Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas
Published on September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury Children's.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA high fantasy.

My rating:

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?


This is the review for the fifth part of the series so you can be sure there will be spoilers for the first four books. You can read my reviews for the previous parts here: 1+2, 3, 4. If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know that my relationship with Maas’s books goes up and down. I wasn’t too impressed by Queen of Shadows, so I was curious about Empire of Storms and the direction Maas will take with her story.

After much deliberation, I decided that there will also be SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK. So if you haven’t read it and hate SERIOUS spoilers, you should quit reading this now. I warned you.

So. Here we are, one book away from finishing this series. We’ve been with Celaena/Aelin for a while now and I know I should be invested in her story and rooting for her but you guys, I don’t like her. She’s obnoxious. She makes me want to slap her face (even if she’d cut my hand of as a result). So her storyline was the one I was least excited to read about. Her inability to share her plans with her closest friends and supporters just came off as incredibly arrogant. And now we’ll spend half the last book trying to save her silly ass.

The fact that she and Rowan finally had sex did nothing to improve this book. I’ve said this before but it has to be said again: Empire of Storms is NOT a young adult novel. The series might have started off as young adult but this just isn’t it anymore. I think I complained about this in my review of Queen of Shadows already but this time, it’s even more obvious. Even if it makes me sound like a prude, my complaint is mostly about the sex, which, by the way, was really awkward. On one hand, you have these spectacular orgasms that defy the elements and shake the world and whatnot, and on the other, the obviously “adult” content is censored so there’s no actual naming of body parts and Aelin is forever “grasping him” in her hands and so on. Also, there was one instance that kind of made me want to throw the book against the wall: “Rowan had healed the bruise on the back of her knuckles from the blow she’d dealt the witch – and she’d thanked him by locking the door to their room and getting on her knees before him. She could still feel his fingers fisted in her hair, still hear his groan-” Yeah. I don’t really like a YA character thanking anyone for anything with a BJ.

I was much happier when the story switched to other characters. I love Manon Blackbeak and her coven, I think their friendships, while based on a strict hierarchy, are pretty great. I still think wyverns would make great pets and I want one. I also enjoyed reading about Elide, I liked how resourceful she was and how stubborn. I think we can expect great things from her. I was surprised, however, that Chaol was not present at all in this book. He’s mentioned, sure, but all we know is that he’s recovering from his injuries and might – at a later point – help Aelin and Dorian. That’s it. He has been successfully erased.

What I didn’t like was the fact that everyone gets paired off in this book. We have Aelin and Rowan (but we knew about that one), Aedion likes the shifter Lysandra, Manon hooks up with Dorian (oh yeah, that was awkward, their half-assed attempt at BDSM, lol), and Elide gets Lorcan, one of Rowan’s fae friends. There’s a very brief mention that Aedion is bisexual, which feels like a poor attempt at having more diverse relationships – but I really missed more info on Manon’s Thirteen, some of whom could have much more interesting sex lives than most of the other characters. There’s this overabundance of alpha males in this series – and there’s a lot said about their past relationships, I think the expression used is that they “gorged on women” at some point, which is just gross. Eh.

You might be wondering at this point why I gave the book three stars/hearts if I disliked it so much. Well, I’d be a liar if I didn’t tell you that I flew through it. It’s nearly 700 pages long and I read it in three days, which is super fast for me these days. Maas writes very readable books, there’s no denying that. I’m also invested enough in her other characters that I want to finish the series to see how their stories end.

I also kind of liked the last twist, Aelin’s backup plan wasn’t half bad (even if she really could have shared it with Rowan and Aedion at least), though I didn’t like all the gods and weird ancestors butting in – it just felt like choices were taken away from characters for no apparent reason. It’s kind of simplistic to say a thing happened “because the gods willed it”, so I hope Maas manages to wrap things up in a more satisfactory manner in the last book.

Oof. Yeah. If you made it this far, kudos to you! :)


Have you read Empire of Storms? What did you think?

Do you like the path the series is taking?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Agreed, this is not a YA novel. I think she just up and decided to go New Adult with this series starting with this book, which goes to show how vigilant readers have to be these days, considering how it started as a YA and it’s published under Bloomsbury’s CHILDREN’S arm. Pulling this change with the second last book is just perplexing. I also have to say omg yes, the sex scenes were dreadful. Why can’t Aelin and Rowan just have normal sex, instead of this earth-shattering, lightning inducing, stars exploding sex, overladen with melodrama and these laughable, nonsensical pretty metaphors? I’m seriously debating not finishing this series, but ugh, I hate to come so far and not read the final book.

