The fourth Throne of Glass book, Queen of Shadows, was great in terms of action and plot advancement, but I ended up liking the main character less than I did in the previous book. I didn’t even try to avoid spoilers in this review, so consider yourself warned!
Having finally let her past catch up with her, Aelin Galathynius shed her Celaena Sardothien alias and owned her Fae powers and title as Queen of Terrasen. Keeping a low profile when she returned to Adarlan, Aelin slowly began to build a relationship with the rebels in the capitol. People from her past also resurfaced and offered their services to her cause, but often for a hefty price. Meanwhile, Manon and her witches were being used by the King of Adarlan to create deadly new creatures and Manon had to decide where her loyalties lay.
Aelin and her companions realized what was holding magic at bay in the country and created a plan to release magic: a deadly scheme that could destroy their chances of rescuing imprisoned friends and their very lives.
Queen of Shadows was a really fun read, but I still enjoyed Heir of Fire more. Overall, I loved the action, Aedion’s rescue was a great example of just how on point Maas' writing can be. The pacing worked so that I felt the tension throughout the whole thing, and that grin between the two cousins was just perfect. I actually liked that part of the story more than Dorian's rescue at the end, mainly because of the revelation about the King. I mean, where did that come from? We didn’t even know the man’s name, I’m not sure why we were supposed to care that he had been possessed. Even so, the rest of the ending was entertaining.
My main problem with Queen of Shadows was how Aelin kept everything to herself. She still thought she was the smartest and most capable person around. She finally had friends and allies she could trust, but never shared her full plans with anyone. She didn’t bother consulting Aedion who had been a GENERAL for the King of Adarlan and Rowan who had been a soldier for CENTURIES and everyone was just expected to trust her. And of course, everything (almost) always worked out exactly as planned and her court would all nod and beam and praise her some more. It was just a bit much and made it hard for me to see Aelin as a leader. She didn't really grow from being a self-absorbed assassin and I wanted to see more from her, though her powers and fighting abilities did continue to develop well.
Manon Blackbeak kept her spot as my absolute favorite character of the series. She was just such a badass the whole time (without having to constantly be told it like Aelin) but she grew. I was always tempted to look ahead to see what was going on her chapters but I held myself back.
“Do you believe monsters are born, or made?” - Manon
“I’m not the one who needs to answer that question.” - Elide
Manon learned some terrible secrets about what the King and the Duke were planning to do to the country. What was she going to do about it? Follow her grandmother, the Matron of the Blackbeak witches? Help Aelin destroy the demon-possessed royalty of Adarlan? I was rooting for her to team up with Aelin but anything Manon and Abraxos made me so happy, it didn’t really matter. (The Manon and Asterin conversation BROKE my heart, though. I had tears in my eyes.)
Some characters from Aelin’s past made an appearance and I liked them, especially Lysandra. She was just as tough as Aelin. Arobynn Hamel finally showed up and I was disappointed. Not by the character, because he was awesome, but how little of a role he played - in only one book! - before Aelin triumphed. I wish he had been around in the first two books so we could see more of the King of Assassins, but I guess that’s all the more reason to read The Assassin’s Blade novellas.
I know some people hate Rowan because they perceive him as the reason Chaol got dropped. I understand that - even though I disagree with the hate. Chaol went from a loyal, trustworthy, kind boyfriend to some grumpy, magic-hating ex-Captain who was no longer a main character. Even though I was team Chaol in Crown of Midnight, I fully accepted the move to Rowan once it became clear Celaena/Aelin was not even human. The girl can conjure flames out of nowhere; Rowan suits her. I agree Maas didn’t handle the change so well by making Chaol suddenly unlikeable, but at some point the fandom has to move on because it's not Rowan’s fault. I liked Rowan and Aelin's bond in Queen of Shadows, but even Rowan participated too much in the Aelin worship thing going on.
Queen of Shadows was a 3.5 of 5 for me; it fell slightly flat after such a buildup at the end of Heir of Fire. However, the amazing Manon chapters and continued world building made me excited to continue on to Empire of Storms.