- Page Count: 672
- Release Date: September 5, 2017
- My Rating: 4 stars
Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.
His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.
“You may look at me with resentment Yrene Towers, and I will not blame you for it. But believe me when I say there is no one in Erilea who loathes me more than I do myself.”
I went into this without a ton of expectations but am really glad this book happened now! I was curious to see how Chaol’s story would unfold, but also a bit wary that his character growth would be tied to his current disability being cured. I’ll talk more about that in a bit, but I thought everything worked really well in the end! I just love how much character development Maas takes the time to put into her stories because everything becomes 1000x more realistic and emotional. The story does take a bit to get moving, though, and I wasn’t totally into it until about 1/4 of the way through. So hang in there…
Also, this didn’t really feel like “Chaol’s book” to me because Nesryn and Yrene both have equally important stories and POVs. (Aaaand there’s one more POV at the end that made me SO EMOTIONAL for all of 2 pages). So you don’t necessarily need to read The Assassin’s Blade before this, but I’d absolutely recommend reading this before the final Throne of Glass book. This isn’t some side story. So many important things are revealed!
This story is basically a journey of finding hope and healing in different ways for so many characters. Chaol and Nesryn head to the southern continent to ask the khaganate to fight in the upcoming war and try to find someone to help Chaol be able to walk again after his spinal injury in Queen of Shadows. The Khagan has several children who are competing to be named his heir, two of whom become amazing new characters. Sartaq is a son who commands the rukhin (an aerial cavalry of archers who fly on giant birds and are going to be so badass if/when they meet up with The Thirteen). He takes Nesryn off on a bunch of adventures to see her homeland and their story has some pretty awesome moments. (Ok I wasn’t exactly as into it as I wanted to be, but was still decently invested).
Yrene Towers (the healer from The Assassin’s Blade) is also there working as a powerful healer. She’s been teaching other girls the self-defense that Celaena taught her and still carries her note. Yrene learned to take control of her life, but still has to face the trauma of her past and heal emotionally etc. She agrees to try to heal the man who commanded Adarlan’s soldiers even though she despises what he did while serving the king. The story really gets moving when they find out there’s a Valg demon on the southern continent and it’s hunting Yrene because of REASONS.
Meanwhile Chaol has been stewing in self-hatred and guilt over everything that’s happened in the past few books, soooo he’s got some stuff to work through. He was painfully honorable and loyal to a fault, which blinded him to who/what he was really serving: a “man controlled by a demon king hell-bent on turning this world into a feast for his hordes.”Anyone Chaol had tried to help ended up suffering. All of the men he was responsible for ended up being tortured and hung from the castle gates. He had run and left Dorian to face the king. Everything he had ever planned for or wanted is now gone.
But before Yrene can even address the injury to his spine they have to get through the residual valg demon stuff that’s there. That thing keeps trying to drag him down into the darkness by showing him everyone he left and failed (kind of like when the valg possessed Dorian), so he has to confront all of that in order to let Yrene get through to work on his spine.
Chaol’s healing felt a lot like Aelin’s story in Heir of Fire with how she had to really break and face everything she was before she could rebuild herself and move forward with a purpose. He has to choose whether to stay in that darkness and give it power or to forgive himself and “fill it with better things.” This whole part was SO powerful. I don’t even know where to begin with the quotes, so I’ll just say I think a ton of people will be able to relate to Chaol’s journey. There were some truly inspiring & relatable insights I’m just super grateful for. I was also glad he had a chance to let himself process everything with Aelin… and seeing his total devotion to Dorian was so sweet.
Basically, the story hit every part of the healing that was necessary to get Chaol’s character mentally back in the same fight as everyone else. In the previous books he was a confused, lost character who was starting to not fit in with the flow of the rest of the story for me because he wasn’t sure what he was for. Now he’s an equal player in the war to come and has a clear purpose. Chaol learns to find a new way through life and his entire take on his “disability” is transformed along with his self-worth/image. (So, no, this isn’t a manual of how someone should view a disability right from the start, but rather what felt like a flawed human’s realistic struggle to come to terms with one of many sudden changes in his life and identity).
click to see spoilers
Random things I loved:
- almost every character is a POC
- more insights into events from previous books (like the King of Adarlan’s actions)
- most characters are in their twenties
- every single character isn’t straight or super attractive
- seeing a broader worldview with news from other locations
- I was getting a lot of Game of Thrones vibes at times, which made it even more fun. Empire of Storms was super LOTR for me and I loved that.
- learning more fae history
- how the “get up” thing came back to Chaol
- ALL THE SHIPS. so many ships.
I just really loved how the story took the time to really get into some history and worldbuilding that strengthened the series SO MUCH. I mean, all of the stuff with the wyrdgates and keys and Valg princes was interesting before, but never seemed totally cohesive to me. It felt like there was some piece missing before the final battle could be properly established, so this book was totally what I needed. Now the war has weight, context, and a solid threat with history yay. I actually kind of screamed out loud at 81% because that was a brilliant shift in the direction of this series.
Maas said she put in a ton of time with sensitivity readers to make sure her rep in this book was solid and you can feelhow much care and effort she put into this. I’m curious to hear from others who use wheelchairs and have read this story. Everyone’s experience is different (so this obviously this won’t be universally applicable and I’m not speaking for anyone else but myself), but I really related to Chaol’s mindset and the whole evolution he went through there. I’ve been relying on a wheelchair for several years now and can only stand occasionally, so it was just incredibly inspiring to see a character I admire go through something so similar (ok Lyme attacking the nervous system & joints is a bit different BUT you know what I mean). I really can’t articulate how much I connected with some scenes… I have read so many fantasy books and have never found a central character like this. I was super hesitant (and somewhat skeptical) going into this book, but just want to hug it now. I think Maas has always done an amazing job writing raw healing journeys and I’m SO grateful Chaol’s story went in the direction it did!!
In the end, this was a powerful story of several characters finding themselves, hope, and a future to fight for as they prepare for the war. I mostly appreciated that this book did so much to help set the stage for the next book. Some of the events here definitely felt like padding for a novella that was turned into a full length novel, so this isn’t my favorite Throne of Glass book. But I still enjoyed it and wish there could be a few more books with these new characters and locations!