Book Review : Kingdom of Ash

Book Review : Kingdom of AshKingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, #7) by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury YA on October 23rd 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 992
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two-stars

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

This review contains spoilers.

 

After the action-packed novels of Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms, I was shocked to find myself struggling to get through Kingdom of Ash. Weighing in at 992 pages, I fought to get through the tome that clearly could have been edited down to around to only 300 or 400 pages. Not only was there a severe lack of action in the rest of novel, despite plenty of battle scenes, but also I was dismayed by the jumping of point-of-view from chapter to chapter. As soon as things finally started getting interesting with one character, I was forced to trudge back to one of the other lackluster story lines. When this all culminated in an entirely happy ending with everyone paired off perfectly in their cookie-cutter relationships, with only the deaths of side-characters to remember, and the Queen-who-was-Promised effectively alone in her hard-won kingdom, I was really disappointed.

 

I also felt that the novel really lost direction with some of its characters, most notably Dorian. In Kingdom of Ash, Dorian suddenly and perplexingly develops the powers of a shapeshifter out of nowhere. Putting aside the fact that another shapeshifter in Aelin’s court really cheapens Lysandra’s role in the story and is a pretty lackluster development considering he’s the fourth encountered in the very same novel, I was disconcerted when it was stated that his first urge when he transformed into a woman was to explore his, er, her body and to see if everything felt the same. Sure, maybe that’s what any actual guy would want to do, but in a time of war with his friends and the world at stake, really unnecessary to even entertain the thought.

 

That weirdness aside, I really do not understand why Dorian’s development went in the direction it did. After being possessed by a Valg prince and corrupted and broken, I felt that it would have made sense if Dorian would have been the one to forge the Lock and to give his life in doing so. It felt like the action of the past couple of books—his heartbreak at the loss of his love Sorscha at the hands of his father, his possession, his affair with the witch Manon in attempts to feel, and his resulting despair over whether or not he was still human—was leading to him making the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends, kingdom, and the world. His death would’ve been emotional and heartbreaking, and could have served as the catalyst for making Manon realize her true nature as a loving Crochan Queen and to rally her forces.

 

This development also would have given Aelin the excuse to become an empress, something hinted at throughout the series. To me, it would have been fitting if she had taken Adarlan under her protective wing in Dorian’s honor, as she spent so many years in Rifthold, among its people. In a way, her journeying back to rebuild Dorian’s kingdom would have brought the series full circle to the first novel, when Dorian released her from Endovier. It also would have shown the kindness of her spirit in helping her former enemy’s people flourish.

 

Instead of this heartbreaking development of Dorian’s death, we were given a surprise appearance by the King of Adarlan, which honestly felt like the ultimate cop out. We spend novels preparing ourselves for Aelin’s or Dorian’s sacrifice, only for another minor character to show up to take the brunt of the burden. Plus, there’s yet another kept-secret-almost-sacrifice by Aelin, which is supposed to be gutting, but spectacularly failed to even come close to the devastation of her sacrifice in Empire of Storms. The scene was so redundant that I was sort of in shock it was happening. Its only redeeming feature was Rhysand and Feyre’s appearance, which made me squeal a bit in delight, even though it was completely gratuitous and I knew it.

 

But I was not pleased that the author dodged any main character deaths. It honestly didn’t feel realistic that in a war for the soul of Erilea, not a single main character died. I did not really care when Gavriel met his end, as he had been alive for centuries, and as it came across as a very contrived and forced death. I was more upset when the Thirteen, with Asterin leading the charge, flew to their deaths and exploded into balls of lights in their own Yieldings, and destroyed the witches’ curse once and for all.

 

Other than these deaths, all main characters of the squad lived. Dorian, Yrene, and Chaol journey home to Adarlan to pick up the pieces of the shattered glass castle, Manon goes home with her people to the Wastes, Lysandra and Aedion are married, Lorcan and Elide profess their love and journey home to Perranth together. Boring. It also felt like a massive step backwards to me, after spending multiple books in the series, with Aelin struggling to accept her fae side and her gargantuan magic powers, to rob her of most of her magic. Upon reading that our great Firebringer and Fireheart’s magic was gone, I asked myself, then what was it all for?

 

The only answer I could come up with was that it was not only for Aelin to be forced into her immortal fae form so she could have a happy eternity with Rowan, but also so she was forced to face Maeve and Erawan without her powers—making the audience think she was going to sacrifice herself again after she failed to do so with the Lock the first time—sigh. This encounter also allowed Chaol’s wife, Yrene to be made somewhat relevant—as she healed Erawan and destroyed the Valg king once and for all. Starting this series, I never thought some goody-goody healer would be the one to save the world, but that is exactly what happened.

