Disclaimer: This review contains minor spoilers. I won’t discuss major events, but there are things I mention that are definitely spoilers. (It would be hard not to include them.) Read at your own risk.
“This war,” she said quietly, “is but the second movement in a game that has been played since those ancient days across the sea.”
Early this morning around three-a.m. I finished Empire of Storms. I’m still reeling from all that has happened, but I couldn’t stop myself from immediately seeking a computer to type down what I’m feeling right now. This book was vicious and whimsical and empowering…it was more than I’d expected it to be, more than I realized it even could be what with having another book to follow it’s lead? I’m so freaking happy.
I feel as though each Maas book has always focused heavily on a certain writing tool, mostly character development, and sewn it gracefully into her stories so much so that it would be nearly impossible not to notice how character A has come a long way from book one. In Empire of Storms, I believe SJM’s strongest point was a tie between the world-building and the plot.
Despite where we left off in the fourth book, most of Empire of Storms takes place beyond the Fae continents in places such as Skulls Bay and Ellywe. If you’ve had any qualms regarding whether or not to read the novellas, The Assassin’s Blade, by now…you definitely should give them a try. Many characters that were introduced in those novels are revamped into this book, and not just as any minor characters. Although I was hoping to know more about Terrasen, it was a pleasant surprise to visit the exotic islands of the Pirate Lord and the marshes of a beloved character’s lost homeland. Maas took us to the skies with her wyverns, though the trees with her Fae, and deep below the sea with Lysandra, the shape-shifter who literally became a living myth to aid the cause. Plot wise, I always find the second-to-last book in a series can be slightly boring because it’s often used as a “filler” to throw leftover knowledge at the readers before a huge battle in the final installment. This was not the case for Empire of Storms.
The grand scheme of the plot, perhaps even starting long before Throne of Glass due to the stories in the novellas, has been brewing for so long that this installment finally reveals many of the secrets and rhymes that we’ve been trying to decode for years, yet somehow there’s still so much to be answered for that I have no doubts book six will be SJM’s biggest publication yet. It was never dull, never dragging on as I feared it might. The plot for Empire of Storms even takes us further into the ancient riddles by bringing into the game new players and new devices to be wielded. It was a rush from chapter one onward, especially once the commencement started creeping in on me…and damn, those last chapters were so intense that I felt physically sick and exhilarated moments between one another. Maas wasn’t exaggerating when she said we would be heartbroken with the ending.
The character development in this story was also wonderfully constructed and flowed very smoothly, much as I had expected it would. Aelin, being our main protagonists, begins to act like a true Queen through using battle tactics and cunning that many characters (including myself) didn’t know she possessed. She’s still learning how to be more open with her court about her plans, but I’m glad she’s kept has her flaws and quirks because 1) there’s still another book to be written and 2) she wouldn’t be Aelin otherwise. Her control was the strongest of all her character traits, and definitely the most inspiring to read. We’ve seen her struggling with maintaining her fire and not allowing it to overtake her, and while she still struggles in this book with her ever-growing gifts, she is far more comfortable with her powers and that made me an emotional wreck in the best of ways. Much like Aelin, her cousin—Aedion—experiences equal attention where development is concerned. Our Wolf of the North gives pieces of his past to Lysandra in this book, telling her of his times in the Bane and on the battlefields. It is even reveled later on that he had many lovers and is indeed bisexual. As Aedion tries to keep the court motivated, he is forced to work alongside his father, Gavriel, whom he would be pleased to never speak to again…or so he believes in the first half of the book.
Evangeline, Nesyrn, and Chaol barely make an appearance in this book, so I can’t say much about their development other than I’m excited to see what they’ve been doing in the final installment. Rowan, on the other hand, had his best character development in all of the books. He is so passionate about the people he loves, so concerned and ferocious all at once, but he knows when to be silent and let his Queen take charge, and he is always there when another character is in need of some comfort. Who we once thought was a nasty, snarling Fae-warrior is actually, in fact, the court’s own guidance councilor ready to distribute hugs and words of wisdom to any who seek it (okay, maybe the hugs are just for the members of the Court…he’d probably kill one of the Cadre if they tried to, hehe). But what really struck out were the final chapters in the book, where all the worst things imaginable seem to occur at once, and Rowan is the one who saves them all through his compassion. This certain scene reminded me a bit of something Rhysand does in A Court of Mist and Fury regarding the Mortal Queens, but I won’t reveal too much about that. Just know that it’s beautiful and bitter sweet.
Dorian is slowly but surely morphing into his role as King of Adarlan, however we don’t get to see much of Adarlan in this book…or Terrasen, for that matter. Dorian, despite what I’ve seen some people in a fury about, is still the same character from book one. He’s gone through so much in the last two books that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would be a little darker, a little more rough-hewn in this book. He’s steadily coming into his powers and understands many more things about the way of the world than he had once believed it to be, thanks to Rowan who has been training him and Manon who has been provoking a side of him he didn’t know existed. As Manon shows Dorian it’s okay to be a bit mischievous, Dorian teaches Manon that mercy isn’t a weakness and helps her meld into their little group of revolutionary Kings and Queens.
As I mentioned previously, characters that were briefly mentioned in the preliminary books become main players in this one. For starters we see Captain Rolfe make an appearance early on in the story, then Ansel of Briarcliff and the Silent Assassins more towards the end. We are even familiarized with Maeve’s warriors, the Cadre, which was something I’d been waiting for since Queen of Shadows! Even the Ashryver and the Whitethorn houses make an important appearance as the plot reaches a climax sure to destroy the readers. It was fanatic to see it all coming together.
With new alliances, new enemies, and perhaps even another war on the rise, the final installment for the Throne of Glass series is going to leave us all in ruins for better or worse. The ending of this book is assuredly going to reflect upon the events in the following, but I can’t say much else in fear of giving more away than I already have! But just…prepare yourselves. It’ll be wild.
Once more, SJM, you’ve amazed me…and further dug my grave.