Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Synopsis

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t.

As the kingdoms of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin’s journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down?


Review

We pick up where Queen of Shadows left off, with Aelin and her court heading north to try and raise an army to take on Erawan, put the Wyrdkeys back into the gate and banish darkness from the world before ascending to the throne of Terrasen and making everything hunky dory again. Needless to say, things don’t go to plan. At all.

As Maas’ casts her net wider into Erilea, the plot feels much bigger than it did in previous books. There were a few moments where all the puzzle pieces from previous books slid into place and I had one of those perfect ‘AHA I GOT YA’ realisation moments, but with three or four converging subplots to find page time for, there were times where I lost my footing.

Although Chaol is notably absent, there are some new additions to the cast and plus some welcome development of key characters. What is surprising about EoS is the amount of the story that carried not just by Aelin, but by lots of other characters. The plot has grown and expanded, and as such, the plot isn’t just about our golden haired assassin queen anymore. It’s about Dorian and Lysandra and Aedion and Rowan and Elide and Manon, and I love that. Telling such a complex story from so many points of view is both bold and difficult to pull off, but it worked for me. Each of the characters carry their own secrets and have their own personalities, and experiencing the adventure and exploring the world from all of their perspectives added another layer of texture to Erilea and actually, to Aelin herself.

It’s well documented (and scorned, in some parts of the bookish community) that this book is much steamier than its predecessors. I like to jump onto a good ship and sail the sea of feels as much as the next bookworm, but by the end of Empire of Storms, all of the characters are paired up like it’s one big ‘ol quintuple date. In fantasy, anything can happen, and just for once, I’d love to see a single character. It’s totally possible for a group of people to care deeply for and support one another without being romantically involved, but Maas peddles the idea that each of her characters need another to be ultimately fulfilled. I adore Aelin and Rowan and they have some good development in Empire of Storms, but there are conversely some very annoying attempts to pair unlikely characters up. It’s beyond frustrating for a reader when an author takes the time to develop a character’s motivations, desires and personality and then takes a sledgehammer to that development by forcing them into a totally unlikely pairing.

There’s more of an effort to include LGBT+ characters in this installment, which is otherwise disappointingly lacking in diversity. All of the main characters since Nehemia have been very pretty, very white and mostly straight. It would be nice to see less emphasis put on sensual lips and broad shoulders (y’know, as much as I like those things) and more differentiation. I mean, we’ve got a badass woman who can turn into a Mycenian Water Dragon but we don’t have any people of colour? Come on.

All of this being said, there are some wonderful moments in this book that make it an exciting instalment with plenty to recommend it. The action scenes, of which there are plenty, are written with such thumping energy that they kept me wide-eyed and high on adrenaline way into the night. The character development outside of the over-the-top romance is mostly very good and the ending, oh my goodness, the ending. Dripping with tension and finishing on a cliffhanger of epic proportions; it is one I won’t be forgetting for a long while. Despite my gripes, one thing is still very clear to me and that is that Sarah J. Maas remains a fantastic and skilled storyteller. Her world building is as immersive and all-consuming as ever, her plotting is complex and full of detail and her dialogue is witty and emotive in turn.

Empire of Storms is a long, long way from Throne of Glass. I’m not sure if this is the story that Maas set out for it to be and it certainly hasn’t led me on the reading journey I initially expected, but I’m kind of glad for it. Empire is bigger, badder, cleverer and boasts much more depth. I, for one, can’t wait to see how the hell Maas is going to wrap this one up.


In summary…

Stars out of five:

3-stars

  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Pages: 693
  • Publication Date: 6th September 2016

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14 thoughts on “Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

  1. Great review Sammie. I read EoS as soon as it came out and have struggled since finishing it how to put my thoughts and feels into words, or even a star rating! You raise some great points. I for one am also glad that the series has gotten so much larger and to include so many interesting new characters! I might just have to get cracking on my own review now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 😃 I know exactly what you mean! I always struggle to review popular books generally but EoS was especially difficuly because there were things I really wasn’t feeling but also stuff that I loved! Thank you. For sure – I love the complexity that the series has grown into. You totally should, I’d love to hear your thoughts! X

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  2. Great review, Sammie! I haven’t continued on with the series just yet, but I’ve got a book binge planned for the holidays. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one. It seems you’ve mentioned the other things that bother people: the lack of diversity and the exaggerated romance/sex scenes. I also heard people say it’s too much like ACOMAF. I hope that’s not true, though. After reading your review, though, I’m excited about moving forward with the series! Can’t wait to see how the story plays out 😀

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    • God I’ve only just found this comment lurking in my spam box! Naughty WordPress. Have you managed to read it yet? Love to hear your thoughts if so! Yeah, I think my opinions are pretty middle of the road in comparison to everyone else’s – the same things seemed to annoy other people too, haha. I have no issues with sex scenes but some of them are just SO over the top. The utter ‘maleness’ of everything always makes me laugh too. Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I won’t give specifics, but there are aspects/themes that are very similar to ACOMAF, which doesn’t necessarily bother me because it could just be because they’re set in the same world using the same magic systems/lore etc, but I guess it could be classed as a bit lazily written. It is a really fun story though, all those niggly problems aside! I hope you like it. 🙂

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      • Unfortunately, no. I’m still on the first book (technically I’m on the second but I want to reread the first to refresh my memory). And I hope she improves on these elements in her next book! I’d love for more diversity and a bit more effort to differentiate the ToG series from the ACOTAR trilogy! But I’m still looking forward to reading this series. Hopefully I can get to EoS before the new one comes out. Thank you, my friend! ❤

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      • I don’t blame you! I’ll definitely need to refresh my memory with EoS before the next book comes out. Me too! It would improve the books tenfold, especially because there isn’t really any reason or excuse NOT to include more diverse characters in her writing. You can do anything with fantasy! I hope you can too! Good luck! You’re welcome! 💙

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    • Yeah I’ve seen that general trend too! I’m continuing with them because I love Maas’ storytelling and world building, but I can’t deny there are some problematic elements. All of the installments have hovered somewhere between a 3 and a 4.5 for me. I think it depends on how much time you want to invest haha, they’re big books and if you’re disappointed you might feel like you’ve totally wasted your time. Interested to know what you think if you do read them! You’re welcome – thank you for the comment. 😁

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  3. Ahh yes- I’m excited to see how this pans out. I agree that this series has had so many twists and turns- and I’m also convinced she didn’t plan for a lot of things to happen like it did! But in a way, that’s a good thing! It’s made it so surprising! Though I, like you, would rather all the characters didn’t just pair up- some people can remain single!!

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