    • Yeah, I’ve been wondering the same with her other series – why was it published by Bloomsbury Children’s?? It’s so clearly NA. *sigh* But I’ve heard that it’s shelved as adult in some libraries in the US (someone told me when I complained about it in my review).

      Like I said in the comment to your post – I’m a romance reader and I’ve read some BAD sex scenes but this was just ridiculous. I don’t know what possessed her (and her editor!) to put this into a YA book. And I really cringed hard at Manon and Dorian’s scene, too.

      I’m finishing the series for sure but I’ll think very hard before starting anything else she writes. I’ll probably review the book here and rant – I’m going in with pretty low expectations.

  • Well, I was obviously waiting for this review, spoilers and all. I have to say, each review you give for this series puts me off from continuing the series (which is a good thing, honest, I’m glad I can put a series down and just stop before I begin reading and get all frustrated with all the problematic things happening). Like, I think I will probably read Maas other series (maybe, I really am struggling to develop some motivation for it right now) but with all the changes which have happened in this one I just don’t think I can bring myself to. The characters seem to have changed so epically from what they originally were and the story has seemed to get so unwieldy because more books seemed to be added onto the series that I feel like it’s drifted from the original path a bit.

    Also, awkward sex is annoying enough especially in a series which is always on the YA shelves so younger people are going to be reading, but if you’re going to have sex scenes in a book which is marketed as YA do them well and be sensible when including them. Do not include a thank you BJ in it ever! I mean, I would get annoyed at that scene in an adult book let alone a YA one. It’s just ridiculous. I mean ‘thank you for healing me please let me blow you to show my gratitude’ that fills me with so much rage it’s unreal.

    I will obviously read your spoiler filled review for the last book (please, don’t hold back on it) but I was pretty certain before your review I couldn’t be bothered to read and I am now certain I can’t. Maybe in five years time I will see the series and decide to binge read it to form my own opinions because Maas does write such readable books but it will not happen today.

    • See, I’m reading Maas for you and you’ll read Armentrout for me, we’re in a perfect symbiotic relationship! ;)

      Yep, the characters have changed drastically. I mean, of course you expect some character growth over the series but what I’m seeing here is character DETERIORATION and I don’t like it at all. I really think this must have been planned as a trilogy originally and then it got expanded so she’s had to change the story and the people drastically, and it shows. Ugh.

      And yes, the BJ scene is horrible. I mean, what would a 15-y-o even make of this (I’m assuming actual teenagers read this series lol, not just adult bloggers)? It made me uncomfortable and that’s never a good feeling to have when reading sex scenes. And you know I read tons of romance so I’ve read some spectacularly bad sex scenes but this is really extreme.

      Yeah, I’m going into the last book with pretty low expectations. I’ll definitely review it here! :)

      • Exactly, that is definitely the right way to describe this.

        And that is totally right. I expect character growth in a book, I even expect to not always like a character, but these characters seem to have gone backwards and completely changed and not for the better.

        It is worrying to think teenagers (like, actual teenagers) will read that scene. Did the publishers not even think about how it will be taken? It’s like they’ve completely forgotten who the intended audience is with the label of YA. Yes, there are a lot of adults reading these books but I know I would have been reading books like this as a teenager and I wouldn’t want me to have been reading them. And exactly, there are bad sex scenes that make you cringe a bit with the language or whatever but to feel uncomfortable is a sign of a badly written scene altogether.

  • Bless you for your patience with this one. While I was on the fence about picking this one up, I ultimately decided not to and then some spoilers for it kept popping up on my Twitter feed and from what I heard, there was no possible way I was going to enjoy this one. Chaol being MIA pretty much sealed the deal for me. In my mind Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian are the main characters and Maas has gotten so far away from that. I keep hearing that there are a lot of cringe-worthy scenes in this one and it sounds like both her series have kind of invaded the other. Thanks you for sticking it out for those of us not continuing the series!

    • I actually managed to avoid any spoilers for this one – probably because I haven’t had time to really use Twitter for a while now.

      And yeah, Chaol gets ZERO page time, he’s mentioned a couple of times – you’d never guess he was a MAJOR character in the first two books. And Dorian is almost unrecognizable. I mean, you expect the characters to grow over the course of the series but here they just deteriorated.

      I have no idea why she’s putting this much sex into YA books – and awkward, weird sex at that. *sigh*

      Yeah, I’ll definitely be finishing this series, I’ve come so far, but I’m not putting much hope on it getting better.

