After seven novels, the Throne of Glass series has concluded. Overall, I enjoyed the novel and the series and basically devoured this book in less than three days. And it was long! I also may do a reread now that they are all released though I apparently should have started it before this novel. I couldn’t quite remember who all the supporting characters were and how they came into play – which makes sense because while it’s only been a year since the last Throne of Glass novel, that one was a bit of a side journey so it’s been closer to two years since I last read a main character focused novel in this series. Also to anyone who hasn’t read the series and is considering checking it out, definitely read the novellas because they are important later on with some of the characters they introduce but wait to read them until after book 3 or 4 for maximum enjoyment. Basically, go by publishing date rather than chronological date, otherwise Celaena might be a bit annoying while in publishing order, it helps demonstrate how she has matured since her early days as an assassin.
SPOILERS for the series going forward.
At some point in the course of this series, Manon Blackbeak became my favorite character in this series rather than the actual heroine, Aelin, and I think it might be because she has the more interesting character arc. Or at least, Aelin’s character arc became a bit stagnant at some point around novel 4 or 5. It doesn’t mean the story wasn’t entertaining, but as readers, we came to expect Aelin to always figure it out, no matter how strong the threat, to have another trump card or hidden ally up her sleeve so that even in the most dire situations. At some point, the question became less is she going to survive but more how is she going to get out of this/which friend from her past is going to show up with an army now?
Aelin may have started out as a spoiled assassin but as the reader knows, as much as she enjoys sarcasm and finery, those are not her main drivers. For several books now, it has become obvious that her people and her friends are what motivate her, and she is another in a line of self sacrificing heroines who doesn’t necessarily share all the information with her friends or readers (hi, Kate Daniels, sound familiar?). However, that means she has become a slightly less interesting character because while she is bad ass, the reader knows what to expect from her. Even in this novel, where she is suffering from PTSD, it doesn’t take her too long to rally (though I appreciated that it took her some time).
Manon, on the other hand, started out as a potentially sympathetic villain who discovered there was more to life, and that she had been lied to her whole life. Her entire belief system shifted and she led others to question with her. While the way some of her story ends up playing out had moments of predictability as well, there were simply more questions about what her future held. Plus, she has a wyvern. I love the relationships between the Thirteen and their wyverns, and Abraxos especially in helping Manon reevaluate the definitions of loyalty and strength. Manon is still on that journey of self-discovery while Aelin has mostly figured out who she is.
For the most part, I was hooked on this novel, but I have some minor quibbles. Most of them are actually more issues that occur in the genre as a whole rather than being anything specific to this novel or series so I know I might sound harsh and nitpicky, but I wanted to address them quickly.
The Cost: So here is the thing, there was a lot of death, one scene specifically destroyed me due to the characters it sacrificed, but as far as the cost to the main characters – there probably should have been more losses of main characters or even characters with names. Maas was not afraid to kill off or maim characters in earlier books so it felt like she went a bit light here, especially on people in love (also, some people are forgiven rather quickly for atrocious behavior towards their love interests in the name of true love).
The Big Bad: Remember how in the seventh season of Buffy, the first time one of the super vamps showed up, it beat the crap out of Buffy and was super difficult to kill? Only for them to go down like flies by the end of the season? The first time some of these valg princes showed up, it took several fae warriors and Aelin, a trained assassin and warrior with magical fire powers, to take them out? Now there is an entire army of Valg at various levels of power and while they aren’t easy to take out, warriors and armies from across different nations are at least holding their own or holding them almost at bay? Even in the area that is most threatened it seems to be more to the vast difference in numbers rather than strength/power/ability. It’s a common issue in fantasy. It’s necessary to show how severe the threat is but as a series builds up, the individuals become much easier to destroy even as there are more and more of them.
How Much Should the Reader Know: This goes back to the point about Aelin having something up her sleeve all the time. I don’t need to know everything a character knows as a reader even if I get view point chapter from the character. It was less of an issue here than in some of Maas’s other novels, but sometimes there is that point where it feels like not only was the author purposely leaving out information to surprise the reader with a twist, but sometimes almost purposely misleading (dare I say lying) to the reader? As I said, here it was an unsurprising surprise rather than direct misleading and yet if I am reading chapters from Aelin’s point of view, shouldn’t I have at least gotten a hint of something going on? I think that might be more of an off topic discussion rather than relevant to this book review, but it’s something I was thinking of since it can almost be expected in any Maas novel now – including Cat Woman.
Overall, I am impressed with how she managed to wrap up this series that grew from a novel about an assassin in a kingdom to include gods, alternate universes, fae, multiple kingdoms and alliances as well as history dating back a thousand years. Maas actually set up a lot of these things that would drive the series in the first novel but I liked how she slowly shifted the focus and added to depth and connections to the various side characters.