Kingdom of Ash: The grand finale

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews YA young adultKingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsKingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

So I finally made it. Kingdom of Ash (2018) was almost three times as large as the first book in the THRONE OF GLASS series, but I got there in the end.

In the seventh book of Sarah J. Maas‘s fantasy epic, the combined forces of humans, faes and witches are moving their armies into position to fend off the Valg demons that are advancing across the continent of Erilea.

But their leader Aelin Galathynius is missing, having let herself get captured by the Fae Queen Maeve at the conclusion of Empire of Storms. Now she’s locked in an iron coffin, undergoing daily torture as her nemesis tries to wrest the location of the Wyrdkeys from her mind.

In terms of story, there’s not much more to be said: as the grand finale of the series all the pieces are in place and prior character development has come to a close. All that remains in Kingdom of Ash is to resolve the final conflict, so you can expect that battles will be fought, sacrifices will be made, and final confrontations will take place.

By now there is a mountain of characters to keep track of: Yrene the healer, Nesryn and the ruk riders, Manon the Witch Queen, an assortment of fae princes, pirates, assassins and other warriors, and there’s little in the way of reintroductions to this sprawling cast. Maas hits the ground running, and there’s a sense of urgency throughout the entire book (helped by the short chapters) that keeps you turning pages.

I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of Maas’s prose, as she has this irritating tendency to break up her sentences into shorter, “punchy” declarations in a bid to make everything sound drastically important. It’s a technique which gets extremely wearying to read after a while, as when absolutely everything is written as though it’s The Most. Dramatic Thing. That’s Ever Happened. In the History of Human Events, then your mind gets exhausted.

That and I’ve always hated the term “mate” to describe the eternal bond that forms between fae couples. Presumably it’s a dimunitive of “soulmate”, but without that first syllable it either sounds like the Australian slang for friend or the verb that describes what animals do when they procreate. Along with “younglings” and “no-maj” it’s one of the ugliest fantasy terms I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading/hearing.

But this series has always been a mix of political intrigue, fantasy adventure and high romance, and if that’s what you’re here for, Maas delivers on all three in Kingdom of Ash. There are some cool twists and turns when it comes to Aelin’s allies and how they combat the Valg, plenty of magic and mystery that’s rooted in the history and lore of Erilea, and of course, lots of hawt hook-ups with sexy fae males.

Maas knows her audience, and honestly — that’s not me anymore. As a teenager I probably would have devoured this series in the same way I did Tamora Pierce’s novels back in the nineties/early noughts, but as an older reader I was too conscious of its flaws.

As it is, I enjoyed THRONE OF GLASS in the same way I do cotton candy: it’s fun and tasty while it lasts, but totally unsubstantial. To me at least. Others will find this immensely rewarding and fulfilling, and there’s enough good material here to make me admit that if the rumoured television show ever gets off the ground, I’ll definitely tune in.

Published in 2018. Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . . Aelin has risked everything to save her people-but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day… With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation-and a better world. And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen-before she is lost to him forever. As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.

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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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