Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Posted September 16, 2015 by Wendy in Reviews / 7 Comments

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. MaasQueen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on September 1st 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, General, Love & Romance, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 656
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
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three-stars

Sarah J. Maas's New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume.
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.

Before you guys read my review, know that it’s not possible to talk about this book without spoilers. All my feelings, thoughts and opinions are spoiler related. So this will be ridden with spoilers — if you have not read Queen of Shadows yet, back away!

WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS QUEEN OF SHADOWS SPOILERS! DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED. 

Before anyone judges my rating of the book and writes me off as oh-she-just-isn’t-happy-because-her-ship-didn’t-sail — don’t. I beg of you, do NOT brush my opinions and thoughts away by assuming it’s just because of the romance. Romance aside, I had other issues. (There was no romance in Heir of Fire and I still loved it.) Also, I could have gotten behind another ship if it had been done well and I do not believe this switch was done well. Don’t rewrite and have us dislike a character in order to jump ship.

I’ll start off with the romance first.

My biggest issue as I started this book is that Chaol’s character was destroyed. I understand that Sarah was making room for the romance with Rowan but I strongly believe that if that’s where the story was headed, if that’s who Aelin is going to choose, that there could’ve been a better way than to write Chaol into a completely unrecognizable character. Where was he? I didn’t see a glimpse of the man I loved. He was a dick to Aelin but to be honest, Aelin was to him too. And what is WITH all the fighting? There was no shred of the history they had, no shred of the feelings they once shared. This was such a disservice to an amazing character. If she didn’t want them together, don’t write him as such a jerk in order to make another romance work. For the first 250 pages I was basically slightly confused because where were the characters I had so dearly loved? Chaol blames Aelin for everything and this was so unlike him. That was NOT Chaol. It felt to me that Chaol was written this way in this book so that this Rowan thing could start happening. And that is just not fair to an amazing character. Because Chaol was not the same man I loved. And it is bullshit to write off the character being completely different to “people change”. That is a cop out because it was like night and day.

Aelin looks at Chaol in one scene and thinks how silly and how much of a girl she’d been to once have looked at him and thought “this is what the world ought to be”. Umm, in Crown of Midnight, when she thinks that it’s because she thinks the world should have honorable, loyal men like him. So she’s past that now? Does Aelin not want honorable men in her court?

Basically. It’s one thing to end things between Chaol and Aelin. But it’s another to do this to a character in order for her to move on to someone new. That didn’t sit well with me. I could have gotten behind another ship if it had actually seemed natural. Also let’s think about how in Heir of Fire, Aelin continuously thinks that she had no romantic interest in Rowan. Then here? BAM. All of a sudden, he has feelings for her, she has feelings for him and it was sudden and fast and I was like what just happened? It just felt kind of… off to me and to be honest, felt like Rowan fan fiction. If this is where SJM wanted things to go, it just didn’t feel like it was done well.

Anyway. Moving on to other issues I had beside the romance.

Another big issue I had is the distinction between Aelin and Celaena and how they’re different people. Yes, she is now Aelin Ashryver Galathynius and I could not have been more excited for my queen to take back her kingdom and her throne! But being Aelin does not make her a completely different person. She talks about hating being Celaena. Yes, she hated being an assassin and all the things she had to do to survive but being Aelin should not change the essence of who she is. The only difference between Celaena and Aelin is that she has now faced her past, her fears of controlling her magic and her birthright. She has faced them, conquered them and emerged embracing them. I LOVE THAT. However. That does not mean she is a wholly different person like it implies so much. What about Celaena’s love of music, of theater, of Sam, of shoes and pretty dresses, of chocolate cake and truffles and desert, of books and of her humanity that made her vow to Nehemia to save her people, that made her free the slaves in Skull’s Bay, that made her let Ansel betray her and yet still live, that made her love so much that she finally decided to rise and become Aelin? Because obviously, she still has those interests and loves yet there is the constant reminder that she’s changed, she is not like Celaena at all. I’ll reiterate. YES, she is Aelin, the “fire-breathing bitch-queen” but she is also the parts of Celaena that wasn’t a pretense for survival. Those past 10 years shaped her, had experiences that drove her to become Aelin. So when she shows disgust for Celaena, when she wants nothing to do with Celaena, I cock my head and I wonder why. When Rowan sees Aelin acting like Celaena after Arobynn dies, he thinks that this person had no joy. You know nothing, Rowan Whitehorn. Celaena Sardothien found joy in her books, in the symphonies at the royal theater, in playing the piano forte and in a boy named Sam. She is all of those parts. Aelin is just a name. It just seems odd to say they’re completely different people. That’s not character development. That’s just a character switch.

Plus. She survived a year in Endovier by remembering her name. Not Aelin. But Celaena Sardothien. She survived telling herself that that’s who she was. That saved her life. So just because she’s changed and has become even more badass and awesome, does not mean that there should be this… unsavory feeling toward Celaena. The ESSENCE of her character should remain the same and I felt like it was not. They are not actually two different people but that’s what was written. It’s not character growth when it feels like a swift and sudden 180. I felt like the fact that she’s now Aelin was almost used as a cop out for a lot of things. I think at one point I felt that Aelin didn’t have the humanity that Celaena did. And don’t tell me that’s because she’s Fae, blah blah blah. I want her to be just as badass and awesome BUT. Her humanity is what made her weep for the slaughter of slaves in Calaculla and Endovier and that heartbreak drove her to master her magic! You can have the power to burn the world down, but keep that humanity, Aelin. And your friends. What happened to her love for her friends? One of my favorite things in the series was the friendships! She was so quick to dismiss Dorian at first. The end was awesome with that quote about her coming back for him but ummm did we forget that in the beginning she gave him ONE MINUTE and then was going to kill him? That one minute was all she gave her friend. It was cold and calculating and she didn’t even try to think of an alternative. Obviously it doesn’t come to that but I couldn’t help wondering at the beginning why it didn’t seem to affect her more. She cared for them. There’s a history there. It seemed so easily tossed to the side.

