Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
Read Aug 23 – 27th
Throne of Glass, Book 4
I feel like these books are hard to review. Objectively, there are a lot of problems with them, but subjectively, I tend to adore them.
To prove my words, I wrote that top bit there and then I sat here for five minutes staring at my screen, trying to figure out how to start. Hm…
Queen of Shadows was a book on my 10 in 2018 list, the second year in a row it appeared there. I read the first three books rapid fire back in January of 2016 and then got distracted. This read was the second attempt. I picked it up once in 2017 and got a chapter into it before realizing I had forgotten character relations, major plots points, and all sorts of things from the first three. I ended up watching a spoilery in-depth review of Heir of Fire before jumping into it this time, and while my memory was spotty on it for a while, it definitely was a better experience.
Going into this one, I had heard it was a party-splitter, that some fans adored it and others really, really disliked it. I read it, waiting and waiting for this opinion-altering event to occur, and… I never really found one. Overall themes in the book could be off-putting I suppose, but I don’t think I quite understand why this book is so disliked by some when obviously they had liked the first three. I don’t really see how it was so different overall. So, if you are in the ‘didn’t like this’ party, enlighten me, because I am truly curious what I missed.
I think my favorite thing about this book and Maas’s books in general, is how easy they are to read. I tend to pick them up when I’m in a reading slump, because without fail I fly through them. I think I read this 650 page book in… four days? Maybe five? I really buzzed through it, and considering I’d only been reading manga beforehand because of the slump, I’d say that’s pretty good.
I’ve mentioned in past reviews of the series that Celaena or Aelin or whatever her name is, is not my favorite character. She rubs me the wrong way. I feel like her abilities are too much for the amount of training she’s received compared to her enemies, some obviously much older and much more experienced. I guess she just comes across as a bit unbelievable to me. Though, she’s nowhere near as bad as my favorite Mary Sue. And honestly, I think I liked her more this book than I have in any of its predecessors. Originally in book one, she was very immature – threw tantrums, was vindictive. I think seeing her actually have interpersonal relations with people has helped. And I very much like ‘Aelin’ more than ‘Celaena’. Her character development has been going pretty well and maybe one day, I’ll actually like her. Maybe.
So, I mentioned there are problems with the book objectively, the main character being a bit over-inflated being one. Another is the age of many of the main players and leaders of factions. Everyone from the resistance to the assassins to the guards are in their late teens or early twenties, with the exception of the centuries-old fae who is somehow able to get along with everyone with no maturity or generational-gap issues. He just… fits right in, but you would think he’d have more problems adjusting. A third is the eventual almost-guaranteed attraction of every male character to Aelin. At one point or another, all of them decide they’re crushing on her or more, regardless of their age. Heck, even her cousin gets territorial over her (though not for romantic reasons, don’t worry, it’s not gross). A fourth is all the ‘alpha-male’ bull-doody that results from issue three. Aelin herself calls it out, but she does it in a way that says ‘Oh you guys. Quit fighting over little ol’ me’ and never actually addresses the root of the behavior or why it’s weird for them all to be posturing to each other over this 19-year-old woman.
So yes, objectively, issues. None of these issues are particularly new, they’ve been in the series since book one and just growing broader with the addition of more characters. Do they bug me? Yes. Are they enough for me to dislike the series? Weirdly, no. But, I can see why they’d be too much for some people. I feel like if I wasn’t able to fly through the books as easily as I am, these issues would be much more of a factor for me. But I at least want to acknowledge them.
Plot-wise I rather liked this book. I liked the expansion of the world, I liked the subplots of the side characters. I like Chaol and I really like Manon. The witch subplot chapters were some of my favorites, and I really like how she’s been developing and how her thirteen are actually starting to get personalities. When she was introduced last book, I found her interesting but her chapters were kinda flat. Aside from Manon herself, none of the characters in them were really given any opportunity to show that they were more than cardboard cut-outs. This book allowed for that, and I think that Manon’s First is one of my favorite characters in the series now. She’s pretty great.
Another thing I liked seeing was the friendship that developed between Aelin and one of the female characters that was mentioned earlier in the series and then forgotten about. She reappears in this book and actually gets a good dose of character development. It’s always nice to see a movie or book pass the Bechdel test, man. Just because a book has a main female lead doesn’t mean it passes, and it’s a bit sad that fails are so common. I think this relationship in particular is what made me dislike Aelin less in this book than I have in the others. I feel like this friendship was a much needed dynamic, and I hope it lasts.
And finally, as mentioned above, I flew through it. The writing was compelling enough to keep me reading for over a hundred pages a day, and that is the main reason why I liked it so much. The book was fun. It was enjoyable to read, and I found myself unable to put it down. It made me wanna break my book buying ban so I could go get the fifth one (but I didn’t, I’m making myself wait).
So overall, despite the issues this book has, I did rather like it, and I’m looking forward to the fifth one.