Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review Sunday: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (#7)


Throne of Glass #7 (final installment)



Blurb:
"Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series."




Review:
Whew!  That was a wild ride!  I've been following this series for five years.  Preordering the books and rereading countless times.  This is the series that really brought me into blogging.  My own personal Harry Potter, if you will.  I love this series and this ending is nothing but bittersweet.

Mild spoilers for the beginning of this book and major spoilers for the rest of the series.

“A princess who was to live for a thousand years. Longer. That had been her gift. It was now her curse.”

1.  The characters.  This last installment was a MASSIVE undertaking for Maas.  Throughout the previous six books, we've been accumulating characters and backstories.  Aelin, Chaol, and Dorian forming the backbone with Rowan, Nesryn, Yrene, Sartaq, Elide, Manon, Ansel, Rolfe, Gavriel, Lorcan, Fenrys, Dorian's father, Maeve, and Erawan all playing major roles.  This series would make an absolutely fabulous reread with all of the character interactions that you can trace from book to book.  I loved each and every one of the characters.  They each had their own complex backstory that propelled their choices incredibly.  Something I wish Maas had payed a bit more attention to, however, is their own unique voices.  When I see a specific character from another's eyes, their unique voice is absolutely there, but once we merge into their POV, it becomes difficult to distinguish them by voice and tone alone.  Moving on to Aelin, she went through such a character arc in this installment.  I'm sure y'all remember that amazing arc she went through in HoF as she truly accepted her magic and her birthright.  This is a little like that but scaled down and taken in a different direction.  As I'll talk about in the next section, there are so many full circle moments that really caused her character to grow.


“Remember that we have something to fight for, and it will always triumph.”

2.  The plot.  As I said above, there are SO many full circle moments and I loved it!  I'll be repeating this throughout my review, but this series would make for an excellent reread in order to catch all of the individual strands that Maas mapped out so wonderfully.  More practically speaking, this is 980 pages which is longer than any of the others in the series (it's a contender for the longest-books-I've-ever-read list) which means that keeping the tension levels right throughout is a task in of itself.  Maas does a very good job of this throughout the book, allowing small breaks in the tension for the reader to stop for a breath.  Something that always irks me about any fantasy that involves a war and a chosen one is how easily and quickly the wars are won through some special power of the chosen one.  There was none of that here as each of the members of Aelin's squad contributes in a major way.  As I'm sure many have seen, there are some very striking similarities between the ending battles in LOTR and the ending battle in this novel.  Personally, this doesn't bother me too much but it is something to consider if you're a LOTR fan.  Worth a quick mention: the symbolism associated with Aelin's torture and physical journey.  Suffice to say there is an ample amount of circling and implied character self.  Going along with that, there are so many reoccurring motifs that really enriched the writing and the plot in general.


“Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom …”

3.  The romance(s).  There are so many relationships happening here.  Aelin and Rowan, Yrene and Chaol, Lysandra and Aedion, Nesryn and Sartaq, Elide and Lorcan, and Dorian and Manon.  I don't mind the large cast of characters in general (in fact, I prefer it to the alternative) but I do think that this many romances is a bit too muchI love each of the romances individually, in a vacuum (excepting one which I'll talk about in a minute), but collectively, it's a lot.  Some of the romances are well-established (Aelin and Rowan for example), and some are more fledgling relationships only introduced in the most recent books (#5 and #6 were really books for relationship development).  I love the overall timeline (this series takes place over a good three or four years including Assassin's Blade) and it's entirely realistic but I could have lived with one or two fewer romances.  The one romance I'm unsure about is Dorian and Manon's.  Granted, while Dorian is a major part of the series and has been from the beginning, he isn't given too much character development (I loved Chaol's arc and I wish Dorian's followed suit) so his evolution from Sorcha to Manon was a bit whip-lashy for me.  One other issue I wanted to bring up: the heterosexuality.  I don't mind all of the romances being 100% heterosexual in books (author's choice, after all) but in previous books, Maas introduced several LGBT+ reps (most notably Aedion and Manon) but they promptly melded into the heterosexual atmosphere.  In the southern continent, there is some great representation, but they're all mostly side characters and none are allowed to have the spotlight.   Overall, there are just so many relationships in this final installment and there definitely should have been at least one that was not heterosexual.


“Let’s make this a fight worthy of a song.”

4.  The world.  I love this part.  In the book, there is an extended map at the beginning and it's so interesting to look back at ToG and see how far it's expanded as we've been acquainted with more of the world.  During the war, I loved how Maas moved the armies around on the map, paying careful attention to routes, climates, and opposing army positioning.  I could really see them all moving around the continent and the consequences of their choices.  I would have loved more detail on how the different peoples of different cultures interacted with each other (other than the Crochans and Manon).  There are so many different peoples all converging for this cumulative war on Morath (there's another LOTR reference for those of you keeping track at home) all for the promise of a better world (side note, I LOVE how quotable this book is) and I would have loved more cooperative scenes.

“Death had been her curse and her gift and her friend for these long, long years. She was happy to greet it again under the golden morning sun.”

The Final Verdict:
A massive culmination effort that soars a bit too close to the sun.  Rampant heterosexuality and the muddying of voices kept it from it's true potential.
4 stars

6 comments:

  1. I gave up on the ToG series a long time ago but I’m glad to see that there are still really loyal fans for it! I’m sorry this book wasn’t perfect, but glad you enjoyed some elements :)

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    1. It does tend to be a split series, doesn't it? Towards the end, I did start to see the problems that drove some people away from the series but I still think I'll be rereading it in the future. Thanks for stopping by, Emily!

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  2. One day I will get to give this series a try! The books get such great reviews. Perhaps a shame this last one didn't quite hit the heights for you, but it does still sound like an exciting read

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    1. It certainly is! I love long series because if done well, they really give you a full picture of all the characters and their relationships. I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of it! Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie!

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  3. I love this series a lot but I do agree with you on a lot of the points you made! I would have loved to see Maas incorporate some more diversity in the cast. AND OMG I DIDNT LIKE MANON AND DORIAN EITHER. But my love for Rowan trumps all.

    Lee Chand @ Lee Reads Books

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    1. I completely agree!! I love it SO much but there are those little nagging things that I really, REALLY wish would have been tweaked. But seriously, what was up with Dorian and Manon??? I could have accepted their relationship except Dorian had just been getting over Sorcha and their relationship was one of the fluffiest of the series. I mean, maybe Dorian is trying something different as a reaction to his grief for Sorcha but still. Lol yes Rowan is so lovely. He and Aelin are perfect for each other :) He's very similar to Rhysand in ACOTAR but honestly, I don't mind one bit. Thanks for stopping by!

      Laura @BlueEyeBooks

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