Book Review: Queen of Shadows

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Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, made me feel So. Many. Feelings.

The trouble is, most of them were not good. If I didn’t have anything good to say about this book, I would say nothing at all, but this complicated beast of a book did win me over in a few ways, so here we are. Up here is spoiler-free for all of Throne of Glass, but below the “read more” tag will contain spoilers about the book and the series.

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QoS brings Celaena and the gang back for more action, drama, bloodshed, and kissing. Just about all of our familiar characters make appearances, including some minor characters from earlier in the series that I had all but forgotten about, coming back for new life. We get some brand new folks, too, in this ever-expanding cast.

The stakes for the characters are higher than ever: there are enemies to be overcome, new monsters to tangle with, and allies in dire peril that need saving.

There were so many places for the plot to go…and yet it went approximately nowhere for the first half of the book.

This is a long book. 648 pages. And in the first 324 pages of it, only one plot event of major significance happened. What filled that space instead was a lot of character drama, mostly raising masts and rigging lines to construct a ship that I really did not like. I was bored and frustrated for the majority of the book.

Once the plot kicked into high gear, though, I could not put this book down. The climax action is phenomenal. The twists are epic. My blood was pounding the entire time that I churned through the finale. It was absolutely amazing.

But the portion I actually loved was only 20% of the book. Sarah J. Maas has undeniably grown as a writer since starting this series, and her vision for this series as a high fantasy epic is imaginative and delightful. Unfortunately, I have a harder and harder time liking her characters, and I wish she would give the romantic sub-plots a rest. Not every character needs to be paired off by the end.

If the book had been a long-winded and kind of boring crawl toward the brilliant end and the promise of even more epic-ness in future books, I would have been satisfied and given it a three sea star rating. As it stands, I actively disliked most of the book and was fully prepared to give it a one sea star rating until the climax blew me away. From what I’ve heard about Empire of Storms, I don’t think the things I disliked will be getting any better, so my adventures in Celaena’s world will probably end here.

Now for the spoiler-y stuff:

What I Liked:

Precious little, if we’re being honest. The greater arc of the series is awesome, and I wish Maas would focus on that more and on all the sub-plots a little less. Even though I rolled my eyes at how suddenly Aelin decided to trust her and build a friendship, Lysandra did end up being one of the highlights of the book. It’s about time Aelin had a female friend again (or a real friend at all), instead of only associating with snarling Fae males. Nesryn was also a welcome addition, but I would have liked her a lot more had it not been so painfully obvious from the get-go that she was a consolation prize for Chaol and they would end up together.

What I Disliked:

These are the more subjective things that bothered me, and for each part I loathed, there are a million people who loved it, so I won’t go into too much detail. Aelin annoyed me; after all of Heir of Fire was dedicated to her character growth, I expected her to show some change from how she used to be. More humble, more grounded, more mature, something. I was disappointed.

I could not stand Aelin/Rowan, for several reasons. I got really attached to the idea of them as only platonic in HoF, and the switch here felt abrupt and jarring. And mostly sexual. I’m still not sure how they got from primarily mentally undressing each other to making tender declarations of love by the end. I think the dissolution of Chaolena was equally sudden, poorly managed, and a major disservice to Chaol as one of the original three main characters. If Maas wanted to write him out, I wish she had the guts to kill him off for real. I feel like she wanted him gone, but tried to pander to the fans who were ardently pro-Chaol/Chaolena as much as she could so they wouldn’t (rightfully) get mad that she tossed him from the series like a wilted bouquet from an ex.

Several other ships were heavily implied, and apparently all of the ones I predicted later came to fruition in Empire of Storms. Again, not everyone needs to be paired off neatly, and it’s not really any fun if it’s all dead obvious, is it?

What was Just Plain Bad:

The pacing in QoS was indefensible. Did anything of major consequence happen in the first half of the book, other than rescuing Aedion (who became irrelevant as soon as Rowan stepped onto the scene, anyway), introducing Lysandra, and Rowan’s return? When I finished the book, I honestly could not remember anything else in the first half that really, truly mattered.

For as large as the cast is becoming, I’m also disappointed at the lack of diversity. The amount of straight, white, conventionally attractive people in this series is going a little overboard.

Now that we’re 67% of the way through Throne of Glass as a series, there is one major problem that I can’t let Maas off the hook for: Aelin is becoming a bit of a Mary Sue. She’s royalty; she’s the Chosen One/descendant of more than one major deity; she wields one of the rarest and most powerful types of magic; she’s the most talented assassin in the land; the list of her distinctions goes on for pages and keeps getting longer.

And you know what? That’s fine. We’ve seen her work herself half to death for many of those skills, and I would not be bothered by any of it, if it weren’t also accompanied by one of the other biggest Mary Sue indicators: almost every guy of consequence in the series has had a romantic/sexual interest in her at some point or another. Not even her own cherished cousin is fully spared, since it was heavily implied in Heir of Fire that Aedion had wanted to marry Aelin, or at least definitely not been opposed to the idea. Let’s be honest, here: how many people are actually on the “Not Trying to Get with Aelin” list? Lorcan, the king. It’s honestly a struggle to think of more.

And to make matters worse, in the 12 months or less that this series spans, Aelin is involved with three of them, and two of the three are described as borderline soulmate level relationships. I’m sorry, Sarah. I’m just not buying it.

There are some things in Throne of Glass that Maas gets so very right, but there are so many more things that make me send angry texts of disbelief to the friend who lends me these books. I think I’ve officially decided that this is not the series for me.

Throne of Glass ought to call me Angelica Schuyler, ’cause I will never be satisfied.

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All in All…

  • 2/5 sea stars
  • Published September 1, 2015, by Bloomsbury USA Children’s
  • 648 pages
  • For fans of Maas, Cassandra Clare, epic fantasy, mind-blowing action scenes
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One thought on “Book Review: Queen of Shadows

  1. Pingback: Discussion: Book Clubs! | Sea Reads

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