Review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

33590260.jpgAelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

This review contains mild spoilers for Kingdom of Ash and the Throne of Glass series.

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Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pm“Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom…”

 

If anyone had told me last year that I would not only love but adore the final book in the Throne of Glass series, I would have laughed in your face. I can’t even begin to explain how low my expectations for this book were. After the failures that were Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #6) and A Court of War and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), I was very apprehensive to read any other Sarah J. Maas book. In fact, I didn’t end up reading Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass, #6) until a year after it had been published because I was so upset and disappointed in SJM.

But I was so close to the end of the series and I forced myself through Tower of Dawn, pleasantly surprised. Then I tackled Kingdom of Ash. 

And devoured it in two days.

Kingdom of Ash is, hands down, the best book in the Throne of Glass series. I laughed, I cried, I screamed, I worried for these characters — something I have never done before for any Throne of Glass novel.

This is an emotional book. A very emotional book. I didn’t expect to care that much about what happened to a majority of the characters, but watching them going through such hardships tore at my heart. I was anxious from start to finish, but the book did have its moments of lightness and sweetness too, from Aelin poking fun at Lorcan, to many couples spending much needed quality time together.

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pm“It is the strength of this that matters. No matter where you are, no matter how far, this will lead you home.”

 

Let’s talk about the characters. I don’t think, since the first book at the very least, that I have loved every character in an SJM novel. I even liked the villains, because we get to see a different, complex side to them — but in a way that doesn’t destroy their characters, as was done with Tamlin in A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Aelin. Oh, Aelin. Ever since Queen of Shadows, I’ve started to get annoyed by Aelin but by Empire of Storms, I hated her. Absolutely hated her. She was irritating, selfish, dramatic and annoying as all hell. But then she’s kidnapped and tortured by Maeve and my heart broke. It probably sounds bad that I needed Aelin to be tortured to learn some humility before I could begin to like her, but her character really needed to be taken down a peg or two. We finally get acknowledgement that her abandoning her people and country to saunter around and buy things for ten years was wrong, and I’m glad we did. It was a big part of the reason why I didn’t like her, because it felt as though she was ignoring her past. In Kingdom of Ash, Aelin grows and learns and becomes a better person — and you just know she’s going to be a great queen.

Rowan also massively improved in Kingdom of Ash. There were many moments where he started to behave like a, as SJM would put it, “Fae male”, but then he calmed himself down and reminded himself of boundaries and respecting his partner. Colour me shocked! I’m speechless! Rowan respecting a woman? More likely than you think! I also loved his and Aelin’s relationship for the first time since Heir of Fire. Rowan so clearly loves Aelin and would do anything for her, and even after he saves her — although she kind of saves herself — he protects and loves her, without getting “male” over her.

Aedion has definitely improved since Empire of Storms, although I never completely hated him, not to the same level that I hated Aelin and Rowan. However, Aedion’s scenes in Kingdom of Ash were the more boring ones, and I had to stop myself from skimming his chapters many times so I could get back to Aelin. However, these scenes are really important too, because they were so realistic. SJM writes war scenes and battles really well, with so much realism. Unlike a lot of other YA fantasy books that feature wars, the scenes in Kingdom of Ash cover many chapters, because war doesn’t end in the space of five or so chapters. War takes time and there’s a lot of stops and starts, which I think SJM did really well.

Lysandra was fantastic in this novel, I felt for her so much. She was treated by Aedion horrendously and she ends up putting herself first — as she should. She loves Aelin so much and would do anything for her, even die for her. I cried when Lysandra got her happy ending and found her family.

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pm“To whatever end?” she breathed. Rowan followed her, as he had his entire life, long before they had ever met, before their souls had sparked into existence.
“To whatever end, Fireheart.”

 

Lorcan is my favourite male character in the whole series. I didn’t expect him to be so, but once I read Empire of Storms, I couldn’t stop myself from falling for him. He develops so much, I was so impressed by SJM’s writing skills. It reminded me so much of her amazing writing in A Court of Mist and Fury. He’s very much a man who has portrayed himself as one way for centuries because he thought that was who he has to be. As a half-Fae, he had to make himself more frightening and powerful in order to keep up with the full-blooded Fae. But once he meets and falls in love with Elide, he realises that he is capable of change, and that love isn’t a weakness, but rather a strength. Also, I will forever be laughing at Lorcan’s new name.

Elide is my favourite female character and has been since the first moment she appeared in Heir of Fire. My girl is a sweet-faced liar who uses all the skills in her arsenal to get what she wants and I love her. I especially love her relationship with Lorcan. One of the most badass scenes in Kingdom of Ash features Elide and Lorcan. Without spoiling it too much, Lorcan is trapped and dying on a battlefield while a dam is about to burst and kill anyone in it’s path, and Elide steals a horse, rides on the battlefield and rescues him. It’s such a phenomenal scene and I’ve read it over and over again.

