- Page Count: 693
- Release Date: September 6, 2016
- Publisher: Bloomsbury
- My Rating: 4.5 stars
Goodreads book description:
The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those don’t.
As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.
Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?
Update from a reread: this story was way more powerful the second time through once I knew where it was going. All the subtle lines about time just broke my heart.
This series means SO much to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to blindly love it or treat it any differently than other book I review. I really enjoyed the story, but still thought I was only going to give it 4 stars until the ending + the exclusive short stories changed everythinggggg.
First off, I would absolutely recommend reading The Assassin’s Blade before this book if you haven’t already! Most characters and locations from those novellas appear here.
The story starts out with Aelin and her court heading north to Terrasen where they meet with a few potential supporters at an inn before trying to waltz into Orynth. Aelin is told that the Lords of Terrasen don’t recognize her as queen and it’s all very infuriating. She swears that “no matter how far I go, no matter the cost, when you call for my aid, I will come. I’m going to call in old debts and promises. To raise an army of assassins and thieves and exiles and commoners.” Because war/annihilation is coming and Erawan is not messing around.
So it’s kind of like the breaking of the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings with how characters gets scattered around on various missions and eventually come back together. And speaking of LOTR… you know how while everyone freaking walked across Middle Earth the story kind of meandered but wasn’t necessarily boring because the locations sounded pretty, little bits of action popped up here and there, and the characters were so wonderful that you’d be fine reading about them watching paint dry? The middle of this book reminded me of that.
I was surprised by how much of this story is carried by the POVs of other characters instead of Aelin. That decision makes total sense in the end, but I was initially wondering why I wasn’t connecting with her as much as I had in previous books. She spends most of the story making her own secret plans behind the scenes while everyone calls her out on not clueing them in until the continual big reveals. Seeing her through other characters often made her seem a bit distant, callous, not focused on the bigger picture, and pretty much back to her Celaena persona. But by the end it all makes sense and she was still the incredibly brave, determined, selfless character we love. She gets even more complex and mature in this story and her whole journey is wonderful.
So that decision to make the development of so many crucial plot points happen off-screen (off-page??) made the reveal at the end more emotional, but also made me kind of frustrated in the middle with how I couldn’t get a strong sense of where on earth Aelin’s head was or where the plot was even going. And because we didn’t get such a strong look into Aelin’s mind, her relationship with Rowan didn’t have much emotional impact for me. I love them both as individual characters, but I just wasn’t invested in their relationship. (And at first I was disappointed that everything came out in an infodump monologue towards the end, but I suppose finding out at that particular moment had a strong impact in its own way). So I did enjoy this book overall, but wasn’t super emotionally attached like I was in Heir or Fire or flipping through the pages in a panic like I was in Queen of Shadows.
BUT THE CHARACTERS ARE SO AMAZING. All of them. They’ve all grown so much since the first book!!! I said in my reviews of previous books that I wanted to see more of Manon, Aedion, and Elide and I was not let down. The amount of character development that secondary characters got makes me SO HAPPY. It’s so, so, so wonderful. I have no clue how Maas juggles all of these characters so well, but this series is starting to feel a bit like Game of Thrones meets The Lord of the Rings meets… some celtic Avengers? I don’t know. But my point is there’s now a badass range of characters who are all equally important.
And if you thought my love for Manon was intense before, get ready for a whole new level. Her scenes had some of the best action and emotions in the entire book and I was fangirling so much (“She hated Death. And Death could go to hell, too”). I need some fan art of her armor because her awesome helmet sounded so much like the Witchking (this is the last LOTR reference, promise).
Even though my biggest ship sadly did not sail in this book (Manon & Elide would be awesome together, you can’t deny this), I still love where the those characters ended up going. And I liked Elide in Queen of Shadows, but can we talk about how she becomes the most amazing character ever here?!! “She had been forgotten – by everyone and everything. And still she had hoped. And still she had been kind.” Her POV and everything that happened in it was the most unexpected part of the book (and also maybe the best).
This book felt a lot like a chess board… it strengthens every player and moves them into the right position before the final battle of the next book. So it might not be the most gripping story as a whole, but it did an amazing job of building an impressive lineup of characters. Like I NEVER expected to care this much about Lorcan?! I loved how the most unexpected characters paired up for different missions or whatever and how everyone’s different stories wove together at the end!
I just love Manon, Elide, Aedion, Lysandra, Dorian… oh my goodness HOW HAVE I NOT TALKED ABOUT DORIAN YET. He’s still one of my favorites and is still adorable despite all of the crap he’s been through. He doesn’t play a particularly strong role in this book, though, because Aelin’s running the show and Dorian just needs time to recover.
Other random things I loved:
– MANON. Manon and her Thirteen. Manon and Abraxos. Manon and hope.
– Lysandra!! I adored her scenes with Aedion (in the first 95%)
– Maeve just got bumped up past Umbridge level of loathing.
– The Rowan + Dorian bonding scenes
– Aelin’s court. How much they’ve done for her and are willing to do for the bigger picture.
