Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

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No masters. No limits. No regrets.

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Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smoldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain.

The fourth volume in the bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

 

5 Stars

Having finally accepted her past, Aelin’s destiny awaits. But first, vengeance for a life time of pain, betrayal and slavery.

Beware – Major spoilers ahead for the previous installments. You have been warned.

Welcome to the next stage of the Throne of Glass series, where we find our hero back in Rifthold’s filthy dens underneath her assassin’s alias for the last time. Queen of Shadows is utterly epic; packed to the rafters with breakouts, rescue missions, a whole lot of plotting and scheming, twists, turns, betrayals and finally, some seriously long awaited closure. Queen of Shadows feels like the beginning of the end – and to some extent it is. At Queen of Shadows climax we arrive at the end of the road. What stated as the story of an assassin’s quest to earn her freedom has evolved into a sweeping quest against the gathering forces in a war set in motion years before. No longer children, Celaena, Choal and Dorian, now joined by Rowan, Aedion, Nesryn and Lysandra must embrace this new change and forge their own paths as they accept their newfound roles within a changing world.

At Queen of Shadow’s heart is our bad-ass assassin Celaena sardothien – only now, she has shed her past and accepted her fate as Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, heir of fire and rightful Queen of Terrasen. Yes, Aelin is no longer running from her past but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have use for Celaena. I think she had always been Aelin – Celaena was just the skin she had to adopt in order to survive. But before Aelin can reclaim her throne there are a few things she needs to take care of; unfinished business, scores to settle and vengeance to extract and for that she will don that skin for the very last time. Then there’s the King of Adarlan and the task of freeing magic… Basically Queen of Shadows is Aelin at her best as she plots and schemes her way across Rifthold, solving one problem, then the next. Aelin has changed since having last been in the capital. She is no longer a coward, acting on her own selfish whims but a Queen in her own right fighting for her people and her friends. This is so much bigger than her now and Aelin has finally come to realize that. I actually cried watching her journey – Aelin utterly slays with her court (#squadgoals) and Rowan by her side. She’s matured. Yes – she’s still arrogant, sassy and fierce but now she’s calculated and confident in a way we’ve yet to see.

Queen of Shadows felt very reminiscent of The Assassin’s Blade and I was 100% here for it. I loved fighting once more in the Vaults, stalking along Rifthold’s rooftops and swaggering around the Assassin’s Keep. At this stage in the game, it’s no secret that The Assassin’s Blade is one of my favorites and it was so much fun being back in the Capitol’s underbelly. With that being said, you can’t possibly think to enter Queen of Shadows without having read The Assassin’s Blade. Everything (and I do mean everything) connects, weaved seamlessly by a master writer. All the seeds that had been sewn… The puzzle is knitting together, the bigger picture manifesting. I actually applaud Sarah’s world building because all those plot threads/ character dynamics including Celaena’s loss of Sam, her rivalry with courtesan Lysandra and her toxic relationship with her master Arobynn come into play. All the pain that Celaena went through, all these threads will be used as leverage in Queen of Shadows. All the past missions, the allies gained… Aelin will call in all debuts owed and sell herself, wreak herself in order to bury her enemies and set out on the long awaited journey to claim her throne. Did I say this story is epic yet? Because man is it a rollar coaster ride of emotions and sheer bad-assery!

Speaking of plot threads, Queen of Shadows still builds upon the characters met and revealed in Heir of Fire. Manon and the gathering Iron Teeth Host in the Adarlanian mountains begin to make more sense in terms of how their perspective fits into the overall arch of the series. Having earned the title of Wing Leader, Manon and her Thirteen are now stationed at the Keep in Morath for the next stage in the building war. Things are not what they seem in Morath. Prepare yourself for darkness, despair and a whole lot of “obedience, discipline and brutality”. Manon also begins to question her place in Queen of Shadows. There’s tension between the Thirteen as each member begins to doubt their role in the coming war. Manon undergoes some pretty heavy development, grappling with the fact that she was “made” into the bloodthirsty monster she is. I loved seeing her find her humanity. Prowling Morath’s walls we have Kaltain Rompier, who has transformed a lot since the last we saw her, now under the command of the valg. We also get to meet Elide Lochan, a lost daughter of Terrasen (you’ll remember her from Aelin’s past in Heir of Fire) and, better yet, we finally get an interaction between Aelin and Manon. Yes – it’s as epic, brutal and bloody as you’d imagine.

The last thing I want to discuss is the shattering (both literally and figuratively) climax and that gorgeous, bittersweet ending. Beware, spoilers below -obviously- so read at you’re own risk. I think, of all the installments, Queen of Shadows did it best. I screamed, I cried and then I sobbed happy tears at that close. All those little seeds that Sarah planted came together, wrapping most of her threads up neatly. With Queen of Shadows, we see Celaena Sardothien’s narrative end to the re-birth of Aelin. All our underlying questions regarding the first installments are revealed with that inevitable return of both Aelin and magic itself. There is closure, Celaena’s story comes full circle and we can put her to rest with Sam, where she belongs. It really does feel like the end of an era and the beginning of the next. Two of Aelin’s enemies are defeated but now we have new enemies and an at antagonist who was there all along, biding their time, finally declaring them self. It can only get better.

For the most part, Queen of shadows is a happy ending but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still leave a big, gaping hole in your heart. It was so bittersweet to see the original trio say their goodbyes as they leave to fulfill their own quests and character archs. Yes, this is the end of one story but also the beginning of the end game. Now we can see what Sarah was writing towards all along, Throne of Glass was always more complex and layered than a mere assassin’s quest for freedom in a repressed, conquered land. Queen of Shadows ultimately, is a story about hope. Hope for a new world – a better world. It tackles themes such as vengeance and redemption; who is worthy of being saved and who is not, complex relationships between females and how acts of kindness can save your life. I truly love this series and it will always hold a special place in my heart for awakening a deep love for all things high fantasy. Also, just in case you were wondering – we only have 23 days to go until the end is nigh and we finally get Kingdom of Ash in our hands. 😉Alexandra

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