Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas
Published in September 2015 by Bloomsbury UK.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: high fantasy.

My rating:

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.

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.

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This review is for the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series. You can read my reviews for the first three books here and here – and I’m warning you right now that THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR BOOKS. There. I just assume that anybody reading a review for the fourth book without reading the first three is asking to be spoiled (I avoided all reviews for this reason) but I’d also like to discuss some spoilery stuff in this part, so you’ve been warned.

First of all, you may have noticed (probably not but still) that I classified this as “high fantasy” without the “YA”. I don’t think Queen of Shadows is a young adult bookHeir of Fire wasn’t, either, but I didn’t really focus on that in my review. But I think it’s worth mentioning now because Aelin’s story is no longer the story of a girl but the story of a woman, a young queen. If you think about it, this whole series is classifiable as YA only because Celaena is 17 at the beginning of the first book – her problems are huge and her responsibilities even bigger, even then. I’m not saying young readers shouldn’t read this series (I read “adult” books almost exclusively when I was in high school) but it begs the question as to why it’s being marketed as YA if it’s not, really. It’s not like adult books can’t feature teenage protagonists.

And then … I have to say that I liked the book but didn’t love it like I did with Heir of Fire. I was a wreck when I finished that one – but now, though I flew through the 600-page monstrosity in two days, I still feel like it could have gone better.

First of all, the first 200 pages dragged. I stopped counting the times Aelin just slaughtered the Valg-infested guards and kept plotting stuff that nobody else knew about. I disliked how Chaol interacted with her. I loved Chaol as a character and I think that this change to a bitter, foul-mouthed rebel is just too jarring to be believable. Yes, I know he was disenchanted and all but hey, he was a really good guy so I have trouble believing he’d act like that. Also, while I’m glad Aedion got more spotlight, I can’t really say his character brought anything new to the table. Another large, muscled male man who feels the need to piss circles around his favourite cousin (her words, not mine). I’m hoping both of them will get a chance to liven up a bit in the last two books of the series.

Then there’s Aelin herself. I really liked how she changed in Heir of Fire, she really grew into her potential (I like to see character development over the arc of a series). And now she fell back into her routine of secrets and killing and snark that did nothing to disguise the fact that she didn’t really trust anyone. Eh. By the way, did anyone notice the body count she (and the others) managed to rack up? I know those soldiers were all infested by demons and the humans “begged to be killed” but does that diminish the fact that they destroyed hundreds of the King’s guard?

And then there’s Rowan. Okay so I think he’s pretty majestic (still liked him better in Heir of Fire!) and I liked seeing his composure crumble, but what is it with 300-year-old men and 20-year-old women?! I keep complaining about this and I know everyone thinks it’s terribly romantic but hell, I can’t help but be creeped out by it, especially if one of the pair is immortal and the other “merely” human.

Also – and this is going to sound weird, but I think you can handle my weird, can’t you? – there is no way Rowan and Aelin would have been able to keep their hands off each other in real life. NO WAY. I’d buy it up until that first kiss. Possibly. Because they had their misgivings and they knew everything would change, yadda yadda. (But also not – sleeping in the same bed, hugging each other, almost naked, with that attraction between them? Nope.) I’m not saying people – human or Fae – are just animals, unable to contain their instincts. But I felt like Maas was just dragging this thing along to make their final connection in a later book. Ugh. I don’t know. I just felt like the whole “I don’t want an audience when I make you moan” thing was a bit silly. They’re fantastic warriors and they can’t figure out how to be alone together for a night? Right.

That said, I really enjoyed the friendship part(s) of this book. Both Aelin and Lysandra and Manon and Asterin made me feel all warm-hearted and happy. I did have my doubts about the A&L friendship at first (too sudden?) but hey, I won’t complain, they’re pretty great. Lysandra is a really cool character and I liked how she put an end to her tormentor. I liked that Aelin let go of the past so her friend could put her own demons to rest.

And the Ironteeth witches in general are awesome. They’re brutal and gruesome but also not the worst monsters that exist in this weird world. And their wyverns? So cool. I hope the Thirteen end up on the “right” side of the war in the end because I’d hate for Manon and Aelin NOT to be allies – they’d really be amazing together on the battlefield, don’t you think? I’m also curious about the rest of Rowan’s cadre, the other Fae warriors that served with him in the Fae Queen’s army. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of them soon.

Whew, this is longer that I expected. Anyway, I liked this book but not as much as Heir of Fire. I really hope the other two books will get even better because I’d hate for the third book to be the climax of the series. I’m impatiently waiting for the announcement of the title for the fifth book and hoping it comes in 2016! (Probably not, but still.)

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Have you read Queen of Shadows? What did you think?

Which part of the series is the most important for you – the beginning, the middle or the end?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Maraia

    I agree, this isn’t exactly a YA novel. If I had to summarize the book in one sentence, it would be: “Aelin trying to seduce Rowan in skimpy lingerie.”

    I also agree about Chaol. It’s as if SJM changed her mind mid-series and had to re-work his character so he was no longer a viable love interest. I don’t buy it. Heir of Fire ended with both of them mooning over each other! What happened in between that and the start of QoS to change their opinions so drastically?

    One thing that really bugged me was that, despite all of Aelin’s supposed badass-ness, she wasn’t the one to kill either Arobynn OR the King. (I actually do think it’s fitting that Dorian got to kill the King, but it’s still super lame that Aelin didn’t do any of the major killing herself.)

