These novels are so addicting, emotional and indescribable – but I’m going to try to do them justice. If you’ve not yet read up to Empire of Storms, please avoid this review as it has spoilers. I try to leave out the major plot points and just focus on the characters/the world, but it’s not free from them. Please read on only if you’ve read the series.
Our main cast of beloved and some tolerated, main/supporting characters grow throughout the series. Although we lose Nehemia, which I am still so sad about – we are introduced to the Fae. Their inclusion in the series brings the genre into high fantasy and makes it even more enjoyable. Prior to this series, I hadn’t read many novels in which the supernatural creatures were the Fae but now I am obsessed. The world of the Fae isn’t experienced or explained much, but I would love to see more of it. Their powers or abilities are so intriguing and well written. Just enough information is given that you can understand what is going on, then beautifully populate the world and battles in your mind.
Sarah J Maas makes you fall in love with each of the characters, whether you liked them when they were first introduced or not. One of the first perspective shifts we experience is when we are introduced to the bloodthirsty Manon Blackbeak. At first, you wish her scenes weren’t there as they take away from time with our main characters but by the fifth novel she’s one of the characters you’re rooting for. Although she’s a witch and over one hundred years old, she is given the ability to develop and change over the course of the novels. It takes time because she’s learning that things she believed her entire life aren’t true and don’t need to affect how she views life.
Even characters that we were originally introduced to, like Lysandra are able to evolve and change over the course of the books. She and Celaena start off butting heads and competing, but that doesn’t last. They join together and made a formidable pair (especially once magic is restored to the land). Lysandre grows into one of my favourite characters and her wholehearted commitment to the cause is inspiring.
Seeking more information about the Wyrdkeys, Celaena seeks knowledge from the Fae Queen Maeve. Unwilling to give her information away for nothing, Queen Maeve makes a deal that Celaena must train with and impress one of her trusted warriors, Rowan. Prince Rowan is able to manipulate ice and the wind, whilst also transforming into a hawk. Her inner circle is sworn to her with a blood oath and a group of Fae warriors that include Rowan, Lorcan, Gavriel, Vaughen, Fenrys, and Connall. Later on, this group is affectionately titled Rowan’s cadre and some join our heroes on their journey.
Unsurprisingly, we discover that Celaena is actually the Princess (or Queen) of Terrasen and that revelation brings with it some people from her past. Her cousin, Aedion was forced for years to do the bidding of the King of Adarlan whilst secretly helping his people. He is a general and his legion of warriors called the Bane are loyal to him rather than the King. We also meet another person from Terrasen, the daughter of the woman who sacrificed herself to allow Aelin to escape as a child – Elide. She was mistreated by her Uncle for years until Manon Blackbeak helped her escape. After only a few days, she crosses paths with Lorcan who is a member of Rowan’s cadre and they begin to journey together.
Lorcan is not well liked by Rowan or Aelin when we first come across him in Rifthold. He is still bound to Queen Maeve and is seeking to find and destroy the Wyrdkeys. Throughout his journey across Erilea, he discovers that he has a soft spot for Elide and protects her. Some of the other cadre are viewed in a more favourable light by Aelin and her friends, as they attempt to delay their orders from Maeve to help on the quest.
Sarah J Maas writes the best pairings that fill your heart with so much feeling then she rips it out and stomps all over it. Rowan loves Aelin with his whole heart, every part, the good, the bad, the broken and beaten, the assassin, the Queen, the Fae and no one else has ever done that for her. Their love is true and enduring. Heartwrenching and pure. Even though they didn’t start off on the best footing, after training her for a time and even breaking his blood oath to Maeve – Rowan is completely enamored. Plus, they’re mates so there’s nothing more important and bonding. Each relationship is authentic and pulls at your heartstrings.
Throughout the novels, you are able to experience more of the lands with Erilea from the dark, twisted towers of Morath to the Queen’s home of Terrasen. They are welcome additions to our mental maps of the land and wonderfully illustrated through words.
This is one of my favourite series by far and is highly recommended to all – also specifically to young adult readers who enjoy well-written novels with developed characters, immersive world-building and fantasy.