Okay, I’ve finally finished the review for this book! I finished reading it close to a month ago and just needed to get my thoughts together about this novel and Empire of Storms. Now that everything is read, I’m super ready for Tower of Dawn and the finale of the series coming later next year. As always, be aware that after the book description, you’ll find a basic plot breakdown and my thoughts. SPOILERS AHOY! So if you haven’t read Queen of Shadows, go read and come back! Honestly, anything that Sarah J. Maas has written is worth devouring, and all of her series are brilliant.
The queen has returned.
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 continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.
Flash to the beginning of the book! HOLY TOLEDO!
We find Aelin back in Rifthold, combing through bars in order to gain a meeting with her former Master, Arobynn Hamel. He informs her that Aedion is alive, and is being held in the castle awaiting execution. He gives her the impossible task of capturing and delivering a Valg prince to him, in order for his aid in saving Aedion. He gives up Chaol’s location in order to help her start her quest.
Chaol and Aelin discuss everything that happened since she left, and what they need to do next. Chaol is super vocal about how he views Aelin’s previous escapades as an assassin and while she was gone. He blames her for Dorian’s mental capture by a Valg prince. He also reveals that he knows how to unleash magic, but won’t tell Aelin how.
Aelin and Chaol go to the castle to get Aedion out. Chaol attempts to get Aelin to promise not to hurt Dorian during the fight, but while she tries to impress on him Dorian’s situation, Chaol refuses her knowledge. He eventually reveals what they need to do in order to release the magic bound in Erilea. Aelin causes a scene at a banquet, and rushes Aedion out of the palace. On fighting her way out, she meets Dorian who attempts to kill her. After asking for a sign of whether or not he’s still living in his own body, to which he can’t respond, she goes to kill him but is stopped by an arrow. The arrow was shot by Nesryn (Chaol’s associate/love interest/basically his everything at this point) who was there on a tip from Arobynn.
Aedion and Aelin get picked up by Lysandra and Chaol, who reveals that he knows Aelin tried to kill Dorian. Aelin tries to explain why, by Chaol won’t hear it. They argue, and Chaol tells Aelin that she isn’t his Queen. Lysandra finds out ultimately who Aelin is, when she has lived her entire life knowing her as Celaena Sardothian.
The next morning, Aedion wakes up and is reunited with Aelin. They recount the last ten years that they have been separated, and start readjusting their way back to being both cousins and best friends. Aelin reveals that she knows Rowan, and finds out that he is one of Aedion’s hero’s (Aedion, too, fangirls over Rowan). Aedion is wary that Rowan might steal the blood oath and want to join Aelin’s court.
After seeing several Valg soldiers talking to shaped figures with the voice of the King, Aelin relents to taking Aedion out of the house. On their way home from a bar, where Aelin tried to garner information, they run into Rowan. He and Aelin have a tearful reunion (so sweet), and Rowan meets Aedion who immediately regards him as competition. Rowan recognizes Gavriel as Aedion’s father and accidentally lets it slip that he is Aelin’s blood sworn. Aedion freaks, Aelin kicks him out.
Rowan and Aelin discuss why he came to find her, while Aelin washes Rowan’s hair. Lorcan has come in search of Aelin, whether on Maeve’s orders or not. Rowan tracked him to Adarlan, and came to protect her. They go to bed together, and for the first time since Wendlyn, Aelin sleeps through the night. The next morning Aedion and Aelin reconcile and Rowan meets Chaol, who is awfully jealous of Rowan and Aelin’s relationship. When he meets Lysandra, Rowan drops the bomb that she is in fact a shapeshifter and has been living in this form since magic died.
Aelin and Rowan catch a Valg demon, and the next day they and Aedion take it to Arobynn. Arobynn notices Aelin’s relationship with Rowan and seethes. Once everyone else has left the room after the torture and death of the Valg, Arobynn slides a black control ring onto Aelin’s finger and reveals that he wants to rule her and her kingdom. Little did he know that Aelin had swapped the ring for a fake. As a result, Lysandra kills him in the middle of the night and creates a fiasco. The end results are Aelin inheriting the entire Assassins Guild and the fortune Arobynn amassed. Aelin tells Aedion that she followed his advice, and secured a fortune to fund an army with.
Aelin, Chaol, Aedion and Rowan go to the catacombs under the Old Shadow market, where Aelin reveals that this is where the King was hiding Hellfire. They discover that the ultimate Valg demon who controls the Valg princes and demons, named Erawan, who is being hidden by the King of Adarlan in the mountains of Morath. Lorcan attacks Aelin and demands the Wyrdkey, which Aelin and Rowan eventually give up (when in reality the Wyrdkey they gave up was a fake). Rowan eventually reveals his feelings to Aelin and they kiss (FINALLY).
Manon and the Thirteen are stationed in Morath, awaiting orders. The duke asks Manon to choose a clan to be impregnated with Valg stones to see if they can breed to form a new race. Manon doesn’t want to obey, but knows her grandmother will kill her if she doesn’t. Manon starts to be mistrusted by the Thirteen for agreeing.
Manon finds a servant girl, Elide Lochan, in her room. She can tell that Elide is looking for something/spying in her room. She scratches her and tastes witches blood. A clan of Yellowlegs volunteers to be implanted, and Manon accepts. Manon tells Elide to choose whether she’s allying with the humans or the witches. Elide, seeking control over something in her life, chooses the witches. Manon orders Elide to find out what happened to the Yellowlegs who have been implanted. Elide is horrified to find that they have given birth and are pregnant again. They are chained to tables, in pain and begging for freedom. Elide shares with Manon that she is looking for her Queen, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, and she is planning to escape to find her.
