Empire of Storms: The series is kicked up another notch

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass) Hardcover – September 6, 2016 by Sarah J. Maas (Author)Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas YA fantasy book reviewsEmpire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

The fifth book (not counting the prequel novellas) in Sarah J. Maas‘s THRONE OF GLASS series is easily twice as long as the first book, but has one thing in common: half the story is a really good action-fantasy-adventure, and the other half is an overwrought “love” story.

In the case of Throne of Glass, the bad half was more to do with frivolous teenage angst impinging on what was otherwise a pretty serious fight-to-the-death tournament, but here it’s the fact that nearly the entire cast of characters are caught up in rather melodramatic romances.

Love in YA fiction is usually (albeit accidentally) depicted as lust, angst, or a dire combination of both, and hardly ever as something rooted in friendship that will make you happy. In this case every pairing (Rowen and Aelin, Aedion and Lysandra, Manon and Dorian, Loren and Elide) has practically the same dynamic: individuals with virtually nothing else in common get really turned on in each other’s presence.

The sex scenes in Empire of Storms (2016) didn’t bother me, it was that they weren’t connected to anything I could emotionally invest in. While the world is going to hell in a handbasket, our motley collection of teenage heroes and immortal warriors seem more concerned with scratching an itch than defeating the forces of evil.

Which is a shame, since the “going to hell in a handbasket” part of the story is actually pretty good. Aelin Ashryver Galathynius has returned to her homeland of Terrasen, hoping to win the favour of her people and reclaim the throne, only to be rebuffed by the ruling lords who claim she’s been gone too long. She’ll have to look for allies elsewhere, especially when other kingdoms start to fall to the evil Erawan and his witches.

THRONE OF GLASS

Elsewhere, Elide Lochan is struggling through war-torn lands to deliver a precious gift to her queen, while the witch leader Manon Blackbeak finds herself more and more at odds with the ideals and goals of her own people. Making matters worse, the Fae Queen Maeve is taking advantage of the chaos to start her own campaign, meaning that Aelin must fight a battle on two fronts, through pacts with pirates, assassins and other untrustworthy folk. It’s a good basis for an epic story, and Aelin is a master strategist with plenty of tricks up her sleeve.

That said, there’s a trope at play called the “Unspoken Plan Guarantee” which basically posits that if a reader knows about any secret plans they’re instigated, they become a spoiler. As such, Aelin’s thoughts and feelings are kept at arm’s length from the reader throughout Empire of Storms, with Maas relying more on the perspectives of her supporting characters to carry the plot. But read carefully, as many seeds regarding Aelin’s plans are sown early and paid off nicely by the conclusion.

There are some annoying aspects of the prose: Maas is overly fond of the word “bark” as a verb (people bark, wounds bark, weapons bark) and phrases like “hauling ass” and “unleashing hell” feel way too anachronistic. Also, she has a habit of breaking up sentences so that everything sounds dramatic and portentous, though after a while it’s just overwrought and pretentious. An editor was needed to make things flow better and cut down on her favourite words.

So my feelings on Empire of Storms are the same as the rest of the series: there’s a good plot here, and some decent characters, though I could do without most of the romantic melodrama — though of course, I’m not exactly the target audience of YA books anymore. Every male in this series is supernaturally beautiful and utterly devoted to their object of affection, which means it’s tailor-made for a teenage audience.

Published in 2016. Kingdoms collide in Sarah J. Maas’s epic fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series. 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. With her heart sworn to the warrior-prince by her side, and her fealty pledged to the people she is determined to save, Aelin will delve into the depths of her power to protect those she loves. But as monsters emerge from the horrors of the past, and dark forces become poised to claim her world, the only chance for salvation will lie in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear. In this breathtaking fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, Aelin will have to choose what — and who — to sacrifice if she’s to keep the world of Erilea from breaking apart.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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One comment

  1. I see these everywhere! It’s too bad the writer can’t experiment with friendships that turn romantic/sexual, just as a change of pace.

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