      • Purnima Harnaraine

        Hi. The reason Chaol doesn’t have any scenes in this book is because he is getting a .5 book for himself. And it makes sense why he wasn’t featured in this book. His storyline doesn’t intertwine with Aelin.

    • Sorry to randomly jump in, but I think the point you made about Celaena, Chaol and Dorian being the main characters is on point, and it does seem like Maas has really gone away from that! I’m kiiiinda uncomfortable with the new characters – Manon is the only exception, because she sounds supremely badass, like Celaena in ToG!

      • No worries about jumping in, this is what comments are meant for! :)

        And yeah, Manon is another kickass lady, I agree, though I feel like she’s a more layered character than Celaena in the first book. I like her devotion to her Thirteen and that she’s a morally gray character.

      • I love Manon. Even though I won’t finish the series, I’d consider picking up a book by Maas if it focused on the Thirteen.

        • Yep, me too. Those ladies are seriously the best thing that happened to this series.

  • Maraia

    Yay, I love reviews with spoilers! I’ve heard a lot of the same complaints from people, haha.

    Have you read Nevernight yet, or are you planning to? I’m curious to know if you’d call it Adult, YA, or NA because of the sex scenes. I haven’t read EoS, obviously, so I don’t know how it compares, but they were quite explicit in Nevernight. (On the other hand, the writing was very YA.) I have a hard time deciding what is and isn’t appropriate for teen readers in terms of “mature content,” but I guess in the end it’s the parents’ choice. Do you know how old Aelin and crew are supposed to be at this point?

    • I HATE reviews with spoilers!! Unless I’ve read the book, of course, that’s different. ;)

      And NO, I’m not planning on reading Nevernight. I only read Illuminae, so maybe it’s unfair to judge Kristoff’s writing off that since it’s a co-authored thing but I really disliked it. It pushed A LOT of my buttons – and not just because of the plot. And I’ve heard bad things about it from trusted bloggers, so nope. :)

      I don’t think parents have that much authority over YA readers to be honest. When I was 17, I was picking my own books and if my parents disapproved (they rarely did, but still), I’d just read the book in secret. Problem solved. I should totally write a post about this, yeah? :) I feel like BJs and very unrealistic representations of sex should fall into the domain of NA and adult romance simply because it seems like such writing creates weird expectations for YA readers. I mean, would they think that this is what sex is really like if they’ve got no experience? I didn’t read any romance when I was 17 so I don’t know if it would have influenced my opinion of sex but yeah. I started reading romances (and unreasonable sex scenes) when I’d already had my sexual experiences, if you know what I mean. Am I making sense? Anyway, I think sex in YA novels should be less graphic and more realistic. Some awkwardness is expected if you’re eighteen, I think (and here we have an ancient fae warrior shagging an 18-y-o with TONS of experience, how realistic is that, really?). Ugh. Yeah. This discussion will be kind of painful to write.

      • Maraia

        Haha, well, I only read them for books I either definitely don’t want to read or have already read. :P

        I had to go back to your review to remember what you didn’t like about Illuminae. What have you heard about Nevernight? I really disliked it until the last 100 pages or so. I definitely think it was way over-hyped, and now I’m finally starting to see less enthusiastic reviews, haha.

        My parents’ didn’t dictate my reading, either, but that’s because they trusted me to make my own choices. (Movies, on the other hand, were censored.) I assume that parents who DO care would monitor what their kids bring home from the library, but I don’t know. Anyway, that’s what I meant by “the parents’ choice.” It doesn’t mean that kids will necessarily agree, haha.

        I completely agree that actual YA novels should portray sex more accurately. If people want to write graphic, mind-blowing sex scenes, that’s fine, but then a different audience would probably be more appropriate. I DO think unrealistic sex scenes in books, TV, and movies set equally unrealistic expectations for teens. Teens have enough insecurities as it is. I definitely think there should be sex in YA books, but it needs to be presented in a way that is more relatable to teens. I also believe in a sex-positive message for teens, because they’re having it whether parents like it or not.

        • Okay, WAAY late replying to this…

          Um yeah, I heard that Nevernight has really weird writing, with nonsensical metaphors and loads of purple prose. I also heard some comments about the worldbuilding, but I no longer remember the specifics. Combined with the fact that I just plain disliked Illuminae, I see no reason to read Nevernight unless someone I really trust tells me it’s a must-read. *casts an inquisitive glance in your direction*

          Oh, yeah, movies were definitely censored in our house. Though I did watch Seven way too young! :D

          And we’re in complete agreement on sex in YA books. “they’re having it whether parents like it or not” –> :D Omg don’t get me started. Now that I have kids, it’s a horrible thought. I know this won’t be an issue for about 13 more years but still. Ugh.

