Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.
His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.
He didn’t understand-how she could be so delicate, so small, when she had overturned his life entirely. Worked miracles with those hands and that soul, this woman who had crossed mountains and seas.
Tower of Dawn is a book I was dreading to read. Why? Because over the past two years, I’ve grown incredibly tired of Sarah J. Maas’ books. The past two novels by her — Empire of Storms and A Court of Wings and Ruin — have been massive disappointments, and when I found out that Tower of Dawn was to be a full-length novel about a character I only barely care about (after knowing for months that it was only to be a novella), I was annoyed. Maybe slightly more than annoyed.
I didn’t want to read this book. I wanted to skip it, actually. The only reason that didn’t happen was because of the very lovely Cal @ Cal’s Constant Raving Reviews, who was struggling to find the energy to read this book too, suggested that we buddy read it together. And we did! And I’ve very glad we did, because I enjoyed this book far, far, far more than I ever anticipated.
Did it have its problems? Sure. But was it as bad as Empire of Storms or A Court of Wings and Ruin? No where near.
In Tower of Dawn, we follow Chaol and Nesryn’s adventures, which occur concurrently with the events of Empire of Storms. In Queen of Shadows, Chaol is gravely injured during the battle between Aelin and the King of Adarlan. His injury prevents any feeling in Chaol’s legs and he is unable to walk or use the lower half of his body at all. His best friend, Dorian, sends him off to Antica, a country renowned for their healers, in order for Chaol to be healed; but he is also sent as Dorian’s ambassador, in an attempt to convince the King of Antica into providing help in the upcoming war against the demon king Erawan.
He supposed he’d learned that strength could be hidden beneath the most unlikely faces.
Going into Tower of Dawn, I was worried that SJM would incorrectly represent physical disabilities. My main cause of concern was that SJM would find a way to “heal” Chaol of his injuries, which would be a massive smack in the face to disabled readers. Or, even worse, somehow romanticise illness *cough* Me Before You *cough*. I was hoping that she had conducted adequate research and wrote about the topic with sensitivity and empathy. I cannot say if SJM accurately represented physical disabilities as I am able-bodied, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the book. Chaol expresses anger at people moving his wheelchair without his permission, and hurt at being manhandled when there is no way for him to access a building. Chaol essentially has to reexamine who he is deep down and realise that he is more than just a solider, more than just Dorian’s best friend. Each scene where Chaol evaluates himself — his childhood, every moment that led him to where he is — is quite powerful.
I will also quickly mention that I’ve never understood the hate Chaol gets from a lot of readers. While he’s not my favourite character, I quite like him and I really loved his and Celaena’s romance, even though I understood why they broke up. Sure he makes dumbass decisions sometimes, but the hostility towards him by some readers can be shocking. If a Chaol hater can enlighten me, I’d be grateful.
I feel like SJM is beginning to listen to her critics, as this book contained a plethora of diverse characters. In fact, Chaol and Yrene, the girl who heals him, were the only white characters in the entirety of the book. And not only was every single character a person of colour, we also have the disability representation as well as queer representation too. One of the book’s side characters, Hasar, is a lesbian and is in a committed relationship with a woman. It’s still not a main character, but, look, SJM is getting there. And I’m happy that she’s slowly (very slowly) realising that there is more to humanity that allocishet white people.
I very much liked Yrene Towers. As I have not read The Assassin’s Blade (the collection of short stories about Aelin’s time as the assassin Celaena), I didn’t know who Yrene was, but I quickly grew to like her. She’s feisty and doesn’t put up with any shit. She’s a very strong character who knows her heart, and will not let anyone stand in the way of her choices — not even a prince. That being said, I didn’t particularly feel a strong connection between Yrene and Chaol. I thought they were sweet together but there wasn’t much chemistry between them, nothing like the chemistry between Aelin and Rowan in Heir of Fire (which sizzled out by Empire of Storms because, let’s be honest, SJM sucks at writing characters in a relationship, but rocks at writing them getting into a relationship). Which is why I was a little let down by Yrene and Chaol’s romance — it was a bit flat to me.
