Review: Kingdom of Ash | Sarah J. Maas

KINGDOM OF ASH | Sarah J. Maas


Series: Throne of Glass; #7

Paperback: 980 pgs.

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: October 23, 2018


The final battle is here.

Aelin Galathynius has vowed to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unraveling with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, friends and allies are scattered to different fates. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever. As destinies weave together at last, all must fight if Erilea is to have any hope of salvation.”

‘Once upon a time,’ she said to him, to the world, to herself, ‘in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom . . . very much.'”

Kingdom of Ash is the final installment to the Throne of Glass series, and whoo boy is she a big girl. I actually got through this last book quickly, but only because I was on a time schedule. Otherwise, I think it may have taken me much longer to get through. This was a very solid ending, but the pacing was a bit unbalanced and I wasn’t completely blown away by the events that took place.

The one thing Maas portrays fairly well is trauma. She creates situations that induce long-lasting conditions of fear and her characters rarely escape these moments unscathed. Aelin and Fenrys, in particular, undergo torture by the hands of Maeve and her sadistic henchman and these suffocating chapters dip into some truly grotesque episodes. The pain that both Aelin and Fenrys feel is nearly tangible. The way they communicate during and after this horrendous experience is one of the most poignant elements of the story as a whole.

Aelin’s transformation in this book is monumental. She is deeply affected by her captivity and the trauma that she battles afterward is heart-breaking to observe. This is the most vulnerable we’ve seen Aelin and it’s tough to get through. Maas is fairly adept at encouraging readers to sympathize with her flawed characters, and though Aelin might still not be my favorite character, I was moved by her fear, her pain, her fatigue. Her internal struggle to stay mentally strong and to keep moving forward for the sake of her people, her friends, Rowan, and herself is possibly the most admirable part of her character growth and the most memorable part of this book.

You do not yield.”

Aelin was not the only character that had the most growth. Dorian was finally given a bit of the spotlight as he travels with Manon and has a bit of an adventure of his own. Finally, he did not feel like a sidekick. His character doesn’t feel the same as before, but this is mostly due to trauma of his own after having been infected by a Valg Prince and being forced to kill his own friends. He is further haunted by the death of his father and the question of his humanity plays a large part in is inner conflict.

His adventure is short-lived and his relationship with Manon is somewhat poorly developed, but at least Maas focused some of the attention back on Dorian and gave him much more to do with his raw power and ingenuity. And the burdens that he carries with him are finally explored in depth.

As this was the final book of the series, I was expecting some major battle scenes and Maas didn’t disappoint. Or rather, she didn’t disappoint in the number of battles, but the battles themselves were a little disappointing. They seemed really repetitive and bland, to be honest. Only a few of these confrontations managed to engage me enough to actually fear for the characters’ lives. Aedion and Lysandra’s chapters are some of the most suspenseful as they are fighting on the front lines, and a siege that takes place at Anielle is one of the most compelling sequences in the book.

The final battle, however, proves to be the most underwhelming. When main characters are rapidly dispatching nameless combatants, one right after the other, it gets monotonous. Focusing on singular battles in the midst of a larger battle helps increase the tension but there weren’t that many one-on-one battles, so I was rarely worried that any of the main characters were in any danger. Which brings me to my largest pet peeve of the book:

Too many character came out all right.

This is war. More people should be dying. It was actually really dissatisfying to see so few major deaths by the end of the book. And not only that, nearly everyone finds love in the end and gets married. It’s too much of a happily ever after, considering the magnitude of the journey Aelin and her court endured. There were some truly sad character deaths in the final battle that shattered my heart but there should have been more. It feels a little like a cop out to me.

Remember that we have something to fight for, and it will always triumph.”

There were some other aspects of the book I found a bit disappointing, but the one that bothered me the most was that Manon’s chapters were, for the first time, really dull. I actually started skimming a few of them. They were too short, uneventful, and lacked the usual edge that Manon’s narrative usually gave to the series.

Despite having boring chapters, Manon is still a pillar of strength, along with many of the other female characters. Lysandra was integral to the army’s morale and progression, Elide showed copious amounts of courage despite not being a fighter, Aelin shines as a true figure of authority, and Yrene proves to be much more than a mere healer. This is a girl power book and it’s wonderful to see so many skilled women take part in and lead the defense of a nation and people.

The beginning of KOA built up so much momentum, but the middle plateaued and dragged. Thankfully, the ending picked up the pace once more, but all things considered, very little happened in such a large book. Even so, Aelin’s recovery, Dorian’s quest to find the third Wyrdkey, a few battles, positive female representation, and a deeper exploration into some of the characters’ psyches elevates the story and allows a graceful ending to the TOG series.

MY RATING: 4 out of 5

3 thoughts on “Review: Kingdom of Ash | Sarah J. Maas

  1. Great review Azia! Totally agree that there weren’t enough character deaths. Not asking for Maas to turn into George RR Martin, but it’s war! How can no main character die? Despite that I enjoyed the book too, which was surprising — fully intended to dislike it lol. I don’t know if you’ve read ACOTAR, but did you catch the Feyre and Rhys cameo??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did! Rhys is such a gentleman helping her along through her intradimension travels lol. And Feyre was pregnant! It was actually a really great way to bridge the series. And I think there was also a reference to her new book, Crescent City 😃

      Liked by 1 person

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