Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass, #4)

Queen-of-Shadows-Cover

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

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To my forest Fae fans, frosty Dorian dames, spunky Chaol warriors, and Celaena fangirls of all shapes, species and sizes:

Stand At Attention, maties! Every ship must go down with the pirate captain!

There are SPOILERS for the first three books in the summary below! Proceed at your own discretion. For those who wish to continue, I welcome you into the beautiful, bloodthirsty and fiery world that I have come to love so much.

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 has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. 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.

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

…don’t you just wanna scream “AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!” at that summary?!?!


After reading Throne of Glass, I already couldn’t get enough of Celaena Sardothien. This girl carries enough weapons around to be a living armory – AND she looks like one hot lady while doing it. Can you forgive me for loving her? Who can resist this warrior princess? She takes weak, corrupt men down like the irritating flies that they are. The best, and most realistic part, is that underneath the bloodstained blades and thirst for vengeance… Celaena is still that little girl: once lost on the riverbank, a lover of chocolates and puppies who is still afraid of being left alone.

I gobbled up Crown of Midnight; I inhaled Heir of Fire; I SOBBED ALL OVER Assassin’s Blade (Sam + Celaena forever I don’t care what ANYONE says). Crown of Midnight is a solid 4.25 stars while Heir of Fire and Assassin’s Blade are both 5-star works.

By the time I reached Queen of Shadows, Celaena had already become one of my favorite fictional characters (besides a certain Katerina Petrova—vampire diva and killer extraordinaire). Both Celaena from Throne of Glass and Katerina from Vampire Diaries share a very special trait. They are the masters of their own destinies, warriors in their own right, or as Celaena would drunkenly say, “the keepers of their own fates.”

Sarah J. Maas has a special talent when it comes to sculpting characters. She’s in the same authorial league as Naomi Novik, creating individuals who come to life and breathe before your very eyes. Maas has crafted a world comprising so many intricate lands. And in that world, we readers live, love, battle and die with our favorite characters.

So, I was more than invested in the story when I reached Queen of Shadows. I wasn’t just reading it; I was breathing it. Once I started, I wanted to stay there forever.

Color me surprised at everything that happened in this book. There were so many beautiful, redeeming moments, but there were also strange characterizations and plot points that seemed weak in comparison to the previous novels.

I’d hate to say that I was disappointed. Queen of Shadows was thrilling in certain sections and had so many poignant scenes. However, there was a dragging and dominating sense of strain throughout the novel. I didn’t dislike it, and maybe the buildup for me was so big that I expected too much, but… I personally believe that Queen of Shadows is the weakest novel in the series, by far.

For me, the series hierarchy goes like this:

(From Best to Worst)

  1. Assassin’s Blade – 5 Stars
  2. Heir of Fire – 5 Stars
  3. Crown of Midnight – 4.25 Stars
  4. Throne of Glass – 4 Stars
  5. Queen of Shadows – 3.5 Stars

This doesn’t mean that I think Queen of Shadows is a bad book. It’s not.

Most of its negative aspects stem from the silly character development, which in some cases led to contrived romance. I don’t know why so many characters took such horrible turns. If their actions and behavior were at least developed realistically, I could have handled it; but they weren’t. I wanted to hit so many of them in the head, SO MANY TIMES. *whacks Rowan w/ frying pan* *sprays Chaol with water* BAD BAD BAD

I’m certainly going to continue the series; I could never abandon my Celaena, and I won’t abandon her new identity as Aelin. If you will, allow me to discuss a few of the positive, neutral and negative aspects from my point of view.

The Good:

Descriptive Dorian Chapters

When we last saw Dorian, he wasn’t exactly in good straits. He’s always been my precious cinammon roll, too good, too pure for this world. Imagine my heartbreak when Heir of Fire’s final showdown arrives and the prince loses more than his lover’s head. A moment of silence for Sorscha.

Queen of Shadows really digs deep into Dorian’s psyche and pulls out his fearful inner turmoil. It was scary. I didn’t know if he was going to make it. I still don’t know. HOLD ME!

Sad-Effy

A Strong Secondary Storyline – Courtesy of the Blackbeak Witches

“It’s like ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ on crystal meth.”

— Sarah J. Maas, on the Wyvern/Witch storyline

This quote was too hilarious not to include.

Manon is my girl, and her flower-sniffing wyvern is making her see the light. Well, if not the light, then the value of not being entirely blood-driven and stone-cold evil.

