling that Mannon has never allowed herself to feel.  Elide goes so far as to point out, “It is hope for your homeland that guides you, that makes you obey…Because you have been hoping every day of your miserable, hideous life that you’ll get to go home.”  This moment, this single conversation showed Mannon that her and Elide were more alike than she had fathomed because in that moment she recognized that both of them were driven by the same desire to return home.  Yet, I felt like Mannon eventually came to care for Elide though she never expressed it in that manner, though she came pretty close by witch standards:

Regret. It had been regret she’d felt that night she’d killed the Crochan. Regret and guilt and shame, for acting on blind obedience, for being a coward when the Crochan had held her head high and spoken truth.They have made you into monsters. Made, Manon. And we feel sorry for you.It was regret that she’d felt when she heard Asterin’s tale. For not being worthy of trust.And for what she had allowed to happen to those Yellowlegs.She did not want to imagine what she might feel should she bring Elide to her death. Or worse.Brutality. Discipline. Obedience.It did not seem like a weakness to fight for those who could not defend themselves. Even if they weren’t true witches. Even if they meant nothing to her.

Mannon then facilitated Elide in her ability to return home as they both desire through the repayment of a life debt owed to Aelin.  Admittedly, Mannon could have been much more cunning in her interpretation of repayment of the life debt than she was.  Mannon has the potential to live a very long life so long as she doesn’t suffer a life-ending wound and could have determined to repay her life debt at any point in the future.  Yet, Mannon repaid it almost immediately by informing Aelin that Dorian was still trapped inside his own mind by the Valg prince.  This exhibited that Mannon possesses a deeper sense of honor than we were originally led to believe considering her past dealings to acquire the spidersilk for Abraxos’s wings.  Thirdly, the brutally honest discussion between Mannon and Asterin, her cousin and Second, does bring some sense of understanding to emotion as both strength and weakness.  Asterin has been characterized as fire and passion, elements of emotion which are considered weaknesses by the Blackbeak Matron (though her reasons for wanting Asterin demoted from Second were likely more about shunning rather than anything else).  Mannon is seen as ice cold, brutal which are considered characteristics of great strength among the Ironteeth.  Mannon is changing though, she may maintain her composure and appearance of cold brutality, but she is no longer leading a life of blind “Obedience, Discipline, and Brutality.”  I can’t wait to see where Mannon’s changed frame of mind will lead her and the Thirteen.

TL;DR REVIEW:  5.00 out of 5.00 stars.  Truthfully, I am a bit sad that I have caught up in the series because now I have to wait for the next book and that is never a good feeling because you just want to know what happens next now.  Overall, I have been greatly impressed with Maas’s Throne of Glass and I ultimately can’t wait for news regarding our favorite assassin and queen.  To all of my fellow book bloggers and Throne of Glass fans, what were your thoughts on Queen of Shadows?  I would love to hear your thoughts, leave me a comment!

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