The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas: A Mammoth Review!

on September 19, 2015

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read the first 3 books in the Throne of Glass series, look away now, as there are spoilers for the other books in the blurb alone…

18006496Queen of Shadows. Sarah J. Maas. Bloomsbury. September 2015.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. Now she returns to the empire – to confront the shadows of her past…

Bloodthirsty for revenge on the two men responsible for destroying her life, and desperate to find out if the prince and his captain are safe, Celaena returns to Rifthold, the seat of so much evil. She has accepted her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, there are dark truths to learn and debts to be paid. Aelin must stay hidden beneath her assassin’s hood and draw on her mortal strength as Celaena to prevent the King of Adarlan from tearing her world apart. Only then can she fight for her people…


I finished Queen of Shadows over a week ago, and I’ve been struggling to review it ever since. Besides from having the almightiest of book hangovers, every time I try, I find I have no words to adequately summarise the exhilarating, emotionally exhausting marathon I’ve just completed (having read all 4 books back-to-back). I’m not a huge reader of fantasy, but I haven’t regretted picking up these books for one second, as they’ve rapidly become one of my favourite series of all time!

The character development in this series is phenomenal. I’ve been on an epic journey with Celaena/Aelin over the past few weeks – I’ve fallen in love with the people she’s grown close to, cried my eyes out when they’ve been taken away from her, boiled over with rage at her enemies and willed her to, please, exact revenge on them in the bloodthirstiest of ways – and it’s all been because she’s such a strong, real person who I couldn’t help but care about ferociously, flaws and all.

The first thing to say about Queen of Shadows is that ‘Celaena Sardothien’ is gone, and she isn’t coming back. Whilst she’ll always be the fierce and relentless fighter her upbringing as Adarlan’s Assassin have shaped her into, Celaena is now exclusively referred to as ‘Aelin’, and she’s finally ready to come out of the shadows and accept the title of Queen she’s been hiding from for the past ten years, not to mention absolutely burning to take on and end those who have wronged, hurt and massacred her people.

Back when she was calling herself Celaena, Aelin was so terrified of the King of Adarlan, her unconquerable enemy, that all she could do was get by, doing what was necessary for own survival and eventual freedom. However, after barely surviving her grief over the devastating events of Crown of Midnight, making her promise to Nehemia  (one of the strongest, most emotionally harrowing scenes I’ve ever read) was the final catalyst for her realising she couldn’t be selfish anymore – it wasn’t just about her, it never had been, and it was her duty to free the people of Eyllwe and Terrasen, no matter the consequences.

Heir of Fire saw Aelin learning to use her fire magic again after being without it for so long, and slowly beginning to heal, growing stronger day by day. Finally, in Queen of Shadows – truly master of her power and emotions – Aelin is filled with an iron (no Fae pun intended) resolve to end the King of Adarlan’s brutal, blood-soaked reign once and for all.

While we’re on the subject of the King, I have to say that he may be the coldest, most evil villain I’ve ever come across in fiction. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever (none of the charm or hints of a troubled past authors sometimes give the bad guy to make you empathise with them, because they secretly want you to love them as much as the hero). This works frighteningly well  – I truly hate this vile, murderous man – however I am hoping the next book will explore his back story further. There’s a huge twist I didn’t see coming towards the end of QoS, although I’m not convinced the revelation is true. At all. I will be very interested to see what happens when this thread resurfaces in book 5.

I’m sad to say I spent the majority of this book being annoyed beyond belief with Chaol. I was glad to see him finally on the right side of the rebellion, however I was so irritated by the way he treated Aelin like his enemy when she returned to Rifthold. Painful things went down between them before she went to Wendlyn but, even though he’s the one who sent her there in the first place, he continuously acted as if she’d wronged him terribly by staying away for so long whilst all hell broke loose in Adarlan. The reason this was so mind-blowingly infuriating is that Chaol is still blaming the wrong person. I’ve found Chaol to have questionable loyalties throughout the series; I never understood why he refused to notice for so long what an evil monster of a man he was serving as the King’s Captain of the Guard. Although Chaol leaves his position at the beginning of QoS, he’s still neglecting to see that the King is the one true enemy, and he and Aelin are on the same side. All this being said, I guessed at the reason behind his behaviour, and by the end of the novel, I had forgiven him, because I felt that he turned things around and reminded me of what I (and Celaena) loved about him in the first two books.