“This will be the great war of our time,” Kashin said quietly. “When we are dead, when even our grandchildren’s grandchildren are dead, they will still be talking about this war. They will whisper of it around fires, sing of it in the great halls. Who lived and died, who fought and who cowered.”
On the other hand, I was quite surprised by how much I liked reading about Nesryn and her budding romance with a prince of Antica named Sartaq. I’ve never actually liked Nesryn as a character, but that’s not exactly her fault. It’s SJM’s fault. In Queen of Shadows, when we’re first introduced to Nesryn, she is a very two-dimensional character. She has no nuance to her, nothing that makes her seem realistic. She’s just there for Chaol to get over Aelin with. That’s it. It was finally in this book, two books later, where she starts to have her own personality and thoughts and feelings and drive. She loves her family — really adores them — and is devastated when she discovers that the capitol of Adarlan has fallen. Driven by her love for her family, Nesryn seeks out a way to help her country, with the help of Sartaq. She was a great character in this book and here’s hoping she stays that way in Kingdom of Ash.
What I didn’t like in Tower of Dawn was the writing. There were times where the writing was great and visually pleasing, but many times where it was awkward and simply poor. In almost every SJM novel, you can see the physicality of her writing, and by that I mean the structure of her writing. She goes through phases, you see. Sometimes she uses a lot of em dashes (—), sometimes its a repetition of a particular word (for she was, for he was, for it was), sometimes it’s the continual use of hard returns, so that almost every paragraph is practically a single line. In Tower of Dawn, it’s an excessive use of ellipses (…). Let me give you an example from the book:
“Clearing herself from this life she had built … It would be no easy task.”
I know that might not seem like anything to you, but, fuck, the use of an ellipses there drives me up the wall. Because it is so unnecessary! Do you know how much easier it would be to just say, “Clearing herself from this life she had built would be no easy task.” So much easier! And there are dozens upon dozens of these sentences — multiple uses on a single page. It just removes all sense of urgency from a scene. It jolts me out of my suspension of disbelief and smacks me right back in reality. The reality of a sort-of roughly/poorly edited book. According to my eBook copy of Tower of Dawn, there are 929 ellipses in the novel. Most of these ellipses occur during conversation, which is certainly natural, but the ones that are placed within the narrative make me see red. I can’t. I hope you guys don’t think I’m dramatic.
“I will cherish it always. No matter what may befall the world. No matter the oceans, or mountains, or forests in the way.”
Another thing I didn’t like was the length of this book. 700 pages is just so unnecessary. So freaking unnecessary. I hate to say it, but most of the scenes in this book didn’t need to happen. There are massive chunks of world building that, while certainly interesting, don’t actually move the plot along. We are not coming back to this country again. We don’t especially need to understand it’s long — long — history, aside from the parts that relate to the plot. Basically, this book didn’t need to be almost 700 pages long. A novella would have more than sufficed. In fact, the only really important thing in this novel occurs around the 530-page mark. It’s a massive plot twist and I wonder at the reasoning behind SJM’s decisions to reveal it in this novel. Surely there are a lot of people who decided not to read this book. I was almost one of them. Revealing a crucial piece of information in a “filler” book was a strange decision, although I’m sure Chaol and Nesryn will reveal this information in the final book. Still.
One final, very random thing that annoyed me about this book: Aelin. Aelin was mentioned so much in this book, it was beginning to anger me. Why, you may ask. Well because Chaol was mentioned twice in the entirety of Empire of Storms, but a quick check on my eBook shows that Aelin is mentioned 171 times in Tower of Dawn. AND SHE WASN’T EVEN IN THE BOOK! *big sigh* If you don’t know by now, I really, really don’t like Aelin and the fact that she was mentioned so much in this book is devastating to me because it’s not even supposed to be about her, but SJM somehow still made it about her. /rant over.
All in all, Tower of Dawn was a surprising read. I enjoyed this book far more than I ever thought I would, and I can safely say I am extremely excited to read the final novel in this series. It’s been quite a ride thus far.