A lot of the problems I had with this series are still there, but if I’m going to keep reading it, at some point I’m going to have to acknowledge that no one is holding a gun to my head and making me do that, and that some part of me is enjoying it enough to push past all the stuff that annoys me. At that point, it just seems hypocritical to spend the entire review moaning about what I don’t like when it’s so clear that those complaints don’t really matter anymore. I’m still giving this four stars.
So. Just assume going forward that I think this series is overwritten a lot of the time, features lazy worldbuilding and imprecise language, and frequently is extremely predictable.
But I still read it in two days.
This book actually felt like it could be the end of the series. Several things happened that have been coming since book one, and that I assumed were going to be left for later books (SPOILERS the king being defeated, magic being restored, Aelin returning home to Terrasen and reclaiming her throne END SPOILERS). And several things that I’m glad she didn’t drag out were resolved here (SPOILERS defeating Arobynn, rescuing Dorian END SPOILERS). She even managed to introduce several characters and plot points that genuinely surprised me (SPOILERS Lysandra being the most important; Aelin needed a female friend, and the collapse of their former enemyship was a relief. In it’s place a surprisingly poignant relationship between two women who have both done and lived through terrible things. Her presence also injects some much needed humor back into the story END SPOILERS.
The more I think about the series, the more strange it feels. This book and the last one feel like they are books in an entirely different series than the first two (plus the novellas). It feels like either SJM has matured as an author, or that she changed her mind while writing it about where she wanted it to go, decided to make it more complex. I’m not complaining, mind you. For me, these last two books have been so much better than the first two, which I found to be shallow and predictable. In particular, I appreciate how she seems to have abandoned SPOILERS the Dorian/Chaol love triangle that was being telegraphed pretty hard back in the first book END SPOILERS. She has managed to make the antagonists more complex, as well as the political situation, and filled the board with characters who are 1000% more well-drawn than they were in the first book.
Chaol is what is puzzling me the most. SPOILERS He was being set up pretty hard as Celaena/Aelin’s OTP back in books one and two, and since mid-book two, he has taken a turn. He’s suspicious and afraid and it always takes a kick in the pants for him to act. In the beginning of the book, he acts like a complete a-hole. It feels to me like SJM decided to take him in a different direction than she initially intended, and is now treating his and Aelin’s relationship as a sort of point in both of their lives where they were using each other for solace, but ultimately they were in a relationship which could not feasibly have survived the real world. I was actually relieved when at one point Aelin thinks of herself and who she was with Chaol, and realizes she was living in a fantasyland when she was with him, denying who she really was. I can see how this would piss people off if they are Chaol/Celaena shippers, but for me it feels right. Their relationship was based on lies, and Chaol has serious issues. He never could have accepted her for who she was without some serious soul-searching. And he was in total denial about the King he was serving. In contrast, Rowan and Aelin just GET each other; he sees and loves her for exactly who she is, warts and all.
I do wish, however, that she wouldn’t have rushed their romance so much. The transition from platonic soulmates to lovers was rushed and awkward. Ah, well END SPOILERS.
Just Empire of Storms to go, now, but it’ll probably be a couple of months before I get to it.