The queen has returned.
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 has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.
She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. 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.
The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series contrinues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.
How do I even begin to explain Queen of Shadows.
The last book, Heir of Fire, was mainly set-up and (amazing) character development, not too heavy on things actually happening until the very end. On the other hand, Queen of Shadows was an Everything Happens So Much book, full of fun action scenes, brain-exploding reveals, and the beginning and continued build of some wonderful relationships. This is probably the Throne of Glass book I had the best reading experience with, though Heir of Fire is still my favorite.
To be honest, Queen of Shadows feels a little bit like fanfiction. I know a lot of people who have said that mean it in a bad way, but I don’t think feeling like fanfiction is necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. In this case, I’m leaning more towards ‘good’.
I feel like, even with the awesomeness that was Heir of Fire, I’ve still been going back and forth about whether or not I like the series as a whole for the past year, and Queen of Shadows cemented that, YES, I love this series, Aelin is the queen of my heart, the secondary characters are all beautiful (and OH MY GOD this book had SO MANY amazing female characters and friendships! that was for sure my favorite thing about the book), I’m emotional about a million different, and this series is a ride-or-die for me.
Since this has been a point of contention for the fandom, I’m going to address Chaol and his relationship with Aelin. First of all, I genuinely don’t understand how anyone can read this book from beginning to end and hate Chaol, or think Sarah J. Maas wanted them to hate Chaol, especially with that ending. Maybe the fandom was making such a big deal out of it that I was expecting him to be completely terrible and he…wasn’t. He had his asshole moments, but so did Aelin, and I understood where he was coming from and thought he actually brought up a few good points. I also think Chaol’s worse moments in this book, while more extreme than we’re used to, came from flaws that were established in previous books.
I don’t think the conflict was handled perfectly. Some of the accusations Chaol and Aelin threw at each other did make me squint a little, but I had to remind myself that neither of them had read Heir of Fire, so they had no way of knowing what the other person had been through the past few months. I also felt like the narrative framed Chaol as being wrong and Aelin being right a little too much–I would have preferred a balance there–but of course Chaol turned out to be right about a very important thing. Add in Chaol’s unflinching loyalty to Dorian and his actions at the end of the book and…yeah, I have more good things than bad to say here.
Also, I’m really happy that at the moment, all signs point firmly away from Aelin ending up with either of the guys from the original love triangle. I shipped Chaolaena a lot in the first two books, and when I reread Crown of Midnight recently I still felt a lot of things about them, but it’s over now and I’m fine with that. I’ve read so many books with love triangles where it was really obvious who the main character would end up with from the beginning that it just makes me really happy that Sarah J. Maas broke away from the format instead of dragging it out for the whole series. And I know people complain about how many love interests Aelin has had (I don’t think four in three years is all that much but that’s beside the point) but I do think it allows for some great messages: that you can fall in love more than once, that you can have more than one soulmate, that someone can be great for you at a certain time of your life but not so much at another, that just because it doesn’t work out romantically doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. And I love that the romance is pretty secondary; it’s an important part of Aelin’s life, but it definitely isn’t the only part.
This book is just So Much. My brain is bursting with things to say. I didn’t love everything about it, but I loved a lot of things, more than I ever would have expected to love in a Throne of Glass book when I started the series. Queen of Shadows is filled to the brim with excitement and adventure and feelings and women being awesome and I can’t wait for books five and six to explode my brain even more.
One of the things I had the most problems with in Queen of Shadows was actually what I expected to love the most: Rowan and Aelin’s relationship. Enemies-to-friends-to-lovers is normally one of my favorite tropes of all time, and I think the “enemies-to-friends” in Heir of Fire was absolutely breathtaking. (If you want, you can read my fangirling about it in my Heir of Fire review). And it wasn’t that I was against a romantic Rowan/Aelin relationship; when I finished Heir of Fire, I was fine with it staying platonic or turning romantic just as long as they were together. But the “friends-to-lovers” in Queen of Shadows kind of came out of nowhere? There was suddenly the flirting and the struggling to control themselves around each other and my main reaction was, “Where the hell did that come from?” I don’t hate their relationship–I could NEVER hate their relationship–but it was more than a little jarring.
