YA Weekend Audio: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Empire of StormsEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 5 of Throne of Glass

Publisher: Audible Studios (September 6, 2016)

Length: 25 hrs and 23 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Elizabeth Evans

I’ve made it no secret that this series and I have had our ups and downs. To cut straight to the chase, Empire of Storms was definitely another “down”. Probably the lowest I’ve come to feeling about these books, actually. At least the first half of this novel was really good, and the audiobook narrator remains stellar, or I might have gone with an even lower rating. As it is, I have to start really considering whether or not I want to continue with the next book because clearly the direction of this series has changed, and has been changing for the last two books, and I am close to reaching the limit of what I can take.

For one thing, ever since Heir of Fire this series has been suffering an increasingly worsening case of bloat. At least the previous book Queen of Shadows had the courtesy of being really amazing at the end, finishing with an incredible finale. Empire of Storms on the other hand simply went on and on, with a lot of sections I probably would have skimmed had I been reading a physical copy of the book instead of listening to it. The same problem seems to keep rearing its ugly head. Namely, the plot spends an inordinate amount of time spinning its wheels, going nowhere fast. A lot of that also has to do with the pointless talkitty-talk-talk, which so often amounts to nothing but bickering and testosterone-fueled posturing between all these angry, egotistical roided-out characters.

Speaking of which, the romance between Aelin and Rowan still leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’ve said it before and I have no problems saying it again, Rowan was a million times more interesting as Aelin’s mentor, back when they still had their platonic relationship. As her latest love interest, he’s not only boring, but he’s also a creeper. The guy flies off the handle every time someone so much as looks at his precious Aelin the wrong way, and he also seems to have this weird fetish for biting. His whole territorial fae male thing with the marking and possessiveness of his mate is not only repulsive, it’s also starting to get really old. I don’t know why Aelin, who is a supposedly strong and independent woman, puts up with it. That’s probably one of my biggest issues with her character; she plays at being the badass heroine, but she always comes across as little more than a vainglorious little girl who needs to latch on to a boy in order to be complete.

And that’s another thing – the number of pairings in this series is becoming ridiculous. Why must everyone be involved in a relationship? Is Aelin’s complex where she can’t function without a boyfriend contagious?

Then there are the sex scenes. Thing is, the writing in this series has always struck me as a bit over-embellished or overdramatic, but nothing deal-breaking. That was before I read this latest installment though, where you get not one but multiple detailed sex scenes, and they are all awkward and hilarious. Granted, it might be the fact I was listening to the audiobook. I have to say, when you have writing that tries too hard, it comes through so much worse in this format. One thing that really gets to me is the use of, um, creative euphemisms. Several times I had to pause playback and skip back to listen again because I was struck by a certain phrase and had to make sure I heard right. Did the author really just refer to Rowan’s penis as a length of “velvet-wrapped steel”?

Another hitch in the writing that comes through really strongly in the audiobook is the excessive use of speech verbs like “breathed”, “rasped”, and “hissed.” I swear, it’s like there’s a shortage of air in this world or something, because no one simply SAYS anything naturally like a normal person. It gets quite distracting in audio.

Anyway, I know so far most of what I’ve done is talk about the things I didn’t like, but really, this book wasn’t all bad. Like I said, I really enjoyed the first half of this novel, before things started unraveling. After the crazy ending in the previous novel, I had my doubts, wondering what could possibly be left for book five. Well, I shouldn’t have worried, because there’s definitely a lot more to cover. All the more a shame that this book is so full of bloat, because when you trim off all the fat, the plot is actually REALLY GOOD.

I also love Manon Blackbeak. In fact, she’s probably the only character I’m still rooting for, since I’ve lost so much respect for all the others. If the earth were to suddenly split apart and swallow up Aelin and Rowan and their whole lot overnight, it would not break my heart. Manon though, is still my favorite wyvern-riding witch. She and Abraxos continue to be amazing, and I was glad that I got to have them at least, while Chaol is out of commission.

Finally, a tip of the hat goes to Elizabeth Evans, who is once again fantastic with the narration. I was able to get through the second half of this book thanks to her performance, since a good narrator can sometimes counteract faults in the story or the writing. She gives great personality and attitude to the characters, sometimes doing her job a bit too well. I’ll most definitely continue with the audiobooks—that is, if I even decide to pick up the next installment.

Until then, I guess I’ll have plenty of time to think about it. I would hate to stop after coming so far especially if there’s only one book left in the series, but there’s also no denying the story, the tone, the characters, and pretty much everything has changed from the days of Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight. There’s nothing wrong with a series that grows and evolves, but I also have to accept it when it goes in a direction I don’t want to follow. I just don’t know if I even feel invested enough to see this through anymore, or whether it’s worth the frustration for the sake of completion. I’ll just have to see how I feel when the time comes.

2-5stars

Mogsy 2

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)
Mogsy’s review of Queen of Shadows (Book 4)

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19 Comments on “YA Weekend Audio: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

  1. Best. Review. Ever. You really hit the mark with all the problems in the series. Ianot so disappoubted everytime someone started making googly eyes at another character and it really diminishes both the male and female in the relationship. And yes, the euphemisms make me laugh everytime! Manon (and her coven) are my absolute favorites and are holding up the plot on their own… I hope there are some witchy novellas.

