Overlong and lacking in humanity. 3/5 stars.
For more background and blurbs, check out my reviews of Throne of Glass (Book 1), Crown of Midnight (Book 2) and Heir of Fire (Book 3), and Queen of Shadows (Book 4).
For those of you who don’t know, the Throne of Glass series is a 6-book saga following the adventures of a bad-ass female assassin in a fantasy realm which features fairies, witches and all sorts of magical shenanigans. While the first two books in the series felt solidly YA, I’m guessing the author feels her readers are growing up as the series goes on and certainly book 5 is more NA territory with some undoubtedly “adult” content.
Now, before I get into what will possibly become a bit of a rant, I want to make it clear that this was fine. Just fine. Not great, not bad. Just OK.
I read the first 4 installments of this series back to back last summer. And I think that’s the way this series is best approached. If you haven’t already started it, I’d wait until the sixth and final book is published and then read them all. Unless, of course, you have an excellent memory. Unfortunately, my memory seems to be ever-dwindling and in the year since I finished book 4, I’ve clearly forgotten many crucial characters and events from the series. At the start of Empire of Storms I was often lost and at the end when a load of new people started showing up I had NO idea who they were… although I felt I should know.
While I haven’t returned to this series recently, I did read the second installment of Sarah J. Maas’ popular A Court of Thorns and Roses series – A Court of Mist and Fury – back in May. Sadly this also turned out to be a problem because there were far too many times in Empire of Storms where the author seemed to have copied bits from ACOMAF. The echoes were everywhere, particularly in the sex scenes. Sex scenes which border on laughable by the way: you know you’re reading “fantasy” fiction when all the female characters have multiple orgasms every single time they have sex!
I re-read my review for book 4 before writing this and most of my issues with that book persist: I don’t like Rowan much and Celaena/Aelin is increasingly annoying. Their romance is very important to this book, so if you don’t care for it, that’s already a big dent in your enjoyment. However, as with books 3 and 4, the secondary characters save this book, giving us just enough to care about to keep reading: Manon continues to be excellent, and Lysandra and Elide are great.
But, even though the secondary characters are doing their best, I still wasn’t gripped. So what is going on? I think the problem may be that the balance of human-non-magical-pleb vs. non-human-supernatural-royalty is out of whack. With certain characters now having discovering their “powers”, I don’t think any of the main characters are human and/or normal anymore. This makes it hard to relate to them: once it’s all immortals, royalty and demi-whatnot, it becomes tricky to still care about the characters are much. This book is desperately missing a Chaol, an entirely human, non-supernatural character who finds themselves out of their depth and who can look on all the supernatural events around them in shock, helping us to share their awe, rather than only boredom because the book goes on and on for nearly 700 pages.
I have hope for book 6. My preferred books in the series have been the even numbers, probably because the odd numbers appear to function as set-up and the evens as pay-off which, let’s face it, will always be more satisfying. And if Maas brings back Chaol and Nesryn and writes half of the book in their POVs, that would be a good start.
Overall: while it’s not my favourite installment, there’s enough here to keep fans of the series happy until the final book is published next year. If you haven’t started the series yet, I’d wait until all the books are available so you can read them without any long pauses in between… unless you have a photographic memory!