Book: Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)
Author: Sarah J Maas
I will admit, I wasn’t looking forward to Tower of Dawn. Chaol has always been my least favourite of the main Throne of Glass gang and I didn’t really see the point of an entire full length novel from his perspective, I thought it would be really boring and just annoy me. But then my friend Nicola was bugging me to read it after she read it last year, she said I would really love it, that it was very similar to my favourite book of this series, Heir of Fire and that I just had to read it. So after putting it off for a year, partly due to lack of interest in Chaol and partly due to genuinely not having enough time to read a 600+ page tome during University term time, I finally got around to it this summer and I have to admit: Nicola was right. I didn’t love this book quite as much as Heir of Fire, but it definitely did have a very similar vibe and Chaol’s journey of healing was beautiful to read about. I did think, as I have done with all SJM books since Heir of Fire, that this book could have been trimmed by a good hundred pages or so and not really lost anything, but I loved getting to read about a whole new part of the Throne of Glass world, I loved getting to see Yrene again and I grew to, if not exactly love Chaol, have a fondness for him that definitely was not there before! Here is a short synopsis of the book:
In the next installment of the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series, follow Chaol on his sweeping journey to a distant empire.
Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.
His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica—the stronghold of the southern continent’s mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.
But what they discover in Antica will change them both—and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.
First of all, I have to talk about the world building in this book, because it was INCREDIBLE. We get to see a whole new continent in this book, the Southern Continent and it has such a different culture to the world that we are used to in Throne of Glass normally, Erilea, it’s based of the Mongolian Empire and Sarah J Maas goes into such depth about the culture and the politics and religion and food and everything of the Empire and I was like-YES. I feel like Sarah J Maas has spent more time developing the romances than anything else in Rifthold sometimes and it was great to have a book when she went really heavy duty into the world building. Antica was an awesome location for this book to take place in!
I also loved that this book definitely had more diversity in it than the other books in the Throne of Glass series. It feels like Sarah has really listened to the complaints from readers about the overall “whiteness” of the Northern Continent, and in this book, pretty much every character is a POC which was awesome to see. We also got a f/f couple in the form of the Khagan’s daughter Hasar and her lover Renia, which was lovely to see.
And then of course we have Chaol in his wheelchair. I know that a lot of readers, including myself were a bit nervous about the way that SJM was going to handle Chaol’s disability in this book. Now, I am not disabled, so I cannot speak to how accurate the representation is, but I’m going to link you guys to Brittany’s review of this book as she is a disabled reviewer and is obviously a lot more able to speak to the nuances of the disabled representation in this book than I am as an ablebodied person: https://reverieandink.com/towerofdawn/
I will say that for those who are worried that Chaol will magically be up and out of his chair within a few chapters, that things are not that simple. Chaol’s journey of emotional and physical recovery is the main, and in my opinion the most satisfying arc of this book. It is not as simple as a few sessions with a healer and he’s up and about again: he has to do some really tough physical and emotional work and it is really satisfying to get to see him work through a lot of the trauma that he has been through over the past few books and I came out of this book with a lot more respect for him as a character than I had going in.
I can’t really talk about how Chaol’s healing works out without being overly spoilery: it doesn’t fall into the magical cure trope which was good but I feel like the way everything was resolved was overly complicated and Sarah J Maas could have reached the same end point without having to include the solution she did, which involved one of my least favourite tropes (I am really sorry for how vague this is but I am so scared of spoiling the ending for people!). There were just a couple of things that bothered me about his healing: 1) there is no way a paraplegic who is recently recovering would be able to just jump on a horse and start galloping it, riding in general requires a lot of strength from your legs, hips and butt and there is no way that you are going to have enough strength to go much faster than a walk when you haven’t been back at it that long and your muscles have been atrophying from disuse. I’m not a medical expert obviously, but I have been riding for most of my life and I’m pretty sure even if you are an accomplished rider, if you become disabled, you’re not just going to be able to jump back on a horse and be at the same level you were before and 2) he probably should have been supported during his first time walking.
So yeah Chaol grew on me. I think I was looking at all of his flaws in Queen of Shadows and didn’t appreciate the good things about him, how loyal and kind and respectful he was and whilst he still had his moments of being whiny and annoying and a little self righteous, I definitely feel warmer towards him than I did going into this book and by the end I was really rooting for him, which was lovely.
Yrene from The Assassin and The Healer becomes a main character in this one (you really must read The Assassin’s Blade before you read this one because a couple of characters from it pop up) and I have to say I really loved her! She’s quite different to SJM’s other female characters, she has the same temper and sass, but she’s quieter, more introspective and obviously more focused on healing things than destroying them. I quite liked that with Yrene, SJM showed she could do female characters who are badass in a non-warrior type way! I loved how Yrene and Chaol’s relationship developed: how they basically hate each other at first, then they have some snarky banter, then slowly become friends and then into romance-it was nice to see a proper slow burn romance in one of Sarah’s books again! I’m really looking forward to seeing Yrene and Aelin meet again as well.
