13 February 2016

'Queen of Shadows' by Sarah J Maas | Book Review

My rating: 

(I've tried to make this review as spoiler free as possible, but it does reference things that happen in the first three books of the series, so don't read it unless you're completely caught up!)
To be honest, there are a ton of things I could say about this book. I gave it five stars, and I have a lot to say on all the things I didn’t like, and also all the things that made it five star worthy for me despite them. So to stop this review being ridiculously long and rambling, I’ve tried to pick out the things I found most important, or elicited the strongest response from me.

Generally, I feel like Sarah J Maas’s writing style just improves in each book. In Queen of Shadows the characters got more complex and interesting, and the plot was even more twisty and engaging than previous books. 

Honestly, I am still finding the mythology of the series a little confusing – how exactly is Elena related to Celaena? Are they even directly related? And I don’t even know exactly how Aedion and her are related, or how either of them are related to Mab and people in Wendlyn. I tried to find a family tree somewhere online but was disappointed and so remained kind of confused. However I liked how the religion of the world were a little more fleshed out, with some of the gods and goddesses being given names and attributes.

THAT TWIST. Oooooh yes I love a good twist. There's a part of the story where pretty much everything I thought I knew was thrown out of the window, and it was an absolutely GREAT moment and I was literally whispering “oh shit oh shit” to myself during that reveal. I’d heard a lot of people mention that “some huge stuff” goes down in this book, and now I know what they were talking about, I am so psyched for the next book to come out.

However I do think the book was too long. There were several moments where I was like “literally nothing has happened these past 5 pages”. I know it’s good for character development and setting the scene or whatever, but they were a bit annoying because I kept noticing them, and I feel like at least 50 pages could have been edited out with much the same end product.

The stand out character for this book was Manon. Hands down. She has really grown on me since Heir of Fire. I really did not like her sections in that book because they took away from the (in my opinion) much more interesting storyline of Celaena. I hated her chapters almost as much as I hated Sorscha’s, but at the very end I began to see her potential, and that potential was massively achieved in this book. I thought she was fascinating to read about, and I was surprised by how much I was looking forward to her chapters. The whole metal teeth, blood drinking, animalistic sense of smell, general cruelty of the witches was great, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to end up being a goody (and I actually love that and am happily awaiting it) but she’s still wonderfully creepy! While thinking about why I loved Manon so much in this book, I realised that quite a lot of Sarah J Maas’s female characters are very similar – clever, strong, determined, and incredibly beautiful (see: Celaena, Lysandra, Nesryn, Manon, etc). I think Manon’s character could have been even more effective if she was just creepy, instead of creepy and stunning. On the other hand, I didn't really like Abraxos (Manon’s wyvern) in this book. I just felt he was really different to how he was presented in Heir of Fire. Then, he was presented as a tiny underdog wyvern, but who was really just as determined and cruel as his new mistress. In this one he just seemed to lose most of his edge and become like a pet – and I thought the whole point of wyverns was that they were like steeds not pets? And my final thoughts on Manon: please oh please don’t give her the love interest that is slightly hinted at in this book. Or have any kind of romantic relationship at all. There is a tiny, tiny, chance I could be ok with this if it happens, but can we please not risk it? Manon is fantastic, and I don’t want that guy bringing her down or basically interacting with her in anyway.

Celaena / Aelin: I was a little confused by the abrupt name change to "Aelin" but actually got used to it pretty quickly. However I wasn’t sure how I felt about the apparent huge divide between the personas of Aelin and Celaena. It's written as though she has carefully crafted these two distinct personalities, and there are numerous times where the huge ‘differences’ between them are commented on, but I honestly found this a little unrealistic. I mean, sure, she’s great at lying, but I thought the idea that Aelin was this whole new side of her that she’d been hiding under her ‘Celaena persona’ all this time was unrealistic. That being said, I did like a bit where she gets to ‘revert’ to being Celaena and it really shocks some of the other characters who aren't used to seeing her in this light – I really liked that scene as a whole, and thought this particular aspect was very effective. Sometimes Aelin was a little infuriating because she would keep all these secrets (when she really didn’t need to) from the people she’s closest to in the entire world, and then didn’t understand why they would be mad about it. But overall our favourite heroine was just as bad-ass as ever, minus the whole wallowing-in-self-pity thing from Heir of Fire.

My feelings towards Dorian in this book went something along the lines of: “aw poor Dorion” and “seriously can the guy catch a break?” I’ve actually preferred Chaol over him since day one (both in a general character way, and in terms of a romantic relationship with Celaena). However then Chaol started getting really annoying, and I wasn’t a huge fan of either, but in this book they both redeemed themselves in my eyes. Dorian's father forced a demon to take possession of him at the end of the previous book, and let's just say Dorian goes through a lot of suffering and angst during this book. In hindsight the repetition of how evil the demon is, and how much he’s suffering, could have been repetitive and annoying, but I actually really liked them, so props to Sarah J Maas for making them continuously interesting and engaging.

Let’s talk about Chaol. At this point he’s probably the least interesting male character in the series, but I’m not holding that against him anymore. I used to like him a lot, and now – even though he’s improved from the annoying pathetic little man he became in Heir of Fire – he’s just a bit meh, and I don’t feel like he added that much to the story. That being said I am still looking forward to his storyline next book.

Lysandra on the other hand, I loved. At first I wasn’t sure, I thought she was just a poor man’s Celaena (beautiful and tough and mysterious), and didn’t seem to have anything that unique or special about her, but I grew to really love her. She’s a real match for Aelin in terms of bad-assery, and I just loved their wonderfully feminist friendship – they decided to be friends despite the shit the men in their lives have put them through, instead of just continuing to hate each other. The twist about her character was a little unexpected, and a little random, but I’m mostly on board with it now, and I really loved her in this book.

Rowan: I liked his whole old Fae thing, but thought he was a bit annoying when he kept clashing with some of the others because of some alpha-male-nonsense. I thought he was cleverer than that, and the whole asserting dominance with as much subtly as a brick was a bit beneath him. His relationship with Aelin didn't develop exactly how I wanted it to, but I can't say I'm that mad about it. In my opinion he didn't stand out as much as in Heir of Fire; it’s as if when he was around the numerous other male characters they sort of blended together as just a pack of men, without as any distinguishing traits. That being said I still really liked him as a character, and he’s now probably one of my favourite male characters from the series.

My brief opinion of Aedion: funny, strong and brave (but then again I’m pretty sure all the characters in this book were, so that’s not exactly an advantage), but not much of a stand out character. He switched between being kind of interesting and kind of annoying, and to be honest at first I completely forgot to include him in this review, and had to dredge the depths of my memory just to come up with these two sentences.

Finally I want to mention Elide. I thought she was ok, while a bit annoying and pathetic at times. However I did like how this contrasted with Manon’s character, and I liked how for once we had a good character who wasn’t eternally prepared to dive into battle for love / glory / power / vengeance / whatever else is trending. It made a nice change to have a character who was so obviously a coward. With how her storyline was left in this book, I’m really looking forward to when she’ll eventually meet Aelin again, and the role she’ll play in later books.

Overall, this book got a well-deserved 5 stars from me – my first of 2016. It was exciting; it had great, interesting characters; there was romance; there were plot twists; it was peppered with little moments of humour; it was emotional; and mostly, it was fun. 

(You can find an extended version of this review with all its spoilery glory here on Goodreads)

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