Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas

Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Kingdom of Ash

Pages: 984 pages

Series: Throne of Glass, Book 7

“Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom …”

As the final book in the Throne of Glass series, I had a lot invested in the characters going into this book. As this is one of my favourite series,  I had my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t disappoint me. For the most part, it didn’t.

One of the things that I’ve found challenging throughout the series – since the fourth book, I believe – was that the story has been split off into too many different threads and points of view. Of course I want to know what all of the characters are doing, but it’s very difficult to be torn between so many points of view. Especially when multiple characters are dealing with the same plot development. It’s nice to know that the different characters are piecing things together for themselves, not relying on one person to find everything out, but it felt like a little much. Especially in the final book of the series. We don’t need every minute detail when a different character finds out a bit of information that a different character already learned.

Another thing that got to me was the fact that I felt like the book dragged on. I’m happy that it was a long book, don’t get me wrong. That meant that I got to spend more time in the world with the characters I’ve grown to love. However, there were long lulls in the book that had me struggling to finish it. I almost feel like Maas should have split the book into two parts rather than making the one novel so long. If I hadn’t been able to switch between the AudioBook and a physical copy of the book, it would have taken me a lot longer to finish it. I’m happy I got through it, though, because getting through the slow parts was worth it.

I know some people aren’t a fan of Maas’ writing style, but I certainly am. Heck, knowing this was a war book made me set up my inner shield to protect me from deaths I knew were going to happen. (More on this later) Even being a fan of her writing, I found myself zoning out at the amount of “almost” that was going on. People almost hooking up. People almost dying. People almost turning the tide of the war. People almost finding last minute allies.

This remains one of my favourite series of all time and I would highly recommend it. Months after I’ve finished it, I still find myself tearing up when I think about some of the things that happened throughout.

 

*Spoilers Ahead*

I AM GUTTED. I’m writing this part of my review about 6 hours after I finished the story. After staying up late to read the last quarter of the book because Maas GUTTED me. I’m sorry, I know that this is a war book but having read the rest of the series I didn’t expect there to be too many casualties. Case in point, both Aelin and Dorian managed to survive the forging of the lock. Only one member of the true Cadre ended up dying (Connall doesn’t count. Fight me. And Cairn is obviously out). BUT THE THIRTEEN!? DO YOU HAVE NO SOUL, MAAS?

I don’t care that they sacrificed themselves to save Manon. That their yielding was a source of light that help bring life back to the wastes. That they led such an amazing final stand that they managed to destroy a witch tower along with Manon’s grandmother. That they halted Erawan’s forces allowing their allies to regroup. That everyone defending Orynth paid tribute to the thirteen. That Aelin offered to create a monument in their honour so that they might never be forgotten. WHY!?

I’ll admit, I bawled for a while when this happened. I’m glad I was home alone so no one but my hamsters could see me break down. Heck, I teared up writing this (and maybe every time I think about them but you can’t prove it!). But they went through so much together. I understand some of them not making through the final battle. But all of them sacrificing their lives for Manon? I don’t care that it was a selfless act of love. That was too much. Poor Asterin. Poor Vesta. Even the demon twins. All of the thirteen. The thirteen were my favourite group in the series. Heck, since they were introduced I’ve been hoping for a spinoff series about these bad ass witches. I understand that it’s more dramatic this way, and it’d be hard for those who survived the battle to do so when their soul-bound (I don’t care what you think, the thirteen were bound heart and soul to one another) have died. But to leave Manon alone? They never even got to see the Wastes. And they saved the damn place.

 


Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, and gotten a “little” bit of perspective, here’s my in dept thoughts about the book.

Before I knew it, Fenrys had become one of my favourite characters in the book. Of course I felt bad for Aelin being tortured for months on end, but I felt more strongly for Fenrys. I’m sure being tortured is not fun – it’s certainly nothing to scoff about – but Aelin seems to get tortured a lot throughout the series. And poor Fenrys is forced to sit by and watch it all happen. Yes, this is a form of psychological torture. And it was brutal. Maeve giving Cairn permission to decide when Fenrys is allowed to relieve himself was pretty cruel as well. But making him stay in his beloved wolf form while having to watch his friend be tortured to no end was just awful.

Having barely any interaction with Connall, the only reason his death moved me at all was the way it tortured Fenrys. Not only did he have to live through it – and then do things with Maeve in his brother’s blood – but Maeve forced him to relive it over and over again in their final battle. I certainly hope that one day he will be able to face his trauma head on and talk to Aelin about his feelings on the matter. No one should have to face that alone.

Also, the Cadre should have listened to Elide when she said to go to Doranelle. I understand why the Cadre decided to search the closer place first, but a freaking god told Elide where Aelin was being tortured. Sure, everyone was mad at the gods for yanking them around like chess pieces but that doesn’t mean that what the gods had to say was any less important.

While I know that I complained earlier that both Aelin and Dorian managed to survive forging the lock, there were a couple of good things that I think came out of the scene. For one, Mala showed one last bit of defiance to the other gods by gifting Aelin with the magic to return home and not be sucked dry by the lock. For another, Dorian got to talk to his father briefly. And can I just say finding out that Dorian was named after his father without either of them realizing it was really cute? I can honestly say I found it weird in Throne of Glass that the King of Adarlan was never named, but I just assumed that it wasn’t important enough to be brought up. I’m pleasantly surprised that I was wrong on this front.

At times, it seemed like Dorian’s powers were just an easy out for anything Maas didn’t know how to handle. Bring down Morath? Dorian can do it no problem. Let his ice powers crack through the stone and then hold them there for days at a time as if it doesn’t take a second thought. Need to sneak into Morath to actually do this? Not a problem, Dorian’s raw magic can allow him to shape shift now too! He was even able to mimic Valg magic. I know that the gods were originally from another world, but I didn’t expect raw magic to be able to mimic magic from anywhere. Even after forging the lock, Dorian was able to keep enough magic to make him more powerful than the average magic user. Not all powerful like he once was, but pretty close to it, it seems. Heck, he was able to use his Valg inspired magic to trick and trap Maeve the way she was trying to manipulate him.