          • Maraia

            Lol, don’t look to me for a recommendation! Like I said, I didn’t like it until the very end. I hope the sequel is amazing, otherwise the whole thing will have been an epic (although pretty) waste of time. XD

            I just saw that movie for the first time this year!

            Hahaha, have fun with that. :P (I hope you’re all doing well, by the way!)

          • Okay, I’ll give Nevernight a pass for now. So many other books I want to read more than that one.

            And what did you think of Seven? I’d never watched it as an adult, actually, so I have no idea if it’s really as scary as I remember.

            We’re doing well, thanks! :) We’re not sleeping enough but that was to be expected – but it’s actually Kiddo, not Baby, who’s keeping us up, because he’s teething again (his last milk teeth are coming in, 4 at once, poor kid). But we’re having a great time otherwise, so we manage somehow. :)

          • Maraia

            I liked it! I didn’t find it scary, but it’s definitely graphic, so I’m surprised you actually watched it.

            Aw, poor kid is right! I hope he’s feeling better so you’re all sleeping better. :)

  • Greg Hill

    I don’t mind spoilers. And I have to say this sounds disappointing. I’ve been intrigued by this series but I have to say I prefer when YA books keep the sexy times to a minimum. I don’t consider myself prudish but if the sex scenes are like that, doesn’t seem like it’s appropriate for a YA book. I know some will disagree but younger YA readers may pick this up and if they’re not getting a responsible depiction of sex… ugh. This is clearly on the YA shelves in my area, so I’m disappointed in the author and publisher for that. And that quote you included- what kind of message is THAT sending?? Not understanding this in a YA book.

    Having said that it sounds like it has some good points. I can tell though this isn’t for me, which is good to know, since I was considering this series! Glad I read your review. :)

    • I think Maas just straight up switched from writing YA to writing NA, though why the series is still marketed as YA is beyond me (and why her other series is published by a children’s publisher…).

      And I KNOW, I think that YA books should have more reasonable respresentations of sex, too. I’d like to see some awkwardness at least, and mention of birth control, please. And don’t get me started on the BJ quote, that’s just horrific.

      Ahh I’m always sorry when I hear that my reviews discouraged someone from reading a book. I mean, it didn’t work for me but it might for you. Though if you find that it hits all the wrong buttons for you, you probably shouldn’t invest in a 6-part series that clocks in at more than 3000 pages! ;)

  • And now I’m definitely not reading this series. But your review was highly entertaining. :D

    • Gah I’m always wary when readers say that my reviews discouraged them from reading a book or a series. But if it seems like it’s not for you, you’re probably right in not investing in a 6-part series. ;)

  • This sounds like such an intense book! I zoned out of the series after Heir of Fire – but I still read spoiler reviews, keep in touch with everything that happens. It does seen like the series is moving in a different direction – I didn’t expect it to be so high fantasy in the first book, and there’s also a LOT of …shall we say, steamy, scenes! >.<

    • I loved Heir of Fire so much. It was my favourite book of the series, I felt like Celaena really grew and I liked Rowan as her mentor. I also loved Chaol as her love interest and look where that went.

      So yeah, different direction for sure! As for the steamy scenes – you’d be surprised that the first one was LITERALLY steamy (it was on a beach and Aelin’s got fire power so… yeah. She also melted some sand into glass. It sounds pretty uncomfortable lol.)

  • Although I have loved this series up until now (I even liked Queen of Shadows which I know is the one that has divided people’s opinions) I was pretty disappointed with this book (and wrote a review all about it). I didn’t like the way everyone was paired off and I found all the sex scenes super cringey! I liked Aelin a lot less in this book too, and couldn’t quite get why she didn’t share her plans with the others. Plus there was a few bits where I thought characters acted really out of character, like that weird bit with Dorian and Manon in the ship’s cabin.
    Great review! :)

    • Yeah, I remember your review of QoS, you were one of the people who raved about it! :) To each their own, I say, and I’m sorry this isn’t working for you anymore – it’s always hard to be disappointed in a beloved author/series.

      “that weird bit with Dorian and Manon” is a really polite way of describing that scene! :D I agree, why would Manon secretly be a submissive in bed when she’s such a take-charge person literally EVERYWHERE else?! Also Dorian was unrecognizable in this book if you ask me. Such a switch from the first two books!