📑 Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas
“Kingdoms collide in Sarah J. Maas's epic fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series.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 who don't.With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what -- and who -- to sacrifice if she's to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.” - Amazon.com
Rating: occilating between 🐲🐲 & 🐲🐲🐲/5
NOTE: some spoilers ahead
I've been sitting here trying to articulate how I feel about Empire of Shadows (whoops, Empire of Storms, this goes to show how irritated I was by both these books), to wade through the mixture of disappointment/annoyance and "omg epic" warring within me since I finished reading the fifth instalment of Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series and get a clear idea of my overall opinion of this particular book but I can't. In fact, I find myself basically in the same place I was last year (was it last year?) after I finished Queen of Shadows, with magnified versions of the same grievances I previously held, it seems.
So, wot did I think about Empire of Storms? Well, I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. The thing is, I know I could have loved it, could have finished this one dying for the last one to come out, but there were a few (for me, at least) big obstacles that prevented that from happening.
Let's start with wot worked: the world-building, the settings, the character development (Manon is my absolute favourite creature in existence), the twists and turns and (most) revelations, the varying threads and players of Celaena/Aelin's past coming together, the action and battle scenes and tension therein (😱 looooved those).
You'd think that'd be enough, wouldn't it? Because wot else would a book need it not all that. And it would have been more then enough...if it was, let's say, the second book in the series, but it's not, it's the fifth, so a certain precedent has been set in terms of what (or, at least, who) is expected.
Yup, I'm gonna be one of those to say it, because I feel like it's important, and no matter who you ship I think if you didn't read the book thinking "um, where the hell Chaol?" then you're letting bias cloud your judgement.
I've tried to put aside the fact how ridiculous the whole bringing in a perfect "utterly male" fae love interest that just happened to be made for our main character in the middle of a series was, how making her flawed-and-human but no less important other past love interest suddenly act like an ass and out of character and giving him his own relationship just to eradicate potential reuniting or completion was a lazy move on the authors part. Switching love interests is nothing new to fantasy, YA or otherwise, I told myself, even if she's done this before in her other series, at least she can't pull the whole "mate" thing again because Rowan already had a mate and she wouldn't just rehash ACoMaF...
I think you can go ahead and draw up your own conclusions. And I'm not even going to start talking about the many-more-than-necessary sexy time scenes between apparently everyone who travels with Aelin, cause God forbid someone doesn't find a match.
Yes, I've always shipped Chaol and Aelin, and despite SJM making it so unnecessary clear in this book that that's never gonna happen, I still firmly believe they were the better match. I don't care how many times I'm told that Rowan was perfect for her and obvs they were destined to be since the beginning of time and it's fated and he's fae and she's part-fae and no one but the magic folk would be able to handle each other and save the world (and imagine how much less interesting the sex would be without fire and lighting and destruction?) and they bring each other to the light from darkness and blah blah blah and centuries of waiting and blah blah blah and immortality and blah blah blah
If you have to keep justifying and proving to me and hammering it in my damn head that "no no this is how it's meant to be, look at all these reasons!" chances are, I'm just going to get even more turned off.
I don't dislike Rowan, I like him actually. I'm just disappointed because throwing in the whole "fae mate" plotline into a whole other series just feels so damn lazy to me. Yeah Chaol and Aelin would have had to struggle and fight and overcome so much more in so many different ways, but there's a beauty in that too, in that love despite different races and magical affinities and backgrounds in that learning to accept each other for wot they are. And I honestly assumed that would happen, when she came back in book four. But SJM shut that path down very quickly and very abruptly, and not even in a way that made sense.
For me, the whole fated/mate thing is also disappointing because it not only diminishes Aelin/Chaol's relationship (did we forget the whole or perhaps
because those things, and more WERE thought/said) , but it kind of diminishes Rowan/Aelin's relationship too.
Beyond seeming like an afterthought halfway through the series, it strips everything down to "meant to be," and you can't argue or fight or really extract anything from that. At the end of the day, they're meant to be.
I kind of wanted Rowan to perish in a tragic but noble/honourable way, and didn't feel bad about it at all. At least that would have been unexpected. Would have given him some dignity beyond an already used plot-line to cement him in Aelin's life and silence any dissenters.
Back to Chaol, and putting aside the using him and then discarding him as a love interest, seriously where was he? I didn't realise that four novels as one of the main characters, and the only damn human in the bunch, meant that you'd be reduced to throwaway sentences in the 600+ page fifth one. Seriously? Dorian wishing he was there? Aelin hoping he could rally some people on his own little healing mission? That's it? No more than, oh 4 or 5 mentions? That's all the (former) captain of the guard deserves, after all he's been through and all he's done? I don't care if he got his own little short story or wotever, that's a scrap that we've been thrown and I'm not gonna bite and be satisfied. Basically, he's human and has no magical abilities so not only does he not get to be in a relationship with the kickass fire-wielding half-fae queen (because, as a not-perfect fae male specimen, how could he keep up with her, let's just give him his own human companion) but he also doesn't get to be part of the epicness.
Wots the point, you ask, after all my ranting? Ah yes, I understand not all relationships work out, and that sometimes those you ship don't end up together, I understand that some characters appear and disappear in stories, but wot I don't understand is lazy plot insertions/character upheavals to justify relationships not working combined with a complete removal of one of the characters because, let's be real, we needed all those pages of characters hooking up or thinking about hooking up or talking about hooking up or remembering when they hooked up instead, that's so much more important.
Speaking of ACoMaF (wot? Where did that non sequitur come from!), that ending? Did it not seem so utterly familiar? Our heroine gets taken away, much to the pain and chagrin and horror of her family/court/cadre, a sacrifice she's planned all along for the greater good...
Le sigh. I'll stop now. I'll give SJM credit though, she got me emotionally invested enough in her characters to get severely pissed off when they're treated badly or outright discarded. And if you don't care about the stuff I've been ranting about, then the book is really good and I recommend picking it up. I know it seems ridiculous considering I spent most of this review being angry, but my anger is very concentrated and shouldn't deter you from diving back into this epic, despite its flaws and self-plagiarism, series.
If anyone has read Empire of Storms 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!