Author: Sarah J. Maas
Overall Rating: 5/5
Spicy Rating: 2/5
Queen of Shadows, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass Series left us with the feeling that things should be mostly resolved. Aelin Galathynius has managed, with the help of her friends and her wary and distrustful accomplice Lorcan, to free magic and to kill the King of Adarlan.
She has freed Dorian of the collar and the Valg Prince it contained which had taken over his body and tormented his mind, and everyone has survived, even if not all in one piece as with Chaol and the loss of the use of his legs.
But when Aelin, Rowan, Lyssandra, Aedion, and Evangeline travel to Terrasen to reclaim Aelin’s throne and kingdom, they discover that they are not greeted with such open arms and grandiose welcome as they had anticipated. The lords of Terrasen would deny Aelin her birthright because she is a rash teenager who was, until recently, the King of Adarlan’s assassin.
Regardless of what the lords want, war is coming to Terrasen and to the world because Erawan, the Valg King has taken over the Duke of Perrington’s body. The King of Adarlan revealed, prior to being killed by Dorian, that he had been doing everything that he could to delay the inevitable war that was now knocking at their door.
One of the ways that he did this was to build the towers that banished magic from their continent which stopped Erawan from being able to find those with Fae blood so easily, but it also trapped many Fae in their other forms that they couldn’t get out of, including Aelin and Lyssandra, who both had mortal forms, but many were trapped in animal forms such as Rowan’s animal form of a white-tailed hawk.
She takes the rebuff in stride and leaves Terrasen for the second time in her life and seeks to find allies for herself and her country in the war ahead, even if from the most unlikely of places. Aelin begins planning for war and, with the same exacted manipulation of the world and all its players that she displayed in Queen of Shadows she orchestrates a plan which is wholly imposing and commands a kind of grudging respect, even from the people who find her tedious, obnoxious, or downright detestable like Lorcan.
Characters that were initially introduced in Assassin’s Blade, the prequel to the Throne of Glass Series, come back in this novel and are pivotal in the plans that Aelin creates so I would not recommend reading this until after you have completed the five novellas contained within it.
We also see more of the Cadre, and just how much they detest the Queen that they are blood sworn to protect. Aedion meets Gavriel, who we discovered in Queen of Shadows was his father, and they form a tentative relationship based almost entirely on the alliance that Gavriel and Fenrys form with Aelin.
Personally, Fenrys quickly becomes one of my favorite characters in the series. He despises Maeve and the blood oath that he was forced to swear to her, but he’s also cavalier and funny and he and Aelin have a very similar fun-loving, free-spirited, and sarcastic personality.
I also very much enjoy seeing Lorcan and Aelin go head to head and I was surprised at how much I loved reading his love story and character arc which were woven into the overall plot of the novel. Skip the spoilers. When Lorcan begins his search for the two other wyrdkeys he stumbles upon Elide who he decides to protect in exchange for information but when he realizes that Aelin tricked him in Queen of Shadows and he’s essentially on a wild goose chase and goes berserk is probably one of my favorite scenes in the series for the pure hilarity of imagining him throwing a tantrum.
But, what I absolutely loved about having Lorcan fall in love with Elide is that in Queen of Shadows he criticized Rowan by saying that falling in love with Aelin was short-sighted because they didn’t know whether she would “settle,” in other words, whether her lifespan would be that of a mortal or whether she would “settle” into the appearance of a 20-something adult with an immortal lifespan. Immortality is of course relative in this case because the Fae still die, they just do so after a much longer period of time.
Lorcan says “And you. You stupid fool. Allying yourself-binding yourself to a mortal queen. What will you do, Rowan, when she grows old and dies? What about when she looks old enough to be your mother?”
And then he falls in love with Elide, one of the only mortal main characters in the entire series and he is so desperately and completely in love with her that he will rip up his shirt and give it to her for her period.
One of the things that I do really love about Sarah J. Maas’ novels is that she addresses periods, and in this one, she depicts Elide as having her period and needing to go into town to buy feminine hygiene products. Maas includes this because it’s a natural and important part of women’s health that is often forgotten or ignored in fantasy realms because it’s considered taboo. She also manages to exemplify the feelings of shame or embarrassment that a lot of women feel about their periods in her characters and highlights the even more embarrassing fact that if the Fae has superhuman smelling abilities they would be able to smell when a woman is on her period.
I also absolutely loved the character arc that Manon Blackbeak goes through in this novel. From start to finish she is two almost completely different people and she is extraordinary. I love how Aelin and Manon have this grudging appreciation and respect for each other after their battle in Queen of Shadows because they know that they are both incredibly powerful individuals and fully capable of killing each other but they also recognize that they are loyal to those that they call family. For Aelin that is Rowan, Dorian, Lyssandra, Aedion, and Chaol. For Manon, it’s the Thirteen.
This novel does contain one sex scene which is why it earned two stars on the spicy rating. While it didn’t use explicit language I would still consider the imagery explicit if a little cringe-worthy which is something to keep in mind when deciding whether this is something that you or your kids should be reading.
If you haven’t started Empire of Storms or Tower of Dawn yet, I recommend doing the tandem read of Empire of Storms and Tower of Dawn which happen at the same time, though Tower of Dawn centers on Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Falik as they travel to Antica to recruit aid from the monarchy there and seek help from the Torre Cesme to heal the injuries to his spine from the destruction of the glass castle in Adarlan at the end of Queen of Shadows. To remember where you’re supposed to switch you can use stick tabs at the beginning of each section that way you don’t read too far and then have to go backward in time.
If you enjoyed Empire of Storms you might also enjoy the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, the Crescent City Series, the From Blood and Ash Trilogy, The Folk of the Air Trilogy (also known as the Cruel Prince Trilogy), the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and its follow-up the Six of Crows Duology, the Serpent and Dove Trilogy, and The Shadows Between Us.
Buy the book here:
Thriftbooks: Empire of Storms
Half-Price Books: Empire of Storms
Better World Books: Empire of Storms
If you can’t afford to purchase the book, consider subscriptions like Scribd which I reviewed here, or by visiting your local library or using the app Libby to borrow books from the library digitally on your own devices.