Okay, I’m gonna start this review where I would normally end it:
Rating: 4/5 bananas
Because to be abundantly clear, before I get into the nitty gritty, that I did actually have a lot of fun with this. Not entirely for the right reasons, but oh, we’ll get to that. All in all though, before I get into what I thought about this in depth, I do think this was definitely one of Maas’ better books.
As a spinoff from the Throne of Glass series, I feared it might be a bit of a waste of time. And worse still, this focused on Chaol, who (spoilers for Queen of Shadows) has had his back broken. Let’s be honest, I’ve never been a fan of this self-righteous twerp (I can’t even be bothered to be diplomatic), so a book centring on his mission for allies and a healer didn’t sound appealing.
Initially I thought I was going to be proved right. And this comes back to not liking Chaol, which meant it was a real struggle to get invested. Don’t get me wrong, this is in no way a criticism of the writing– as a character he’s entirely believable- it’s only that the gift of writing realistic characters is a double edged sword and inevitably there will be characters we do not like. Sometimes certain types (the prissy, hypocritical, judgemental kind) rub me the wrong way. And well, quite simply Chaol does a lot of Chaol like things here– so oh gosh my notes got snarky:
“He was Lord of Nothing. Lord of Oath-Breakers. Lord of Liars”
Me in notes: true- he was a wanker. He literally (spoilers for Queen of Shadows) supported a king possessed by a demonic Valg. Because he’s a schmock.
“It should have been me. I had always planned for it to be me instead”
Me: ah Chaol’s infamous misplaced guilt. Not the reason he sucks though.
“It was a… rough period for me. Everything I knew was trampled. Everything. And she… I think I placed the blame for a great deal of it upon her. Began to see her as a monster”
Me: yeah you were a prejudicial git.
To be fair, there were random parts where he wasn’t even doing anything that I’d blurt that out “yeah but you’re still a shit”. I couldn’t even understand why other characters described him as: “This man, this noble and selfless and remarkable man”. Because he also said things to someone who’d had their family murdered like:
“I knew another woman who lost as much as you. And do you know what she did with it- that loss?… She hunted down the people responsible and obliterated them. What the hell have you bothered to do these years?”
It’s not just that it’s insensitive and cruel- it’s that he has *zero consistency*- especially cos he previously criticised the woman who hunted down her enemies… so what’s his problem? This is why I don’t like the judgy bastard- he’s always been the worst hypocrite. He’s very good at wounding people, acting morally superior, yet he can’t seem to make up his mind over what is right and wrong. So no, unlike a lot of people, this book didn’t suddenly make me a Chaol convert.
HOWEVER (and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to get to the positive side) I really liked the other characters. Sartaq in particular was completely gorgeous. I will say, initially whenever I read Nesryn’s name, I thought “who?” Her relationship with Chaol was totally meh and shoehorned in– still highlight for spoiler: I ended up loving her romance with Sartuq, even if it was weird for her to jump ship and to brush the other unnecessary relationship under the rug in order for it to happen.
Since this was set in a new location, I personally felt like there was a lot of infodumping in the opening, which made it tough to get into, but once it got going, there was plenty to keep me entertained. By the end the number of times I’d said “wow” was ridiculous. It was simply so SPECTACULAR my notes devolved into “oohs” and “ahhs”. Plotwise, this also had HUGE implications for the series. There were some predictable moments- for instance, highlight for spoiler: she has a tendency to repeat stories, so it was no surprise when Chaol’s back got broken again,but I really did not see that finale coming. Because, like I said, wow.
Tower of Dawn also overcame a lot of the problems I had with Empire of Storms. Maas toned down the somewhat cringey sexual content. It was still corny, but there was less of it THANK GOODESS. Moreover, the moralising I’d complained of was mostly gone. When it did turn up, the messaging was simple and less cheesy, so I didn’t have a problem with it this time round (in fact, it was pretty quotable). And as always, I appreciated a lot of the writing:
“Her magic had been a pulsing star that flared against the wall that the darkness had crafted between the top of his spine and the rest of it.”
“You must enter where you fear to tread”
All in all, I got a lot out of it than I’d hoped. So have you read this? Do you plan to? And- dare I ask- what do you think about Chaol? Let me know in the comments!