Manon has been and always will be the best character in all of the Throne of Glass series. In Kingdom of Ash, her character development is unlike any other. Manon goes from a cruel, bloodthirsty witch to a solicitous and powerful queen who united two warring clans for the first time in centuries. She suffers so much in this novel in order to protect someone she has only just started to care for, and I’m so proud of her. She deserves the world. How much do I need to bribe SJM to write a book about what Manon does after the conclusion of Kingdom of Ash?

Dorian is no longer the frightened princeling he was in the first few Throne of Glass novels. He is now a king in his own right and a powerful magic wielder. Following Manon and her witches, Dorian trains and trains and trains to make his magic as strong as possible — and he does. He’s come so far. And I love that he finally had the chance to confront someone who almost destroyed him — I cried like a baby during that scene. I won’t spoil what happens, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about. But as much as I love Dorian, I’m just not feeling his and Manon’s relationship. I really don’t know what SJM is pulling with Dorian and Manon. They have no chemistry, even though I sometimes liked them in Kingdom of Ash. In my opinion, Manon totally reads as sapphic and should have gotten into a relationship with a woman, and Dorian should have ended up alone. Not completely alone but after everything that he went through, he deserves some time to be by himself and heal — especially with the revelation at the end of the book — before he gets into a relationship.

Chaol was just wonderful in Kingdom of Ash. He faces his father for the first time in years and really shows how much he has changed as person. He puts aside his anger for his father and does what he needs in order to protect his people. Also, my baby boy is going to be a father (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s in the first 50 pages of the book)! My favourite scene with Chaol is when he and Dorian see each other for the first time since Chaol left for the southern continent. It’s such a poignant scene and I was bubbling like a baby.

Yrene is a character that I wish had been introduced earlier. I know she’s in one of the short stories, but I never read them so I only know her from Tower of Dawn. I loved her in both novels, but in Kingdom of Ash she’s so strong and fearless. Without her, they would have never defeated Erawan. She works tirelessly healing people without complaint — and she does it all while pregnant!

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pm“Hers was not a story of darkness. This would not be the story. She would fold it into herself, this place, this fear, but it would not be the whole story. It would not be her story.”

 

SJM’s writing certainly improved in Kingdom of Ash. I noticed it’s improvement in Tower of Dawn and I’m so happy it continued in this novel too. Although to be fair, I devoured this novel in a couple of days so I might not have even noticed if the writing was bad. I’ve read a couple of reviews that claim they didn’t enjoy her writing, so perhaps because I read it so quickly, and I was perched on the edge of my seat, I didn’t pay as much attention as I usually would. Although I like to think it improved.

I do have a couple of complaints, but nothing that ruined the book for me or was enough to lower my five-star rating.

My first complaint was that there wasn’t enough sex! I know. SJM has been accused — by myself as well — of having too much sex in her novels, but there wasn’t enough in Kingdom of Ash. Now, I’ve never been the critic who complained about sex in her novels. Frankly, I don’t care either way that a book targeted as YA has sex or not (as I know a lot of reviewers do), my main complaint was that the characters thought about and had sex at ridiculous moments in the novel. In the middle of a battle, after someone almost died, during a tense scene — characters would be thinking of sex and having sex and very inopportune moments and it ruined the tension of the scene and book. In Kingdom of Ash, we have a couple of sex scenes but more often than not, they were fade to black. I don’t know whether or not this was her decision, after listening to some critics, or if her editor cut the sex scenes out, but the characters engaged in sex during quiet and safe times — which I was very happy with. Even if I wanted to see Elide and Lorcan bone.

My next two complaints (one of which isn’t even that much of a complaint) are SPOILERS: so proceed with caution. THIS PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SPOILERS. You read this at your own risk! 1. I quite like the little cameo of Rhys and Feyre from A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I know a lot of people didn’t like this little Easter egg, but I did. What did annoy me, however, was that we had to get confirmation that Feyre was pregnant. I kind of rolled my eyes at that, because we’ll find out that Feyre and Rhys have kids in the next ACOTAR trilogy. It was a little corny. 2. I didn’t understand the Fae wolves showing up at the end of the novel. They did nothing? If they had to be included in the novel, they should have been introduced much sooner (although that would have been impossible because only Aelin could have brought them in). I know SJM wanted to give a satisfying ending and explain everything by wrapping it all up in a neat little bow, but in my opinion, some things are better left a mystery. We don’t really need to know where the Terrasen Fae went because most of us just guessed they fled the country. If we really needed to know about them, SJM should have found another way to bring them into the novel earlier.

 

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.38.38 pm“Two women, in the end, who had bought them all this moment. This one shot at a future.”

 

Kingdom of Ash completely blew away my expectations. It is easily one of the best novels I have read this entire year. I’m so proud of Sarah J. Maas for what she did here. Kingdom of Ash is such a satisfying ending to a series that I’ve had a rocky relationship with. In the end, I’m glad I persevered and finished this series. It was so worth it.

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3 thoughts on “Review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

  1. Kathy @ Books & Munches says:

    OMG. YES TO BOOKS ABOUT MANON. I am totally here for that. Times one million. She’ll always be my favorite ToG-character, without a doubt. I had tons of emotions while reading KoA but.. the most extreme ones definitely had to do with Manon and what she had to go through. :’)

    Liked by 1 person

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