Review: ‘Empire of Storms’ by Sarah J. Maas (Spoiler Free!)
As this is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series, I won’t be pasting a synopsis here. If you’ve read the fourth book or just really don’t care about spoilers, you can find a synopsis on GoodReads HERE.
This post doesn’t include spoilers for this instalment but it does include some spoilers for earlier books in the series so if you haven’t read Queen of Shadows yet, look away now!
First things first, I really enjoyed reading this book. There is something about this story and about Sarah J. Maas’ writing that is so readable and completely absorbing. With every instalment, it takes me a few chapters to get back into the world but after that, the story pulls me in and I fly through the pages. Whatever criticisms I might have of this book, I still think that this series is one of the best YA high fantasy around at the moment (even though it is getting progressively less ‘YA’ as the series goes on…) and I will absolutely be reading the final book in the series as soon as possible. The ending of Empire of Storms is a real sucker punch and I very much need to know how the story ends.
There are some characters that deserve particular mentions this time around. Lysandra is fabulous and easily my favourite character at this point in the series. Now that magic is back in the world, we get to see a lot more of her shifting abilities and it’s so, so good. If you liked her in the earlier books, you will love her in this one. She kicks arse. I was also a big fan of the development of Elide and Manon. Elide becomes more than the shy, quiet girl that she is in the earlier books but in a way that absolutely feels consistent with the back story we’ve been given. Manon has always been one of my favourites and I loved her even more in Empire of Storms. She’s one of the more unique and unpredictable characters and stops the story from becoming too ‘Vanilla Fae’. While we’re on Manon, oh my goodness, how adorable is Abraxos? If adorable is the right word for a giant, lethal wyvern…Writing this makes me realise that it’s the ladies who are the stand out characters in this series at the moment. There aren’t any characters that I actually dislike but the male characters are definitely left behind in this book. Aside from Dorian, who is still learning about his magic and still manages to be a lot more complex than the other brawny and slightly dull men otherwise filling up the cast.
So there’s a lot that’s great. My main gripe with this book, however, is the romance. Not so much the Aelin-Rowan romance (which I have some reservations about but that I’m actually quite a fan of generally) but the all-out romance offensive. I get that the main group of characters have been travelling together for a while by the time that we’ve got to this book and that maybe some of the relationship dynamics might have started to change into something more romantic but to have pretty much every single character hooking up with another in the space of a single book is a stretch. I mean, sure, I’ve never been part of a royal court during a global war and maybesomething about the constant peril might drive a lot of people together but everybody? I’m not sure I buy it. It also gave rise to a series of raunchy scenes that were pretty repetitive and, honestly, became awkward. In principle, sex in books doesn’t bother me but it does need to be well-written. Not all of the scenes in this book are. At the very least, the frequency with which couples start getting together had me rolling my eyes in a ‘here we go again’ kind of way.
The plot is as twisty as previous instalments and keeps a solid pace for a book that’s pretty much 700 pages. I didn’t feel bored or as though the story was being laboured, which is no mean feat with such a hefty page count so far into a series. One thing that I did notice in this book more than I have in others is how heavily the series continues to rely on diversions and twists. Characters are secretive and through neat handling of the multiple POVs, information is doled out often at the last minute and I did a lot of gawping at the pages. Generally, I quite like that about this series and always have. When I get to a Big Reveal, I don’t feel cheated or as though it’s a lazy way of shifting the direction of the story without having to write any build-up (which I have seen some reviewers raise as a complaint). I feel as though it fits with whoever was doing the plotting’s character or actions in preceding chapters. What I had a bit of a grumble about this time around is maybe a bit of an odd one but it bugged me that Aelin doesn’t even seem to trust the man who is apparently the love of her life with her plans. I don’t know…I guess it does make sense in some contexts but there are some things that I really think could be shared with someone with someone trusted, even if you aren’t sure if it’ll come off. Worrying about being embarrassed in front of your partner if something doesn’t work out doesn’t fit with the picture of the equal partnership of a relationship that we’re expected to buy into.
Overall: If you’ve read and liked Queen of Shadows, the series really is worth carrying on with. Ditto if you’re at any other point in the series but have a cavalier attitude to spoilers! It’s clear that the series is going to keep on going with a similar tone to Queen of Shadows and that one hell of a finale is coming. Each book is darker than the last and I’m excited (worried) to see where things end up.
Date finished: 02 October 2016
Genre: YA fantasy fiction
Pictured Edition Published: on 06 September 2016 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc