Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5)

empire-of-stormsFirst Lines: The bone drums had been pounding across the jagged slopes of the Black Mountains since sundown.

This is the kind of book that when you see it on the library shelf, you just have to grab it.  It doesn’t matter if you have 2 or 20 books already in hand, you’re going home with this.  Sure, I let it languish on my shelf for a long time (so many books, so little time!) but I knew I’d get around to reading it.

*Potential Series Spoilers Ahead*

Like everything in Aelin’s life, getting to the throne is no easier now than it was before.  Loyalties have been broken, friendships have fractured, and magic still divides the kingdoms of Erilea.  In her struggle to prove that she’s a worthy queen, Aelin may have to give up that which is most important to her to show her commitment to the crown…

You guys, I’m divided on this one.  I mean, Maas is a genius and we sing her praises unto the stars, yadda yadda yadda.  But I left this book feeling a bit unsatisfied.  And that’s a new experience for me with Maas.  (Of course she’s had cliffhangers before, but that’s not what this was that’s bothering me.)

I loved the characters.  Aelin is at her best, Rowan is at his best, Dorian and Manon are at their best…you get it.  These characters that we’ve watched grow and change throughout all the books are becoming stronger and more powerful and more invested in their struggle, which raises the stakes so much.  I loved seeing them.

But I felt like the best characters of all in this story were Elide and Lorcan.  I fell for these two so hard, even though I’d been introduced to them before.  And for as much as I loved them, I think that was also part of my hesitancy with this book: I wasn’t overly impressed with Aelin and Rowan and Dorian this time around.  I mean, I was, but it wasn’t the same.  Like Aelin has learned about all she can by this point and we know basically all of her secrets.  She has very little left up her sleeves at this point to surprise the audience, and I think that’s kind of what kept me coming back to this series.

There is still plenty of action in this book, which was great.  It may not be the ambushes and assassin challenges that we’re used to, but we still get fight scenes.  Again, with the direction that this book has gone in, it still felt a little unsatisfactory to me.  I love hand-to-hand combat, but there was remarkably little of it in this book as the villains are bigger and badder than ever before.

I’m glad a few things finally got explained.  There have been some questions lingering since the beginning (or any of the books between here and there) and they finally have some answers.  So that was nice.

Perhaps my biggest complaint about this book was the inclusion of characters from the prequel stories in The Assassin’s Blade book.  I was really cheesed off when I got to some scenes where Aelin clearly knew a character but I didn’t and then there was this weird attempt to fill in the audience (read: me) who hadn’t read the prequel stories.  My philosophy is that if they were really that important, they would have been in the regular books in the series.  Prequels are for extra stuff, not stuff that we absolutely have to read to understand the series.  Ugh.  I’m still cheesed off.  I hate feeling like I don’t know what’s happening in a book, like I’ve skipped a book.  I don’t ever read books out of order for that reason.

Thankfully, I suppose that was actually a relatively small portion of the story that had that, but the fact that it came up (more than once!) really irritated me.

Overall, it’s still a fantastically genius and surprising book by Sarah J. Maas, just like we’ve come to expect, but I miss a lot of elements of early Aelin and so this wasn’t my favorite book in the series.

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