4 out of 5 stars
Better than the book before it, Queen of Shadows really – finally – gets us somewhere.
I’m not usually one to binge a series, and feel like I’ve been carrying Aelin and Co around for ages. Perhaps I should have taken a break between books 3 and 4, but Audible just keeps loading them up!
Queen of Shadows is long – almost 21 hours. I had to go back to the Wiki to remember where the plot of the last one ends and this one begins. Here’s a 1/1000th rundown: Aelin returns to Rifthold and reunites with Chaol, Aedion, Arobynn, and an old female rival named Lysandra. She finds the city ridden with Valg and Dorian enslaved with a wordstone collar. Rowan arrives, and they set about a very complicated plan to free magic, infiltrate the castle, depose the King, and even kill Dorian, if he can’t be saved. Meanwhile on Morag, the witches face power struggles and betrayal among the King’s army. Manon’s heart even threatens to defrost a drop helping a servant girl named Elide escape.
For such a tome, the action in this installment is much more even and less forced than Heir of Fire. Aelin and Rowan still haven’t gotten together, but we’re past the droll pretense that they might not. Chaol and Dorian have swapped places: Chaol is dull and Dorian is really interesting. Can he be saved? At first I didn’t really care, but the story drew me back in. SJM goes easy on the Rowan/Aedion alpha male battle, enough to keep it from getting misogynistic. Lysandra is a welcome addition: a female friend, who at first seems tragic because she’s stuck in debt as a prostitute, but it’s darker: she’s a shapeshifter, stuck in an incredibly beautiful form since magic died. She’s feisty and funny, and the shot in the arm this series needed after 1,404 pages of Celaena being the only woman around.
The biggest groaner about this book is the vocabulary. Maybe it’s unfair to judge when you’ve listened to nothing else for two months, but I’d like to take the Sword of Orynth and carve a few words out of the SJM lexicon: marked (as in movements), death incarnate, phantom wind, gloriously bored, and about a hundred others that made me punch the steering wheel.
By the end, the band is more or less back together and heading home to claim their rightful place in a war four books in the making. The story lines of Aelin and Manon are bound to collide soon, which I think is when the real fun will begin.