Although I was swept up in Celaena and Chaol’s romance in Crown of Midnight, it really does pale in comparison to how I feel about Aelin’s relationship with Rowan. I disliked Rowan when he was introduced in Heir of Fire, as he was so tough on Aelin – so cruel, when she was so clearly lost and grieving – however as his anger thawed, and as they began to connect on such a deep, no-words-needed level, I gradually began to see what all the fuss was about. Rowan won me over with his sincere loyalty, and his complete willingness to accept Aelin as she is, without judgment of any kind.  In QoS, their relationship starts to develop into something much less platonic, and the sexual tension was unbearably good. I am officially Team Rowan!

Speaking of the men in Aelin’s life, I was heartbroken by Dorian’s fate at the end of Heir of Fire, and it was difficult to read his struggle throughout QoS, wrestling with the demon prince living inside his body. I won’t say anything else about this storyline as I don’t want to spoil it, but if you love Dorian as much as I do, and feel him to be the most pure-of-heart character in this series, you are in for an emotional rollercoaster – I’m not revealing whether it ends in up or down…

I haven’t said anything about Manon yet, but her journey for me was equally as powerful and gripping as Aelin’s. When she was introduced in Heir of Fire, I had no idea what to make of her – she seemed brutal down to the core, but started to soften as she began to train her Wyvern, Abraxos. In QoS, we see more of this character development, as she offers protection to Elide, a young girl who never knew she had Ironteeth Witch blood in her veins. I enjoyed Elide’s storyline, although I’d like to learn much more about her past; I felt she was mainly there in QoS as a catalyst for change in Manon, as she gave Manon somebody to care about (even though she’d never outwardly, or inwardly, admit to herself that ‘caring’ is what she was doing). My favourite scene in the entire book, however, is when Aelin and Manon’s paths finally cross. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was punching the air and shouting ‘YESSSS! C’MONNN!’ like I was at a football match or something, because it was that exhilarating and powerhouse-awesome!

If I ramble on any more this will turn into a 10,000 word dissertation, so I’ll attempt to wrap up now. If you haven’t read these books (first of all, what are you still doing here, and why did you not heed my spoiler warning?!), I cannot recommend them highly enough. The characters are everything: you will love some of them, loathe some of them, but all of them will make you feel something. Which to me, is the mark of a bloody fantastic series!

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9 responses to “Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas: A Mammoth Review!

  1. Oh gosh Dorian’s chapters chipped away at my heart. They were so painful!! And I am still suffering a book hangover! )x fantastic review!!

  2. THIS BOOK WAS SO AMAZING

  3. Aura Willow says:

    I love your review. From what you told me I am still worried the King dude would do my head in too much for me to stick with it. Am so near the end of Infernal Devices Clockwork Prince, that I love you for so much dearie.

    Anyway – here is another for your growing tag list:
    https://oxfordwriterslounge.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/dreamy-book-and-media-tag/

    • mudandstars says:

      Aww thanks! Yeah the King is awful, I don’t think I’ve hated a character more, but I think that makes him a good villain because it really does seem impossible to win against him! Glad you’ve enjoyed Clockwork Prince!! 🙂 Will you be reviewing? And thanks for the tag! xx

      • Aura Willow says:

        It sounds like the author is a strong writer.

        Yes I will definitely be doing a review. Did you see Cassandra Clare quoted my tweet?

        Btw I realised something earlier,Will and Tess – it sounds a little like Will and Testament, right? Wonder if that is a coincidence?

        No worries on the tag, I love adding to your work load 🙂 😉

  4. […] can read my ginormous review here. It turned into a bit of a rambling dissertation, and I still have so much more to say about how […]

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