“You would be surprised by how closely the healing of physical wounds is tied to the healing of emotional ones.”
Author – Sarah J. Maas
Publication – September 5th 2017 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Pages – 680
Rating – 4.5/5
Like a couple of other readers, I was pretty hesitant going into this book. And this was partially due to the fact that we were away from the main storyline/ crew with Aelin/Dorian and also because we follow Chaol who I was pretty much on the fence about especially after the events of Queen of Shadows.
But WOW. This book surprised me. And I have come to appreciate Chaol as a character and his growth within this novel. We also have the opportunity to meet a new amazing characters as well such as Yrene and Falkan who are both from The Assassin’s Blade. I highly suggest that you read the novella bind up if you have not done so already since it will provide you the backstory before diving into this novel.
While I will admit the first half of the novel was pretty slow, it definitely did pick up the pace during the end and MAN, do we discover some major news before the big finale! I’m so excited but also a bit nervous LOL
Please note that there will be spoilers for the previous books if you have not read them:
Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq have arrived in the shining city of Antica to forge an alliance with the Khagan of the Southern Continent, whose vast armies are Erilea’s last hope. But they have also come to Antica for another purpose: to seek healing at the famed Torre Cesme for the wounds Chaol received in Rifthold.
After enduring unspeakable horrors as a child, Yrene Towers has no desire to help the young lord from Adarlan, let alone heal him. Yet she has sworn an oath to assist those in need—and will honor it. But Lord Westfall carries shadows from his own past, and Yrene soon comes to realize they could engulf them both.
In this sweeping parallel novel to the New York Times bestselling Empire of Storms, Chaol, Nesryn, and Yrene will have to draw on every scrap of their resilience if they wish to save their friends. But while they become entangled in the political webs of the khaganate, deep in the shadows of mighty mountains where warriors soar on legendary ruks, long-awaited answers slumber. Answers that might offer their world a chance at survival—or doom them all . . .
Chaol – Stubborn; Brooding; Prideful; While initially I was not a huge fan of Chaol in the novels, I did like that we were able to see more from his character’s POV in this novel. It really did transform my own view of him too. We dive into his inner thoughts and how he feels about himself and his life and there were moments which were heartbreaking to read. Sarah truly delivered on his character arc and it was wonderful to see his progression through this novel and how he was able to fight against his inner demons.
Yrene – Level-Headed; Driven; Smart; Sympathetic; I personally loved Yrene and I think she is one of the best female characters in this entire series. We initially saw her in Assasin’s Blade and while she did not have too much of an impact there, it is amazing to see her character development in this novel. We can see that her initial meeting with Celeana truly transformed her in the way she carries herself in the world today. I love that we are able to witness a female character with an immense fervor for knowledge and helping others.
Nesryn – Strong sense of honor and courage; While initially Nesryn’s chapters were not my favorite to read in this novel, her plot quickly takes an interesting turn at the end and I could not put it down. We see her searching for adventure and action in this novel and it was interesting to see where her journey takes her. In previous novels, she was conflicted on where her “home” truly was and it was nice to see her character’s progression to finding the group of people who embrace and welcome her.
Sartaq – Kind; Charming; Prince of Antica; Ok, I really liked his character! I think everything about him and the way he carried himself was so down to earth and natural that you can’t help but adore him. In addition, it was also interesting to see his perspective on his homeland and political system vs. his siblings since that really puts interesting twist on the perspective of his character against the royal family.
In this novel, we are in a completely new setting from the previous books within the land of Antica and I was pleasantly surprised with the new characters and change in setting. It was definitely interesting to learn about the new culture, politics and the royal family. I found it so surprising that their laws were completely different from Adarlan and because of that we see much more of prosperity within the society. Maybe is can be something that both Aelin and Dorian can learn from in order to create a better world for the future!
If I can describe this book in one word I think it would be: Healing. The major themes within this novel manly circles around the disability representation, loving oneself and emotional healing and I believe Sarah did a decent job conveying these messages. I really did appreciate the fact that Sarah was able to bring in a character with disability into the fantasy world and even have one entire novel focused on him and his growth since there is a lack of this representation in YA fantasy. I also understand that there is a lot of controversy surrounding on how well she carried out this representation. Therefore, I also wanted to gain perspective and understanding of this fully so I have looked into both positive and negative own voices reviews. While reading their criticism, I do understand their POV and where there are moments in the book which can be problematic.
For me personally, when I see this book as a whole, I feel that the central message is clear – You are not less. No matter who you are or what you are capable of doing, You are valuable. And Sarah really worked to ensure that Chaol is able to go on this emotional journey to discover this and in my opinion, she did deliver on that aspect. These demons and darkness that Chaol is suffering from can be demons which people are battling against everyday. Everyone can make mistakes throughout their lives but that is what being human is about. We are not perfect. However, it is how we go about facing the future that is important. Through Chaol’s journey, I was able to sympathize with him and understand why he feels the way he does and I think this is what helped me change my POV of his character as a whole.
When compared to the first novels of this series, I will say that Sarah’s writing has improved tremendously. She is able to describe the surroundings with just the right amount of detail that you feel that you are with the characters. In addition to the setting descriptions, the way she delineates a scene of tension and suspense is so well done (specifically Chapter 10 – I had major goosebumps in that scene!). She was able to cultivate such an eerie aura within that entire chapter which can send a chill down one’s spine!
Overall, I thought this was a very gripping read since Sarah was able to tackle some heavy themes within this novel. Despite having a slow start, it definitely improved from the midpoint onwards where we have a series of revelations and twists thrown our way which made this such an entertaining ride!
And now with everything that we learned from the ending of this novel, I am really excited but also very anxious going into the final book. From taking a quick glance at other reviews, it looks like the last novel will be quite an emotional one and I don’t know whether I would be able to say goodbye to all these characters! At this moment, I am not sure when I will get to it, since there are a couple of other books on my TBR (plus the book is massive – roughly 980 pages) but I am sure I will be picking it up within the next few months. Especially after that last chapter! Sarah – How could you do this to me???
Kingdom of Ash – Here I come!!!!
Until next time, keep reading and I will see you all soon with another bookish post!