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?
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.
Stars out of five:
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Pages: 693
- Publication Date: 6th September 2016