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    • I agree, this shipping/pairing up of characters business has gotten way out of hand. The implication that each person needs to have a love interest in order to complete their character arc is annoying. There’s simply no reason for some of these pairings, other than for the sake of one more romance, which cheapens the relationship, imo.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Totally agree. I DNF this book pretty soon because it was complitely boring, the characters are incredibly inconsistent and oh lord, SJM cannot write sex scenes. I gave up on EoS too soon to read them but ACOMAF was full of them and they were ridiculous ! At the end of the book, I had to skik them because I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes while reading. I don’t know if I’ll give EoS another try which is a shame because the ToG series was one of my favorite YA series series two years ago…

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    • The sex scenes are truly truly horrendous. They have the feel of someone just throwing as many pretty words onto a page as they can and stringing them together. I’ve also heard that ACOMAF was full of them, and that it almost seems like Maas reused the same scenes for EoS but changed the names and metaphors around a little. I still need to read ACOMAF but I’m not burning to read it now, to say the least! I feel the same disappointment as you about the ToG series as well, around the time of Heir of Fire I was still really digging this series and considered it one of my favorites.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t read QoS, and I am definitely not reading this. Why SJM took this series in a different direction, is beyond me. All the “ships” are ridiculous, she gives her characters personality transplants too often, and she has lost focus on the end goal. Another thing, why is this series still being published under a children’s imprint of Bloomsbury? They need to stop because this series has went beyond YA territory. The same goes for her ACoTaR series. I am currently trying to trade all my books in this series because I want them off my shelf. Sorry this disappointed you.

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    • I am with you there. Imagine a 13 or 14-year-old picking up the series today, starting with Throne of Glass then reading the rest of the books right after another. The change from YA to the mature content is not to be taken lightly, as it is definitely not “children’s” territory anymore. With ACoTaR at least she made it clear right off the bat (I think) that it was more New Adult, even though a lot of outlets still marketed or labeled it YA. ToG however started YA and the decision to suddenly shift to NA mid-series is just mind-boggling. If she wanted to write more mature books, I thought that was what the ACOTAR series was for.

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  4. I work in a library and sooo many teens and woman are reading Maass’s books, but I’ve only finished books I & II of Throne of Glass. So I really appreciate your reviews! I don’t think I’ll continue on with the series, even though the plot and worldbuilding sound cool.

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    • Yeah, Maas’ books are popular among that audience. If I had a preteen or younger teen though, I would probably have to think twice now whether I want them reading this series. The books start off pretty safe, nothing too racy beyond what you see in most YA books these days, but this last book was definitely a few notches up in terms of mature content.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It sounds like it, from your reviews! Heh. It seems to be the consensus that the books transition from YA to NA, so I probably won’t be hand selling them to the teens. Thanks 🙂

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  5. Sarah J. Maas is an author I’m not entirely on board with. The romantic relationships she writes is one of the key factors of that. I read her ACoTaR and it left a bad taste in my mouth. So I’ve been really on the fence about starting this series. Part of me wants to give it a shot since it has such a large fan base, but I’m thinking I’ll probably skip it. Especially after seeing your thoughts on this addition to the series.

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    • This series frustrates me because I *loved* the relationships she developed in the first book. Caelena made friends first with the Prince and the Captain and then she kind of got together with the Prince over a shared interest (a secret book club!) rather than just oooooh he’s so cute and sexy. Their relationship, and the friendship the three of them shared, was really well done. Plus Caelena had a female friend she could talk to as well. And not just about boys. Bechdel Test passed! But that was the first book. I suspect Maas became too wrapped up in her following after that and started writing the kind of romances that focus first and foremost on sexual attraction — and not always in the healthy relationship kind of way.

      A friend just reviewed the sequel to Thorn and Roses. She had serious issues with the first book, but decided to try the second and was pleased with the result. It seems that perhaps Maas has matured a little and brought the quality back up in terms of relationships that aren’t about the female protagonist prancing around in lingerie.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It pains to think how several years ago I considered this one of my favorite YA series. And now, I am just shaking my head thinking to myself, what in the hell happened? The ToG series is all about pairing characters up and attraction now. And not even the sexy kind of attraction. This is just shipping gone way overboard. Several of these relationships I would even say are downright unhealthy.

        I’ve heard that the sequel to ACoTaR has its fair share of sex scenes and borderline abusive relationships as well, and I’ve also seen reviews draw comparisons between that book and this one, saying that she strikes a similar tone with the romances. I have to say I’m curious, I guess I’ll just have to see when I read Mist and Fury.

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    • Yeah, I honestly enjoy Maas’s stories, but after the last few books I’ve read by her including this one and ACoTaR, I’m starting to take serious issue with the romantic relationships in her books. I just can’t buy into the idea of a “strong, independent female protagonist” when I read about Aelin or Feyre, about how they act or what their attitudes are about love and romance. I just can’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  7. Sounds like you and I have the same pet peeves. Cringe-inducing sex scenes peppered with ridiculous euphemisms, the obligation to slot every character into a (hetero) relationship, and overwrought dialogue tagging of the “hissed”, “barked”, and “rumbled” variety.

    Sex scenes are really, really hard to do well — but the others don’t have a ready excuse, IMO.

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  8. I didn’t want to read your review until I wrote mine, so now that’s done and I can finally comment! I agree with you SO MUCH. The book was about 200 pages too long if you ask me, I definitely skim-read some parts.

    And YES, why did everyone need to be paired off? The sex scenes were just as awkward in print, let me tell you that. Wtf happened with this being a YA book I have no idea but Maas really missed the mark here. I had a similar problem with her other series, there’s more sex in that one from the start. And I’m a romance reader, I’m used to all sorts of weird descriptions of sex, but this was pretty awful.

    Manon is my favourite character as well but I liked Elide, too, she’s interesting. I hope she kicks Lorcan’s ass and also Maeve’s – I didn’t like that lady at all.

    Great review! 🙂

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  9. Pingback: YA Weekend Audio: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas | The BiblioSanctum

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