Continuing on with my thoughts on the lock, I enjoyed that Aelin saved her little bit of water magic to the very end. It paid tribute to the person she’d hoped to grow into when she was a little girl and the mother that she never stopped loving. Dorian, on the other hand, learned that his father wasn’t always evil. Just naive. When Demarus called for him, Dorian Senior showed up and sacrificed his very essence to allow his son a chance to live. While not the best father in the world, as he’d been taken over by Valg Dorian’s whole life, he still showed up when it mattered most.

I also appreciated the fact that Rowan tattooed Wyrdmarks into Aelin’s skin as a way to show her the way home. Such a clever move on Rowan’s (and Maas’) part. Even after the gods reneged on their deal and killed Elena, Aelin was still able to do what needed to be done – in part because of Rowan’s foresight. This was also in part to Rhys saving Aelin’s life while she was falling through the worlds. As Maas has admitted that she believes all of her writings take place in connected universes, I thought it was a great touch to add a cameo for Rhys. He’s a character her fans know and love but Aelin would not be able to recognize or put a name to.

Looking at the biggest baddies of the story, Maeve and Erawan, I find it interesting how Aelin played them against each other. Aelin used Maeve’s love of healers – and the sharp wits of her friends – to convince Erawan that Maeve was trying to double cross him. Finding out that the Valg queens and princesses were stronger than the kings and princes made this even more juicy. Aelin having seen Maeve’s blood run black but then having her mind broken so she couldn’t believe her eyes was a great way for the reader to gain insight without giving everything away to the characters.

While Erawan’s defeat happened because Aelin trusted her friends and is a master manipulator, Maeve’s defeat was even sweeter to me. Before getting into the specifics, I’d just like to talk about Aelin’s use of the blood oath. Before Kingdom of Ash Aelin gave this oath to Rowan to save him from Maeve. In Kingdom of Ash she gave it to Fenrys to save his life, Lorcan so that he could live in Terrasen and have a life with Elide, and was willing to give it to Vaughan if he should wish it after the war is over. Of course, Aelin gave Aedion the oath of his dreams by granting him the honour at her coronation. And though she’d planned on giving Aedion the oath before his father, she gave Gavriel the oath after his death so that he could be laid to rest in a place of honour.

Keeping all of this in mind, the way Aelin and the cadre defeated Maeve was delicious. Maeve tried to break the minds of Fenrys, Rowan, and Lorcan but Aelin is able to use pain as a way to release Rowan and Lorcan from Maeve’s control. Fenrys believed that he deserved what Maeve was showing him and thus didn’t try to break out of the control, forcing Aelin to command him to look at her through their bond. The sweetest part was that Aelin gave Fenrys the killing blow because he was the one that deserved it the most, the same way she gave Lyssandra the killing blow for Arobynn. Aelin even managed to use Goldryn which she had been funneling her magic into before forging the lock as the Valg fear fire.

Once the war is over, and we got to see Aelin’s coronation, the action wasn’t done. The Little Folk brought Mab’s crown to Aelin as a way to ask her to be their queen as well. For though Aelin’s life was full of blood shed and trickery, they never forgot who she was kin to. With this, Aelin officially became the Faerie Queen of the West. She also made her own crown out of the rest of the jewels that she’d taken from Wendlyn’s burials. A queen with two crowns to represent her two peoples.

A friend to the Fae Queen of the East, Rowan’s cousin Sellene Whitethorn.

One relationship I enjoyed throughout was Aedion and Lyssandra. While it was heartbreaking that they weren’t on the same page for so long, it makes sense as they’re both extremely prideful and stubborn (Aedion much more so). It took Aedion too long realize the error of his ways, even going so far as to turn Lyssandra away into the frozen winter while naked because he could not forgive her for making secret plans with Aelin. He might have admitted that he loved her, but her admission, “I wanted it to be you”, was so heartbreakingly raw and real. It took the final war outside of Orynth to bring them back together, though they refuse to do anything until both of them had survived the entire thing.

The second relationship I enjoyed whole heartedly was the one between Dorian and Manon. From the very first interaction they had with each other, I couldn’t wait for them to get together. While not officially together in the traditional sense, they ended up together in every way that counted. I found it so cute that they argued throughout the book about caring for each other. When Manon gave up denying her feelings, even going so far as to ask Dorian to marry her so he didn’t risk his life by going to Morath, my heart broke just a little bit. Manon was adamant that caring for people is a weakness but for Dorian she was willing to be weak. Even though it would have broken her warrior’s spirit to be tied down forever.

Thankfully, Dorian cared about doing what’s best for Manon and didn’t agree to marry her, instead sneaking out before she awake the next day. He knew that shackling her to him would break her spirit. That Manon was a person that should never be shackled. Even when Yrene says that they should just marry, keep things easier than secret trysts, they do not. These two people are strong and independent. Though they may love each other, they are not the kind to force the other to make sacrifices for them.

Finally, I enjoyed the callback to Empire of Storms when Aelin asked Evangeline to get her back her kingdom. Evangeline never forgot and did her best to fulfill the vital role that Aelin gave her. And she succeeds. Evangeline managed to change Darrow’s mind, to convince him that Aelin is right for the throne and for all of Terrasen. Darrow made Evangeline his heir, seeing in her the good that he wishes for the kingdom and a loyalty that cannot be denied. Evangeline proved herself to be such a smart little girl, and I love her for it.

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