Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

5 out of 5 smoldering stars

I don’t know why this is such a hard book to review. I have a lot of feels, and I have a lot to say. It’s taken me longer to write the review than it did to read the book. So just hang in there whilst I do so. Also – 4th book in a series, so do not proceed unless you are caught up on the series.

This book seems to be very divisive within the fandom – to the point of people calling out the author and telling her she ruined the series. Some people are acting like children and as if Sarah J. Maas has done something to them personally. I disagree with so many people on so many points about this, but sometimes, you just gotta remember that it’s a book – and whatever you think, you have every right to think it. However, you don’t own it and If the author has fucked it up in your opinion, just move on to something else. There are a lot of shit series out there, there are also a lot of great ones. I bet you haven’t discovered them all.

I thought this was freaking fantastic. Please keep in mind, I am not a shipper. I never have been. I go where the author leads me, rarely ever thinking of pairing up characters beyond the page. So my following rant is not in view of any ship on the horizon.

The biggest complaints I’ve heard was that characters were not acting according to their past characterization, and I did not see that at all. Celaena is now Aelin, the Queen of Terrasen – and she has returned to Adarlan to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and she is all out of bubblegum. The first thing she does is get into a huge fight with Chaol. Some readers are saying Chaol isn’t being the character we know and there are a lot of pissed off Chaoleana shippers acting like they were together in the last book. They weren’t even on the same CONTINENT in the last book, and she was getting over him for pretty much all of Heir of Fire. I don’t know if you remember, BUT THEY BROKE UP. In Ross speak THEY WERE ON A BREAK. Spectacularly. After his inaction resulted in her friend being torn to pieces (yes, it was more complicated than that but that is what we thought was happening on the surface.) Then he got Celaena sent off to murder the King and Queen of Wendlyn. Real sweet job, there, especially when he judged her for being an assassin. And she didn’t do what she was sent to do. Instead she came out as Aelin and is a huge threat to Adarlan. And if you don’t remember, Chaol was an asshole about her being magical and a threat to Adarlan. This is when he was unsure of what she was going to do. This is the guy who chose service to a tyrannical, possessed, evil King because it was familiar rather than putting his best friend and heir to the throne in place and then supporting his girlfriend. People point out that when they parted at the docks before Heir of Fire, things seem to be ok between them, but that was before Aelin emerged as a fire-breathing bitch queen. Before Chaol had to run away and leave Dorian collared. Before the blood of rebels starting running like rivers in the gutters of Adarlan.  I think that could change a person. He takes it all out on Aelin – as if she could have done anything from Wendlyn. Like he didn’t send her there in the first place. So if Chaol Asshole Westfall doesn’t like the way things are, it’s his own damn fault. He wasn’t even going to tell Aelin he knew how to bring magic back. I’ll give him this much – and this is why I don’t hate him, despite all the crap above -the guy is in a hell of a lot of pain and I feel for him. He has been with the rebels, fighting in the sewers, hunting down the valg infested guards who are capturing his people and killing them, almost every day. Chaol’s life has not been a lot of fun. He lost pretty much everything and more and more and more slips through his fingers.  With that said, I’m done with this portion of the story.

We get two long awaited reunions. The most emotional is with Aedion. I hate to say it but he felt like a 4th wheel next to Rowan – because yes, though at the beginning Aelin tells Rowan he needs to hang back, he does end up coming into Adarlan with some important news. But did you not see that coming? Did you think she would spend another book separated from her potential love interest? No. But the Aedion thing is fun in the beginning, until he is shunted to the side as a Rowan fanboy for the rest of the story. The other long awaited reunion is with resident douche-canoe Arobynn Hamel. This guy is oilier than a can of Crisco left under the Arizona sun. But sadly, Aelin’s got limited resources, what with the King and his Valg infested guards everywhere and she needs muscle. The doubleplay-switchback-twist in this is so freaking amazing, I am jealous as a fellow (wannabe) writer. The shiz Aelin pulls on him is delicious. His scheming and manipulation are just… gah! It makes you want to crawl through the pages and kill him yourself.

There is also a reunion with Lysandra – who to be honest, I did not even remember, until reminded she was the prostitute Aelin hated when they were growing up, and Hamel used the money Aelin used to repay her debt to buy Lysandra’s virginity – and threw it in Aelin’s face. I would have killed him for that. Well, considering the crushing debt Aelin was in – Lysandra’s was no less, and her job was far more humiliating. Things are different now. She’s probably the only person who hates Arobynn more than me and Aelin. Lysandra is no fool and knows that Aelin is here to dole out some revenge – and Lysandra would like to get a little herself. She knows that Arobynn will help Aeilin because he wants her, like he wants Lysandra. She knows better than anyone that men like him want their objects to suffer when they displease them. But, can she really be trusted??? She is keeping a huge, bombastic secret…and it’s awesome.

As I said, Rowan is back. And thank the gods, because the deck is stacked against Aelin. All she has to do is take down the king, free Dorian from the Valg enslaving him, restore magic by destroying the obsidian tower which is guarded by wyrdhounds and find out if Arobynn Hamel will turn around and bite her if she lets him close enough. And she was missing Rowan while he was gone.I  mean, I love a cuddle, but seriously. Who wants a fae prince to just hold them? And what the hell is there to hold them back from having a relationship? You know she wants to screw his faery pants off. So If there’s anything I’m mad about, ship-wise, it’s that this one is taking so long to sail.

And ohmygawd how have I forgotten about the witches? I know a lot of people weren’t into the Manon chapters in Heir of Fire. I liked them, I thought she was cool but I felt like they were dragged out a bit. They were an amazing addition to this novel, and Manon and her thirteen finally come in contact with Aelin and it is fantastic. The witches are ensconced in Morath – a remote and forbidding mountain fortress, along with Duke Perrington, the King’s right hand man. She’s our behind the scenes reporter, in a way, because through her, we see the King’s intentions for going up against Aelin, and it’s pretty terrifying. First, there is Kaltain – the brat from the first novel that we all knew the King and his posse had intentions for – now we know that she had some magical abilities. They are also breeding things under the mountain, and experimenting with demons. The witches are of two minds – first of all, they are being bossed around by mortals, and no immortal likes that. Manon is constantly pulling against their attempts at ordering her around, but her grandmother, one the big leaders, is intent on allying with these people and reclaiming their lands. Manon is still questioning what she was told by the Crochan witch she killed in the last book – that the witches are not born hard and heartless, that they are made that way. All around her she sees manipulation and unnatural things. She wonders if what they want of the witches is worth the return of their lands. We find new depths to her and she is a driving force to the novel.

In the last book, I was frustrated, not by the characters or the love interests, but by the unfolding of events. I felt like, as great as the trip to Wendlyn was, it was a detour. The unveiling of the secrets and the real crux of the series was unfolding way too slow and the real business should have been in Adarlan. I felt the whole lack-of-magic thing should have been addressed way sooner, and why in the hell was no one raising their hand against the king? I also didn’t see how the influence of the king wasn’t affecting the economic situation in the kingdom – and don’t in this either. There should have been a bigger impact, more of what was going on in the kingdom reflected in the people. But we only see the rebels – we don’t see if there are any nobles or aristocracy that have a problem with what’s going on with the king. Those are really my only complaints.

I just loved this. But now I gotta wait another year for the next one…. sigh

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