Warning: Spoilers for the whole Throne of Glass series.
So a couple of weeks ago I finished reading Kingdom of Ash, the final book in Sarah J. Maas’ popular YA fantasy series ‘Throne of Glass’. And wow, what a ride its’ been!
ToG was one of the first series I discovered through blogging, and it really hooked me on YA, which is not a genre I read very much when I was actually a teenager. I don’t often read new releases, but Sarah J. Maas’ books are some of the few I try and get to as soon as they come out, which just goes to show how much I enjoy them!
However, I feel that this series (and Sarah J. Maas’ books in general) have become quite divisive in the book blogging community. In the early days of ToG it seemed that virtually everyone loved it, but gradually a lot of people have gone cold on them.
And to be honest, as much as I personally enjoyed the series, I can understand why. The tone changed massively throughout (as did the level of explicit content, begging the question, is it still YA?), people’s ships sank (relationships, not actually ships!), the series became overly hyped (which always results in push back, and people questioning if it deserves it!), and a lot of discussions were had about various problematic factors of the series.
And I am more than willing to accept that the series has some glaring faults!
So lets get those criticisms out of the way first:
- Few diverse characters.
The biggest criticism that is often levelled at Sarah J. Maas’ work is the lack of diversity, and I can definitely see where people are coming from with this. The only non-white character I can think of early in the ToG series is Nehemia, who dies very early on, and to make things worse, her death mainly functions as the catalyst for Celaena’s quest.
Later in the book when the characters start going further afield, a few more diverse characters come into the story, but I wouldn’t say any of them play a huge role in the story, which is a little disappointing. Plus I can’t think of a single gay character off the top of my head!
- Super awkward sex scenes.
I don’t know what it is, but Sarah J. Maas’ sex scenes always make me cringe so bad! I’m not particularly prudish or anything, and I have no problem with sex scenes in books, but there’s just something about the ones from ToG (and ACOTAR even more so!) that’s so awkward!
I think a lot of it is that they’re so over-the-top: everyone involved is super attractive, and of course magical, so in lots of case there’s even elemental stuff happening in the background and the whole world is quaking, because it’s apparently that good! Plus the way specifics of what is actually happening is always described weirdly: I saw people mocking a sex scene from Kingdom of Ash on Twitter before I even read it, where a male character is described as ‘nudging inside her’. I mean, firstly, eww! And secondly: what?
- Changes in tone.
Personally I never particularly minded the change in tone part way through this series, but I think this is where Sarah J. Maas lost a lot of people. I definitely saw ToG drop in popularity a little after Queen of Shadows anyway, and I think this is why.
After all, if you came to this series for a fun adventure with a sassy assassin, that’s not what you ended up getting: instead it was more of a classic story of long lost royalty trying to reclaim their crown and save the world.
And some of the things I loved about the series:
- Strong character development.
In my opinion, all good series should have characters who are dramatically different by the end of if it: the things they’ve gone through and adventures they’ve had should have changed them whilst fundamentally keeping them who they are. Basically I want to see character growth, and I don’t think anyone could say that they don’t get that in ToG.
Both Celaena/Aelin and Dorian are examples of characters who are fairly light-hearted at the beginning of the series, but who go through a major transformation throughout. At the beginning Celaena is a swaggering, fashion-loving assassin, whilst Dorian is a rather superficial ladies’ man, but by the end of the series they’ve both had to shoulder leadership roles and major responsibility, suffered a lot of pain, grief and trauma and walked directly into danger to do what’s right for their people. In short, they grow into much stronger, yet more broken people, and I loved going along for the ride!
- Bringing high fantasy to YA.
I’m really loving that in the last few years fantasy has become more of a mainstream genre, rather than just the realms of super geeks like me! I definitely feel like it’s having a moment in the YA sphere, and I think that ‘Throne of Glass’ has definitely been one of the biggest series in the last few years.
My thoughts on Kingdom of Ash:
On the whole, I thought that Kingdom of Ash was a worthy final entry to the series. When I saw the size of the book I was pretty surprised and wondered if it warranted being quite so long, but there did always seem to be something happening.
Some of the plot may have been a little convoluted (the whole thing with the Gods etc., I had no recollection of ever having been mentioned before, but that’s probably just my bad memory!), but I felt that it had the fast pace you’d expect from a final book in a series, and it was genuniely tense at times, as you wondered if Aelin and co. would make it to Terrasen on time.
The stakes were definitely worthy of a final book too, with it looking at several points like Aedion and his forces would be crushed. I loved the high intensity battle scenes and the tension as things became increasingly more desperate.
To say things got serious though, I had oddly expected more major deaths, which is probably a weird complaint. I know Gavriel and the Thirteen paid the prices of their lives, and those deaths certainly had an emotional kick (poor Manon, losing her whole coven!), but in some ways I think the death of a main character would have taken it that extra step. For a final book in a series it didn’t leave it feeling overly emotional, and perhaps that’s why? I’m probably just too used to the J.K. Rowling/George R.R. Martin method of kill everyone!
I especially felt cheated though at the sacrifice where Dorian and Aelin had to put the Wyrdkeys into the gate. Although I didn’t want either of them to die, I also felt like it had been set up for one of them to have to sacrifice themself to win the war, so there was going to be a guaranteed emotional impact, and then it never came. What’s the point of an ancient prophecy if you can easily bypass it?
I did love what I think may have been a Rhysand/Feyre cameo in the bit where Aelin is falling between worlds though…I adore that sort of stuff, and I’d never thought to see a crossover between SJM’s series seen as they’re in totally different worlds. Apparently they are in the same universe though!
I also felt like the final battle in Kingdom of Ash was suitably epic, with each character playing their part in the conflict. I really like though that the person who actually saved the day ended up being Yrene, a healer, rather than any of the warrior characters.
On the whole I felt like this was a great finale, with a suitably epic feel, and I’m really relieved to not have ended up disappointed with the ending! In some ways it maybe ended a little neatly, but that’s perhaps just my feelings having read a lot of darker fantasy books.
This series has kind of been a huge part of my book blogging life (it’s a huge series in the blogosphere, whether people love or hate it!), so it’s going to be kind of weird next year when there’s no ‘Throne of Glass’ book for everyone to talk about (whether that talk is good or bad!)! I’m looking forward to the continuation of Maas’ ACOTAR series though (ever if ACOFAS was a little disappointing!), and I’m excited to see what she’ll write next!
So what did you think of Kingdom of Ash? Have you enjoyed the Throne of Glass series, or do you think its been overhyped? What have been some of your favourite Throne of Glass moments/characters?