*you can find the rest of the posts in this series here!
Hello, hello! Thank you for once again clicking on this link to deep-dive with me into Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series! Here we are, at Queen of Shadows, officially half way through this series. Here, everything changes. Aelin is finally Aelin, Manon meets our heroes, and the king is killed, along with the destruction of the glass castle. I know that I said Crown of Midnight is my favourite TOG book, and it is, but, man, is Queen of Shadows up there. This is a practically perfect book. The humour, the fight scenes, the emotional moments, ugh it is so good. This whole reread has been a joy, but rereading this one was so, so much fun, so let’s delve in, shall we?
- (spoils up to TOD)
Let’s start off at the beginning of the book, shall we? I remember the first forty pages of this book as pretty brutal, as my little chaolaena heart was destroyed. Rereading it was no easier.
Both Aelin and Chaol are in fine form in this scene. Chaol says some pretty awful things, calling her a monster and asking why she came back empty handed, and we learn in Tower of Dawn that they haunt him for a while, but also that he had been waiting for her. And he sees her stroll back in, having moved on, poised to take on the world, doing well when he has completely fallen apart. So he is impossibly angry. He feels left behind and shattered. And he attacks Aelin because of it.
Aelin throws it right back at him, though. Really, I’m just sitting, reading this with tears coating my cheeks, wanting to mediate this fight. I love Chaol, but Aelin will always come first, so this breakup scene is one of the only times I find myself actually angry with Chaol. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that Aelin was not just taking punches, but throwing them as well. This is not a good scene for either of them.
But then we move past that into a thoroughly fantastic book so let’s keep forging ahead!
Lysandra is the best. She has gone through so much hardship, and I’m so glad that her and Aelin become actual friends pretty quickly in this book. It’s so nice to see the positive female friendships. And she has such great development from that catty, stuck-up girl that we see in The Assassin’s Blade. (Also, Aedion doesn’t deserve her. There. I said it.)
Elide has witch blood! I totally forgot about that, probably because it never really comes up again? I would like to see how this impacts her more – if it’s strong enough for Manon to smell it, then does the witch blood affect her in any way? I see some spin-off potential with her and Lorcan’s future fae/witch/human children!
There are so many good heist/action scenes in this book. Aedion’s rescue, Dorian’s rescue, Aelin in the pits, in the tunnels… it’s all so badass and fun to read and I love it.
Here we go friends. Let’s talk about Rowaelin. Their reunion scene is so sweet. It’s this moment when you know that they are made for each other. Up until this point, Aelin has been tough, unflinching, but when she sees Rowan she sobs. She can be vulnerable around him. And it is lovely to see.
They’re also just so adorable throughout this entire book. I completely forgot that it’s Rowan who loses it first, falling for her fast and hard. It’s an element of this book that brings it out of the darkness and fighting and really makes it great. Their relationship is so fun and made me smile so much. But also, Rowan is so dumb and has actually been in love with her for months and as soon as she shows some reciprocal feelings he says, “don’t touch me like that.” Which… I get he’s scared but also that’s some serious self-sabotage there dude.
And then there’s the arrow. You all know what I’m talking about. Rowan gets injured during the scrap with Manon which we all dismissed but then it comes back in Empire of Storms and it’s revealed that that’s the moment Aelin knew they were mates. Rereading it, it’s so clear. Aelin falls to the ground when it happens, screaming. If their connection wasn’t already obvious (there are actually lines when Aelin says she feels as if she’s in his skin for a second), it is here, and we all somehow missed it.
They have so many other adorable moments I can’t get into here (“You make me want to live”) but rereading really made me realize how right they are for each other. And how happy I am for Aelin that she found him.
When Aelin meets Manon, she says she feels a tug towards her that she has only ever felt toward Yrene Towers back in The Assassin and the Healer. When I realized this, and what it meant, I actually gasped. She felt a tug towards these two women who would a) completely change the tide of the war, with Yrene akilling Erawan and Manon rallying the Crochan host, and b) end up with Chaol and Dorian, Aelin’s best friends and the people who helped set all this in motion. How connected our OT3 was from the beginning.
Part of what makes this book so fun is the interplay between Celaena and Aelin. Though they’re the same person, they are portrayed very differently. I’ve always noticed this, but it’s become even more clear in rereading. There is a distinct line drawn between Aelin and Celaena. After Arobynn dies and Aelin goes back to the Assassin’s Keep as Celaena, she is a completely different person, and everyone remarks on it. This happens multiple times in the book, as Aelin maneuvers around Rifthold, keeping up pretences from her old life.
When I first read this scene, I remember finding it confusing. She could not be that different, right? We knew Aelin when she was still Celaena, and she was not the woman who crashed through the doors of the Assassin’s Keep. But it really just adds a new layer to Aelin’s character. Celaena is not different from Aelin, but rather a part of her. When she was Celaena, she had to keep so much of herself hidden, couldn’t be vulnerable like she can now (which she’s still working on). Even then, the Celaena we knew in TOG and COM was opening up, growing, and we knew her behind the mask. Most importantly, we knew her post-Sam. To the world, she had to showcase this brash, unfeeling persona that we seen in QOS, and I would bet that she even was this person (or closer to her) before she loved Sam. Because he taught her that it was okay to love, to be vulnerable. He saw beneath her character to the girl within. He saw Aelin.
Aelin will always have this persona as a part of her (before the flames, she was an assassin; Celaena made her), but she can now be more than that version of Celaena. But this interplay of the two halves of her is fascinating (especially in terms of character development. This reread is like taking a writing class I love it) and so fun to read. I was grinning and laughing all through that scene.
