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.
My goodness, this review is long overdue! I was quite disappointed with Queen of Shadows – it was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015, and it will most probably go down as one of the biggest disappointments I read this year. That sounds harsh, but it’s true. This series so far has been quite hit-and-miss for me: I found Throne of Glass to be a fluffy, fun light-fantasy read; I adored Crown of Midnight with every fibre of my being; I thought Heir of Fire was drawn out and could’ve done with some tighter editing. In all honesty, I cannot say whether Queen of Shadows was better than its predecessor, but this series has become riddled with ridiculous romantic subplots to the detriment of characters and this book was an endless source of frustration for me because of it.
I’ll start off with the good: Maas has definitely grown as a writer. If you compare Throne of Glass to Queen of Shadows, you will definitely find that the plot has become more complex, the world-building more layered, and the series has gone from ‘fantasy-lite’ to ‘high fantasy.’ This has meant, naturally, that the fluffy factor that made the first book so enjoyable has gradually receded from the series. I know I’m going to be in the minority with my opinion – if you look at the reviews on GoodReads, a lot of reviewers are claiming that this book is the best book of the series – but for me, the events of this book completely destroyed what the first three books established. I’m not going to go into that because there are also a lot of reviews on GoodReads – from reviewers who are a lot more passionate about this series than I ever was – that go into a lot of detail about the contradictions between Queen of Shadows and earlier books, but suffice to say I was incredibly disappointed.
I’m not entirely sure if it’s because Maas was also working on A Court of Thorns and Roses and Queen of Shadows just ended up suffering because of it, but the book felt scattered and incoherent. Reading Queen of Shadows felt as if Maas doesn’t have a projected outcome for the series and is just making up the plots for each book as she goes; A Court of Thorns and Roses (and even Crown of Midnight) tells me that Maas is a better writer than that. If I’m being completely honest, if this series were a television show, then Queen of Shadows would be a filler episode – nothing was really happening in this one. “But Kim,” you say, “this book is 650 pages long – how can nothing happen?” This book did not need to be 650 pages long. It was setting up things for the last two books. A lot of side stories are introduced alongside Aelin/Celaena’s story, but I struggled to connect with these side characters and found myself wanting to skim-read their chapters to get back to the Aelin’s story. The only side character I was truly interested in was Manon (and, to a lesser extent, some of the members of her clan), and even then, I felt that towards the end her story was pulling the book down.
I think the biggest detractor for me was just how much the male characters in this series moon over Aelin. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: romantic relationships are not the be all and end all of relationships. Friendships and familial relationships are every bit as important, if not more, to a person’s development and it’d be great if YA and NA novels could showcase that once in awhile. I was over the moon when a platonic Aelin/Rowan relationship was established in Heir of Fire, because I thought there would be a strong friendship in a popular new adult series. Sadly, after firmly establishing Aelin & Rowan’s platonic relationship, their relationship quickly became something I’d expect out of a 50 Shades of Grey-esque book while Aelin’s cousin got all jealous over their bond. I’m not in this series for the romantic subplots, and with Dorian, Chaol and now Rowan all waxing poetical about how great Aelin is at some point during this series, I don’t think I can take another character obsessing over how gifted and wonderful she is.
Would I recommend this book? Only for the Throne of Glass superfans – the ones who have committed themselves to this series and these characters and cannot walk away from them. For me, this was 650 pages of mediocre story-telling.
Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.