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.
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
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.
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)