    Really, the only parts I enjoyed even a little were the ones from Manon’s POV. I would totally get behind a Manon-Dorian ship. I will not, however, be continuing the series. SJM and I are done, haha.

    • Yep, that’s a fairly accurate summary! :D Not that I don’t like lingerie but maybe the whole seduction business isn’t really appropriate. Do I sound old? Are we suddenly OLD, Maraia?!

      And yes, Chaol’s story makes zero sense. Also Aelin’s killing spree – that doesn’t end in her killing anyone important, just hundreds of those demons.

      I actually hoped Manon and Rowan would get together, THAT would have been explosive! :D

      And yikes, really? I saw on your list of “worst books” (still planning on discussing that with you!) that you hated ACOTAR but I didn’t know it was that bad! I will probably see this one to its end (I’m more than halfway through) and with ACOTAR, I’m giving her another chance to set things right. We’ll see.

      • Maraia

        Hahaha, we might be old. But also, as the best assassin, Aelin should have more to offer than just showing off her body to get a guy. (Not that she can’t do that, too, if she wants.)

        I could definitely see a Manon-Rowan ship!

        Yeah, I just really hated the sexual violence/control in ACOTAR. =/ Hah, depending on page count, you may not be halfway through. I will definitely read your reviews of both series, though. And ask for all the spoilers. :D

  • Alas, despite really enjoying the first three books, this one did feel like a bit of a letdown. As a huge Chaol supporter, I did not like the direction his character took. Like you, it’s hard for me to reconcile who he was in the first three books with this one. I also felt that Aelin took a step back in terms of character development, especially when it came to her interactions with Chaol. I absolutely love Manon and her crew and am looking forward to more of their storyline. Great review!

    • I loved Chaol, too, he was such a sweet, loyal man – and now he just changed. :(
      Yeah, that’s a good point – Heir of Fire was probably the most interesting to me because Aelin developed so much, and now she seemed stuck on her revenge.
      Yes, let’s hope for more witches! :)

  • Even though a lot of people seemed quite disappointed with this book, I actually really liked it, although it definitely wasn’t as good as Heir of Fire. I did have a little eye-roll at the whole Rowan-Aelin relationship though because it was just so predictable (it was pretty much over with Chaol as soon as he came on the scene!), and as you say, it seems a little unrealistic if they were that into each other that they slept in bed with each other and nothing at all happened between them. Absolutely loving the witches though, and I so hope they end up teaming up with Aelin in the end. I’m seriously curious about the whole Dorian-Manon thing too.
    Great review!

    • Gah, I know, it was obvious that an ancient fae warrior would win over a poor human but I still hoped Chaol might get back with Aelin. Oh, well. *sigh*
      Yeah, I’m hoping for more witchy page-time in the next book, I like their stories so much!
      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  • Hmm, this series still feels very YA to me, despite the grown up protagonists. I think part of it is because, even though everyone is a few years older, they’re all still acting like a bunch of kids. I really disliked the pissing contests the men got into around Aelin, for example. And gah, can’t agree more with Maraia’s comment below. I cringed when she did the whole sexy lingerie act. I had a much better time with Heir of Fire because of their platonic relationship, now Rowan is reduced to just another piece of man meat for Aelin. I swear she throws herself at every attractive male in this book…I’m sure she’d have done the same to her cousin too if they weren’t related. The only thing I loved about this book was the ending. It was pretty amazing. But it also begs the question, what’s next? I can’t believe there’s more after this! How can you possibly top that explosive ending?! Hopefully there will be more Manon, I adored her.

    • “A piece of man meat” hahaha :D MOGSY, LANGUAGE! *outraged gasp* Nope, you’re completely right. All we get to see from Rowan’s POV is his struggling to keep his pants up around Aelin.

      But yeah, OF COURSE she gets all the men, she’s BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING and UNBELIEVABLY SEXY and…. Yeah. I like my characters a bit more flawed, I have to admit.

      And it DID have a very climax-y feel to it, didn’t it? I know they still have to defeat that demon prince but it’ll have to be pretty damn good to top this. And yes, Manon’s great. I hope she doesn’t end up all weak and human. :D

  • I agree with you that this series is more mature than the average YA series. I tend to call these mature-YA XD I am sorry that you didn’t love this one as much as the rest though. I know you’re not only one. Despite loving this one myself, I was devastated when I found out that Chaol was out as Aelin’s love interest. Despite it being pretty clear in HoF that they were done, I still held out hope. I adored Chaol! Surprisingly, I ended up getting sold on the new ship though, which was surprising.

    • Yeah, “mature-YA” is a good expression. I wonder if the sex scenes (I’m assuming we’ll get to them eventualy?) will be as graphic as in ACOTAR, for example. We’ll see.
      I loved Chaol, too, so I’m hoping he gets his happy ending!

  • I haven’t read this one because I felt Heir of Fire was a bit slow, so I’m sad to hear you felt the pacing was slow in this one too. :( Nonetheless, thank you for sharing your thoughts (very interesting insight re: how it’s being marketed as YA) and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Thanks, Zoe! :)
      I did feel that the pace picked up in the second half of the book. The ending was pretty explosive and made me want to read the next book in any case. And I’m more than half-way through with the series so I want to finish it.