Book: Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7)
Author: Sarah J Maas
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Yrene and Elide have a conversation about healing her ankle.
I FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK. Kingdom of Ash was my most anticipated release of 2018, and yet it took me almost exactly a year from first getting the book to finishing it. In hindsight, I probably should have just read it on audio from the very beginning, but I only got Audible this year and I didn’t realise quite how much I was going to struggle with the physical copy. 980 pages is a lot for a book, and this one definitely DID NOT need it, as about 400 of those pages was complete filler, it felt like SJM was just trying to write the biggest book she could because the storylines that she needed to wrap up could have been resolved in fewer pages, and in some cases, she extended plots over several chapters that could have been resolved in one or two. We also had a lot of characters spread across an entire continent in this book, which led to some confusion as you had to keep track of which character was where when and what characters knew what. It did resolve the series in a satisfying way, which is the main thing you want from a series finale, but it was definitely not up to the levels of Heir of Fire or Tower of Dawn for me. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
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.
So as I kind of touched on at the top of this review, I actually read this book kind of weirdly, as I did half of it in physical format and then the other half in audio. Basically, I had kind of been dipping in and out of it with no real regularity since November last year, and was making pretty slow progress because of that. After doing so well with Priory on Audible over the summer, I finally decided that enough was enough and that I was going to finish the remainder of Kingdom of Ash on Audible.
The size of this book was always going to be a challenge for me, generally my preference is for books of about 300-500 pages, 600 pages at a maximum, so a book that is over 300 pages more than the books I generally like to read, was always going to be difficult. Still, I don’t mind a book being a bit longer, if the story justifies it. THIS ONE DID NOT.
Aelin’s rescue was dragged out over the first 200 odd pages of the book, the Lock storyline took about 5 chapters, the last twenty odd chapters of the book was literally just them battling Morath, all of it could have been condensed into a much more streamlined book. The torture scenes of Aelin in Doranelle could definitely have been shortened, they were very hard to read.
In addition to the book being overly lengthy, it’s also not the best paced. The first half was excruciatingly slow, and it felt like all of the real plot took place in the second half, as the first half was basically just them trying to hold Morath back so that they weren’t completely destroyed before Aelin and the rest of their forces could get to them.
I did enjoy the writing as always, although the audio did highlight some of the more cringy aspects of SJM’s writing which kind of pass me by when reading, particularly in the more….intimate scenes! The prologue in particular was really gorgeous, I love the kind of old folktale style of it.
As with any SJM book, there is romance in this book, though thankfully, the romantic drama does seem to take a backseat here, after all there is a war on! I still really don’t like that she has to have everyone in her books paired off though, I don’t think it sends a great message to young female readers that every woman in the book “requires” a man and & that they all need to be paired off, especially given that some of the men in the book don’t treat their partners very well.
Speaking of that, I have to mention Aedion because he was SO AWFUL in this book. He was terrible to Lysandra pretty much the whole way through, even at one point throwing her out naked in the snow and by the end everything’s all hunky dory and they are totally loved up again? NO. I actually really did like Aedion and Lysandra but the way he treated her in this book was not okay.
Aelin kind of took a backseat for a lot of this book which wasn’t what I was expecting. I was glad that other characters got the chance to shine, and given that Aelin was imprisoned for a good portion of the book, it made sense but I wish she’d got to Terrasen sooner and been a bit more involved in the action because she only really seemed to do stuff right at the very end!
Without giving away any spoilers though, I was particularly thrilled with Yrene’s role in this book, I did not expect it and thought it was brilliant! Elide also really shone for me in this book, she had some brilliant moments and was really integral to saving Aelin and in the final battle as well.
It’s really difficult to talk about some of the things that frustrated me with this book without giving away massive spoilers but I’m going to try! Basically we know from previous books that the forging of the Lock with the Wyrdkeys and it will require a sacrifice from either Aelin or Dorian. Well the way it went down in this book just really annoyed me, not only because it was dragged out over more chapters than it needed to be but also because the way SJM resolved it felt really anticlimactic and I felt kind of cheated because it was a moment that the series had been building to for so long.
There was a LOT of deux ex machina in this book. Dorian can suddenly do things that he’s never been able to do (shapeshifting) because the plot requires it, impossible situations are resolved at the last minute by characters pulling something out of their hat that they “planned earlier”, and I know Sarah J Maas has done this in some of her other books too, but it was especially noticeable in this one being the final book. Everything just seemed to come a little too easily, the stakes were high enough but it just didn’t feel like it was enough of a struggle for the characters.
I’m glad there was a map in the front of this one, though it wasn’t very useful when I was listening to the audiobook!
There were way too many POVs in this book, it’s grown to such a large cast and whilst that’s fine, because everyone was scattered in this book, and there were so many things happening at once, it did get a little bit difficult to keep track! I also really missed the group dynamic, this group of characters have such a fun dynamic but they’re separated for most of the book and that was a shame.
This is a weird little thing but some of the accents in the audiobook really threw me off! I know it’s fantasy and they can feasibly have any accent they want but I just found some of the narrator’s accent choices a little weird. Some of the pronunciations in the audiobook weren’t quite what I expected either, but I guess that just means that I’ve been pronouncing them wrong all this time!
The battle scenes kind of lost their impact after a while, Sarah J Maas isn’t really an action writer and you can definitely tell, her writing is much better when she’s writing emotional arcs or character dynamics, rather than big set action pieces and plus there were so many, the last twenty odd chapters were really just one long battle and I got a bit bored!
I was weirdly disappointed that Ansel didn’t have a bigger role in this, after she was teased to be coming back, I was hoping that she would be a bit more involved, but she was barely there and we didn’t really get to see her at all, let alone see her interact with Aelin which was a shame. Nesryn also seemed to serve basically no purpose in this, I feel like she could have done so much more than she was given.
I was hoping this last book would be a bit more emotional, but aside from the ending, and one other event in the book which I can’t talk about because of spoilers, it wasn’t quite the emotional rollercoaster I was expecting, which is fine, I guess I was just hoping that the final book in this series would make me feel a bit more.
I really wanted a big confrontation between Manon and her grandmother, and was kind of disappointed in the way things worked out for them as I felt like they weren’t really resolved properly.
The ending was really beautiful, the whole of the last couple of chapters and the epilogue, it was a really fitting end to the series, and I’m glad that the last line, which Sarah talked about at her event last year did not disappoint. For all of the gripes I had with this final book, and I did have many, SJM really stuck the landing!
Overall, I did think this was a satisfying conclusion to the series, but it wasn’t quite the thrilling final book I was hoping for. The second half was great, but the first left a lot to be desired and I think had it been trimmed a few hundred pages, and not relied so much on lucky coincidences, then I would have enjoyed it more. Still, I am definitely going to miss this series and these characters, I hope SJM does come back to them at some point in the future.
My Rating: 3.5/5
My next review will be of Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo, my current read.