Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars (of course)

With this book, it’s official, Sarah J. Maas is a goddess that I will gladly sell my soul to in exchange for more books even half as good as this one. Queen of Shadows was everything that I hoped it would be and more. Because I’m me, the thing I loved the most about this book was the characters, oh my sweet goodness, the characters. Going into this book, I already loved the preexisting characters, but the new ones and the development of those preexisting ones was absolutely and completely spectacular. All of the characters were so three-dimensional and realistic that they seemed to leap off of the page and into my reality, I sure do care about them as if they were real people. It takes a lot for me to get that attached to people, even fictional ones, so kudos to Miss Maas for creating a cast that will be impossible for me to ever forget.

(as we get into the nitty-gritty of it, please remember that italics mean spoilers, so if you want to avoid the spoilers, please don’t read the italics. Thanks a bunch!)

So, since I finished this book, I have been trying my best to figure out the one specific thing that I liked most about this installment in the Throne of Glass series. I find myself torn between two minor character arcs that really stood out to me: Lysandra and Asterin. I now realize that I tend to fixate on minor characters instead of major characters like I’m supposed to. Oops.

(CAUTION! Spoilers ahead…)

Lysandra is quite possibly my new favorite character in the whole entire series, regardless of the fact that we are first introduced to her in this book. She is strong, she is beautiful, she is selfless, she is brave, she is breathtaking. At first, I really did love to hate Lysandra, seeing as she seemed like an uppity prostitute concerned with nobody but herself. However, by the end of the novel, I was so incredibly attached to her, it pained me to close the book and let her go. Her love for Evangeline is unexpected and took my breath away. The things she does for that little girl are amazing and seriously do bring tears to my eyes, the way that she essentially sold herself into Clarisse’s service for another lifetime so that Evangeline didn’t have to be a part of that world. It adds a whole new layer to her character, one of selflessness, nobility, and maternal instinct. Not to mention the fact that she is a freakin badass shape-shifter. She is a wild thing hidden in a beautiful human body, someone who prefers living in a body with fur and fangs to living as a fragile human. Her soul is that of a snow leopard and she is not afraid to show people that. Yes, she can be manipulative, but nobody can be absolutely perfect. She does have intense character flaws, but still I adore the sassy, blunt, beautiful, and wild girl that is Lysandra. Aside from her character, the relationships she has with other characters are so great, especially her unlikely friendship with Aelin. Together they are badass, beautiful, and absolutely unstoppable. I can’t wait for her to kick some serious Valg behind in EOS. 

Next up on my favorite character arc of this particular book we have the bloosthirsty and brutal Asterin Blackbeak. (at first I was going to say Manon, but then I realized that though she is phenomenal, Asterin is the one who really shined in this particular book). Oh goodness, my darling Asterin. Hearing about her great human love and what happened afterwards literally split my heart in two. She is beautiful, she is powerful, and she is quite possibly the strongest character I have ever read. Her character arc was phenomenal, and made me love this wildfire of a girl even more (not to mention that it made me hate the Blackbeak Matron even more as well…). She literally clawed her way back from certain death, after miscarrying and literally being branded “UNCLEAN” by the same person who was supposed to support her and allow her to heal after the tragedy that was losing her witchling. Now, she did have a support system outside of the Matron, and that really did make me love The Thirteen even more than I already do (which is a lot). Despite basically being told by the Matron to crawl in a hole and die, she healed and proceeded to waltz right back into Manon’s life (and into the Matron’s), and growing to become a reckless force of nature who really did adore life. She is strong and stands up for what she believes in, and fights with everything she has to do what is right, even if it means losing her life in the process. She is admirable and even though she has done things that cannot and should not be excused, she really is a phenomenal girl. I really do adore her

(spoilers over)

Yes, the plot is breathtaking, the twists and turns tugged on my heartstrings, the character development was amazing, and the ending was just…. okay, I’ve run out of words of praise so I’m just going to call it amazing again. I could literally go on for the rest of my life about these characters and these books, but alas, this is all the time I have for now. Feel free to message me if you want to chat more about this series, because it is seriously the best in the whole world ever.

I would recommend this book to anybody with even the smallest preference for fantasy and kickass characters. I would love for all y’all to join me in my worship of the wonderful Sarah J. Maas.

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars

Here we are again with another phenomenal Sarah J. Maas book. Seriously, all of her books take my breath away. But this one in particular holds a special place in my heart. Poor sweet Chaol and Celaena and Dorian and all them are just so cute and pure in this book, it’s the book in which I really come to care about them. This book deals with sooo many issues (and represents them well) and also brings us closer to FLEETFOOT who I, of course, adore (and is the only one confirmed by SJM to survive the whole series). But along with all of that, some pretty awful things happen, spurring along both the plot and character development. Oh my stars, I cannot even begin to express my love for this author (she is most definitely my favorite).

Okay, to start off, pretty much everything in this review has spoilers, so please avoid the italics if you want to avoid the spoilers.

Let’s begin. Her writing style never fails to take my breath away. SJM somehow makes the entire book funny and beautiful and lyrical and frightening and suspenseful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I seriously don’t understand how she does it. It is miraculous, I’m not sure if she sold her soul to the devil for her awesomeness or something, but thank whatever god you believe in for this wonderful lady.

(CAUTION: spoilers ahead)

Now let’s get down to business about “Crown of Midnight” in particular. WOW. First of all, the most absolutely positively heartbreaking part of the book was Nehemia. My sweet darling strong Eyllwe queen, she died far too soon. Perhaps more heartbreaking than her death though, was Celaena’s reaction. Nehemia’s death made a huge crack in Celaena’s soul, and my goodness does it ever show. There are so few books that actually portray lasting grief in a believably way, but SJM absolutely nails it. Nehemia broke my heart, but her sacrifice was a slap in the face to both me and Celaena, and with that sacrifice, SJM tugged on my heartstrings like a harp. I cannot get over how much  I adore her, so I’m sorry if this review is mostly about how much I adore her. 

