Tuesday, January 19, 2016

CBR 8 Review 1: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

“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.” 

I have completely failed to review any of this brilliant series on this blog. You'll have to head over to Cannonball Read to find some other reviews. Suffice it to say that while I will not discuss major spoilers from this volume here (or will properly hide them if I feel a need), I will absolutely discuss things as they fit into the larger narrative. So if you haven't read the first three books in the Throne of Glass series (Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire), you may want to skip this, or tread very lightly.

Queen of Shadows picks up where Heir of Fire left off. Celaena, now only identifying herself as Aelin Galathynius now that she has accepted her heritage, arrives back in Adarlan with several important goals to accomplish. A lot has changed in the months of her absence, including a great deal about her former paramours, Chaol Westfall and Prince Dorian. It's a festival of bad news for Aelin, as she discovers Chaol is no longer Captain of the Guard, due to his connections to the rebellion started in her name, and Dorian...Dorian is being used as a vessel for the horrifying Valg that she barely survived battle with in Wendlyn. Stripped of her Fae powers and form due to the towers restricting magic, Aelin has to figure out how to save her friends, rescue the beloved cousin she didn't realize was alive or supporting her cause, free magic, and start the journey to recover her kingdom, not to mention getting a little long overdue revenge on the man who sent her into slavery - Arobynn Hamel, King of Assassins. 

Aelin isn't the only protagonist we're following. Manon, Wing Leader of the Thirteen, Heir to the Blackbeak Clan, may have secured her spot at the top, but she's not sure what exactly she's supposed to be doing there. Witches don't take orders from mortals, and the chain of command in Morath chafes. Conflicts with her second, demands to use witch clans like chattel, and the discovery of a mixed blood chained and abused who may be of use to them all keep Manon busy, while her grandmother creates a terrifying weapon for the King of Adarlan.

We also get glimpses into Dorian's internal battle with the Valg Prince occupying and controlling his body, the earlier mentioned half witch whose name I cannot currently recall, and our beloved, conflicted Chaol.

The last volume didn't do a lot for me, but this one really did. I think a lot of Heir of Fire suffered by being building blocks for what was to come; a transition from one set of storytelling to the next. Queen of Shadows hits the ground running, adding more characters that we can love (Lysandra, Nesryn) while allowing the ones we already love to grow into better, more complex versions of themselves. The stakes amp up, while still allowing more room to build in the next books. One of the things that made the biggest improvement between volumes was Manon's storyline. I'll admit, the last time 'round, every time a chapter opened in her POV, I set the book down. I just didn't care about her or the witches. This book did a much better job of earning my attention as far as they were concerned. They served the greater story in a more obvious way, Manon as a character got significantly more nuanced, and the addition of input from Asterin helped a lot. Connecting the Thirteen to Kaltain, who we already knew from previous books, was another smart move.

The storytelling in general was tighter and faster paced, while still allowing room for everything to breathe. There's some great work filling in character histories, especially with Lysandra and Arobynn. I could have done with less alpha male posturing between Rowan and Aedion. I understand the function, and that it's a characteristic of the Fae, blah blah blah. It was leaned on too often and for too little payoff. Having Aedion hurt and jealous that someone other than him was allowed to swear the blood oath to Aelin is appropriate; having the two of them try to out-dick each other every time anything happens got old. As did the "we're men that need to protect the woman" thing, even if it was used to show how stupid that is as a concept.

Overall, a really fantastic entry into the Throne of Glass series. I'm incredibly interested to see where we go from here - the ending did a LOT of things, and really shook up the world in an interesting way. There are two more books proposed for the series, which gives Maas plenty of time to play around in the new circumstances she's set up. I adore these characters, which is always the biggest selling point for me, and I like the idea of seeing what they do now that so much has changed, both in the world, and between each of them.

If you like the series, you'll love this book.

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