Title: Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass, #4
Format: Paperback, owned
My rating: 1.5 / 5
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 will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. 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.
Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.
-- As seen on Goodreads
Oh, Queen of Shadows, how you disappointed, angered and betrayed me.
So, before I begin: If you have NOT read all of the previous books in this series, including QoS, I love ya, but please don’t read any further. I will be spilling my guts and spoiling lots of things in this discussion – including things that happened in Queen of Shadows – and there isn’t a hope in hell I can be vague about it. This probably won’t resemble a traditional review as such, but an outlet to express how I’m feeling.
I managed to go into this book completely unspoiled, and this was a blessing in disguise. My pre-order arrived over a week late, and I can only imagine how apprehensive I would have been to start reading if I knew how things were going to turn out. To say I have very mixed emotions about Queen of Shadows would be one of the biggest understatements I’ve ever made. While some crucial things remained consistent – the writing style, and the emotions evoked throughout the book were all really good – it’s the inconsistency with everything else that’s left such a sour taste.
I can’t believe I’m going to say it, but characterisation is my number one issue with Queen of Shadows, and the inconsistency from the previous books. The only character that felt familiar was Fleetfoot. Yes, Celaena’s dog is the only consistent character in a 600+ page book! Everybody else felt like strangers, and I’m sorry, but that’s bloody worrying. What happened to Celaena, the sassy, flirty, courageous assassin that I adore like a best friend? What happened to Chaol, the loyal, shy and honourable Captain of the Guard that I fell in love with? I can cut a little slack for Dorian… his father beheaded his girlfriend, and then he was possessed by a Valg prince, so he’s bound to be a bit out of sorts. I can fully accept that characters change and develop – as they rightly should – but to shed core personality traits and beliefs that make them who they are … it’s quite bizarre.
The reason why I loved the Throne of Glass series so much was because of Celaena Sardothien. I loved how sassy, quick-witted and opinionated she was. I loved how she embraced her femininity and honed it into lethal grace and strength. But most of all, I loved how she overcame every obstacle she faced, embraced every scar that was put on her body and soul, and turned it into a tenacious fighting spirit. But all of that has gone away now: it’s no longer deemed acceptable. Aelin Ashryver Galathynius has arrived: the fire-breathing bitch-queen. Quite simply, I have no idea who this chick is! Her main personality trait is bitch with an extra-large side of egomaniac. She certainly isn’t the same woman I was rooting for in previous books. I know Celaena has to be in there somewhere, but I can’t cheer for someone I have no emotional connection to. Love and respect isn’t automatically transferable: it’s earned, and in the space of a single book, she has managed to erode every ounce of respect I ever had for her.
Aelin is determined to be the perfect little Queen of Terrasen and continually picks and chooses which parts of her past she deems acceptable to carry forward into the future. Everything else that is unpalatable to her will magically disappear from the record. This bothers me on SO MANY different levels! Dorian had the right idea when he said to Chaol that he couldn’t pick and choose which parts of Celaena’s personality to love, and Aelin really needs to take the same advice. It was really hurtful to continually read Aelin insisting that Celaena Sardothien was dead. She seems to think that everything that happened back then can be re-written out of history. This is IMPOSSIBLE! I just wanted to keep yelling that you are THE SAME PERSON! Celaena can’t disappear with the snap of Aelin’s fingers. Aelin, for goodness sake, the Celaena years are your past! Everything Celaena did, you did. Every choice she made, every ‘mistake’ she made, you made them. You are to blame for your actions, NOBODY else. You can’t constantly blame Celaena (or Chaol) for everything that YOU did. Running away from your past is never a good idea; it’ll always come back and bite you in the arse.
Another thing that infuriated me is the notion that Aelin was never happy or didn’t experience any joy in the past ten years. This is just bullshit! What about Sam? Remember him? She was pretty happy with him until Arboynn set him up and had him tortured and slaughtered. And what about Chaol, huh? Remember the ball? When you danced with him under the stars? What about when you loved him so much you gave him your virginity? And what about dragging him out of tactical meetings to go fuck him in the nearest broom closet? It seems to me she was PRETTY FECKING HAPPY! And the most heart-breaking of all: remember the promise? That she would always pick him? Guess that’s been conveniently re-written and didn’t happen after all, did it? Oh my gosh, my blood is boiling just thinking about this! GGAAAHHH!!! Ok, *deep breaths*… I’m sort of calm. I guess all this just proves Aelin is a perpetual liar and isn’t a woman of her word, then? The tl;dr version is I miss Celaena Sardothien. The REAL Celaena Sardothien, before this imposter decided to take over.