Nesryn is the other main POV character in this (we switch between Chaol, Yrene and Nesryn) and whilst I enjoyed her arc of coming home and finding out where she belonged and liked that she got her own adventure, separate from Chaol’s, she still felt a little flat for me. I feel like I still don’t know her all that well and that her main trait is just “warrior”. Still I like that she now has more purpose than just being Chaol’s girl and I think that she will get more time to develop in the last book.
There were so many awesome sibling dynamics in this book: the Khagan has five children and we get to see a lot of sibling interactions between the oldest four which was awesome to see because they are siblings who clearly love each other a lot and yet would stab each other to get the throne and that is my favourite kind of sibling! I think Hasar and Aelin’s meeting is going to be electric.
I loved the ruks! They’re these like bird type creatures, sort of like gigantic eagles I think and they were super cool-though not quite as great as the wyverns.
I still don’t really understand SJM’s need to pair up every single one of her main characters, especially when they are ALL HETERO RELATIONSHIPS. I mean how many more hetero relationships can you write? I would really love Manon/Asterin to be a thing in the last book, but I feel like that’s not going to happen. It feels like a lot of the characters are paired up for convenience rather than having an actual connection, which is not great.
I was however very glad that there were fewer awkward sex scenes in this one-don’t get me wrong, there are some and many veiled awkward references to manhood and “riding” but significantly less than in Empire of Storms or A Court of Mist and Fury. I love Sarah J Maas’ writing, I really think she has a way with words and there were some really beautifully written sections of this, but 99% of her sex scenes make me feel super awkward, I think there was one in Empire of Storms that I liked, but I’m starting to think that was a serious anomaly!
It did however bother me that there seemed to be a ridiculous focus on how physically attractive characters are, particularly the female characters. I didn’t need to hear how much Chaol loved Yrene’s breasts and hips so many times. I didn’t need all the awkward insinuations about his manhood and the constant need for SJM to reassure us how masculine he was. That was one thing I really loved about Nesryn’s new love interest Sartaq actually, we didn’t have to constantly hear about how “buff” he is or have him going all hyper male over Nesryn, he treated her as an equal and I loved that.
There are some really vital reveals in this book with relation to the war and the Valg, so you really cannot miss it if you don’t want to be totally confused at what is going on in the next book! The time also runs concurrently to Empire of Storms, so it starts where Queen of Shadows leaves off and ends I think a little after where Empire of Storms ends, that can be a bit confusing, but I quite liked the way Sarah managed to integrate the two timelines.
I really did hate the giant spiders-warning for arachnophobics (like me), they are back in this book!
The plot was quite slow for a good 60-70% of the book, it did get better in the second half, but the first half was mostly world building, which I didn’t mind too much as I was really into the new world that was introduced, but it would have been nice if things had got moving a little bit faster. Still I’m used to the slow pace of SJM books by now-I just wish that some of the fillery chapters had been cut, it would have streamlined the story, which it sorely needed! The second half was definitely better than the first in terms of action and the conclusion was pretty exciting! There was a lot of political intrigue and manoeuvrings in this as well, which I really loved.
I liked that there was no shitty overprotective Fae male bullshit in this, it made it a lot easier to read! Chaol does still fall into the toxic masculinity trap at times, but he does grow throughout the book and I did appreciate that it always felt like he respected that Yrene was her own person who could make her own decisions.
There were a few classic SJM tropes that I don’t love in regards to relationships which happened here, the “I loved you the moment I saw you” even though the text says the exact opposite and some other infuriating things that I can’t talk about because it would be spoilery, but in general, I will say that I liked Yrene and Chaol and Nesryn and Sartaq’s relationships better than the trashfire that is Rowaelin.
That epilogue though: JUST I CAN’T EVEN, KINGDOM OF ASH IS GONNA BREAK MY HEART AND I AM NOT PREPARED AND YET I NEED IT SO MUCH.
So yeah, overall, this was a pretty awesome addition to the Throne of Glass series, and very much worth your time, even if you don’t love Chaol, because of the great worldbuilding, the beautiful healing journey, some genuinely sweet relationships and some big reveals that will definitely change the course of the next book!
My Rating: 4/5
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Yrene and Hafiza have a conversation at the beginning of the book about healing and Yrene’s future plans.
My next review will be of my September #RockMyTBR book Vicious, by V.E. Schwab. I’m so excited for this one, it has been forever since I last read a V.E. Schwab book!