Let me start off saying that Sarah J. Maas is my favorite young adult fantasy author. Everything she writes is so rich with magic and character. Queen of Shadows, fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, is no exception.
I’ll try not to spoil major details, but be forewarned.
Queen of Shadows by (obviously) Sarah J. Maas picks up the tale as Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s deadliest assassin, returns to her home country from a brief trip to Wendlyn in book three. She goes by another name now (which I thought was really significant for her as a character, showing her embracing her new responsibilities). During the book, all of our favorite characters from the previous installments, new and old, band together in the most wonderful squad of unique power and strength. There’s Celaena, of course, along with Chaol, Rowan, Aedion, a newcomer Nesryn and (throwback to the Assassin’s Blade,) Lysandra. Together, they confront Celaena’s old master, antagonists from across the sea, and countless corrupt soldiers and generals, ending in the Glass Castle itself for a showdown with the King of Adarlan. Not to mention, the group stages several excellently composed rescues and heists against said king. In the end, they all head north for Terrasen – Celaena’s home kingdom. (If I spoiled anything significant just now, I sincerely apologize.)
I LOVED THIS BOOK. Queen of Shadows is definitely one of my top three favorite fantasy books of all time. It seamlessly combined new ideas with old – blending the Rifthold we knew and loved from the prequel novellas with the new threats and locales pertinent to the current plot. It also incorporated the Fae intrigue I was fond of from Heir of Fire, plus a little of the glamour from the original Throne of Glass.
Of course, it couldn’t be Maas without some romance. (Here are the real spoilers) Deep down, I will always be a little bit of a Chaol – Celaena shipper, but I do like him with Nesryn. I also see why Celaena moved on, because her time with Chaol in Crown of Midnight was a very young and fast-burning thing, and now that she’s more mature, she has to leave it behind. Though personally, I’m not a fan of Rowan in general. He’s okay, but I like the other guys in the series a little better as characters.
Still, Sarah J. Maas’ skill at crafting such tangible romantic tension and emotion is really amazing. The book is brimming with heat and steam and other such romantic nouns that we book nerds gobble up.
Something I look for in a good anime, movie or book is a balance between romance and action, and surprise! Queen of Shadows is just that. This book may be long, but the pages fly by with new plights and adventures around every corner. The Arobynn Hamel mini-arc alone is jam-packed with trickery, betrayal, heists and double-crossing. The predator becomes the prey, then becomes the predator again, then prey again.
The action doesn’t only involve the main squad, but it also drops in on Dorian in his predicament, and also Manon, the Blackbeak witch, and her Thirteen. You meet Manon in earlier books, and you know her path will cross with Celaena’s, and it finally does in Queen. She weaves in and back out with just enough contact to make a serious impression.
And the character development. It’s to die for. Readers discover new aspects of some of our formerly flatter characters – the biggest example being Lysandra. All we previously knew her as was a snarky courtesan with a giant feud with Celaena, but she really grows in Queen of Shadows. She is the character who is the least as she seems on the outside.
Fantastic action, genius heists, excellent character development, fiery romance – not to mention, beautiful descriptions – are all included in Sarah J. Maas’ best work in the Throne of Glass series. If you like Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen or other books like it with strong female leads, this series is for you. Because you should probably read the whole series before reading the fourth book.