Title: Queen of Shadows
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Published: September 1, 2015
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
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.
After months of literally dying to read this book, I finally read it. I almost had to force myself to read it because I was afraid of the pain that Sarah J. Maas may decide to inflict, but the second I began this book, I became so immersed in the world that Sarah J. Maas has created in this series. I always forget how deeply invested I become in each of her books until I give her another read, and Queen of Shadows was everything I love in a high fantasy.
*This review does contain spoilers about Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire, but all spoilers specific to Queen of Shadows have been hidden*
“So the world ended.
And the next one began.”
The cover art for this book is just as stunning as it is for all the other books in this series. While Crown of Midnight’s cover is probably still my favorite in the series, Queen of Shadows’ packaging is absolutely gorgeous and literally screams fantasy.
Sarah J. Maas’s writing style in this book was everything. Down to the pacing and her beautifully descriptive words (which is why she now does worldbuilding so!! well!!), Queen of Shadows had some of the best of Sarah J. Maas yet. The only issues I had with her writing style was that I found certain descriptive phases to grow repetitive, but that isn’t nearly as big enough of an issue for me to dock her a star.
Aelin was endlessly frustrating and endlessly wonderful in this book, as she usually is – she could be stubborn and cocky to no end, but her growth throughout this series never stops. She’s endlessly growing as a person, and is learning every day what it means to become a Queen. She leaves Celaena Sardothien behind for good, and comes to term with the Aelin Ashryver Galathynius she is becoming – and I love being able to read every page of it.
I loved being able to follow Rowan in this book, too – like I said (many) times in my review of Heir of Fire, I just really, really love Rowan. <spoiler> Honestly, initially I wasn’t too on-board with the romance between Rowan and Aelin, but now I’m content with it. To be honest, I (now) couldn’t see it ending any other way </spoiler>.
Dorian just hurt my heart and absolutely killed me throughout the majority of this book – I’ve come to love him so much, and it was really, really hard to have to read about the things he was forced to endure. As for Chaol… more on him later.
I loved the newer characters that were introduced in this book – Nesryn Faliq, Elide Locham, and Aedion Ashryver, and loved the development that came with the characters that had been introduced previously – Manon Blackbeak and Lysandra. I especially loved Lysandra’s re-introduction to this series, and loved being able to read about who she really was (vs. how Aelin had perceived her), and loved her storyline in this book.
With Manon, while she may have driven me up the wall at times with her stubbornness and refusal to open her mind, I really love her character and loved her (odd and domineering) friendship with Asterin. You guys know how much I love platonic relationships.
“Because that golden-haired witch, Asterin…,” Aelin said. “She screamed Manon’s name the way I screamed yours… How can I take away somebody who means the world to someone else?”
The character I had the most issues with in this book (at least for the first 70%), was definitely Chaol.
This was really, really surprising for me, because I usually really love Chaol – even after his extremely problematic behavior in both Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire, I never disliked him the way I did in this book. In the beginning of this book, I found him to be extremely annoying, whiny, and self-righteous (for literally no reason – Chaol had zero reason to act all high and mighty over Aelin). It goes further than that, too – Chaol began to blame Aelin for literally everything. Apparently everything was Aelin’s fault – it came to the point that I was sitting there and reading, and all that was going through my head was
Chaol goes even further than deciding to blame Aelin for everything, and decides that, because she has magic, she must be a monster. This is an actual quote from the book:
“But where are the checks against your kind? Iron? Not much of a deterrent, is it? Once magic is free, who is to stop the monsters from coming out again? Who is to stop you?“
There was no reason for him to refer to Fae as monsters whatsoever – he was just being ridiculous, self righteous and petulant. Although he eventually felt bad for what he had said and realized that he was wrong, he was just bothering me so much throughout the majority of this book with how self pitying he was being. Nesryn said herself:
“Friends don’t spend time with each other only when they’re feeling sorry for themselves.”
Not to be rude or dismissive, but of nearly all of the major characters in this book, Chaol has the least to feel sorry for himself about. 90% of his problems are ones that he brought upon himself and that other people warned him about.
This plot had everything I hoped for and more.
In Queen of Shadows, we are able to follow Aelin as she assembles her court and comes across new friends in unexpected places (and as she does much more that I can’t mention in fear of spoiling people), we follow Chaol and his unexpected position within the rebel group, we follow Dorian, who is still trapped at the castle under lock and key (literally – that stupid collar), and we follow Manon and the rest of The Thirteen during their work at Morath.
The complexities of this world and the worldbuilding that takes place is one of my favorite things about this series, and this wasn’t at all absent from Queen of Shadows. The world of Erilea can genuinely feel so real, and that’s what I love about high fantasy.
My favorite storyline to follow in this book (beside Aelin’s) was definitely Manon’s. Manon underwent such growth in this book, and was beginning to question everything that she had previously thought about herself, and about her life. Being able to read more about her and The Thirteen wasn’t just fascinating (I love reading about the Blackbeak Clan + other witches), but was really smart on Sarah J. Maas’s part – I as a reader was able to have a greater perspective of all the events taking place at roughly the same time, and what it would mean to the different characters spread throughout this book.
I absolutely loved reading about the fight scenes in this book – particularly, <spoiler> the one between Manon and Aelin and the one between Dorian and Aelin vs. the King. </spoiler>.
The battle that everyone has been waiting for (if you’ve read the book, you know which one I’m talking about) did not disappoint at all.
“They were full of light, of fire and sunshine.”
There were occasions in this book where, as it often happens in high fantasy, the entirety of the fictional world and its geographical references could get a bit overwhelming. This is where the map that is provided of Erilea in the front pages of this book really came in handy. Whenever there were geographical references in this book, I would always turn back to the map for better visualization, and to get a better understanding of what the characters were talking about. It was really, really helpful.
Did I have my share of minor issues throughout this book? Yes, definitely. But the problems I had were extremely minor, especially when considering how breathtaking this book was as a whole, and weren’t nearly enough to cause me to dock a star. So, because of this, I gave Queen of Shadows a slightly rounded 5 stars. My love for this series just grows with each book I read, and I’m SO READY (but also not) for Empire of Storms this fall.