*You can find the rest of the posts in this series here!
Welcome backkkk!!! Second last post… soon I’m actually going to have to move on from this series and I’m really not ready for that. For anyone new here, thank you so much for clicking on this article, my name is Molly, I love Throne of Glass, and I’ve embarked on a reread of the series, looking into its intricacies, hidden meanings, and just reliving all the awesome moments. And I’ve been documenting my findings here. Now we’re on Tower of Dawn, the second last book in the series, that takes place on the southern continent and follows my favourite character, Chaol.
The story behind TOD is my favourite. Basically Sarah J. Maas wrote sections for Empire of Storms from Chaol’s point of view in the Southern Continent, but it was too long, and she realised it was really its own novella. But then she was writing the novella and realised that it was actually a full length book. But not just a normal length book – no this book is 700 pages long. And it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY TO THE SERIES. If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t need to read it, you do. You will not understand a lot of Kingdom of Ash without it.
When I found out TOD was going to be a full length book, I was ecstatic. I adore Chaol Westfall, and I was so excited to explore not only his time in the Southern Continent, but to dig deeper into his story; he had been falling so far and so fast since COM and eventually he had to land. And he lands hard, but him enduring that pain, rising up from it, was a great journey, and a reminder to all: you can get through anything. It will be hard, but you are strong enough.
That being said, there is no Aelin in this book. Aelin is the beating heart of TOG, so it is simply not the same without her. But I am glad that Chaol gets the spotlight for a little bit.
Let’s dig in!
- First, I just want to make a quick note about the cover, pictured above. It’s gorgeous, I love the city in the back and the owl, which obviously has a huge part in the book. But I kind of wish it was like the others, with Chaol on the front looking strong and beautiful, and him wearing a dress on the back. But we can’t have everything I guess.
- I love how much this world continues to grow. Both in time and space. For example, near the beginning we find out that the Khagan and those on the Southern Continent know of Celaena Sardothien. She was that notorious. I like that we can picture her life before the books -Aelin continues to seem more real as she is given more backstory; she existed outside of the timeline of the books. Also, the space of the world is growing. They mention that Duva’s husband is from a country south of Doranelle. Before this I had been picturing this world as three continents – Southern, Northern (is this Erilea? Or is the whole world Erilea? We’ll never know), and Wendlyn/Doranelle, but there is so much more going on. So many more people in this world who need protecting/are a part of this story. The world is so detailed, and I can’t wait to learn more about it in The World of Throne of Glass Compendium coming next year.
- On a related note, Antica is so vivid. Sarah has done such an amazing job of creating this city. From the colours to the smell of the spices and the spires of the buildings, everything is so clear that reading it I felt like I was walking the streets myself. I also loved how different it was from the description of Rifthold. You really get a sense of the differences between these kingdoms in the way they actually look. Where Rifthold is somewhat dark, Antica is bright and colourful, demonstrating how peaceful the country is. This is where Adarlan could go.
- “Lord of nothing. Lord of oath-breakers. Lord of liars.” This is only the start of Chaol’s journey. He absolutely hates himself. For the promises he broke, the position he abandoned, but also for not acting soon enough with the rebellion, for letting Nehemia die, for everything. He does not think he is worthy of anything. All he ever had was his loyalty, and that got all muddled up and he really feels like he has failed everyone and everything (never me, though). This book is his rebirth, him building himself back up to a place where he feels like he’s worthy of love, worthy of his friends, his kingdom. Worthy of his life.
- YRENE. TOWERS. She is kind. She is brave. She is feisty, smart, loving, graceful, generous, funny and just such a wonderful character! I loved her even more the second time around. These books are stuffed with characters, but SJM always manages to make them distinct, and Yrene is no exception. What a goddess.
- So, I’m just gonna need a quick guide on how to pronounce everything. I know there’s one in the back of the book, but it really isn’t enough. Silba. Ruk. Sarteq. And so many others. Please someone help.
- This book is really a study of Chaol’s character. Yes, it furthers the larger plot of the series with the Maeve valg reveal, the healers, etc, but, at its heart, its about Chaol, which I think is so important. Sarah’s books are so amazing because of her characters. They are grounding and complicated and real, and exploring Chaol, one of her most complex characters, was so nice and necessary. Before this, we’ve only seen him falling, flailing, and really looking into who he is, was perfect. I love him even more now. It is a long journey, but he made it.
Here’s some more quotes that broke my heart just so you all can wallow with me:
- “There is no one in Erilea who loathes me more than myself.”
- “He had chucked it [the sword]and everything the capatain of the guard had been, had meant, into the dark, eddying waters. He’s been sinking and drowning ever since. Long before his spine. He wasn’t certain if he’d ever tried to swim.” (This one is so important – he feels like he betrayed everything he was, everything he had worked for, and he really doesn’t know how to go on from there; he feels like he deserves to be drowning.)
- “‘I can find a way to make something of it.’ ‘Of what?’ ‘Of everything that crumbled in my hands. Everything.‘”
- The fact that Chaol was like “Aelin would never go to Skull’s Bay” but she was in Skulls Bay is so hilarious. And also, a metaphor for how Chaol and Aelin have never really been on the same page.
- The story of Yrene’s mother was so sad, but also speaks to the hope that runs at the core of this series. Hope through pain. Yrene’s mother believed in a better life for her. She put her hope in Yrene. In a better future for Yrene. A better world. And that theme is always present, no matter how dark this series becomes. It is lovely.