Now, pacing. The length of the book is roughly 670 pages. I do not mind long books. In fact, I was excited that there was so many pages for me to devour. But I felt like the plot floundered a bit. Not that much happens. There are only two big plot points here and it took a long time for those to unfurl. Halfway through I was just like, what has really happened so far? I think it could’ve definitely been shorter. Plus, one plot point that I had been so eagerly anticipating seemed so anticlimactic. Arobynn? I wanted a confrontation and for Aelin to kick his ass for all that he’s done! I actually thought for awhile that he wasn’t really dead because it seemed way too easy for Lysandra to kill him. Speaking of way too easy things, things felt way too easy throughout the book.

The only story line I really loved was Manon’s. I find her and her Thirteen extremely intriguing and loved it. (Abraxos is like my favorite character.) Asterin and her story gave me one of the flashes of love and feels that I had for these books before. That spark of oh I love this. But there were so few of those moments for me! Of course, the ending was epic but that was the last 100 pages in an almost 700 page book!

So. In short. I do love the women in this series and the immense strength and courage they show. I love their tenacity. I love this world, this fantastic epic fantasy world full of magic and Fae that Sarah has built. But I also loved the characters. There was such a detraction from the core of who these characters are that the changes seemed too forced. It didn’t seem like change and growth, it just seemed forced. And that breaks my heart. The switch in romance I felt was just handled so poorly. I didn’t recognize Chaol at ALL here.

I actually cried as I digested everything driving to work the morning after because my heart has been so tied up in this series. My heart, my very soul loved these books and characters so very fiercely. Just read my reread thoughts of each of the books. (Here and here and here.) I think and hope that my love for the series shines through in those posts. But what happened here? I still love Sarah and her writing is phenomenal but my heart broke after reading this and realizing I didn’t love it. It hurts to break up with one of my all time favorite fantasy series. It physically hurts.

My Rating: mario_star_three

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    7 responses to “Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

    1. I just feel like we need to hug it out right now. I’m like tearing up reading your review because I feel the same way about everything and it just hurts. Even after two weeks it still kills me. Every time I look at the book I just get sad all over again. All your points about the rewriting of Chaol and the 180 switch of Celaena to Aelin being a cop-out. Absolutely agree. I think it was an easy way for SJM to force the story to go where she wanted it to go. I still love the world, but the characters are what made this series and now I don’t recognize any of them. :'(

    2. I really appreciate your thoughtful review and I’m sorry you feel like you will be judged! Not cool!

      Disclaimer: I loved the book. BUT I can definitely see where your issues come from, and maybe if I had reread them (I’ve only read each book once, when they were published) it would have bothered me more as well. My two main complaints were the convenience (most notably, all the jewelry), and the fact that I still don’t fully understand the animosity between Aelin and Chaol. I also felt that the Rowan romance part seemed fast in the beginning but it didn’t ruin the relationship for me because of how close they were in HoF. Anyway. The women were suuuuuper awesome and I LOVED Manon and Asterin! And Lysandra. I’m hoping that the next book will give us more Chaol and a better arc for him as well; there’s so much that could happen. Plus I love his friendship with Dorian and want to see how that plays out.

      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as you were hoping to :/

    3. So I haven’t read your review since it’s spoilery. Though at this point I feel like it’ll be safest for me to read the novellas and books 1-3 and just forget QoS even exits! You are like the 223531 billionth person since it released to say how disappointed in this book that they were. That seriously sucks and I’m sorry for you because, speaking as a person whose face you’ve been shoving this series into and getting on my case about not reading it yet (still…yes…I know!) I know how much you absolutely love this series. Sigh. This just plain sucks. Like the first 3 or 4 times I saw someone saying how disappointed they were I automatically thought “Oh man poor Wendy!” 🙁

      I’m still curious to read up to HoF at the very least and let’s face it I’ll probably still try to see what all the fuss is about with QoS but I’m guessing I’ll want to check it out from the library instead of wasting money.

      Sorry this one went so badly for you 🙁 🙁 🙁

    4. Again, I am so sorry that QoS was so underwhelming for you Wendy^^ I can totally understand where you’re coming from with the issues you discussed here, even if for me it worked. The ship jumping was hurtful for sure because I was team Chaol ALL THE WAY but to me after what happened to him in HoF and what happened between him and Celaena in CoM, I can see that their relationship would crumble – even though I DID NOT want it to. It could have been foreshadowed better but at the same time, her and Rowan didn’t surprise me in the least. I am just so bummed that your heart was so shattered by this series because I think we all know how it feels to be really let down by a beloved series and it’s not something I would have wished for you, ESPECIALLY with this series. I hope your heart heals asap ♥ *BUG HUGS*

    5. *slow clap*

      Bravo, friend. Bravo. I thought this was very well written and you did a spectacular job of getting your point across about what did not work for you. Shame on anyone who would read through this and get hung up on your ship thoughts.

    6. I’m so, so sorry Wendy. I know how much you love this series, and it sucks that it’s taken a completely horrible direction for you.
      I seriously hope no one disregards your opinions in anyway because clearly you have valid points and you have a right to be upset! I’d be right there with you. :/

    7. Anna G

      I know there were spoilers, but I had to read your review anyways. That’s just who I am. Lol! I just want to say- You. Are. Awesome! Loved your review and I felt like you did a great job expressing why you felt the way you do. Another author did something very similar to SHM and I was so disappointed (angry tears).

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