I also felt like so much of Rowan’s POV (and Aedion’s, for that matter) felt a little repetitive–“Aelin is my queen and she’s the greatest and I will kill anyone who harms a hair on her head”, etc. I understand that impulse, because honestly that’s how I feel about Aelin too, but reading it over and over got a little bit old.
OKAY! LET’S TALK ABOUT THE LADIES. Queen of Shadows was aaalll about the ladies for me. I love how complex and multifaceted and kickass all the female characters are.
- Aelin is the wonderful queen of my heart, and I’m so glad I reread books 1-3 before starting this one because it really made me appreciate how much she’s grown. In Heir of Fire, she got up from her lowest point, accepted who she was, and decided to fight, and fight she does. The biggest difference between Celaena and Aelin is that Aelin has a sense of purpose; she stands for something other than her own survival, and that makes her even more dangerous than she was before. (My baby, off to destroy people…). I just love everything about Aelin–her courage and strength, her fierce protection of the people she loves, her sass and irreverence, her love for chocolate, her ability to utterly vanquish her enemies. AELIN ASHRYVER GALATHYNIUS.
- I’m so very excited about Manon’s character development in this book, and future development in books to come. She’s still pretty terrifying, but she’s slowly learning about feelings that’s just my favorite kind of arc. And her relationship with Asterin! And with Elide! And her slow-but-consistent reevaluation of her worldview! Also, her first meeting with Aelin is something I’ve been looking forward to since Heir of Fire, and it did not disappoint at all.
- Lysandra was probably my biggest surprise in this book, and I loved her so so much–her fierceness, her sarcasm, her surprising backstory, the friendship between her and Aelin. And I love that Lysandra and Kaltain were both introduced as these two-dimensional queen bee archetypes, and in this book it was really really obvious that they were much more than that.
- Speaking of Kaltain, I can’t say too much about her without it being a spoiler, but that Thing That Happened at the end was truly amazing.
- Asterin was my other biggest surprise from the book. In the last book, she was just Manon’s second and I didn’t think of her much beyond that, but in this book her loyalty to Manon and her determination to stand up for what’s right even when it goes against that loyalty just made me love her so so much. (Don’t even get me started on her past. I am sad forever.)
- Elide is so resourceful and resilient and her dynamic with Manon is everything to me. (You know how a lot of people finished this book and decided they shipped Manon/Dorian? I finished this book and now I ship Manon/Elide. Ooops.)
- I would have liked to get to know Nesryn a bit better and I wish she had a story of her own instead of mainly being Chaol’s love interest, but also YAY NESRYN fighting for what’s important to her and calling Chaol out after his asshole moments and always bringing a dose of honesty to the conversation. (Plus, I love that her relationship with Aelin is mainly the two of them acknowledging each other’s awesome–no resentment here!)
Basically, what we have is LOTS of wonderful ladies and wonderful female relationships, more than I ever remember seeing before in the series.
And, okay, I just spent quite a bit of time talking about what I disliked about Rowan and Aelin’s relationship, but I think I still liked it as a whole. There’s this amazing closeness and understanding between them. Aelin can tell when Rowan is thinking of Lyria, and he can tell when she’s thinking of Sam. They see each other’s darkness and light and they just…get it. Plus, there are some VERY entertaining conversations about underwear and lack thereof. Despite my issues with how quickly the relationship turned romantic, I would be lying if I said I didn’t make emotional noises every time they interacted.
And Aedion! I can’t believe I spent this long without mentioning Aedion. His and Aelin’s reunion (this isn’t a spoiler–we all knew there was going to be one) was the first moment that completely sold me on this book. He’s Aelin’s counterpart in so many ways, and their relationship is just beautiful.
Dorian is the only character I haven’t mentioned yet–all I can safely say about him is that after finishing this book, I wanted to put some bubble wrap around him and take him AWAY from Sarah J. Maas.
Plot-wise, this book was a lot of fun, full of action scenes and surprising twists. And once again, I love how Sarah J. Maas just constantly adds to the complexity of the world.
Did I or did I not just write almost 2,000 words of complete excitement for this book? Yeah, you definitely need to pick it up.