After everything I’ve said, it’s amazing that other things occurred in the book to make me even angrier. The single most hurtful thing that happened was the complete bastardisation of Chaol Westfall’s character. Every single trait he had that cemented me in his corner for eternity has been intentionally obliterated or brought into question. Do you know how long I’ve loved Chaol Westfall? I’ll tell you: from page one of Throne of Glass. I’ve read the UK paperbacks, and that’s 2,029 pages ago. 2,459 if you include The Assassin’s Blade. (Well, since Chaol had a cameo in it, we’ll include them.) Let that sink in for a second: two-thousand-four-hundred-and-fifty-nine pages. That’s a lot of love. And, that’s also an awful lot of love to betray. I loved how Chaol was the shy one, a little awkward and self-conscious. He was never the type of guy to easily let his guard down and relax, particularly around strangers or acquaintances. His trust is a very hard fought battle to gain, and his loyalty, dedication and honour shone through in everything he did. To see the character he’s suddenly ‘transformed’ into is impossible to stomach and completely insulting. He’s been assigned the role of scape-goat for every problem that has ever happened in the book, and this reeks of so much bullshit I can’t even. Also, do you really expect me to believe that Chaol Westfall, CHAOL WESTFALL, the guy that could barely look a woman in the eye at one stage at the beginning of the series, had a casual fuck-buddy before he met Celaena? Really? Seriously? Heartbreak can cause you to do some seriously shitty things, but to re-write your past… eh, no, not possible. Queen of Shadows is the first time we’ve ever heard of Nesryn, and oh how magically convenient she’s appeared right now. The introduction of her character was intentionally done to try and provide a flimsy excuse to obliterate any hope in hell of Chaol and Aelin being together in the future, and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise.
I really dislike feeling forced and coerced into liking or hating certain characters without an iron-clad reason. What are Chaol’s crimes that I’m supposed to hate him for? Nehemia’s death was never Chaol’s fault, and it grates on my last strand of patience when Aelin continually brings this up. Unless he’s psychic, there was no chance on Erilea that he knew she had planned to become a martyr and die. What else has he done? Told Aelin things she doesn’t want to hear? Remained loyal to his life-long friend, Dorian? Obeyed him when he told Chaol to run? I feel like my love for Chaol has been deemed unacceptable, and I should just move on, shuffle out of the way and choose another character to support for the rest of the series. I’m sorry, but my loyalty doesn’t work that way.
Now, before I’m accused of being bitter over my ship, I will tell you something: going into this book, I was convinced Aelin was going to kill Chaol. It was the logical conclusion. This book was to be her revenge, right? To avenge the deaths of the people she loved. So, if she really blames Chaol for Nehemia’s death, why isn’t Chaol dead? Humm, so it seems even Aelin has realised that she was wrong to blame him. What other reason is there? Surely she couldn’t love him still, now that would certainly be impossible, wouldn’t it?
I wonder WHY Aelin was so anxious to see if Chaol was alive when the book begins.
I wonder WHY Chaol and Aelin were bickering like an old married couple.
I wonder WHY Aelin just happened to shadow Chaol continually throughout the book.
I wonder WHY Aelin was willing to sacrifice EVERYTHING – her friends, her family, her own life and as a result, her kingdom’s future – to save Chaol’s life when he ran into Manon. She certainly didn’t like seeing Manon’s iron nails digging into his throat, blood pooling at his feet, and his life about to end. (Neither did I, come to think of it… *Growls*)
And I wonder WHY, when Chaol was determined to sacrifice himself to save Dorian, she would secretly give him the Eye of Elena… again… to give him a chance to live.
So, because of all this I have to wonder, WHY would Aelin do all of these things, if she has no feelings for him at all.
Something doesn’t add up here. Does Chaolaena live? Or has anger altered my entire perception of this series? Maybe I’m clinging to straws. Maybe it’s desperation. Maybe I’m reading into things too much, but since Aelin has turned into a secret keeping, scheming liar, I’m willing to keep ALL opinions open at this stage.
*Sigh* Moving on.
In Heir of Fire, I was so excited to see a platonic friendship between Aelin and Rowan forming. They are so rare in Young Adult, and I was super excited that my favourite series would be one of the few that would champion this severely lacking relationship in the books I read. I was hoping Aelin and Rowan would become my new Aria and Roar (from the Under the Never Sky Series, by Veronica Rossi). Aria and Roar’s friendship stayed platonic throughout the entire series, and it was simply amazing. It propelled that series from fabulousness into perfection, and it’ll always have a very special place in my heart for doing something very few other series have managed to do. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when Aelin began lusting after Rowan, and vice versa. I honestly feel like I’ve missed out on a book in the series. WHERE did these feelings come from? To make it worse, I didn’t believe she genuinely felt anything toward Rowan.
