[Empire of Storms: Throne of Glass V] Sarah J. Maas

Slight spoilers for the previous four books are below.

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Empire of Storms finally brings together everything that began in Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows. This penultimate novel in the Throne of Glass series showcases Aelin’s power–political, physical, and magical–in a way that really presents her as a Queen for the people. However, not everyone is as in love with Aelin and her fire as her Court is. Many fear what her power could mean for them, should she decide that she doesn’t like what they’re doing. As always, people who have power fear to lose it. Aelin has to prove that she won’t use her power to force people’s hands like she did in Wendlyn. She has to prove that she’s a Queen.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Some of the events were a little more boring than others, but ultimately every moment, no matter how seemingly insignificant, matter. There’s a lot of perspectives in this novel and they’re all intertwined in a cohesive, entertaining, and emotional way. The book focuses on dealing with the aftermath of what happened in Rifthold when Dorian and Aelin end the King of Adarlan’s reign and the seal on magic.

In the previous novels, characters had been introduced but we didn’t get a lot of time with them because of the focus on Aelin’s quest. This time, more of the pages were given to those side characters, and I think it worked really well. I enjoyed reading how characters functioned and acted when the group separated and Aelin was off doing something else. Rowan and Dorian, Lysandra, Elide, Manon, Aedion…and even characters that we’d previously been told were not necessarily allies got pages. While I liked them in the previous novels, Empire of Storms made me fall in love with them completely.

Manon’s storyline escalated in a way that had me cheering for her. It was absolutely wonderful. Character arc-wise, hers is so in depth and filled with emotion. There’s been few characters I’ve read who go through as much change and internal conflict as she does and comes to terms with it. I loved that she went from a character who believed in emotionless discipline to someone who realized that caring for another creature, witch, or human was not a weakness. She’s part of the group of strong females that Maas has written, and I appreciate it so much. It’s never about the men saving them. Manon takes control of her own life and doesn’t allow anyone to tell her otherwise.

Similarly, Lysandra moves from this former courtesan to an impressive force that uses her shifting power in ways that surprises everyone. She’d been treated as a commodity for nearly as long as Aelin was an assassin and now that she has freedom she uses her abilities to get as many different tastes of freedom. I wish there had been more in her point of view. Reading how she dealt with her past as she forged her future would have added a lot to her sections.

This time around, though, my favorite side character was Elide. Her entire life she’s been controlled. While she did escape in the last book, I felt like her true potential wasn’t realized. It is in Empire of Storms. She uses what she’s learned by watching the strong women in her life, namely Manon and Asterin, and manipulates situations to protect herself as well as turn them in her favor. She’s consumed by a desire to return to Aelin, yet she also is so terrified that Aelin won’t accept her. She’s similar to Aedion in that aspect; both had things done to them and did things that they’re ashamed of and so are afraid to return to Aelin. They want to return so badly but fear that she will turn from them. What they don’t know is that Aelin also has those fears, but they’re reversed. I loved reading how Elide came to terms with that as well as her journey into strength. Ultimately, I felt that Elide’s story matched Manon’s in emotion. It was hard to read the moments where she was desperate to survive and the moments where her heart hurt.

A driving force of these novels and also why I read them are characters like these. I’ve only really talked about the women so far because I feel like they have more to come up against, but the male characters were equally well-written. I can really appreciate when an author makes all of their characters, even the side-ones, important to the story and interesting to read. Back when Manon was introduced in Heir of Fire, I kind of felt like her story didn’t really have a point. To have her progress to a point where she’s vital to the story is amazing. And that’s what happens with all of the characters. They’re first introduced in small doses, planets rotating around Aelin’s star. But in this book, the focus turns to them and I was able to realize just how much they’re all meant to complement each other.

They’re all characters that have been told one thing for half or most of their life, characters who are beaten down to the point where you don’t expect that they’ll be able to change and come out of it. That’s what is so beautiful about Empire of Storms. Readers already know Aelin. By focusing on the others, readers are able to truly see how they all have come from these dark places but they don’t allow that darkness to control them. Their similar experiences allow them to heal one another.

When characters are around each other for long periods of time, I get why the romances happen. But I felt like there was a bit too much of this book dedicated to the creation or consummation of these romances. I understand that romance is a huge draw, but I also felt like I wanted to know more details about the travelling and growth of Aelin’s Court and people rather than the amount of times they thought about each other’s body parts. I get it. I just don’t need to be reminded of it constantly. Love flourishes even in the worst of conditions, but I felt that the characters lost their focus a bit on the main conflict of their world and that of the novel.

While I’m happy with the pairings that Maas set up, I also felt like it was too tidy. Everyone is paired or has the potential for a pairing. As a result, there are some that I prefer over others, and the rest exist purely so there can be some romance when the chapters switch to their point of view. Some of the characters lost a little bit of their importance because they were so focused on the object of their affection. That said, it’s only a minor squabble I have with Empire of Storms. Not everyone needs to be paired and it’s not realistic that everyone is paired in my opinion.

