Review: Empire of Storms / Sarah J. Maas

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Disclaimer: This review contains minor spoilers so beware! Major events won’t be part of what I’m discussing but there are definitely things that will spoil you if you haven’t already read the book.

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?

My heart skipped more than only one beat after finishing this chunk of a novel. To be honest, I was sobbing and crying ugly tears even before reaching the finish line but this post-traumatic undergoing was to be expected for the author whose name is Sarah J. Maas finds pleasure in torturing and tantalizing her readers; this is common knowledge and everyone who witnessed this one of a kind experience understands exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve quite taken my time for school was squeezing out all the energy that was left inside of me; not a pretty sight. So I thought I’d give this work of art the appreciation and credit it deserves and that would explain why I didn’t review it right away but honestly, I wasn’t in the position of expressing all my thoughts and opinions regarding this installment at that time either for I first had to process all that has happened and sort my feelings. Believe me, it must have looked chaotic in my head…

“The world will be saved and remade by the dreamers.”

We have come a long way from book one and Sarah displayed this striking distance with what felt like perfect ease. With this book she ignited an explosion of all things plot-related; but it was not only the plot but the world building itself that underwent quite the enhancement. Her previous books focused a lot more on each character and its development so it was nice to see that Sarah wove in a new cord and tied it up harmonically with the other writing tools as well.

The second book syndrome (aka middle book syndrome) which often refers to a bridge book within a series is a common issue but I assure you Empire of Storms was very far from that. It was a gripping and all-consuming read, to say the least. The tendency for a second-to-last book in a series to be such a filler is rather high but fortunately that wasn’t the case here. 

Whereas the main settings in book 4 were the Fae continents most of Empire of Storms took place beyond those lands, in places such as Skulls Bay and Ellywe. The Assassin’s Blade, a bind-up of all the novellas that tell the soul-stirring story of Celaena and how life shaped her as a person, picks up on all of these places as well and gives the reader a better understanding as to how it affected our protagonist as a person. I, for my part, highly enjoyed this bonus content and hopefully you’ll put your remaining qualms aside and experience her highs and lows for yourself… But to get back to the main topic at hand; SJM directed the attention on not only the major characters but brought back secondary characters as well and even did as much as spice them up. I was hoping to wander the infinite and magical lands of Terrasen but under the given circumstances that wasn’t possible; but instead we were gifted with long walks through a kingdom with many new scars to show. SJM also showed us just how exotic the world of Erilea truly is by visiting the islands of a pirate lord and his crew. Lysandra even challenged my beloved wyverns for the legendary-myth-contest since her shape-shifter abilities finally seemed to establish and thus it was that we got to see many underwater battles as well.

It is one of those series where you know right from the start that all the semi-demonstrated schemes and intrigues won’t be uncovered until the very end, or as close to the end as the author dares. And Empire of Storms offers us just that with a prologue to leave the audience craving for more and more answers, even though that’s just what we were fed with. The only problem here is that it’s barely enough to keep us well fed for the hard winter months to come so that we will surely keep stirring on the edges of our seats for a “little” while longer. But with each riddle unveiled new questions raise to the surface and a dark web of mystery opens up in front of us, ready to claim all our souls. From what I’ve gathered so far I’m pretty sure that the next and final book in this series will be a safe haven and hazard at the same time; with many shattered hearts in its wake. SJM introduced new players and devices to the plot that will be a big game changer and, in my opinion, alter the course considerably.

Even though SJM focused on the plot and world-building above all else, the character development didn’t get the short end of the stick and was crafted smoothly into the story. Our main protagonist Aelin, the fire-breathing bitch queen herself, finally arrived in Terrasen but since her lords wanted to see a real queen and not a young, reckless and power-hungry princess she had to earn both their respect and loyalty first. More than ever her will to claim what is hers by right raises to the surface and drowns out everything else. In this book her wits and strength, both physically and mentally, went hand in hand. It felt like she showed the world just what she is capable of but still has so much more to offer. We know Aelin as a ruthless, bold and charming but selfless and good-hearted woman; it wouldn’t be Aelin otherwise but underneath she struggles with herself and maintaining her powers. It seems like her powers know no bounds and are ever-growing and even though how much of a danger they pose, Aelin is more comfortable with them and finally accepts her fiery heart as a part of herself. We have seen her grow and become the confident young woman she now is; she proved time and time again just how much she wants her throne and with that a better future for everyone in Erilea. She is still learning how to be more open with her court, though, but I liked her sort of incapability in this regard for it makes her so much more relatable. Everyone, no matter whether human or fae or shape-shifter or witch, has their own flaws and her being the mastermind behind not only one but multiple explosive, risky plans is hers.

