Queen of Shadows | Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass; #4
Paperback: 645 pgs.
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
“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 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.”
Queen of Shadows is a much needed tonal shift following Heir of Fire. This is the book that genuinely showcases Aelin’s skills in achieving her goals in grand fashion. Her upbringing as an assassin aids her well in her quest to not only obtain the next Wyrdkey but to also execute her much awaited revenge plot against Arobynn.
Throughout the first part of the book, Aelin devises a trap for Arobynn and in the midst of it all, she also plans the rescue of her cousin, Aedion. The rescue has a bit of a heist aura to it that was really entertaining. I wish it had been drawn out a little more, but at least we finally got to experience Aelin and Aedion’s reunion, which is one of the more touching moments of the series so far.
While I thoroughly enjoyed her cleverness and proficiency in navigating the seedy underworld of Rifthold, the readers aren’t necessarily privy to Aelin’s thoughts and subsequent actions. We mostly experience the aftermath of Aelin’s plotting (like all the other secondary characters), so much so that at a certain point it feels like Aelin’s pulling all these tricks out of her hat, and we as the audience, weren’t even aware we were at a magic show. I appreciate a good surprise, but when there are so many, it feels as if the character is invincible.
On another note, a subtle triumph of this book is Aelin’s complete acceptance of her name and identity. Not only does she refer to herself as Aelin, she also wishes now to be addressed as such, which is telling enough of how much her motivations have changed since book one.
I generally enjoyed the direction of Aelin’s character arc, but there were still some questionable moments in her development, mainly in her handling of Dorian. Though she claims to be good friends with the prince, her hasty decision to execute him upon learning of his Valg-induced predicament says otherwise. She doesn’t even try to think of ways to save him until someone else tells her there may be a way. I’ve never been in love with Aelin, but this was the first time that I have actively disliked her. And in many instances, I found myself agreeing with Chaol’s observations of her poor choices.
Which brings me to my next point: I am deeply unappreciative of Chaol’s character assassination. I understand that his lapse in judgement and poor behavior in this book is a part of his larger character arc, but it’s also obvious that Maas felt the need to completely destroy him as a love interest for Aelin now that she has Rowan. It’s such a manipulative way of shifting readers’ affections and I’m not here for it. In fact, even though I disliked how Chaol treated Aelin, I couldn’t allow myself to fully hate him for it. We’ve gotten to personally know Chaol from the past three books and up until QOS, he’s never been a mean person. And so his sudden maliciousness towards Aelin feels contrived.
Chaol isn’t a bad character, at least not to me. He may be dull, but he’s also flawed. And even though he’s handling the changes in his life ungracefully in this book, I can’t fault him for stumbling to cope and gradually realize the new circumstances of his lifestyle.
Aelin and Chaol’s fallout (unsurprisingly) gives life to Aelin and Rowan’s romantic relationship. QOS did manage to soften my severe dislike toward Rowan but I still don’t love him as a character, mostly because I find him boring. His and Aelin’s interactions in this book helped paint Rowan in a much more favorable light as a sympathetic, humorous, and affectionate creature if he so chooses. I’m still not invested in their romance, because it feels forced on some level, but at least I understand and support the healing nature of their connection.
One of the best things about this book, I think, is the generous number of female characters. No longer is Aelin the sole bearer of female empowerment. In QOS we are introduced to Lysandra, a crafty and compassionate courtesan; Nesryn, a skilled archer and loyal friend to Chaol; and Elide, a brave and resourceful young lady that happens to be physically handicapped. All these characters are such wonderful portraits of strength and versatility, and each have intriguing stories to tell. The only character that deserves more depth is Nesryn, only because she mostly serves as a romantic placeholder for Chaol.
Manon continues to be my favorite of the bunch, however, and her chapters are always some of the most enjoyable. She and Asterin shine in this book as Manon begins to question her position and purpose in life, and Asterin challenges Manon to see a new truth and consider the possibility of walking a different path separate from the Valg and Matron Blackbeak.
I may disagree with some of the character and plot choices in QOS, but I believe this may be my favorite book of the series. I really enjoyed Aelin’s revisit to her assassin roots, and the tone of the book proves to be much more exciting and plot driven than the first three books. It feels like the story is finally moving forward and the characters are as well. I’m still no fan of Maas’s writing style, but I could look past it well enough in this book. The ending is bombastic and entertaining, and the rest of the book is just as fast-paced and thrilling throughout.