Note: Spoilers for all previous three books in the Throne of Glass series
This is the fourth book in the “Throne of Glass” series, and I decided to give it is own review, because I think it is even better than the three books preceding it (although it is by no means a standalone novel). I love it when authors actually get better over time!
This young adult fantasy series has the usual mishmash of familiar themes from other fantasies and dystopias, ranging from Harry Potter to the Divergent series to Hunger Games. But Maas takes these elements and adds remarkably original world building, great characters who actually grow as the series progresses, and epic themes – in short, all the elements of stand-out fantasy.
We first get to know the heroine at age 18, in her guise as Celaena Sardothien, a.k.a. the most notorious assassin of Adarlan. By now, however, we know that she is actually the thought-to-be-dead heir to the throne of Terrasen, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. She has returned to Adarlan, as she promised, to save her cousin Aedion – who is about to be executed; to liberate Prince Dorian if she can; to avenge the harms done to her and those she loved by the master assassin who trained her; and to free up magic once again. And actually, that’s just the start of her to-do list.
In alternate chapters, we learn what is happening with Manon Blackbeak, a witch who has agreed to fight for the evil King of Adarlan in exchange for the right to return to the Witch Kingdom. But Manon’s life, which had been so simply divided into black and white for decades upon decades, has now just gotten some shades of gray (not in the sense of Christian Grey, I hope I don’t need to add), and her new awareness of nuance comes from some surprising quarters. Manon becomes someone you find you are rooting for, instead of wishing she would meet her demise.
Although Aelin had left her soul-mate – the powerful Fae male Rowan, back in Wendlyn, Rowan hurries to her side when he discovers the strongest Fae male, Lorcan, is after Aelin. Soon, Aelin’s efforts to save her country of Adarlan (while avoiding Queen Maeve and her henchman Lorcan) are not only joined by Aedion, Rowan, Chaol (her former lover and now leader of the rebel forces), and Nesryn – a powerful female soldier who has been working with Chaol, but some unexpected and wonderful new allies.
And in one of the book’s most poignant sections, Aelin and Chaol finally talk to each other about what they used to mean to each other, what happened between them, and what they mean to each other now.
There are other character interactions too that are very memorable, though too spoilery to mention in detail, particularly a speech by Rowan about what he has been looking for in his centuries of wandering the world. But they make this book very worth reading, as does the edge-of-your-seat dénouement, which not only is outstanding in terms of tension and pacing, but surprisingly realistic within the parameters of this paranormal world.
At the end of the first book, Aelin’s ancester Elena had told her: “You could be great. . . . You could rattle the stars… You could do anything, if you only dared.” And as Aelin prepares to fight her most momentous battle in this fourth book, another character says to her: “Ten years of shadows, but no longer. Light up the darkness, Majesty.” She does indeed.
Evaluation: This is an excellent fantasy series that I am happy to discover does not end with this book, although it could have. There are no real cliff-hangers, but plenty to make you want to keep hearing more about the remarkable characters you have come to know over the four books so far in the series.
Published by Bloomsbury, 2015