I found Empire of Storms to be the second most emotional book of the series for me. There were so many events happening, some of them behind the scenes, that when they played out or revealed had a big emotional punch.  All the pieces came together–all of the things that Aelin had kept from her Court and the reader fell into place. It shocked me at how well Maas had taken all of those separate storylines and knitted them together into one to the point where I wasn’t expecting things to happen. This certainly is the definition of a penultimate book: villains showed their faces, enemies turned into begrudging allies, people were protected, and romances were realized. Like all of Maas’ Throne of Glass novels, Empire of Storms had a cliff-hanger ending that promises lots of conflict in the next novel. I’m very excited to see how this series concludes, yet I’m also afraid to read it because I know that there’s no way everything will be happily ever after. But I can hope for it.

Sitting pretty comfortably at 4.5 stars exactly. I liked the plot a lot, but it did get bogged down by the focus on the romances.

 

[Angeldust: Dark Angel V] Hanna Peach

This is the last review of a series that I’ve been reading. The review for the fourth book can be found here.  A huge thank you to Hanna Peach for providing me with Angeldust as well as the rest of the series! What follows is an honest review for the last book and for the series overall.

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After the events of Angelblood, Alyx and Israel have decided that they can’t wait until everything is right, both in the world and between themselves. They have to take advantage of the time they have together now, because they have no idea where there lives will be in the next few weeks. After uncovering Michael’s horrible plans for the angels, humans, and planet, Alyx and her followers have to stop him before they can come to fruition. As Alyx speeds off to uncover the secrets of Raphael’s charm in a lost Seraphim city, she puts her trust in her friends to continue protecting themselves against Michael and his followers, not knowing that Michael is moving against them more quickly than they’d prepared for. Angeldust has everything that is good and frustrating about the series as a whole in it, making this a final installment that concluded the main story line well but also kept some story lines unfinished for potential spin-offs.

The Dark Angel series has always had love triangles, and Angeldust is no exception. I understand that love triangles often make the young adult/new adult genre go-round, but they became something that was the norm in the series. It was no surprise when there were more that continued in Angeldust. I felt that there were too many and that characters were jumping from one person to the next like crazy, while also keeping feelings for their first love interest which annoyed their second. I didn’t feel that the spurned point of the triangle needed to find someone immediately. These events are happening so quickly that I doubted the spurnee could get over the rejection quickly enough to have a meaningful relationship with the new love interest.

That said, I still don’t feel like Angeldust went too much into the confessions of love realm. There’s always been a focus on the true issues of the world instead of the fact that Alyx loves Israel. I love that this series puts romance behind the fight to save the world. It really knows where the heart of the story is and puts romance (or at least, the desire to run away together) on hold for the greater good. Although I do love the Israel and Alyx relationship, I liked that I could rely on the plot being well-written and engaging without being bogged down by too much lovey stuff. The dialogue is intelligent and keeps us focused on what Alyx is working toward and the undercurrent of love never takes over.

Angeldust keeps the focus on Alyx’s strength and her guardianship duties. I love that she continues to grow throughout the series, even when it’s nearing the end of the final novel. For me, she never plateaued as a character; I always found that her actions were realistic, thought-out, and fast paced. Her movement drives the plot of the series overall, because without the decisions that she makes (although not always good ones), most of the books wouldn’t have much drive. Hiding from your enemies sometimes works and is necessary, but it doesn’t often read as an interesting novel.

One of my favorite parts of this series was the element of side-quests. It allowed each book to have a focus. The plot of each individual book was well-constructed to fit into the larger plot of the entire series. I was never bored while reading these books because they all fit together, yet were also really good reads on their own. Each book is unique in its own right,  but the drive of the main plot was there.  Within each individual book, most of the problems that were unique to it were concluded, with the exception of Angeldust. The things that were left open at the conclusion of Angeldust were intentional, and following the overall theme of this review, realistic. Things don’t always finish with a cut-and-dried conclusion, so that ambiguousness was a bit refreshing in light of novels that end sugar-sweet.

As always, the plot of the book was fast paced, continuing the momentum that started in the first book and didn’t stop until the final book. Simultaneous events are happening and are split between characters and areas, making it impossible to stop reading when there’s a break in the action of one to focus on another. It’s a bit relieving when they all meet up again, because the breaks made me worry that something bad was going to happen when the point of view was switched to another character.

As much as I enjoyed this book and the series overall, there was one teensy bit regarding the ending that I was disappointed about. As a series, it concluded well with the exception of that moment. It’s not the sort of hitch that destroys an entire series for me, but when I literally groan out loud (and on a crowded train, no less), it makes me a little bummed. Oh well, can’t have everything be perfect. It’s one of my little tics as a reader.

When I look back on everything, I really enjoyed this series. The characters, the world, the plot, and the romance, it all just hit me as something that was very enjoyable and mature. Hanna Peach has a gift for writing her worlds into the reader, and I heartily recommend this for people who like fantasy/paranormal and a plot that ties together in the end. I’d be interested in reading other novels set in this Seraphim world.

4 stars.

Again, a thank you to Hanna Peach for providing me with books 2-5 of the Dark Angel series.