You know what makes all this even more unbearable? I was beginning to like Rowan in Heir of Fire. I was willing to give him a chance, and to get to know his character better before I made a permanent judgement. What surprised me was how juvenile and hormonal a 300+ year old mighty Fae warrior turned out to be. He’s constantly awestruck over how beautiful Aelin is. And if that isn’t enough, we’re constantly bombarded with how handsome and drop-dead-gorgeous he is. Every character mentions it at least once. When in the ever loving HELL did the Throne of Glass series turn into Mills and Boon?? Overtime, I think I could have grown to like Rowan, but the manner in which this relationship was introduce has tainted my opinions of him permanently. Also, to add extra dislike, I can’t stand his controlling over-protective ways. This is a HUGE peeve of mine, and I’ve hated more characters because of it in the past. And then I begin to think of the age gap between Aelin and Rowan – well over 300 years. In comparison, it makes the age gap between Bella and Edward totally acceptable. I’m sorry, but all of these things make Rowan very unattractive, and even a tad repulsive, to me.
And now for the witches. I liked Manon in Heir of Fire, but being quite honest, Manon was a complete fool in Queen of Shadows. How did she not figure out she has been deceived and controlled for so long? To make it even worse, for a huge chunk of the book she completely ignored the Thirteen and their advice. Time and time again, the one person to stand up to her and tell her the truth was punished. (Gee, this seems to be a reoccurring theme in this series.) Asterin has gained so much of my respect, though. I really liked that we got to see some of her back story, and to see that the witches have more to their personalities than we’ve been lead to believe. Really, if it wasn’t for Asterin and Abraxos being present, I would have been bored out of my mind when the story flicked to Manon’s POV. Something is bothering me, though. At the end of the book, Manon goes and spies on Dorian to make sure he’s still alive after Rifthold was reclaimed. For the love of God, PLEASE do not tell me that Dorian and Manon will end up together. Why does everyone have to be paired off? Seriously, we’ll have a shipyard soon if any more characters are forced together. (But… I’ll throw in my two cents here: the only one I could imagine Manon with is Rowan. *shrugs* Unpopular opinion, I know, but it would make more sense to me if the immortals end up together.)
The characters personality transplants weren’t the only issues I had. Everything that happened felt entirely too easy and convenient. Aedion (who I LOVE, by the way!), had been held prisoner in the dungeons of Rifthold Castle, awaiting his execution on Dorian’s birthday. Aelin teams up with Arboynn, and the rebels, led by Chaol, to rescue Aedion. I loved how this was done… but the aftermath felt strange. How could they still use Celaena’s apartment as a hideout? Temporarily, okay, but for weeks? Really? The King of Adarlan, who is royally pissed off and searching for anybody with suspected magical links, is bound to be sending his Guard searching every building in the city looking for those responsible for the rescue. There are multiple executions every day, so they’re definitely finding people! HOW did they manage to avoid all detection without a skirmish or two? They might be stealthy, but for the love of God, they’re not invisible!
Looking toward the next two books, I’m not too sure what to expect. Everything feels very different, and wrong, somehow. The characters have morphed into strangers, and the entire feel of this book was… final. Adarlan, and the hold it had on its bordering countries has been severed, and I feel it’s been resolved rather abruptly. I expected Arboynn’s death, but I wasn’t expecting the King of Adarlan to be killed in this book – I knew his death was going to happen eventually, but not quite so soon. Now the big bad we have to worry about is Perrington? Or Maeve? I didn’t see anything that Manon and/or Aelin won’t inevitably overcome. So… what’s there to look forward to? Manon eating people; Elide arriving in Terrasen; Chaol and Nesryn sailing off to the Southern Continent so he can be healed, and Aelin and Rowan fucking every five minutes? I feel that spark and what made me love the series in the first place has disappeared. I loved Celaena, Dorian and Chaol and their dynamic together as a unit. That’s why I’m here, continuing to read the series. Now that it’s disappeared, I don’t really have anything left to root for.
Gosh, it’s so hard to get my thoughts together about Queen of Shadows, and I fear everything I’ve written is an incoherent mess. I’m all over the place. I began feeling betrayed and insulted, and then the blistering anger set in. Now I’m back to feeling betrayed, deceived and let down. I feel like I’ve been lied to for the entire series. I can’t help feeling that ‘Queen of Shadows’ feels like the wrong title… Queen of Deceit would be more accurate. My expectations for book five have hit rock bottom, and I’ve already begun dreading reading it. I can’t help but hope that ToG #5 will rectify things… but I’m afraid to face the reality that it could all be a lost cause. I don’t want to lose faith, but my confidence and trust has taken a severe beating after reading Queen of Shadows.