- I completely forgot about how the fae had helped the ruks against the valg (spiders!) way back when, building the towers to watch for the spiders, and offering their healing skills (side note: that reveal, that healers could get rid of valg, was no less shocking the second time). In a way, there is a debt owed here too – the ruks owe the fae to fight against the valg once more.
- Chaol finally walking was such a stellar moment! I was sobbing! Yay!
- Let’s talk about Chaol and Yrene! I love them. Where Chaol is intense, Yrene is rational. Where Chaol is tough, Yrene pushes back. They are so perfect. And then at one point Yrene tells Chaol to “get up,” the words that Chaol said to Celaena back in TOG that first revealed his feelings for her and gave her strength. This was such a nice full circle moment. They’re the best TOG couple, don’t @ me.
- I love all the siblings. Though this is a really messed up system with only one of them getting the throne and the rest having to die, they still care for each other. Though they’re relationships are so complex. Hasar is my favourite though. She’s so frustrating and often brutally mean, but she has her kind moments. The people she loves, she loves hard, and protects them fiercely. She cares so much, but it often comes out as anger. I want a spin off about her!
- Okay, let’s talk about the scene where Chaol and Yrene finally beat his wound. Where Chaol has to confront his deepest fears and harboured guilt and anger. First up is Aelin. Earlier in the book he mentions how he waited for her through Heir of Fire, how when she came back she seemed so put together when everything had fallen apart and he blamed her for it. (“The heart [she]left to drop on the river docks.” What. A. Line.) But in this scene, we go deeper into that. He is so angry with her. For her, he destroyed himself. For her, he lied to his best friend. And then she just left. (“She with her fluidity, that murky area in which she dwelled…he’d broken vows for her. Broken everything he was for her. […] Liar. Murderer. Thief.” “And afterward she had walked away. As if he were a broken toy.”). Here, he has to realise that she had to grow too. Do what’s best for her. And though yes, she did say she would always pick him, that was Celaena, not Aelin. All that he lost, all that changed, was not only because of her, but because it had to happen. A war was brewing. But exploring this dynamic, really digging into how he felt about her, was needed, I think. We see everything from Aelin’s POV, and this offered a new perspective. He realises that he cannot simply blame her, that she deserved to find real love with Rowan, that he hated her because he hated himself, and through that he heals.
This scene also discusses his feelings about Dorian. How he failed him. But just as he realised that Aelin didn’t fail him, he did not fail Dorian. He tried. It wasn’t his fault. Others made mistakes too and it doesn’t make him any less of a man because he left his position as captain. He was not a traitor. Not to his true king. “He still had one promise left.” Beautiful. There is always a second chance. One of the best scenes in the series. (And I cried the whole way through).
- The scar on Chaol’s cheek from COM gets healed too, after that scene. Because he has moved past that pain, made peace with that past. He doesn’t need to be reminded of it anymore. He is a new person. My heart can’t take it. How much Chaol has grown in this book.
- There’s a brief mention of how the Tapestry in Celaena’s old room at the castle had both a stag and an owl on it. A stag for Terrasen, and an owl for Athril, Maeve’s love who turned on her when he realised her darkness. I didn’t even notice this in my reread! Fate exists at every turn. (“All the players in this unfinished game.”) I am constantly shocked by how well thought out this series is, and it is so satisfying to see things come together like this.
- I’m about the write the dumbest thing I’ve ever written so bear with me: the evil king in ACOTAR is a valg king. We talk about how the three valg brothers figured out how to world walk and went to so many worlds looking for Maeve. Maybe they made it to Prythian. Maybe one of them stayed there, or went back after, waiting to take over. We know, because of KOA, that ACOTAR takes place before TOG since Feyre is pregnant when we see her in KOA, but we know Fae live for thousands of years, and we never actually see the other two brothers (Maeve only shows Erawan an illusion) so its perfectly plausible that one of them went to Prythian and tried to take over there. This is such a stupid theory but I’m gonna run with it.
- The emphasis on the chair not being a bad thing is so important. I didn’t really notice it the first time around, being too focused on the Maeve’s-a-valg-queen-we-need-to-save-Erilea thing, but this time I noticed the transformation that happens with this small aspect of the story. Chaol wants to be healed. But he comes to realise that the chair has no impact on who he is as a person. It makes him no less of a man.
- The ending! What a twist that it was Duva. That was crazy and even though it makes so much sense, I never saw tit coming. It also raised the stakes. Valg princesses are on the table now too. One more element in this war. And the Khagan giving all his soldiers! Everything asked of him, Chaol delivered.
- When Chaol finds out Yrene’s note is from Aelin… what a beautiful, perfect moment. Everything comes together. This was meant to be. Back in The Assassin and the Healer, Celaena says that she felt a tug towards Yrene, and thank the gods she followed it.
- Okay, do we really have to go from that lovely scene with Chaol and Yrene where they’re so happy to that epilogue with Aelin trapped in the box??! I didn’t need that pain, SJM.
So there you have it! My discussion of Tower of Dawn. These posts just keep getting longer, but I have even more notes than I included here so please talk to me in the comments! I could talk about Chaol all day. This book is so special. It brings in heavy themes, it widens the world, it changes the game completely. Just in time for the epic finale. I can’t believe I’m almost done! I really don’t want it to end.
As always, three quotes I love that didn’t make it in:
- “Mountains. And seas.” “So you never forget that you climbed and crossed them. That you – only you – got yourself here.”
- “She had come to Rowan, soul limping. She had come to him as she was, as she had never been with anyone. And she had returned whole. Still she had waited – waited to be with him.”
- “More precious than any soldiers, than any weapon. Their only shot at salvation. Hope.”