Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Rating: 3 Stars
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Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW IS FULL OF SPOILERS FOR THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE, THRONE OF GLASS, CROWN OF MIDNIGHT, HEIR OF FIRE AND QUEEN OF SHADOWS. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THIS SERIES IN ITS ENTIRETY, INCLUDING QUEEN OF SHADOWS LEAVE NOW OR BE SPOILED!!!
Let me start this review off by saying that the low rating is not because my ship didn’t sail. I’ve actually been really nervous to post this review because of the backlash I’m sure to get over my opinion. And I really don’t want anyone to think I’m just mad because my ship didn’t sail. I’m not. I had a lot of issues with this book, most of which had nothing to do with my ship.
I’ve been looking forward to this book for about a year and a half now. Ever since I read the last sentence of Heir of Fire
I’ve been dying to get my hands on the next book in my beloved series. This was my favorite fantasy series of all time. I love the characters so much. Each and every one of them is so strong, so unique and so real in my head. Sarah’s writing is gorgeous and this world is amazing. So it kills me to have to write this review. KILLS me. I feel like a piece of my soul has been ripped out of my chest and thrown to the wolves to devour. Because I didn’t like this book. There, I said it and now it’s out there for all the book world to see.
I started reading and was immediately emotionally involved in the story so I thought things were going well. But then Aelin showed up and kept putting her plans into place and I began to wonder who this woman was because I didn’t recognize her at all. She was so cold and distant in this book. She’s constantly yelling at people or sneaking away to do her own thing. She still doesn’t trust anyone, not even Aedion, her cousin who wants nothing more than to swear the blood oath to her. And to be honest, I didn’t like who Aelin had become. And I didn’t think that she was the same person I saw in Heir of Fire. In the last book she underwent massive character growth and development and it was painful and beautiful and perfect. But that kind, caring woman was gone. Something I’ve always loved about Celaena is her compassion for people. When she freed the slaves in Skull’s Bay, when she taught a young healer how to defend herself, when she waited an extra second so her friend could get away. But that compassion was gone in this book. It only showed up once or twice throughout the book and because it was missing, I stopped caring about Aelin. Scenes that should have made me super emotional didn’t. I felt detached from the story and from my characters.
In Heir of Fire, when the world hears what she does to Narrok and his men there is a whisper throughout Adarlan to “hold on”. And that was so moving to me when I read it that I sobbed. So when Aelin finally takes back her kingdom, you would think I would be even more moved. But I wasn’t. When she stepped into Terrasen for the first time, I felt nothing. Because I didn’t even recognize the person walking into Terrasen.
And Aelin wasn’t the only one I felt this way about. I didn’t recognize a lot of the characters. Rowan turned into this soft, sweet guy and I missed his sharp retorts, his unflinching coldness. That was the warrior side of Rowan that I loved. And it was gone. He turned into a lovesick puppy dog. Even Aedion felt off somehow. The best way I can describe it is to say that he lost his swagger. That spark that brought Aedion to life was gone. All of the characters just felt flat.
And now we’ll get to Chaol. I was and am, of course, devastated that my ship didn’t sail. Celaena and Chaol are my OTP and it broke me to know that they will never be together again. BUT, had there been a reason for them not to be together, a clear, discernible reason, I would have gotten behind it. It still would have hurt like hell, but I could have lived with it. Instead, I feel like Sarah completely rewrote Chaol’s character so that he looked like a bad guy and Rowan looked like a saint. Chaol was basically angry at Aelin the whole entire book. He blamed her for things that had happened in Rifthold while she was away that she had no control over. And the way in which he did it just didn’t feel authentic to his character. Not to mention the fact that he was barely in the book. He was there the whole time, but he didn’t say much, just kind of hung out on the sidelines. Sarah turned him into a guy who seemed harsh and like he could never accept Aelin for who she is, magic and all. But that’s not true. Because he told Aelin at the end of Crown of Midnight that he loved her. AFTER he discovered that she was Fae. No, he didn’t know that she was Aelin yet, but I have a hard time believing that changed everything he felt. When he pawned the ring without a second thought, I just sat there gaping and confused because my Chaol, the Chaol I know would never have done that.
And the fact that Aelin has now jumped to her fourth romantic relationship makes her seem a bit wishy-washy to me. And I know that’s going to be an unpopular opinion, but that’s how I feel. Everyone has been saying how awesome Celaena is and that she’s super independent and doesn’t need a man, but really? When has she ever not been with a man? So how does that make her Team Celaena?
And that brings me to my next point. The name distinction. I get it. She’s Aelin now. But the amount of hate she felt for Celaena was unreal to me. She acts like she hates that girl in this book, hates who Celaena Sardothien is. But I’m not buying it. Because the entire year she was in Endovier, when she was locked in the darkest dungeons trying not to go mad, she would repeat the name Celaena Sardothien to herself over and over again. Celaena survived. Celaena was light and dark and strong and weak and beautiful and broken and I refuse to believe that all of that was an act. And just because you shuck the name doesn’t mean you shuck your skin and your personality. But there was barely a trace of Celaena left in Aelin in this book.
The pacing of the book also killed me. This book comes in at almost 700 pages, but only one thing of significance happens in the first 350 pages. They rescue Aedion. I think that a lot could have been cut out of this book and there were times when the story seemed to drag. I also felt like things were a bit anticlimactic and too easy. Aedion’s rescue was too easy. They really didn’t hit any obstacles. And then the death of Arobynn. I have been amping myself up for the Celaena-Arobynn showdown since the end of The Assassin’s Blade and I get why Aelin gave the kill to Lysandra, but then to just have his throat slit while he sleeps? I kind of deflated when I read it. I just expected so much more.
The only thing I really enjoyed about this book was Manon’s storyline. I loved reading about the witch and her struggle to be cruel vs. good. The whole storyline of Morath intrigued me and I eagerly flipped through those pages, always craving more. Abraxos is just as awesome in this book as he was in the last and I love that Manon befriended Elide. Asterin’s story broke my heart into a million pieces and made me sob uncontrollably. Whenever I was reading about this storyline, I felt like I was back at home, back in the world that I’ve grown so fond of.
And Dorian is still amazing. His sections broke my heart to read, being enslaved to the Valg prince. I wanted to reach into the book and rip that demon’s head off. But Dorian’s struggle was amazing and he at least seemed to remain true to his character. And the bromance we see at the end between Chaol and Dorian had me smiling.
I will say that the last 100 pages were exciting, but still, even after everything, I just felt hollow inside. When Aelin reaches out and touches the rock that marks the border into Terrasen, I should have teared up, but I didn’t. I feel like the characters in this book were unrecognizable and that Sarah rewrote them to make them what she wanted. I don’t think it was true to the characters and what they would do and it devastates me to write this review. While her writing is still beautiful and this world is still incredible, the thing that made me fall in love with these books is the characters. And without them, I really have nothing. So it kills me and breaks me to say this, but I didn’t really enjoy the book. And I’ve been stuck in a kind of haze for the past week or so because I’m truly mourning the loss of this series.
Have you read this book yet? What are your thoughts?