BOOK REVIEW: Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas

This review contains spoilers.

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again—to wreak revenge for a decade of pain …

A LOT happened in Queen of Shadows. It took me almost a month to finish reading, which made it feel like it was an entire series all on its own. If you choose to read any further, you should be prepared for major spoilers. Due to a pretty essential part of the book, it’s become impossible to skate around the issue with vague references.

I’m talking, of course, about the change in names of the protagonist. The character we’ve come to know as Celaena Sardothien has well and truly claimed her identity as Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. At first I found the switch from Celaena to Aelin jarring and irritating, but it soon became comfortable.

Now that Aelin is Aelin and not Celaena, it’s easy to see the difference in personalities. Celaena was a lot of bravado, swagger and egotistical posturing. Aelin can still call on her persona as Celaena but it’s no longer the way she needs to define herself.  Despite maintaining elements of her reckless and ruthless mindset, Aelin is more refined. As is pointed out multiple times in the book, she’s truly becoming a queen in manner and not just in name.

Most characters in Queen of Shadows are breaking out of their moulds and showing new sides. In Heir of Fire, Manon was vaguely interesting but quite brainwashed and almost a functioning robot. As she opens herself up to a broader range of emotions and realises the truth of her upbringing, she becomes more likable and more interesting.

Lysandra has fascinated me since The Assassin’s Blade and getting to see more of her and understand her backstory is fantastic. Just as I imagined, she’s utterly ruthless yet quite sweet and loving when it comes to certain people. The logistics behind her abilities pack an emotional punch but add a welcome dimension to her story.

I loved getting to meet Arobynn in the present action. He was horrible in The Assassin’s Blade and it’s good to know that you can count on at least one character not to change. Even if that means that he remains, as ever, a simply vile human being.

As much as I hated Chaol’s pigheadedness, I thought it was totally understandable. He’s been brought up his whole life to be scared and resentful of something and he’s looking to place blame anywhere he can. While a lot of people have been complaining about this aspect of the story, I honestly don’t think he was out of character.

I think Queen of Shadows showed how much Chaol has changed after finding out that the values around which he built his life were a lie, losing his best friend, and feeling like an utter failure. It’s not at all surprising that he has spiralled into a depressive state and is lashing out anywhere he can. He does at least recognise that he’s doing it (most of the time) which gives me hope that he’ll go back to being the Chaol everyone has come to love. Or at least a closer approximation of him.

One thing that really bugged me was the telepathic conversations between Rowan and Aelin. I don’t know if it was just because I was reading so slowly but did we ever get an explanation for how or why that worked? If it is magic (which it seems it must be) then how would it still work outside of Wendlyn? If I’m remembering correctly then I feel like it was just brushed over and went from giving someone a ‘look as if to say’ to a full-blown telepathic conversation with no one commenting on it.

Towards the end, there were a couple of instances where entire scenes were rehashed from a different point of view. It’s not a technique that I remember being used in the Throne of Glass books before, and instead of enhancing the situation, the repeated scenes simply felt jarring. But, as I said, this only happened twice. For some reason these scenes made it through all the stages of editing intact and it does say something about the overall condition of the book. I feel like it would have benefited from a stricter edit to make the plot more concise and remove some of the clunky and long-winded scenes.

The end of the book did feel a bit Return of the King-y with events wrapping up almost infuriatingly slowly after such an action-packed sequence. But the whole book was like that. A little bit of action and a whole lot of hanging out with mates despite the constant time restrictions. It didn’t bother me too much because it allowed me to pick up the book at any point and not forget what had happened, but I think if I had read this at my usual pace I would have been more annoyed and wanting it to get to the point already.

The plot twist is an interesting one, and a good way to keep the action flowing. I do find aspects of it a little weird but most of my concerns could be explained away easily enough so I’m not holding on to them too much. However that plot twist unravels, I’m glad that this isn’t a story about Aelin constantly going up against the king and never being able to best him until the last moment. As the story progresses, so too should its heroes and villains.

 

The verdict

Queen of Shadows is a strong instalment in the Throne of Glass series. After a filler book like Heir of Fire, there was a lot packed in here. But it was worth it to get to this point. Every character is now in completely foreign territory, constructing a perfect jumping-off point for new action and adventures. While the book was a slow read, the character and plot development was thorough and challenging, allowing new characters room to flourish and old characters the opportunity to grow and evolve.

I rate it ★★★★


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