 

I was not overwrought with emotion during Aelin’s coronation either. The whole thing just felt like the wrapping up of a Brady Brunch episode. I felt bitter after spending so much of the novel slogging through battles that I could care less about with characters I didn’t like—I’m looking at you Anielle, Yrene, and Chaol—only for everyone—both main and side characters—to get perfectly happy endings. If everyone in the entire series lives happily ever after, it’s not exactly special. I was also shocked when part of the book referenced that the events of the very first book happened merely one year ago, which seemed utterly preposterous for the magnitude of circumstances—Aelin alone was in three different relationships, raised an entire army, was the king’s champion after winning a deadly tournament, killed her assassin teacher and abusive father figure, gained control of her fae form and fire powers, was kidnapped and tortured for months—all in single year.

 

Though this timeline is completely unbelievable, the entirety of the novel is not bad—there are moments of that typical Maas greatness, like Aelin destroying a tidal wave of water with her firepower, Aelin riding the Lord of the North to the final battle, Manon humiliating her grandmother and killing a matron and taking her true crown,  Fenrys and Aelin’s secret language during their torture by Maeve, Petrah Blueblood stopping the murder of Abraxos in the name of her fallen wyvern, and Elide finally admitting she loved Lorcan. But these moments are buried deep under hundreds of pages of drabble and I found myself almost disbelieving that this was the finale of the same Throne of Glass series I loved so much. Surely this ending wasn’t written by the author that gave me the gut-wrenching deaths of Sam Cortland and Princess Nehemia, the satisfying death of Arobynn Hamel, the emotional turmoil of Chaol and Aelin’s breakup, the tragic sacrifice of Aelin at the hands of Maeve—but sadly, it was.

 

Though I was somewhat disappointed with A Court of Wings and Ruin, the disappointment I felt at the ending of Kingdom of Ash, as all the characters went their separate ways, leaving Aelin and Rowan at their court virtually alone, was much worse. A running theme of the series was how Aelin was a different type of ruler and her court was unlike any before. So to see all of her friends parting with no promises to reunite after the buildup of this legendary court—complete with healers, shapeshifters, generals, fae princes, magic wielders, witches, wyvern riders, and healers—was pretty defeating.  Especially grueling for me was Yrene’s exit with Chaol and Dorian, which mirrored Aelin, then Celeana’s departure from Endovier at the beginning of the series. It just felt wrong in so many ways for Chaol and Dorian to leave without Aelin after they had gone through so much more than just the end of the world together.

 

Again, I found myself asking, “What was it all for?” Not only was Aelin almost powerless, but she was practically friendless in her own kingdom—not something I ever envisioned when I pictured the ending of this story. I almost wished that Aelin had married Dorian and united their kingdoms—even though I am a big fan of Manon and Dorian’s unconventional love affair and have made my peace with Aelin’s romance with Rowan—if only so that the court could remain together. These kind of scenarios for a different happy ending continually run through my head even days after finishing the novel. Plus, I was not happy that Ellwye’s the plight and restoration was a mere afterthought in the epilogue. This in passing mention seemed outrageous, as the death of this kingdom’s princess Nehemia was the reason Aelin finally took up the mantle as Terrasen’s true Queen and fought to save the world.

 

Ultimately, I felt really let down by Kingdom of Ash. I pushed through the majority of the novel, which should have all been cut except for the parts at the beginning and end, in the hopes of a great ending for the series. Instead, I was wrought miserable by the insufferably happy endings, in which everyone essentially paired off in their own relationships, and then left Aelin’s court. Despite my dissatisfaction with the ending to the Throne of Glass series, I am certainly not giving up on Sarah J. Maas and her works by any means. However, I will definitely go into any new series of hers with more reserved expectations.

 

two-stars
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Book Review : Kingdom of Ash - Blogging with Dragons

Posted November 9, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

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3 responses to “Book Review : Kingdom of Ash

    • Hey, nothing wrong with a difference of opinions! Thank you! Are you going to be reading Sarah J. Maas’s Crescent City series?

  1. Vova

    With Aelin being friendless I would disagree a bit, as they have basically made an alliance between their kingdoms/nations and her court (like elide and Lysandra) and also her cadre. But with the rest I agree, it was disappointing to see everyone get a happy ending.

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