Kaltain has been used by Duke Perrington and Vernon as a weapon for her Shadowfire, and is starting to fight the control they have on her.
Eventually, Aelin and Manon meet after Lysandra is kidnapped by the King. Dorian immediately likes Manon, despite the demon inside him. Manon and Dorian flirt, and Dorian attempts to throw the demon out. Aelin rescues Lysandra from the wagon. Chaol takes her to saftey, while Aelin and Aedion stay to watch what happens. Manon is pleading with her grandmother over what is happening in Morath when her grandma slaps her. Chaol goes to kill Dorian, but the Thirteen stop him. Rowan tracks Chaol to save him, she turns Chaol over. Aelin mouths off and tells Manon that she’s smarter than Baba Yellowlegs. The witches realize that Aelin had something to do with her death and attack her. Manon and Aelin fight, and just before the island completely collapses underneath them, Aelin saves Manon. Manon now owes Aelin a life debt.
Rowan is horribly injured, and they take him to a healer at Nesryn’s father’s farm. Chaol apologizes to Aelin for causing this when her went to kill Dorian. He now understands why she said that he would have to die, and Aelin tells him that she will grant him that mercy to their friend. Elide’s uncle captures her with the witches are gone. He’s figured out that she’s a Blackbeak and holds her prisoner in the dungeon.
Asterin tells Manon of her history with Manon’s grandmother. She begs Manon to disobey her grandmother and free the Yellowleg witches being raped by the Valg. Manon and Asterin go to Rifthold before going back to Morath. We flash to Dorian who is almost completely gone in his body, and can only remember one thing: Manon.
Aelin and her court attack the Glass Castle at Rifthold, in an attempt to bring down the magic towers. Rowan and Aedion fight the Wyrdhounds, while Chaol and Aelin fight the King for Dorian. Dorian chases Aelin through the castle, and they end up on the glass-covered bridge between the two towers. Chaol tries to kill the King and the King permanently injures Chaol. We don’t know if he’s dead or alive.
Dorian stabs Aelin, as the towers fall. Manon and Asterin feel the magic rising as they fly back to Morath. Morath at this point is in absolute chaos due to the release of magic. Manon rescues Elide from the dungeons. Kaltain helps them escape and blows up the mountain of Morath. Manon tells Elide to head north, to Terrasen, to find Aelin.
Aelin slipped Athril’s ring onto Dorian as he stabbed her, enabling him to finght the demon. Dorian is ultimately released and can fight the demon. Meanwhile, Lorcan, Rowan and Aedion are fighting their way through the Valg trying to get to Aelin. Lysandra has now gained back her shifting abilities and is killing valg demons as a gost leopard. Aelin and Dorian fight the King of Adarlan and fracture his power. Before he dies, he is released from Erawan’s control and speaks to Aelin and Dorian as himself. Dorian kills his father. The glass castle shatters and they fall from the sky. Aelin uses the last bit of her magic to keep the glass from landing on the city. She wakes up next to Dorian and Chaol.
Aelin announces to the city-dwellers that the king is dead and Dorian is now King. She threatens to keep the city safe until Dorian is ready, under any circumstances. Aelin walks back to Rowan and passes out crying in his arms. Aelin and Dorian promise one another that their kingdoms will work together and be allies; the visit Chaol who is now paralyzed. Dorian tells him to go see the healers of the Southern Continent and names Chaol Hand of the King. Aelin wants Chaol to convince those in the Southern Continent to help Adarlan and Terrasen fight Erawan. Aelin, Aedion, Rowan and Lysandra leave Adarlan to march back to Terrasen. Three weeks later, they arrive home.
So after the longest recap ever…..
OMIGOD THIS BOOK! I doubt anything I wrote above did it any justice. This book was the product of so much hype and buildup, I was so happy it lived up to my expectations.
Finally, Rowan and Aelin are getting somewhere with one another. I honestly believe that they have the most accurate-to-real-life relationship in the book, and their honesty and openness with one another is beautiful. I’m also happy that this Dorian-Celaena/Aelin-Chaol love triangle is long gone. Manon and Dorian are perfectly matched (although I’m so sad about Sorscha), and Nesryn seems good for Chaol.
I was thrilled to see Aelin and Aedion reunited. Although, I sometimes have the same issues with Aedion as I do Chaol (misogyny, slut shaming, etc.), I think it’s helpful for Aelin to have him back in her presence. All of the characters in these books have a lot of healing to do. I’m also really pleased with the representation of multiple sexualities and PTSD being continued in this series.
I’m also so, so impressed with Manon’s character. She’s become one of my favourite characters in this series, and LOVE that she is the subject of so much character development. I think she’s finally in a place where she’s ready to kill her grandmother (thank the heavens, that woman needs to go), and to take her place as the leader she was meant to be. There’s something that feels like it’s missing from her character arc, but we’ll see what happens in Empire of Storms.
Overall, I’m super happy with the quality and content of this novel. As always, Sarah J. Maas has rocked my world with how lovely and imaginative her writing and world-building is. Aelin is who I want to be when I grow up, I want to find me a Rowan, and I want a cast of friends as amazing as Dorian, Lysandra, Aedion, Manon, Elide and Lorcan (Chaol I’m pretty sure I could do without).