Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas

Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume, Queen of Shadows, which sees Aelin Ashryver Glathynius return to Rifthold with a burning motivation for vengeance against the people who destroyed her family and her nation. Queen of Shadows will hold readers rapt as Aelin’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

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 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 (Indigo.ca).

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After Heir of Fire, I could hardly wait to pick up Queen of Shadows and rejoin Aelin, Rowan, Chaol, Nesryn, Dorian, Manon, and Aedion’s battle against the darkness that is slowly destroying their world. As the full cast of characters collides in a twsiting, complex narrative in Adarlan’s capital, Maas seamlessly weaves personal and political narratives, and creates a world on the brink of disaster.

Queen of Shadows is (perhaps) Maas’ coming-of-age as a writer, in terms of the maturity with which she tells the story. While Crown of Midnight was an example of a complex narrative gone wrong, lined with messy plot lines and poorly resolved questions, Queen of Shadows is a shining example of how such complexity can be done right. Maas weaves several plots together, utilizing the perspectives of a variety of characters, new and old, to tell a tale far grandeur and more powerful than any previous story she has told. From Aelin’s plot to bring about the demise of her old master, Arobynn, to the politics emerging in the witch covens, to Elide’s experiences in Morath, nothing is forgotten. And unlike Crown of Midnight, the strings all come together in a neat way at the end, leaving the reader feeling satisfied and excited for Empire of Storms

“It’s Aelin now; Celaena Sardothien doesn’t exist anymore.” – Sarah J Maas, Queen of Shadows

Most importantly, Queen of Shadows is a tribute to strong, tough heroines, main and secondary alike. From Aelin, to Manon, to Lysandra, Nesryn, and Elide, Maas really made sure the women of this tale stole the spotlight from their male counterparts. Aelin (no longer Celaena, having accepted her true identity and the responsibility it entails), has grown into an exemplary character. Every trait of Celaena Sardothien is magnified and combined in such a masterful way to create Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. She’s still an arrogant, stubborn, brave and sassy young woman, but she has also undergone spectacular character development in Heir of Fire, resulting in a more mature character who has shed her impulsiveness for being open-minded, calculating and often kind. Onto Manon – if you’ve read my Heir of Fire review, you’ll know I wasn’t a fan of the Thirteen or the witch coven POV initially, but Manon (and Asterin, and the rest of the Thirteen) inevitably grew on me in Queen of Shadows – in part because she’s defiant, independent, driven, and utterly wicked. It’s impossible not to grow to like her, especially in regards to her behaviour towards Dorian. Lysandra, Nesryn, and Elide really shine in Queen of Shadows too – each in their own ways. In particular, I really enjoyed the addition of Lysandra to Aelin’s “court” – her sassy, no bullshit attitude, and vendetta against those who had oppressed her was very enjoyable, and she paired quite well with Aelin.

“She smiled with every last shred of courage, of desperation, of hope for the glimmer of that glorious future. “Let’s go rattle the stars.”” – Sarah J Maas, Queen of Shadows

But as awesome as these characters are, they are nothing without each other – really, their relationships define them as individuals, and they make this tale so utterly enthralling. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships – although to be honest the burning tension between Rowan and Aelin is impossible to ignore and is so frustrating – but also about friendships. Aedion and Rowan are a formidable pair to be reckoned with, an even better “bromance” than Chaol and Dorian. Aelin and Lysandra will quickly become the reader’s go-to female friendship – and it is so nice to see Aelin having a positive female relationship again. And Manon and the Thirteen are – and I really can’t think of a better way to describe this – squad goals, a fact which is made even more awesome by the fact that they are a band a kickass women, rivaling even Aelin is her most fiery moments.

“She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.” – Sarah J Maas, Queen of Shadows

Now, this exemplary cast of strong, female protagonists would be nothing without good villains, and Maas certainly made sure there were plenty of antagonists to balance out the cast, including Arobynn, Lorcan, the King of Adarlan, and Duke Perrington, among others (Note: Manon could also still be considered a villain, but I’ve included her as a protagonist, because we all know that’s where she’s headed!). Queen of Shadows is the first time readers have really gotten much interaction with Aelin’s notorious former master, Arobynn Hamel (excluding The Assassin’s Blade) and he did not disappoint with his cruel, scheming, controlling self. He was a ruthless bastard, and as a reader, it’s pretty much impossible not to despise him by the end (if you didn’t already despise him for Sam’s death).

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Overall, I really enjoyed Queen of Shadows. Maas weaves several plots together, utilizing the perspectives of a variety of characters, new and old, to tell a tale far grandeur and more powerful than any previous story she has told. And while the story was exceptionally well done, the characters and their relationships are really the stars of this novel (4.5/5).

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