Queen of Shadows is fourth in the Throne of glass series by Sarah J Maas and the first book that I have read from this author. As someone given to following any series as conscientiously as possible, it was a severe trial to plunge into a well-established storyline in what may well have been towards the very end of the series. However, with a superhuman effort of will I pushed myself to put my scruples aside and take the plunge straight off the deep end.
This is the story of Celaena Sardothien. A former assassin, pickpocket, slave and now crowned queen of Terrasen from where she has returned to Rithfold, Adarslan in order to save an old friend and avenge herself on an old enemy. She goes about under the name of Aelin and as that is how she is referred to in almost the whole book, I will do the same.
From what one can gather of events that have already transpired, Aelin spent much of her adolescence as a slave to one Arobynn Hamel, a sort of underworld don who picks up street children and then trains them in skills he deems best suited to their personalities, and is known commonly with the understated name of King of Assasins. Aelin actually has some sort of fairy blood which helps her to control fire, but the moment she steps back into the limits of her former city it falls away from her ( a main element of the storyline). The lack of magic makes her merely human and given to using skills she learnt as an assassin to Arobynn.
There is constant reference to Sam, a dear friend of Aelin who also grew up with her and was brutally murdered. Whether they had a romantic relationship is not clear in this book. Aedion is her cousin and also a member of the royal court who has been imprisoned for treason and is to be executed in three days after she steps ashore. Most of these events are news to Aelin as she has been out of the country for some time. Chaol Westfall is the captain of the guards and was engaged to Aelin at some point in the past. He is now no longer Captain, nor her fiancée and is instead leading an underground rebellion against the king and the Valg soldiers working for him. The King of Adarlan is cruel and power-mad. His son, the prince Dorian is not. The Prince is also in grave danger and he too is a friend of Aelin’s. Lysandra is a courtesan who also grew up under Aroybynn and both she and Aelin have hated each other since they were children competing for his attention. Lysandra however, has a deep secret that she will share with Aelin in this book after events foster a change in their relationship. Also, present in the city are the Valg, who are demons that take control of a person’s mind and body and use it for their own nefarious dark purposes. They are a dark force created and supported by power-hungry kings.
Yes, there are a lot of characters that make up the story and they are all equally as involved in furthering the plot as the main protagonist. Each and every person is linked to the other by some story or event that explains things that may not be clear immediately. Apart from all the events taking place in Adarlan with Aelin and her allies, there is another storyline that weaves seemingly independently until it meanders to join the main one.
Manon is the Wing leader of a coven of witches who ride dragons. They are described as being almost animal-like in their physical traits, eating habits and their overall demeanors. More easily described as savages in human skin. I really liked these witches even if everything about them is designed to terrorize and alienate the reader. Elide Lochan is the niece/servant/prisoner of Vernon, a sadistic man who is negotiating with Valg princes and residing in the same castle as the coven.
It came as a complete surprise to me when the link between the two storylines was revealed. It makes the whole book so much more interesting and gives the reader something to look forward to in the next installment. I wanted much much more of the Thirteen than the author chose to disclose in this book.
I loved this book. It had all the correct elements of fantasy, intrigue and adventure coming together to form just the kind of story I adore. The characters are plentiful and still well enough etched out to rule out unnecessary confusion about who is who and does what. Picking the series up in the middle did not thankfully hamper me as much as I had feared as it was easy enough to fill in the blanks. Well written, fast paced and a great addition to the fantasy genre.