Her cousin, Aedion, and his development was shifted into focus, much as Aelin’s. SJM gave us an insight as to how it looked inside of him, his way of thinking and even gifted us with information about his background. We got to know The Wolf of the North as an attractive, brave and heroic figure but with this installment the spectrum regarding his character widened up immensely. There are so many more layers to him than the dauntless knight aspect and we got to see a darker side as well. He suffered a great deal of pain and losses, again much like Aelin, but instead of breaking him and giving in to the pain it only made him stronger. I liked how he opened up about all this to Lysandra and found in her a counterpart whom he could confide to. His relationship toward his father – Gavriel – was delved into more than ever and it was nice to see, for a change, just how much this rocky road they’ve went affected him as a person. He didn’t make his resentment toward the Lion a secret but still had to admit that they’re both two sides of the same coin.

Rowan, the snarky, brooding Fae prince, on the other hand, surprised me the most in the matter of character growth. His passion and devotion was given expression as never before. He came to the aid when no one was able to and managed to ward off all evil – well, not all evil, but I won’t say no more – by showcasing utter commitment. Rowan opened up in a way I couldn’t believe possible if I haven’t experienced it myself. He offered sanctuary for not only his queen and lover but everyone who was in deep need of a hug or advice. The snarling “brute” became the caring leader of a nation who’d do anything to keep his people safe no matter the cost – traits I deeply admire. At the end of the book his behaviour and the circumstances in general reminded me a lot of some events that happened in A Court of Mist and Fury and that awoke an explosive feast of feelings inside of me. But, nevertheless, I’ve heard many people ranting about Rowan’s incapabiltiy regarding expressing emotions and his seeming cold and ferocious but in Empire of Storms there was to be found no trace of such characteristics at all – save for his enemies; the ever-present warrior.

Chaol, Nesryn and Evangeline got a bit lost in the shuffle, much to my dismay, but I bet Sarah will create a comeback that will make up for their disappearance in the finale and it will shatter the world. Speaking of the Captain of the Guard; Dorian – only just an emperor and all of a sudden a refugee of a lost kingdom – is marked by scars and brute force. His character was revamped and we got to see a very different but not unpleasant side to him. All that he had to go through did leave its marks upon him and changed him in a way no one could foresee but was necessary for something as huge and course-changing as this wouldn’t leave him unnoticed. He had to change for the sake of war and himself. Dorian was literally drifting in darkness and pure evil and I loved how it only made him stronger and made him even more devoted to the cause. First I was a bit skeptical about his being with Manon, especially since this direction was obviously foretold in the previous book, but looking closer at it, they’re perfect for each other. Manon teached him a bit of wicked thinking isn’t a bad thing at all and Dorian, on the other hand, proved to her that revenge and brutality isn’t the only way. He believed in her when no one would listen and helped blend in to the court.

As for the other minor characters I’ve mentioned; Captain Rolfe, Ansel of Briarcliff and the Silent Assassins, if only a bit later, made an appearance in this book as well which was nice to see, for a change, for it only widened up the world of Erilea and played a part in contributing to the world-building and plot, likewise. SJM even introduced the Cadre – Maeve’s army of Fae warriors – and it was as intense as I imagined it to be. Besides that we even got a glimpse of the Whitethorn and Ashriver houses by reaching the near end. It was such spectacle to behold!

The fifth installment in the Throne of Glass series, Empire of Storms, lives up to its title; vividly-portrayed battles scenes, ancient riddles and intrigues, new alliances and enemies are your constant companion throughout this book. I can already tell by the direction the plot will take that the finale will leave multiple shattered hearts and shed tears in its wake; but I’ll leave it to you to experience this one-of-a-kind story for yourself. But brace yourselves for Aelin’s journey is a wild ride and will surely sweep you off your feet!

Once again, thank you Sarah J. Maas, for this beautifully crafted tale…

Rating: 5/5

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