Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Bloomsbury. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review.
Publication Date: September 1st 2015
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones
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 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.
It is finally here! The book we have all been waiting for for well over a year and now I have read it! A special thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me with a signed bookplate edition to add to my collection of signed Sarah J Maas books. I shall treasure it eternally! It was so exhilarating to be back in the world of Celaena Sardothien and her gang! Having anticipated this book for a very long time, I had high expectations of Sarah's most recent instalment - and with each book getting better and better, did this one live up to all of the anticipated hype, or did it fall short and give me a mixed opinion like so many other reviews I've seen for it? Well... You'll be happy to learn that I adored Queen of Shadows! It's very clearly Sarah's best book to date! With so many features to talk about, I will be discussing major spoilers for this book and it's predecessors, so if you haven't finished Queen of Shadows then I urge you not to continue past this point! So, what did I think of it in detail?
Now I'm not going to lie, this book is an absolute beast! At a whopping 656 pages, this story does feel long, but never once did I find myself to be bored. The pacing of the writing is definitely a plus point, because although as aforementioned, this book does feel long, I found the pacing to be extremely quick and we very quickly become accustomed to how exactly the events of Heir of Fire have come into play and are affecting everything. Sarah's writing is so fluid and descriptive in this book that it's incredibly easy to get sucked into the world. Everything is so vivid and visual all of the time that it's not hard to understand what is going on. I think this is definitely an attribute to why this book didn't feel slow or rushed. The pacing was perfect because Sarah knows how to hold her audience. She's aware of what they enjoy and she is handing it to use on diamond covered platters.
Now the plot discussion is going to be quite long so you may want to grab a quick snack and get comfortable because there is so much to talk about! First and foremost, I need to mention how enjoyable and beneficial it was to see how much development was happening in Rifthold and Adarlan. Not only do we get to see how much the Varg are affecting things but we also get to see Aelin stepping up, realising who she is and using that power to her advantage. The one thing I cannot fault Maas for is writing her women with confidence and portraying them as strong developing characters. Aelin's character is definitely no longer Celaena Sardothien - her outlook has totally changed and the dynamic of her character is more intense. Although this is a very dramatic change for our female assassin, I found it very simple to start referring to her as Aelin instead, as Maas no longer refers to her point of view as Celaena.
Looking further into the development in Rifthold, it was crucial that we got to see what was happening whilst Aelin was in Wendyln. For the majority of this, I found the development to be shown strongest through the growth of Chaol's character. Obviously we got to see from Chaol's perspective in Heir of Fire, but in Queen of Shadows, Aelin has returned and the dynamics between these two crucial characters really reflect what has occurred while Aelin has been gone. It becomes very apparent in their back and forth argumentative dialogue and I really enjoyed this aspect. I've seen a lot of people moan that Aelin has changed and that she's harder on Chaol than she should be. Of course she's changed, she's no longer the young assassin from the Salt Mines of Endovier - she's Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Heir of Fire and the long lost Queen of Terrasen. She is stronger and holds more power than she used too, of course she's going to be a bit more blunt. Anyway, since when didn't we see Celaena being blunt and strong? It's part of her character. What I admired about Chaol's development was that he had moved on from where Aelin left him on the docks, so when she returned, why would we expect him to be the same? He has fallen on harder times and has had to decide between serving the empire or rebelling against it. With his best friend slaved to the darkness the King of Adarlan controls, his judgement has been tested. I personally think Chaol comes out stronger in this book than he does in any of the prior books. I also really liked the relationship building between him and Nesryn - it was a warrior's friendship to begin with but you could definitely tell there was romantic tension in there and I am excited to see where it blooms from. I only hope it doesn't end as tragically as Sorscha did with Dorian...
Speaking of Dorian, oh what a tragically tortured soul. Every time I read one of his short POV chapters that explained what torture he was going through at the hands of the Valg prince. Oh I wept internally. My poor baby. I for the record love Dorian's character. He's definitely in my top 3, and I think this is purely down to his development since book one. He's gone through so much and has been exposed to such a different life to what he was previous used to. Besides Aelin, he's probably grown the most and I appreciate Maas' decision to include that throughout this series. What was really refreshing about this book in particular was not only the integration of old characters being brought into play (Arrobyn and Lysandra) but also the focus on retribution. Each character went through a stage when they could reattribute for something that occurred in the past. My favourite of these retributions had to be for Lysandra and Manon. Bringing old characters back into play was a really strong move on Maas' behalf as these crucial characters had such a powerful influence on Aelin's history that having the opportunity to utilise them in this instalment was very dynamic.
