Fantasy Fans

Book Review: Kingdom of Ash

We’ve come a long way since the assassin Celaena Sardothien was taken from the salt mines of Endovier to begin a journey that would span continents, destroy enemies, make allies, break hearts, and end with a kingdom and a crown. Seven books later, eight if you count the prequel novellas, and we’ve finally reached the destination of Celaena AKA Aelin.

Here is my spoiler-free review and thoughts of the conclusion to this epic YA fantasy series by Sarah J Maas.

Whatever your thoughts are on the Throne of Glass series, you have to admit they’re one hell of a page-turner. I burned my way through these books and got sucked into a dangerous world full of assassins and demons. The series and its main character has grown and evolved over time. What started as cutthroat tale of murder, survival, and one woman’s desire to take down her enemies whilst looking good doing it, quickly shifted into a world of magic, Fae, kingdoms and Queendom. This happened around the third book, Heir of Fire, as the story journeyed from the dark, rotting city of Rifthold and its castle made of glass and joined a court of fairy princes. Celaena adopted a new destiny and identity and the story began to branch out into an epic fantasy of warring kingdoms and demon kings threatening to destroy it all which leads us to the final epic battle in Kingdom of Ash.

Kingdom of Ash, then, begins shortly after the events of Empire of Storms and Tower of Dawn. The story is split into two parts. The first half has our main point of view characters split up and running their own missions in preparation for the evil demon king’s armies marching toward the kingdom of Terrasen. The second half reunites all of our beloved characters and pits them against the big bads. There’s a hell of a lot of fighting going on in this book, almost a thousand pages worth, but I think SJM did a great job in bringing together the final conflict. War isn’t pretty, and the stakes are high. Each bloodied battle seems bleaker, and the high tension really brings out the best and worst in these characters. My favourite scene was a POV change to a unknown soldier who’d left his home to fight in this great war, and his thoughts and feelings of being abandoned to die in a battle he never asked for. Because yes, war is hell, even magical fantasy war, and SJM’s approach to war is sobering.

As you can imagine, Kingdom of Ash ties together all of the open plot threads of previous books to conclude the series in a meaningful way. All side characters get their chance in the spotlight, even minor ones that disappeared in book one (you know who you are), and that’s one of my favourite things about the Throne of Glass series. As the series grew, the number of POV characters increased and each had their own side story that wove around the central plot. None of these characters felt like filler as they all had their role to play. The downside to having so many characters with their own story is that, inevitably, you’re going to have your favourite POV that you rush to get to. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Manon when she’s first introduced in Heir of Fire, but by the end of Empire of Storms, I thoroughly enjoyed her chapters and was rooting for her. If you’re a Manon fan, you’ll love and possibly hate Kingdom of Ash.

Of course, with so many side characters and side plots, the Throne of Glass series has felt like a number of different stories all in one. This is still Aelin’s story and her destiny, but the side characters and their world are so well written that I felt satisfied that all my favourite characters got what they deserved; even the bad guys. There is a lot of romance here as the characters pair off. My only real criticism of this was that some of these relationships spent the first half of the book arguing and fighting one another. Hello? There’s a war going on! Sort yourselves out.

I would also say that, to fully understand all the backstory and all the minor characters who make an appearance in Kingdom of Ash, you really do need to read the prequel novellas from The Assassins Blade, and also read Tower of Dawn. Especially Tower of Dawn, as the characters from this have a central role to play in the final battle. If you’ll a Chaol fan like me, you’ll be happy with Kingdom of Ash. It’s almost as though SJM was finally giving him a break from all he suffered through in Crown of Midnight and Queen of Shadows, or something…

Reading Kingdom of Ash felt like coming home after a long time away. I know many readers have shared their devastation at this series coming to and end, but for me, I’m not sad that it’s finished. I’m at peace that we made it here. The epilogue was a touching end to a series years in the making and leaves a few plot threads open for the potential of more content. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from the court of Terrasen in the future.

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