Queen of Shadows
Back in Rifthold once again, Queen of Shadows brings us along another journey rife with action, murder, fear, betrayal, and reconciliations as we follow Aelin back into the fold. Fresh off her adventures in Wendlyn, Aelin returns to a Rifthold that has seen a vast amount of change—in more ways than expected. Aelin is no fool, and she is more than aware of the risks and threats littered throughout the city. She also knows how to turn those threats into assets and tools to aid in her crusade.
Not long after landing back in the city, Aelin finds Chaol and Nesryn—Chaol's friend and former city guard—and they share their stories of what has happened since Aelin left for Wendlyn. When she learns of her cousin Aedion’s capture and subsequent imprisonment, Aelin immediately adjusts her plans to accommodate a new addition—rescuing her family.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Stay the course, but also plot another one. Adapt.
Aelin begrudgingly appeals to her former master—the King of Assassins, Arobynn Hamel—for his help with her various schemes, knowing full well that his assistance will come at a price. But Aelin is willing to do anything and everything to help her loved ones, and after learning what happened between the King and Dorian, Aelin realizes she will be up against an even greater threat than she had previously planned for. And that the only way to save Dorian may turn out to require a decision Aelin is not sure she can make.
Working with Arobynn has unveiled a slew of and long-awaited answers to questions—and a friendship Aelin never saw coming. Lysandra is a courtesan in the city and a former rival of Aelin’s when it came to winning Arobynn’s affections. After the initial power display, they quickly realize an alliance may be more beneficial than continuing as enemies. And when Aelin is surprised by Rowan’s appearance in the city, the news he brings with him only adds to the layers of plots and betrayals piling up against her.
You and I are nothing but wild beasts wearing human skins.
Over in Morath, Manon Blackbeak is working at the command of the Duke to train with her Thirteen and their wyverns, gradually learning more about the secret evil brewing within the land. And Manon is surprised to discover an unlikely ally herself, the young Elide, whose heritage contains more than one mystery. The Duke and Manon’s grandmother, the Blackbeak Matron, are developing their own plans—nefarious and evil plans that the Thirteen are vehemently opposed to. After learning the secret past of Asterin, Manon's second in command, Manon is faced with a series of choices to make, none of which will be easy or without consequence. And when Aelin faces off against Manon for the first time, the two powerful women clash in an overwhelming display of skill, cunning, and (surprisingly) empathy.
As Aelin unravels more mysteries and executes more of her secretly developed plans, the true goal of her return to Rifthold becomes apparent. Rallying her growing group of family, friends, and allies, Aelin is determined to restore magic and fight against the multiple evils across the land. Strategies and contingencies are developed and enacted at the most opportune moments, revealing the depth of thought and consideration Aelin has put into her preparations. But when it all comes to a head, Aelin will be pushed to the very edge of her abilities, putting all her plotting at risk for failure.
She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas is a page-turning, non-stop ride of schemes, secrets, betrayals, and alliances. Maas continues to elaborate on her characters and their thoughts as they move through the different challenges in each of their personal stories. The glimpses we get into the minds of the various characters are immersive and, at times, troubling, as we see just how deep Maas has developed their personalities. Each time I read a chapter from Dorian’s perspective, my heart gave a little tug of distress, hoping desperately that he would be able to hold on just a little longer.
Shadows also gave us more development of Chaol’s character, someone I’ve not been a big fan of for the majority of the series. He has always seemed blindly loyal to the Throne—regardless of who sat on it—purely on the basis that it was the Throne, to which he had sworn his allegiance. The dramatic conclusion of Heir of Fire gave me hope that Chaol was going to finally step into his own and begin to make decisions only after some careful consideration. Shadows brought that consideration a step further, showing Chaol as a man of integrity, someone who stands by what he truly believes in--even if it took him four books to do so. While Chaol is by no means my favorite character, he is someone I understand a bit more and can root for—particularly after his show of defiance towards the end of Shadows.
I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of some new characters, Lysandra being one of my favorites. I love how she is a fierce, brutal woman, yet full of class and civility when the situation calls for it. Maas is known for creating strong, powerful women, and Lysandra doesn’t disappoint on that front. And Elide. Wow. Let’s just take a moment to bask in the beauty that is Elide—the determined young woman who has been essentially held captive her entire life, yet doesn’t let it smother the fire that burns within her. She has a bright and vibrant perspective on the world, not letting anything—including her disability—prevent her from achieving her goals.
Hope, Elide had said—hope for a better future. For a home. Not obedience, brutality, discipline. But hope.
Ever since she was introduced in Heir of Fire, my favorite character in the entire series has been Manon Blackbeak—and her story in Queen of Shadows has only strengthened my love for her. The intricate relationships she has developed with her Thirteen are second to none, and her fiery spirit is simultaneously terrifying and endearing. I cheered for her when she stood up for what she believed in, and I cried for her when she was forced to question the actions and beliefs of those around her. The pain she feels after learning Asterin’s story is palpable, and her love for Abraxos is one of the most beautiful relationships in any book I’ve read (and yes, I’m a sucker for a good companion animal story).
Elide said, “Your mount doesn’t seem evil.” Abraxos’s tail thumped on the ground, the iron spikes in it glinting. A giant, lethal dog. With wings.
Shadows is fast-paced and action packed, yet I felt as though the story was almost predictable at some points. There are plot lines I didn’t expect, and others that I rolled my eyes at, knowing exactly what was going to happen. Heir of Fire took me by surprise so many times, with multiple unexpected twists and turns and a full, rich story with multiple plot lines. It disappointed me that at times, I was able to successfully predict how a particular situation would play out in Shadows. The most predictable (and tiresome) element of the entire book was the proliferation of every male character seeming to fall head over heels for Aelin. Yes, she is stunningly beautiful, with a fierce personality and the ability to stand up to any threat, but…we get it. It didn’t need to be so obvious that Aelin is apparently the last drink of water in the desert, according to all the males across the lands. She is strong and powerful enough in her own right that Maas could have left that part of Aelin’s experiences out of the story entirely (aside from where the relationships were key to developing characters or plotlines), and we wouldn’t have missed out on anything.
Maas has delivered yet another outstanding novel, and Queen of Shadows is an incredible tale of overcoming obstacles and believing in yourself. A must-read for any fan of epic fantasy, and a superb setup for the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series—Empire of Storms. Fans of anything by Sarah J. Maas will not be disappointed with her character development and plot progression, and even though it’s not my favorite of Maas’ novels (or my favorite in the Throne of Glass series), it still manages to land a spot in my list of overall favorite novels, and easily adds to the favoritism of the series as a whole. Be prepared for the full spectrum of feels and to be caught missing the last few hours of your life, as you become completely absorbed in this can’t-put-it-down read!
Let’s go rattle the stars.
Click the book covers below to read the reviews for the other books in the series!