Another theme that was very present in this book was the idea of acceptance and whether we do have to accept the position we've been assigned. For Aelin it obviously is the acceptance of her position as Queen of Terrasan (even though we got the majority of that in Heir of Fire), for Manon it was the realisation that she didn't have to accept the position she was forced to be in and for Dorian it was the acceptance of inheriting the kingdom after the death of his father. I think this was a very prominent and powerful message to have in this book and it makes me very eager to see how each of these characters will develop their positions from here on out. I don't want to go too much more into details for character development because I think you really do need to read it to appreciate just how strong each of the growths are, but I just want to focus on Lysandra's for a moment. Lysandra was a character whom I had forgotten from The Assassin's Blade novellas, but was very quickly reintroduced to. Her story really moved me and I adored how much her character was allowed to develop. From being allowed to murder Arobynn after all of the pain he caused her, to having her debt paid of by Aelin, my heart really warmed up to her and I am very excited to seeing where she goes from here because I can tell she is going to be a very influential character in the future! Also, that scene where Lysandra shifts into a ghost lepoard and goes ape shit on everyone? Beautiful!
One of the things that I mentioned in my review of Heir of Fire that I had been waiting for in Queen of Shadows had to be the meeting of Aelin and Manon. As very juxtaposing characters with only the challenging of acceptance to bond them, their meeting was very interesting! I loved their little battle - it was so incredibly exhilarating to see two characters who are just as dynamic and vicious as each other battling it out in their own styles. Whilst the fighting and amazing dialogue lit up my reading experience, I thoroughly appreciated Maas' decision to make these two characters share an alliance and to help each other out. Debt's always get repaid and I loved the way this was done from Manon. It was such an incredible plot twist for Aelin, when suddenly everything she had been leaning towards shifted towards focusing primarily on saving Dorian instead of putting him out of his obvious misery.
So in this novel we were exposed to the final 'canon' shall we say, in regards to endgame relationship for Aelin. Now whilst this has never really bothered me extensively in comparison to some other hardcore fangirls, I always sore Aelin and Dorian more of couple promise than anyone else. Then we met Rowan in Heir of Fire and his reappearance in Queen of Shadows made me ridiculously happy. I couldn't help chuckling to myself at all of the romantic and sexual tension between Rowan and Aelin. All of the teasing between them was blissfully fun to read about and I can definitely see that the decision for this pairing was a good one, unless Maas decides to go on a killing spree, which hey, we know she's not apposed too. I still haven't forgiven you yet for Nehemia yet, Sarah! I just hope you don't go after one of my new favourite characters, Elide! She's too precious, leave her be!
In my review of Heir of Fire I mentioned that I wasn't completely warmed up to Aedion and that I found him a bit questionable besides his sarcastic tongue and cheek. I noted that I expected a lot more from him in the this book and oh boy did we get it. I completely adored Aedion - I thought he was a fantastic character, full of wit and genuine care to the cause. I loved his interactions with Aelin, and even though at times some of the gestures towards each other I feel could have been confused with those similar to a romantic interest, the whole focus on family and being there for one another, and being over protective came into play nicely and overcast any other thoughts of their relationship. I definitely look forwarding to seeing how he develops now that him and Aelin have arrived in Terrasan - their home. I expect lots of family memory moments from book five! Let's see if we get them, shall we?
Okay, coming completely away from character development, (even though I have tried so hard not to talk solely about it, and clearly failing) lets discuss the overall story arc and where this leaves us in preparation for the next book in this series. Obviously now with the death of the King of Adarlan, Dorian has stepped up to the position and the antagonist view has now landed on the ancient evil residing in Duke Perrington. Whilst a very pragmatic move and one that I enjoy looking forward to seeing how it develops, it leaves me wondering whether such a development can be continued and fleshed out over two more books. Books, which I am assuming will probably be roughly the same length as their predecessors. Queen of Shadows on it's own does a good job of rounding off the antagonist and creating a happy-ish ending. Honestly, if Maas had rounded off the whole Valg situation in this book two, I think I would be extremely happy with the way that series ended. Fortunately this is not the case and we as readers get two extra books in this stunning world. I am both very grateful for this and also worried that this could go very, very wrong and our precious characters could get hurt. Hopefully it will all work out beneficially in the end, but knowing Maas' history, I don't hold much confidence in the fact everyone will get out alive...
So overall, this was an absolutely stunning addition to what is an incredible fantasy series. There are so many unique elements brought into this story that blend together so well and just work. Queen of Shadows is definitely my favourite of the series so far purely for the amount of depth that Sarah has put into the development of her characters. It's absolutely phenomenal and I cannot wait to see what she has up her sleeve for them next. I award Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas a whopping 5 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale. No book is more rightly deserving of such a prestigious rating, and I can clearly see why this book is going to be one of the largest and most popular releases of the year. I cannot wait to read more!