‘A queen – a raging and fiery and perhaps more than a little cruel – had found him tonight…Despite the dirt and blood on her, Aelin’s face was tan and flushed with colour, and – different. Older, as if the stillness and power she radiated had honed not just her soul but also the very shape of her.’
When the long-awaited fourth Throne of Glass book was released and the flood of reviews started coming in, it’s fair to say I was a little worried. Despite the Throne of Glass books’ status as a hugely loved series in the blogosphere, in most of the reviews I read the blogger seemed to hate it, or was at the very least disappointed. It all tended to revolve around the progression of the Chaol/Celaena relationship, and the fact that this book was far longer than the earlier ones, so I went into the book with a grim expectation of disappointment and the ruin of one of my favourite series, and some of my favourite characters. However, to my surprise, I actually really liked this latest instalment, which just goes to show how you should always wait to formulate your own opinions (and probably wait until after you’ve read the book to read the reviews!)!
Continuing on from Heir of Fire, Celaena is back in Rifthold, and has finally chosen to accept her identity as the long lost queen of Terrasen, Aelin Galathynius. But things have changed a lot since she was last there: the city is crawling with Valg demons who take over the body of unsuspecting people (through rings and collars), including the Crown Prince of Adarlan, Dorian, whose father has allowed a Valg prince to take possession of him. Meanwhile Aelin’s long lost cousin Aedion is prisoner in the Glass Castle awaiting execution, and her ex-lover Chaol has joined with the rebels who fight to rid the city of the Valg, and is struggling to cope with his guilt over Dorian’s fate. If Aelin is to take back her throne, she must free the members of her court and figure out how to free magic before it’s too late…
First things first, let’s talk about the Celaena/Chaol situation that had everyone up in arms. One of the main complaints I read was about the book was how Chaol was acting totally out of character, and ‘how could Chaol and Celaena suddenly not feel the same about each other as they did in Crown of Midnight?’ Personally though, I kind of bought it. So their reunion wasn’t the Hollywood ‘running towards each other at the airport’ moment that Celaena/Chaol shippers probably wanted, but that doesn’t mean the two acted out of character (although, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion of course!). The two have been away from each other for quite a while and a lot has happened since, so it kind of stands to reason that they have drifted apart somewhat, especially when Chaol in particular is battling with some serious guilt over Dorian’s capture, and to a certain extent blames Celaena for it.
It’s also fair to say that Celaena/Aelin is now a completely different character than she was in the first book. Whilst I loved the tough, witty, but also kind of frivolous Celaena of the first two books, I also like the future Queen Aelin Galathynius who could be seen slowly emerging in Heir of Fire, and seemed to be coming into her own in Queen of Shadows (although I feel like the way this was signified through the abrupt change of names in this book was a little clumsy…I did keep forgetting and thinking ‘who the hell is Aelin?’). Therefore I felt it stood to reason that her relationships with the original cast of characters would have changed significantly, and whilst I did really like Celaena and Chaol’s relationship in Crown of Midnight, I found that I really wasn’t all that bothered that they didn’t end up together.
However, one thing I wasn’t a fan of was the new romance in the book, this time between Aelin and Rowan. I like Rowan as a character (in fact I like him a lot!), so why, I hear you ask, would I disapprove of their romance? Because one of the things I liked best about Heir of Fire (which remains my favourite book so far in the series) was that it was a book more about friendship than romantic love, which is so rare that I really wish it hadn’t been ruined by the fact the friends I adored so much are now more than friends. Why can no male/female friendships in book ever stay platonic? It’s just so boring when you always know things will inevitably turn all gooey and lovey-dovey! I do like that Celaena/Aelin has been in multiple relationships throughout the series (with Sam, Dorian, Chaol etc.), as it is much more reflective of real life where not many people are only ever in one relationship (whereas most books have them meet their soulmate the first time round), but this latest one I did find annoying.
I did like Aelin’s heartfelt reunion with her cousin Aedion though, who continues to be a character I like, even if his (and Rowan’s) overprotectiveness was a little cloying at times.
And on the subject of returning characters, both Lysandra and Arobynn from The Assassin’s Blade made pretty significant appearances in this book, but seen as I haven’t yet read The Assassin’s Blade, they’re technically new characters to me. I’m definitely hoping to read The Assassin’s Blade after this though, as I would be interested to read more about Celaena’s rocky past with Lysandra considering their close friendship in this book, and I was definitely more than a little intrigued by Arobynn.
As for Manon and the witches, I continued to love their sections, particularly as things picked up towards the end (although I know quite a lot of people aren’t so keen on the Manon sections). I liked getting a closer look at the bonds within Manon’s witch coven (known as the Thirteen), especially as her relationship with her Second, Asterin, looks to be on the rocks. The introduction of Elide was also something I liked, as through her and her ties to Terrasen, the witches’ story finally became entwined with Aelin’s, and I look forward to Elide and Aelin meeting at some point in the series.
As for the plot, it was a little more meandering than in some of the earlier books, so to an extent I can see why some people felt the book could have been shorter. At first the characters’ aim is to get back Aedion, then it’s to get the amulet back off Arobynn etc., and the goal posts just keep moving as it goes on and on. However, I was enjoying the characters so much (Aelin/Rowan romance aside) that I kind of didn’t mind.
Overall, I enjoyed Queen of Shadows way more than I thought I would after reading the (largely negative) reviews. It was by no means perfect, and in some ways I could see and acknowledge what some reviewers were saying, but I don’t think it completely ruined the series or anything, as it seemed to do for some people. It didn’t go in the direction I expected, but it was a good read anyway, although I wouldn’t say it was the best book in the series. That honour remains with Heir of Fire as far as I’m concerned!