So I got a bit sappy above talking about Sam. If any of you remember my first post, I mentioned how much Sam means to the story, how he really sets this all going, how much Aelin loves him. And Sam is such a huge part of this book. And part of the reason why I love it, as it grounds the story back in its roots. He could so easily be swept aside, but SJM gives him the recognition he deserves.
Going back to Rifthold, living in her old apartment, Aelin is surrounded by Sam. He is driving her for this whole book. She sleeps in his shirts. She destroys the vaults for him. She plots to kill Arobynn for him. There’s a line near the start when she says “She’d loved Sam more than anyone.” And then there is the scene when she visits his grave.
It starts with “There’s a grave I need to visit,” which immediately had me sobbing. When she goes there, she tells him her true story, which she’d wanted to do all those years ago. And she says that a part of her will always love him, that maybe he was her mate. But what really got me, what really makes this scene special, is this line: “I think you would have been a wonderful king.” She wanted him to be her forever. She wanted to rule Terrasen with him. I really do think that if he hadn’t died, they would still be together. Or at least best friends. I know she and Rowan are mates, are meant for each other, but Sam understood her. He saw through her facade. And she loved him endlessly. Hate me for it all you like, but I’m team #samlin forever.
Totally forgot that Kaltain has fire magic! That would’ve been cool to have her and Aelin meet up when magic was back. And she was able to beat the Valg prince inside her, while literally being the wyrdgate. We saw how intense that was for Aelin and Dorian KOA, but she was the gate for so long, and managed to survive as herself. Talk about badass.
I have a note that just says “Elide.” Not sure what that’s in response to, but Elide should get some recognition, so here it is.
I completely forgot about Asterin’s story about her witchling and her hunter. So incredibly sad. And also makes me realize that she was probably ready to go back to them at the end of Kingdom of Ash. She saved them all, and she hopefully got to see her family again in the afterworld.
One of my favourite Throne of Glass quotes is in this book, and it’s one that becomes an ongoing theme, a source of strength, for both Chaol and Aelin:
“‘What if we go on only to more pain and despair? What if we go on only to find a horrible end waiting for us?’
“Aelin looked northward, as if she could see all the way to Terrasen. ‘Then it is not the end.'”
What a flawless line. In awe of you, SJM.
The entire final battle scene is so epic. Chaol standing up to the King. Aelin and Dorian fighting and then her pulling him back to life. Rowan and Aedion and Lysandra and Nesryn all fighting outside. The glass castle shattering. And of course, the reveal the Erawan is Perrington, which is so so well done because it creates the perfect bridge between the two sides of the story. We go from court intrigue and evil kings to battling demons, and they are all linked by this reveal, making the story so much more epic but in a way that makes sense, grounding what could be an insane plot change into a logical progression. As well, it hints at there being more to this war than the current situation: “All the players in this unfinished game.” There is history here, a whole world of lore just waiting to be revealed, making the story so much larger than it already is. This is one of the best scenes in the series.
Dorian. We don’t see him a lot in this book, and when we do, it is incredibly hard to read as he is pushed further and further from the surface of himself. And when he comes back… everything is so hard. He’s now king, but he’s still grieving Sorscha (I talked a lot about their relationship last time) and this will define him going forward, as he tries to relearn to be himself in both Empire of Storms and Kingdom of Ash. When we last see him, he is in so much pain, and his last conversation with Aelin is heartbreaking (“‘I wish I could see her, just one last time. To tell her… to say what was in my heart.’ ‘She knows,’ Aelin said.”), but also grounding, reminding us all where this story started and where its heart still is: in Aelin’s relationships, her love for her friends. “There are things that won’t change. I will always be your friend,” she says to Dorian.
Dorian, you will be all right. I promise.
Aelin doesn’t see Rifthold again after this book. She has moved on from this city, but she also recognizes how important it was, how much it shaped her. It was her kingdom, Adarlan’s Assassin’s playground. And that moment when she saves the city from the glass, when she thinks about the city, how much she hates it and loves it and how much it made and destroyed her, is so beautiful. The city gave her music. And for that, for all it represents, she is thankful.
That final scene, when she crosses into Terrasen, is so lovely. The story shifts here, growing in scope as we head towards the final battle, as we fight for Terrasen. Nothing says it better than this interaction between our OT3:
“Dorian said, ‘So here we are.’
‘The end of the road,’ Aelin said with a half smile.
‘No,’ Chaol said, his own smile faint, tentative. ‘The beginning of the next.'”
So there you have it! My thoughts on my reread of Queen of Shadows, an exquisite book. Believe it or not, this is the condensed version, so please comment below to chat more!
I’ve come to the conclusion, after writing this post, that the chief reason I love this book is the character relationships that it explores, deepening them, adding to this large cast of characters that ground the rest of the series. That’s what makes this book, this series, so special: it always comes back to the characters. No matter how much magic comes to light, how many mythical species are introduced, the characters remain central. They remain the most important.
We’re getting so close to the end! Next up is Empire of Storms!
As always, three quotes I adore that didn’t make it into the post:
- “Perhaps the monsters needed to look out for each other every now and then.”
- “Art is as vital as food to a kingdom. Without it, a kingdom is nothing, and will be forgotten by time.”
- “What was it like? To love.” “It was like dying a little every day It was like being alive, too. It was joy so complete it was pain. It destroyed me and unmade me and forged me.”