YA Weekend Audiobook Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 4 of Throne of Glass
Publisher: Audible Studios (9/1/15)
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans | Length: 20 hrs and 14 mins
This series and I have definitely had our ups and downs. Throne of Glass first swept me off my feet with an introduction to the feisty Celaena Sardothien and the whole wide world of rebel princesses, deadly assassins and glass castles – definitely an “up”. However, the sequel Crown of Midnight frustrated me with a dry formulaic plot which spun its wheels and went nowhere for most of the book – definitely a “down”. But then along came Heir of Fire. Not only did it get the bad taste the previous novel left in my mouth, this third installment made up for everything by being my favorite book of the series. I could hardly wait to get my hands on Queen of Shadows after that, so to say I had high hopes for this fourth book would be putting it lightly, since I was very curious to see if the upwards trend will continue.
One thing I was sure of though, was that I was going to review the audiobook once more. It would feel wrong not to, at this point. I’ve experienced this whole series thus far in this format, and narrator Elizabeth Evans has always been fantastic. The association between her name and this series for me is so strong by now, that even if I read the book I think I would hear the characters in her voice. She’s just so good at bringing them to life.
And so when I first saw the length of this audiobook, I felt an instant surge of optimism. Generally speaking, a long book should equate to a lot of interesting things happening, a ton of action and suspense and all that goodness.
Well, I suppose I was half-right – “half” being the operative word here. Lots of things do indeed happen in Queen of Shadows, but I found the entire first half to be a struggle. Even now, I feel torn. Overall, this book was actually pretty great, and it had one hell of an ending that’s definitely not to be missed. But we did have to take the longest and most meandering road to get there.
Before I go further though, I must warn that this review assumes you have at least read as far as the end of Heir of Fire, so there will be details from the first three books. Queen of Shadows builds upon everything that came before, so it’ll be quite impossible to talk about it without addressing some major events, such as the fact that Celaena Sardothien is actually the long lost princess Aelin Galathynius (the publisher’s own book description itself states this though, so I don’t think it’ll be too big a deal to reveal). She has finally embraced this as her identity, thus Celaena will be henceforth referred to as Aelin.
Still, while the name has changed, the woman is still the same. Aelin definitely isn’t a character everyone can take to overnight; she’s full of arrogance and bluster, and it wasn’t until the end of Crown of Midnight that I started to like her. It’s no coincidence that I also saw this as a turning point for the series. As the story went down a darker path, Aelin also started to act like a real assassin; no longer just talk, it was great to see her finally walk the walk.
That said though, too many alpha personalities can also spoil a good plot. Aelin is surrounded by men just like her in this book – Chaol, Aedion, Rowan – all very competitive, impatient, conceited and combustible people. There you have a problem, because watching them all in the same scene together is like having to sit through a boardroom meeting with a bunch of Donald Trumps – a whole lot of posturing and snapping at each other, with waves of hormones flying off the walls but no actual progress made, and at the end of it all you just feel like jettisoning the lot of them out an airlock.
I also admit that while a good ship I can get behind is definitely a plus, I read primarily for story, not for who’s getting together with whom (and quite frankly, the latter usually gets in the way of the former, which is frustrating). I do feel like I have to comment on this one thing though, since Rowan and Aelin’s mentor-protégé relationship was one thing that stood out for me in Heir of Fire. I should have known it wouldn’t last. As a formidable teacher, ally and friend, Rowan was actually interesting. As just another hot piece of man meat for Aelin, not so much. Must she throw herself at every available good looking guy that’s not related to her? And parading around in front of Rowan in a skimpy nightie and acting like a schoolgirl with a first crush, was that really necessary?
I feel like such a curmudgeon whenever I say this, but sometimes no romance is better than a forced romance. Aelin and Rowan were just so AWKWARD. Making up for their platonic relationship in the first book meant a whole lot of overcompensating in this one, resulting in some truly banal and cringe-worthy dialogue.
Thankfully, the second half of the book goes a long way in redeeming the tedium and overindulgences of the first half. When Manon Blackbeak was introduced in the previous book, she was one of the highlights. The wyvern-riding witches are one of the best additions to this series, and I loved that we saw more of Manon and Abraxos in this one! Queen of Shadows is also a must-read simply because of all the things the characters go through at the end. There’s a crazy climax, some major changes, and one explosive conclusion, and that’s really all I can say about the second half of the book without spoiling more plot details. Suffice to say, if you’ve been following the series thus far, you’d be insane to miss this.
The ending also begs the question: What is left for book five? I’ve heard that there are at least two more sequels after this, and it’s hard to imagine what could possibly be epic enough to match the events at the end of this book. Despite some of the problems I had with Queen of Shadows, I still enjoyed it and I look forward to finding out what’s next.
More on the BiblioSanctum:
Mogsy’s review of Throne of Glass (Book 1) | Wendy’s review of Throne of Glass (Book 1) | Mogsy’s review of Crown of Midnight (Book 2) | Wendy’s review of Crown of Midnight (Book 2) | Mogsy’s review of Heir of Fire (Book 3) | Wendy’s review of Heir of Fire (Book 3)