It’s safe to say this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. As the long-anticipated finale in a 7 book series, my excitement to read this was sky high… so much so that I decided to go to a book event, got myself a signed copy and some other goodies beside- look how pretty!!
(no pics of the actual event sadly cos my camera is really crummy)
All of which begs the question: how could the book possibly live upto all the hype? Well, I’m pleased to say it did in a lot of ways it made me a very happy monkey. Although I won’t pretend it was everything I dreamed it would be (more on that later) I did come away pretty darn satisfied.
From the beginning, Maas’ writing walked the thin line between decadence and accessibility. In an exquisitely balanced fashion, she drew on her reader’s emotions and went for some gutsy manoeuvres. Each torture scene was measured and well executed. With plenty of tension, the stakes were high, and every tweak of the plot felt like another turn of the thumbscrew.
What I especially appreciated about these scenes was how it allowed for a more intimate view of the villainess. Maeve telling her side of the story was particularly rewarding. While I was left unsure after Empire of Storms why she would abduct, instead of kill, our heroine, it made perfect sense here. The one flaw that this did open up- unfortunately- was that it repeated the reveal for Maeve’s true identity… the same one that was allegedly the vital piece of information we needed to read Tower of Dawn to get.
Now this led to its own set of problems. Suddenly, this whole setup (one which became an entire book I might add) was suddenly redundant, because Aelin had figured it out all on her lonesome. Which, *yay, goodie for her* but sadly this meant a lot of characters lost their purpose. Given that the cast was too large anyway, I wondered why this unnecessary plot point wasn’t trimmed.
It didn’t help that there were a lot of characters I’d lost interest in. As much as I had previously liked Nesryn and Sartaq, they may as well have been cameos in the book, because they added nothing to the story. And, something which came as much as a shock to me as it will to you, was that previous favourites like Lysandra and Aedion no longer held my interest. Part of my falling out of love with them came from the pettiness of their scenes- their fallout felt manufactured and most of their scenes were needless drama that could have been streamlined. But the other issue was that I struggled to care for so many characters once they were reunited with the ones I actually loved- especially if I’d only recently managed a grudging respect for them (*coughs* Chaol *cough cough*). I personally found that some new characters hadn’t earned the amount of attention they received (to be frank: Yrene) while some older characters were given short shrift. It certainly didn’t help that the perspective shifted at regular intervals (something that didn’t happen earlier in the series). At the event, Maas said that this was to frustrate the reader a little… and frustrate me it did. In fact, I found it easier to put the book down because of it.
Nonetheless, there were always characters I was desperate to see more from. Most notably my favourite couples: Lorcan/Elide and Manon/Dorian. For me personally, the Manon and Dorian scenes (together and apart) stole the show. Practically every Manon moment made me *squeal* with glee and every Dorian part made my heart melt. I especially liked the progression of their stories. The scene with Abraxos and Petra was a culmination of *everything* (more so even than the one with the Thirteen- which is also pretty spectacular given that if you’ve read the book you know exactly what I’m talking about). And each of Dorian’s victories was *the best*. Highlight for spoiler: in the whole book, my pity panged most for Dorian seeing his father’s sacrifice. And I loved seeing the explanation for why the king had no name.
True to form, the plot was very exciting. There was a lot mastery in that no scenes were wasted. I can see what Maas meant about not skipping anything out. My one issue was that a lot of these events could have been reordered for a bit more oomph. Especially when it came to the point where the plot hinged: the wyrdkeys. In my opinion, this major showdown happened too early and easily could have been saved to coincide with the final battle. Highlight for spoilery section: It would have been fine to have Maeve see Aelin lose her powers and not have her just mysteriously *know* anyway. I also felt that the betrayal of the gods was shoehorned in to “surprise” the reader that they’d still have to defeat him. I’d have been happy if either Erawan had been blasted into outer space like planned or the gods had lied about being able to get rid of him in the first place.
Still, I did think there was too much going on in the last battle. For me, it would have made sense to put a number of players out of commission and not switch perspective at this crucial stage. Highlight for more spoilers: Elide saving Lorcan could have been early in this battle. Maeve could have consequently been torturing just Rowan, not three people at once. And, as well written as it was, I didn’t have a dog in the Erawan/Yrene fight scene if I’m honest. And as much as I liked Dorian getting his little victories- I’d have had him unconscious for the duration of the fight too. What I did like was Aelin riding in on the Lord of the North was wonderful. I liked that she was heroic as ever, that she retained her swagger and most of all her last words to Maeve. Basically, Aelin, Aelin, Aelin. There was one last flaw and that was that OF COURSE they killed the main villain and all the other enemies *run away*. Because this overused film trope isn’t overused
After that, the ending was pretty much as expected. Highlight for lots of spoilers Happy happiness with a hint of happy-juice. Complete with that cliché that will piss off many fans of “oh I’m queen now, let’s have democracy”. Not to sound like a miserable bugger, but at the end of a saga like this, I think I could have handled a bit more loss. The thing is, whoever died would have annoyed fans, because let’s face it, the choice would have been between Dorian and Chaol. Now, as a lot of you may know, I’m totally biased, so you may think my choice of Chaol is tinged with that. NOT SO! (okay maybe a little) Hear me out- the reason why I’d have killed him off was because it would have been simultaneously tragic, what with the so much to live for, and yet also would have made sense since he’d reached a full character arc. Whereas Dorian is kind of needed to rule- because his useless brother would hardly be any good in his place, and he hadn’t yet fulfilled his romantic purpose (basically, if there was a half decent alternative ruler and he’d knocked Manon up, I’d have sobbed my little heart out, but agreed it was fair for him to go). So yeah, my main message is kill Chaol (#SorryNotSorry).
Other than that, I was amused to find that Maas was clearly on a Tolkien bender. The witches going to war was an amazing scene- but did anyone else find it reminiscent of “the beacons are lit”? Also “that’s no horn of Morath” felt like the arrival of the Rohirrim. Yet, even with some moments feeling derivative to me, I did like the fact that all the stories- the fae, the witches and the men- all tied into the theme of homecoming. That worked splendidly.
Ultimately, this was a tad too long and there were too many characters I wasn’t fussed about. There were some things I wish had been done slightly differently. That said, despite these kinks, I can’t deny I enjoyed a large proportion of this book. Plus I thought it was a massive improvement on book 5! Like many of the books in this series, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly a wild ride:
Rating: 4/5 bananas
So have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!