By Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
To Sum It Up: Facing impossible odds in their battle against Erawen and the Valg, Aelin and her friends set out to rally any allies they can. Along the way, Aelin finds out a devastating truth about her destiny, but she’ll accept whatever cost if it means ridding her world of the Valg and restoring prosperity to her homeland of Terrasen.
Review: Reading a new Throne of Glass novel has truly turned into an epic event, especially considering the increasing page counts. Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen, Heir of Fire, Fireheart (all these titles make me think of another queen from another fantasy series with “throne” in the title) has certainly come a long way from when we first met her as assassin Celaena Sardothien. The series as a whole has come a long way, expanding the world, the story, and the characters with each successive book. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we’re already five books in.
At this point in the series, I really do think there are quite a few parallels between Throne of Glass and Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, even down to the ice and fire. ToG isn’t only just about Aelin/Celaena anymore, either. Aelin’s companions have steadily moved toward the forefront, often making the more recent books feel like they feature an ensemble cast of characters, again à la GoT/ASoIaF. You always know, however, who indisputably owns ToG; that would be Aelin, of course.
I’m on a roll with the ToG/GoT parallels now, and I might not be able to quit. Like GoT’s fiery dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen, Aelin finds herself fighting to regain her throne. Unfortunately for Aelin, she runs up against some unyielding opposition from the lords of Terrasen. Determined to breathe life back into her kingdom, Aelin resolves to do whatever must be done, emphasis on whatever, to defeat Erawen and the Valg. Denied the backing of Terrasen’s lords, Aelin must look elsewhere for allies, even if a huge question mark hovers around their trustworthiness, and that’s putting it mildly.
Much of Empire of Storms focuses on Aelin and her cohorts attempting to build an army and hunting for a possible way to send the Valg back to the hell they spawned from. While there was no shortage of intense action scenes, the book occasionally felt a tad too much like a buildup to the series finale. Something about the pacing of Empire of Storms just felt slightly off compared to the other installments. I also found myself really wishing that I’d read The Assassin’s Blade before reading this. I wasn’t exactly lost, but I definitely got the impression that familiarity with the novellas provided the optimal Empire of Storms reading experience. And while I’m mentioning the couple of quibbles I ran across, I cannot overlook the complete absence of a certain character. It’s just that I LOVE said character, and to only see a handful of passing references in about 700 pages? Ouch—that hurt.
Overall, though, Empire of Storms commanded every spare second of time I could devote to it. I loved Manon so much in this book; her plotline has become one of my favorites. Maas continues to demonstrate her insanely formidable fantasy writing chops with this novel as well. Reading ToG is such a fully immersive experience thanks to its richly detailed world and equally deep lore. Maas also ups the series’ heat factor. Way up. It’s not quite as steamy as her other 2016 release, A Court of Mist and Fury, but there were still moments when I feared that my copy of Empire of Storms would spontaneously combust.
All I have to say about the ending was that it was crueler than cruel. I have to try not to dwell on it because I only get all upset anew over having to wait for the next book. Delaying reading new releases certainly has the advantage of not having to endure long waits for the sequels, but this is Aelin Galathynius we’re talking about here; she demands that you read her latest adventure immediately!
All in All: As much as I love Aelin and her friends, I think some pages could have been shaved off here. Empire of Storms was still one hell of a read, though, and Sarah J. Maas reigns supreme as the queen of YA fantasy.