📑 Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
“The queen has returned. Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past … She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight. She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return. The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series contrinues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.” - Goodreads.com
Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed this book. Despite the grievances I had while reading/after I finished (which will be made clear in a little bit) I had a difficult time putting it down. In fact, it’s been a while since I’ve been so excited that I’ve rushed to a bookstore just to pick up a copy of an installment in a series, going so far as to call several times days before the release to make sure they’d have it in stock the day of (I live/am from Abu Dhabi, so sometimes books take a while to reach the stores).
All the female characters, from Celaena (excuse me, Aelin) to Lysandra (yeah, you’ll see) are kick ass in their own way. There were tie-ins between the novellas and Queen of Shadows which will make those who’ve read the former go ‘aaah!’ without confusing/alienating those who haven’t. The amount of action and worlds colliding befitted the behemoth that this book is. From plans to rescue Aedion to freeing rebels to Celaena confronting her past, there is so much tension and so many threads that weave and intertwine that it’s glorious.
And yet…as much as I had a hard time putting QoS down, and as much as I dreaded the end as I saw it nearing, I ended up finishing the book with very conflicting feelings.
For one, and this is the least of my issues, it felt like it could have been shorter. I feel like a traitor for saying something like this, but it really did. There seemed to be plenty of almost identical scenes: plotting, sneaking out, and Celaena reassuring one person or another that she could handle whatever it was she did without their knowledge happened way too often. Even Manon, who I love more with each book, had her share of repetition: leashing her anger against the duke, getting mad at something or other her Second has said or done or wondering what else was going on. I wish that those moments could have been filled with more bad-assery and less development-less circles.
Which brings me to my second, rather large frustration with this book, which involves, fans will probably have already guessed at this point, Aelin and Chaol. I’m going to go ahead and warn of potential spoilers because I’m not sure of how to adequately describe my frustrations without them.
Here it goes: Seriously? What on earth were you thinking Ms. Maas? Were you that desperate to have their relationship no longer exist that you decided to ignore actual canon and character development and things you yourself wrote/made clear? Because that’s what it felt like to be honest. How make a relationship impossible in the future in order to quiet all dissent and introduce a new, more convenient love interest to the Main Character whilst eradicating all previous establishment of personality and sense and attraction: The Celaena/Chaol story.
Sorry. Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes. I understand that sometimes characters drift apart and ships don’t survive a series, or work out how a reader wants it to, but I felt that there would have been a much better way to do that with those two, if need be, that wasn’t done at all. It was as if they became to entirely unrecognizable people that had never been in love and were actual assholes that could not stand each other, not two people who changed and grew apart. Like Maas decided somewhere during Heir of Fire that Aelin accepting her destiny meant she couldn’t possibly work through whatever issues she had with Chaol, and it would be easier to just develop a new one, aka Rowan. It seemed like a lazy decision one that happened also to be convenient because it ensures that in the times Aelin and Chaol were doing their own thing, she could still have romantic scenes/cheesy moments with someone that had an excuse to be there all the time…especially in the next book.
I think that was the most upsetting part, not only the fact that it felt like thoughtless character work, but that it also devalued the characters and wot they felt for each other. Moreover, it kind of devalues the secondary, so to speak, characters, who’s purpose is supposed to be (theoretically) more than new love interests. Rowan, for example, I really used to love Rowan but ended up wishing him ill as I saw where Maas’s trajectory was taking him in terms of Aelin. His protectiveness and alpha maleness became so grating. I had really hoped their relationship would have been non-romantic, especially with the blood sworn/oath aspect, because that would have been beautiful, the love and fierceness and connection that didn’t need to be ruined by innuendos and lustful thoughts. This is especially true when you consider that Rowan had and lost his lifelong mate. Celaena, as far as we know, hasn’t done either of these things.
Nesryn is the other character whose purpose seemed to be reduced to being a love interest, despite having her own strong and awesome characterization, even more so than Rowan because she’s a new character. Her being powerful and awesome didn’t stop her from feeling like a mild romantic afterthought for Chaol, to ease and solidify his separation from Celaena. I’m clearly still annoyed about this.
Don’t get me wrong, as a fangirl I’m used to having characters that I ship occasionally not being together, and I (mostly) accept it…but that’s in situations when it’s done well. When it makes sense. Not when its out of character, and not when it just seems like a switch was flipped, so that the characters regress as opposed to progress.
With the above in mind, QoS was a really enjoyable book and, despite my character and repetition issues, I look forward to the next one. Fingers crossed that the mild mess that was created gets cleaned up in a nice, lushy twist.
If anyone has read Queen of Shadows let us know what you think in the comments below! Comments also open to further book/movie/show recommendations, anything you’d like to see reviewed, or general feedback. We’d love to hear what you have to say!