I often found myself waiting for these chapters to come because I felt so done with the endless flirtations of Certain Main Characters *cough cough* Celaena *cough cough*.  I fell in love with Manon, Asterin and the other witches in Heir of Fire. Luckily, the continuation of their storyline in this installment was solid and strong. The witch chapters were definite page-turners and often contained three times as much action and/or emotional intensity as Celaena’s sections. Manon is a favorite of mine. Her thought-processes and emotions are developed so flawlessly. Brava, Miss Maas; now give us more Manon and Asterin!

Improved Development of Secondary Females

I don’t want to spoil anything. Let’s just say that a few females are finally receiving the appreciation that they’ve always deserved. I was tired of the petty rivalries in the earlier books because I knew that there was more to characters like Kaltain Rompier. Sure, she’s beautiful and mean, but did anyone ever stop to think that some of these gorgeous girls have reasons for being so unpleasant? They don’t just jump out of the womb spewing insults to unpopular court ladies. LOL

She-villains are no longer cast in a small-minded, spiteful light. Raw power is shown along with unflinching loyalty. These girls may not be Celaena, but they’re just as badass, if not more.

The “I Don’t Know How to Feel About This”:

Celaena Sardothien, Now Aelin Ashryver Galathynius

Whew, that was a mouthful. I’m a Celaena girl through and through. Upon opening Queen of Shadows, I was taken aback that Maas had decided to change Celaena’s name to Aelin. I know that she’s always been Aelin. I was so happy that she decided to accept her destiny and her crown at the end of HoF. So I guess the name change was necessary? It still felt weird though.

Celaena is just…different in this novel. I know that she’s undergone extensive training in the Fae realm and has taken her position as queen-leader of the Adarlanian Rebellion. But I don’t think I remember Celaena being quite this horny, bossy, and boy-obsessed. Well… Rowan-obsessed.

I would never begrudge Celaena the chance to be happy…but I think this is too fast for her. Sam was her first love and she laid next to his brutally treated corpse for hours while she grieved. Then she was sent to Endovier, a hellish prison camp, for about a year. After that, she briefly dated Dorian, Crown Prince and cinnamon roll who liked that she was pretty and played the piano. Next, she had her first time with the Captain of the Guard who later betrayed her trust–causing Celaena to blame him for the death of her best friend.

Is Celaena really ready for another romantic relationship? This is the big question.

I know that numerous fans think Rowan makes her happy. That’s wonderful. But I could personally go without a sex scene in the next book. I Do Not think Celaena/Aelin is ready, and I don’t want her to get hurt. This is her big moment: HER time to shine. I don’t want any more of it spent on flirtations when she’s had her back scarred and best friends murdered within the same year.

Sure, she’s an assassin and the “fire-breathing bitch-queen.”

But Celaena is still an 18-year-old girl who’s been seriously hurt in ways some fans can’t begin to understand. She needs friends around her, not someone to bang who tries to show his dominance over her and turn her on. This girl has support from her friends and family, and right now, Rowan should act more like a friend and less like a romantic/sexual partner.

Celaena’s. Not. Ready.

The Bad:

Inconsequential Romance & the Reduction of Rowan

There was just chaotic, unrealistic flirting all over the place with Rowan wanting to be Aelin’s top male and fantasizing about her in sparkly golden nightgowns. Like, wtf? These are two immensely powerful, magical beings, and Maas spends half the book on flirtatious foreplay between them. No. I am all for romance inside a warring fantasy world, but not when it gets so ridiculous that I want to skip whole chapters.

Of course Aelin deserves love; I was rooting for Rowan in Heir of Fire. Their friendship’s development was one of the best parts of that book. But in Queen of Shadows, they can somehow read each others’ minds about UNDERWEAR, of all things. I loved Rowan in Heir of Fire. Not in this one. Here, his fine warrior qualities and mental strength as a centuries-old Fae are tossed to the sidelines as he fawns and obsesses over Celaena for the entirety of the book. It seems like his character was really reduced, and many of their interactions were lifelessly boring.

Chaol’s Unrealistic Characterization

Chaol’s characterization in Queen of Shadows was so off that it made me sad. He has never, ever acted that bratty, and I don’t believe that his view of Celaena—now Aelin—was realistic. He loved her just a few months before her re-arrival in Adarlan. They didn’t have one fight or argument because she was on another continent, so what the hell could have sparked this new bullshit?

Why did Chaol grow so cold towards her? He believed himself to be her soulmate right before she boarded the ship to Wendlyn. Is this behavioral shift realistic, understandable, or something that a man like him would—or even could—do?

Somehow, after she comes back, he sees Celaena as this monstrous, cold and vengeful queen. He doesn’t even want to be in the same room as her anymore. Chaol’s animosity towards Celaena could have had more development. Sadly it didn’t, and the truth is that this is an astonishingly weak way to sink a romantic ship.