(spoilers over)

The ending to this book in particular was also phenomenal; it was clever, it was wonderful, and it  was remarkably shocking. It was a wild roller coaster of plot twist and reveals that knocked me on my ass. It broke my heart and made my soul sing and brought tears to my eyes. Yes, some may say that it is a filler book, but there is nothing wrong with that (literally, the character development in this book is breathtaking).

(CAUTION: spoilers ahead)

Also, this book is so sex positive. It is realistic, it is tasteful, and it doesn’t make a huge deal about virginity like most books do. It made me so happy to finally finally finally read a book that approached sex in a way that wasn’t preachy. Through this relationship, the characters of Chaol and Celaena are developed in a beautiful and interesting way.

(spoilers over)

At this point, I literally cannot form any more coherent sentences that can accurately portray this breathtaking book. Just read it. Please read it. I would recommend it to literally everybody who has even the slightest affinity for fantasy.

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Final Ruling: 5/5 stars

There are seriously not enough words to describe just how much I adore this author. Her books are seriously my lifeblood. Okay, so for this book in particular really hit home for me, and her depiction of so many things went straight to my heart, earning this book a place of honor in my heart, right alongside her other books. So let’s get real here, because I’m not one to just hand out five star ratings all willy-nilly. Let’s get down to it, there are so many reasons for my adoration of this book.

The most important thing about this book, in my opinion, are the characters. Oh my sweet goodness the characters. Now, for me, the characters are the most important part of any book, the souls that are written into them make or break the story for me, no question. So let’s begin (I’ll go along with the points of view from which this tale is told).

First of all, of course, there is our beloved Celaena Sardothien or, as we come to know her in this book, Aelin Ashryver Galathynius. During the course of this story in particular, we get a glimpse into her soul which, in the words of one of my favorite guilty pleasure TV shows, is quite dark and twisty. Heir of Fire contains what is quite possibly the best representation of a character with depression that I have ever read (well, other than in Sarah’s other phenomenal series, which is not the point). Throughout the text, Aelin frequently references her feelings of drowning, of numbness, of unadulterated agony, that comes along with depression. It warmed my heart to see this representation, and not only did she represent the dark depths of the worst times, but she also showed Aelin fighting tooth and nail against it, and winning. She rose from the depths of depression back into the light. But the most important thing about this representation is that she shows that depression is an illness, a terminal one, and though it may get better, it never goes away. Aelin will have to live with her depression forever, and Sarah J Maas shows that that is okay, that that is what happens. And that is so unbelievably important. Aelin is, without a doubt, a personal light of mine, someone that I admire for her fight against the darkness, and one that I look to to remind myself that even the worst darkness can be overcome.

Whew, now other than Aelin, my absolute favorite character in this entire series is Manon Blackbeak. She is my morally ambiguous queen and the absolute love of my life. Morally ambiguous characters are my absolute favorite and, in my opinion, there are not enough of them. Now, it’s true that Manon has done some horrific things, but she also does have a heart, and does care. For instance, sweet Abraxos is the love of her life and he is a big mighty wyvern who is supposed to strike fear in the hearts of the public that is absolutely obsessed with wildflowers. Like he sniffs them and rolls around in them and it is so precious. They are two peas in a pod, two morally ambiguous beings who care deeply for one another as well as those around them. That right there is exactly what I love about them, that their morals are not strictly black and white, that things are not strictly right or wrong, no matter what their superiors claim. I actually have come to admire her, or at least certain parts of her; for instance, she is so unapologetically herself, following her own moral compass, no matter the consequences. For this, she is exceptional, and for this, she rises to become my favorite character in the series; from her introduction in this book, she stole my heart and my mind, and somehow Maas managed to make this cold, stony, and morally ambiguous woman into somebody phenomenal.

Other than them, of course, there are other characters that deserve and honorable mention. Rowan, who knows exactly how to correctly pull Aelin out of her fog of depression (and helps her do so) because he went through it himself with the loss of his mate; Sorscha, who so lovingly looks after Dorian in the wake of his father’s ruthlessness, and pays the ultimate price for it; Chaol, who fights for Aelin even after he discovers who she is and what she has done; Aedion, who would do anything for his cousin, whose ties of family are stronger than anything in this world; Asterin, who lives with her entire body and soul, whose loyalty to Manon is  unmatched; and Dorian, who, in this book, becomes a king in his own right and suffers unimaginably for it.

Okay, enough about my character obsession. Another amazing aspect of this book is the plot, oh my sweet goodness, the plot. This book is filled with the stuff of nightmares, chasing the main characters all around; but it also shows these characters coming into their own, growing up, making their own decisions, becoming who they are supposed to be. Yes, some refer to this book as a ‘filler’ in the Throne of Glass series, but it is anything but; it is incredibly necessary. No, it does not have all of the action of the other books, but the character development is breathtaking, and the action it does have is intense and mess-with-your-heartbeat kind of good. The Valg are truly terrifying, and the princes that Aelin fights at the conclusion of the novel are pure nightmare, and I honestly was not sure who would prevail, I thought the darkness would swallow Aelin once and for all. Instead, she rallies, and finally accepts her role as the Queen of Terrasen, in a scene that seriously brought tears to my eyes.

I would recommend this book to anybody in desperate need of an epic fantasy to sweep them off their feet and take them to all new heights.