– How amazing Maas is with her mythology references (like how Fenrys is a wolf haha)
– One of the more central characters says he’s bisexual and it’s treated as nbd
– Aelin calling Rolfe “his Pirateness” and wanting Rowan to call her “milady”
– The sheer scope of the phenomenal worldbuilding
– Elide adopting characteristics from Manon & Asterin and working with what she has
– How the big reveal gave the previous books WAY more depth
– Seeing Dorian and Aelin referred to as the King of Adarlan and Queen of Terrasen
– Dorian still eats like a fine lady
Now I know that a ton of people were losing their minds over the sex scenes in this book before it was even released, so let me just take a minute to weigh in on that. The main thing I heard was that they were graphic and unnecessary. I’m pretty sure the people calling it graphic didn’t read ACOMAF. The scenes in this book were a bit tamer and felt like Maas tried to be descriptive, yet still vague with a younger audience in mind? So it mostly ended up being a bit awkward… which brings me to the unnecessary claim. I’m not against these scenes, but also didn’t need them. They didn’t really fit the tone and even felt a bit forced into the story in several places. (Especially the one with the other two characters who aren’t Rowan + Aelin). I defended ACOMAF those scenes meant something in the story, buuuuut I’m really not feeling that as much here. I actually wish the page time had been spent elsewhere. (So basically, YES, you can skip them and it won’t affect anything).
If the sexual content is what’s stopping you from reading this awesome story, just skip it. The pages in the US hardcover are:
– 350 to the top of 359
– 422 to the scene break on 423
– 573 – 576
Anyways, there are a lot of things I wanted to see happen that didn’t, but I was equally thrilled with where the story ended up going in the end. I think a lot of fans need to acknowledge that even though we’re super wrapped up in this world, it’s not our story to direct. I really don’t understand some of the intensity… like if you really need it to go in an alternate direction, maybe go write some fanfiction?
And I adore Chaol, but honestly think cutting him out of this particular book was a really smart move. The tone of his POV would’ve been seriously disconnected from the rest of this story with where he is mentally right now (and physically… like he’s in an entirely different part of the world that wouldn’t have worked into this plot).
Also, I don’t know why Maas said fans would hate her after this book because that ending was AMAZING. (Not amazing in that I particularly enjoy what’s happening, but amazing in that this takes the story to a whole new level of intense).
I thought the end wasn’t so much sad as it was inspirational, but it’s possible I’m just in a different mindset. This series has meant a ton to me on a personal level because Aelin is dealt a tough hand, yet makes the decision to keep fighting. Doctors told me I wouldn’t live to see 2013, but I’ve been hanging in there one day at a time. I read books so that I have something to keep holding on for… kind of like some weird version of 1,001 Nights. (I know I get overly excited on social media about Empire of Storms, but I just never thought I’d make it to read this book and can’t explain how amazing it is to even hold it). I thought I resonated with Aelin’s journey in Heir of Fire, but the quote towards the end of this book was like someone put my mind on paper:
So even though I connected more with other books in this series, I’d still give this one 4.5 stars overall for all of the strong characters and how brilliantly it set up everything. It’s possible I was a bit tired or just had too many expectations while reading because the longer that I spend typing this, the more I love the book. There were SO many amazing scenes. And the ending was emotional, but I’m really not sad because I’m mostly too excited at how awesome the next book could be now!
Anyways, the ending was emotional, but I’m really not sad because I’m mostly too excited at how awesome the next book could be now! There are a few things I’m still waiting to see set up more (like some Valg history or better sense of the threat), but hopefully the next book can squeeze that in before the war. (UPDATE – TOWER OF DAWN TOTALLY FIXED THIS YAY).
Update about the three exclusive short stories:
(because these stories honestly added another star to my rating)
WHY are these stories not in the books?! This just strengthened Aelin & Rowan’s relationship 10000% and was EVERYTHING I was looking for in terms of character development for Rowan. I’m changing my rating to 5 stars after reading these.
The B&N story would have easily been one of my favorite scenes because it shows Aelin with her people and what an amazing, caring leader she’ll be. And just a few pages here made me connect more with Rowan & Aelin than hundreds of pages in the main story did! I loved hearing more about Rowan’s life before they met. And all of the stuff with Lysandra looking at Aedion after he’s being adorable with Evangeline and just everyone interacting in general helped the main story SO much.
The Target one takes place during Heir of Fire and starts out with Aelin and Rowan just being normal while they make crowns of fire and ice for each other. Then the whole meal with Rowan’s ex who dubs Aelin the “fire-breathing bitch queen” happens. Aelin is awesome. But it also brings in another character who analyzes Aelin’s motivation to claim Rowan aaaaand THE BOOK REALLY NEEDS THIS SCENE. Even just the observation that “you are training with the most dangerous pure-blooded Fae male in the world, and yet he treats you as an equal. He presented you as his equal.” And then Rowan kind of realizes something important and Aelin makes him a chocolate hazlenut cake that’s so gross he vomits it up when she’s not looking. The end.
And I just had to include this Chaol quote from his short story, though, because it supports everything I’ve said in other reviews:
“Would I have loved her if I had known from the start what she is?” He shook his head. “If I had met her now… my first instinct would be to protect Dorian from her.
Celaena was a fraction of Aelin – both good and bad. But Aelin… she is Celaena, and she is queen, and she is the Fire-Bringer. I fell in love with a facet, and I panicked when I realized it was a fraction of the whole – when I saw that power, that heritage, and… it was not a part of my plans.
Rowan Whitethorn saw everything. From the moment he met her, he saw all of Aelin. And he was not afraid. I don’t blame either of them for falling in love. I don’t blame her… I was what Celaena needed after Endovier. But Rowan is who Aelin needs – forever.”