Queen of Shadows

18006496by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy
5 of 5 stars

This was a tough book to review. There were so many things I absolutely loved, but also a few things that really bothered me. Like they took me out of the story, bothered me. In the end up I rounded up to 5 stars though, because of the cleverness of the plot and the fact that the powerful women in this story received far more screen time than the guys – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

So what did I love? Aelin is smarter than ever in this book, and her plans for revenge and strengthening her court are so layered and complex, I had several instances of “Damn, girl! Did not see that coming!” Aelin/Celaena has always been clever of course, but there’s a sense of calculated maturity here that wasn’t present in the previous books, and I appreciated how she’s grown up.

What else did I love? MANON. She is my new favorite character – I loved her in Heir of Fire, and her chapters here are even more compelling. She is complicated and always changing, and the more we see her relationships with the Thirteen, the more I rooted for the Witch-clans. I know, even though they aren’t “the good guys.”

What else did I love? ALL THE OTHER WOMEN OF THIS BOOK. This is the first YA fantasy novel I’ve read in some time that devoted the majority of its pages to female characters, and it’s amazing. Six female POVs, and even more women who tell their stories to our main characters. They are all given depth, secrets, emotions, motivations, and their interactions are the heart of this story. This is what bumped up the rating for my review. This is why I’ll return to this book again and again.

With all that, what could possibly bother me? I’ll tell you: Chaol. He was one of my favorite characters in Crown of Midnight. In Heir of Fire he was frustrating as he waffled over his loyalty/honor, but he got there in the end, you know? After this book, I feel like I don’t even know him. Worse, I felt like he didn’t know Celaena/Aelin at all. It didn’t feel true to his character previously, and when it feels like something is forced for dramatic effect, I get annoyed. Luckily, I met Sarah J. Maas at a signing event a few days ago, so I asked her about Chaol!

Sarah explained that Chaol is in a lot of pain during this book with his internal struggles and Dorian’s fate, and that as people do (as Celaena did frequently), he lashes out and becomes an asshole. She wanted to show that sometimes people go back and forth on their personal journeys, that sometimes a step forward is followed by two steps back. “Not everything is solved with a short talk and a training montage!” she said. “That doesn’t fix everything.” Ultimately, at the end of this book Chaol is now in a position to grow as a person and become better, and she said that he needed a healing journey just like Celaena did in Heir of Fire. I’m still not thrilled with how abrupt Chaol’s reactions felt, but I do respect Sarah’s answer and what she was trying to portray. For her part, she’s excited that Chaol has sparked so much debate among fans, and said that it’s rewarding to write something that makes people talk and argue, not just geek out with happiness.

With all that said, the plot twists and unexpected ending were great, and if the next two books hold up, this is what will push the series to the next level. Fantasy is always in danger of succumbing to genre tropes, and this book took the opportunity to thwart some of those expectations, and I like that. Now the agonizing countdown begins for Book 5!

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Queen of Shadows is available on Goodreads and on Powell’s store website, here. Powell’s has several locations in Oregon, and is one of the largest independent bookstores in the country. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas – If you can’t stomach a year-long wait between Throne of Glass books, this is the fantasy series she started in May 2015, with the next book due out in the spring of 2016. Feyre accidentally killed a faerie, and trades her life for the safety of her family in this Tam Lin/East of the Sun, West of the Moon retelling. See my review here.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – If you want more fantastic female friendship, look no further. Agnieszka is the unwilling apprentice to her valley’s protective wizard, the Dragon, but she learns there is more at stake than her village. See my review here.
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Katsa is her uncle the king’s Graced assassin, but she longs to leave her life of killing behind. A foreign prince brings this opportunity to her when she joins him on a quest to find his missing uncle. See my review here.
  • The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski – Kestrel is in a game of political chess with everyone she meets, most of all with Arin, her former slave that holds her heart but can’t know her true feelings. See my review here.
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – This installment of the paranormal/YA fantasy series focuses on Ronan, the angry, brash boy of the group who can take things from his dreams. What he soon learns is he isn’t the only one who can. This is a beautifully written quartet that wraps up in February 2016.
  • The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon – Book 2 in the series finds Paige back in London’s underworld, struggling to reveal the truth to other clairvoyants, blocked at every turn by her old master’s manipulation. If you enjoyed Celaena and Arobynn’s twisted mind games, there is plenty of that in this book. See my review here.
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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. erinkbay
    Sep 08, 2015 @ 18:09:23

    Yay!! This is SUCH an awesome review, Amanda!!! Eeeeee!!! You said it perfectly!! 😀 (Hhaha, also that “training montage” line cracks me up every time!! I keep hearing Eye of the Tiger!)

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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