My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
In the fourth book of the Throne of Glass series, Queen of Shadows is the most epic in scope and storyline of Sarah J Maas’ ToG books yet. Obviously, there may be spoilers for the first three books when I discuss names, so please don’t read this if you haven’t read the rest of the series. We finally get to experience life outside of Rifthold on a grand scale. She continues switching perspectives in her chapters, bringing us more from the Prince, Aelin, Manon, etc. with the addition of Elide who is located in Morath.
World building is one of my favourite parts of novels, so the inclusion of many new places was wonderful. We got to see places that we had only heard of before, even if they were just brief glimpses. There still was not enough Abraxos in this novel for my liking, where is my favourite character?
I love seeing character development in novels and being the fourth book, the author has had a lot of storylines to play with and allow her characters to grow. While Aelin and Chaol seemed to have experienced personality changes between the first two and second two novels in the series, the other characters walked the line between interesting character development and outright personality changes. I enjoyed getting more of a glimpse into Rowan, Manon and Lysandra’s heads.
That being said, I do feel that at times the characterization felt forced so that she could get to a plot point more quickly. I would have loved to experience a more authentic building of relationships, change of emotions because overall it felt too abrupt. There was a sense of insta-love, insta-friendship, insta-everything. The book is quite long, so I understand not being able to dedicate the pages to that development, but it is disappointing not to see it.
Overall, these abrupt personality changes and character interactions made the book feel like the author had decided halfway through writing Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows that she wanted the series to go in a different direction. It’s not entirely cohesive, but I still highly enjoyed the read because it is engaging and fun. I don’t want it to seem like I didn’t enjoy the read, I just want to be clear about the pitfalls of the book.
One major concern I had with the series is Sarah J Maas’ portrayal of relationships. Sometimes you might feel warm and fuzzy about how cute they are together or how protective one is, but sometimes it goes too far. When the relationships become territorial or obsessive or commanding, essentially dictating what one party can do – that’s when it slips into an unhealthy territory. As long as younger readers are aware that this is a fictional relationship and not to idealize it, I think that it is fine. I just worry that teens might internalize it as the right way (like Twilight, which is also unhealthy), so I wanted my concerns with the portrayal to be known.
Overall, this is a long but enjoyable read. I know a lot of people had struggled with Heir of Fire being so different from her first two books in the series. She did seem to change her mind about what she wanted to be and where the plot was going. Although this book continues that plotline, it is definitely better than its predecessor so it might be worth taking a chance on again. There is also a lot of action in Empire of Storms, the fifth book in the series. It has some great fight sequences and Abraxos, which is important, so you really need to read this book to get to that point.