The following GIF is a perfect illustration of what Maas did to the Chaol/Celaena romantic ship in Queen of Shadows:

I wasn’t a hardcore Chaolaena shipper, but you don’t disintegrate a relationship by making one person behave like someone they’re not. I hated the way Chaol acted; it was childish and so, so stupid. I would have been fine with hating him if his behavior and thought-process were Developed Better.

Chaol from ToG, CoM and HoF would have never acted that way towards Celaena. Just because she now calls herself Aelin does not mean that she’s a totally different person.

Poor Treatment of Aedion

In Heir of Fire, Aedion Ashryver was a fine general who dreamed of seeing his lost queen just one more time. In Queen of Shadows, he’s…well…a shadow of what he once was. It seems like his character is used for comedic relief, and he’s not given the intelligence, confidence and shrewdness that once defined him as an individual. Aedion is a seasoned general—not a fourth-in-command “funny guy”.

Perhaps I’m biased because Aedion was my favorite male character in Heir of Fire.

Or maybe I’m right and his character was thrown out the window so that the readers could laugh at him and swoon over Rowan WhiteBoard.

(Whitethorn? Nope, pretty sure Queen of Shadows says he’s a WhiteBoard. Or WhiteBored. Or WhiteBoring).

The Problem of Arobynn Hamel

I’m not going to dig into this because even mentioning him is a spoiler. But I had a few problems with Arobynn’s portrayal. My main issue: Non-subtle bending of reality and/or established characterizations in order to accommodate the plot. Like a kid who so badly wants to put his square toys into those circular hole boards that he breaks his toys to do it.

Overall:

I love this series. The world that Maas has created is so deep and brimming with life.

Unfortunately, Queen of Shadows is her weakest novel yet. I enjoyed it nonetheless, but when I get so tempted to skip chapters that I have to take a break, then I know that there’s a problem. Forgive me, QoS fans. I still love the characters and want the best for them. You know that.

Characters Who Shined: Manon Blackbeak, Dorian Havilliard, Lysandra and Kaltain Rompier.

Characters Who Were Treated Unfairly: Chaol Westfall, Aedion Ashryver, Arobynn Hamel and Rowan Whitethorn.

I had far too many gripes with this novel. In the interest of honesty, I needed to give it 3.5 stars (rounded down to 3 on Goodreads). I will still buy the next installment the very second that it comes out, and I’ll be reading right along with other fans. Queen of Shadows could have ripped my heart out if it weren’t so stunted, sometimes reading like thesaurus-aided fanfiction.

At times, people were so OOC (Out of Character) that I didn’t care about them—specifically because they weren’t the unique individuals I’d grown to love in the previous books. BUT others, a select few secondary characters, actually thrived in this novel.

The Manon scenes had me like:

Smiling-Effy-2

Redeeming quality + 0.5 Stars!

I’d recommend Queen of Shadows to feminists, fantasy aficionados, adventure lovers and anyone who’s ever read any of the previous novels. Dig in and dig deep; it’s gonna be a long journey. But this series is still worth it.

Queen of Shadows was published on September 1st, 2015 by Bloomsbury USA.

What’s your opinion on this hot novel? Leave your thoughts below.

3 thoughts on “Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass, #4)

  1. Fiona says:

    I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m glad there’s improved secondary female characters! I’m getting bloody sick of Maas making Celeana hate every other female she comes into contact with…
    Also super keen for the Manon chapters! I know already that the romance in Celeana’s chapters is going to piss me off, I might just skip to all of Manon’s bits 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mirror says:

    I finished this book so fast because I didn’t really read it when I saw the name … ‘Rowan’. I’ve never liked that old guy and couldn’t tolerate with him in QoS. I think Aelin wasn’t quite herself too. Just because she accept her destiny didn’t mean she had to change completely. I hated the way she and Chaol interacted. I could hardly believe that she would let Chaol go out alone saving lives while she was fangirling all over that boring old stinking guy. I’m a Chaolaena fan, yes but I’m not saying they were OCC because they broke up, no, but because they really were. The Celaena I’ve grown to love had been murdered. Chaol was set aside so the old man could be in the spotlight but I still love Chaol, no matter how badly treated by the author, characters and some fans. I’m sorry Rowan fans, but I think the series would’ve been better if Rowan never walked in Maas’s head (since he wasn’t even planned from the start). The series is ruined for the sake of Rowaelin ship. Another thing I couldn’t believe that Chaol had a sex buddy. I mean, seriously? Chaol who was once awkward around women now had a what? Wyrd help me, this is getting out of control. It was too obvious that Nesryn was shoved into the series for Chaol.

    The things I loved about this book are the witches, Elide, Abraxos. I’m continuing this series for them and Chaol and Dorian.

    Liked by 1 person

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