My Thoughts on Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (with spoilers!)

This review contains spoilers for the entire Throne of Glass series, including Kingdom of Ash itself

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.

First published: 2018

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Wow, what a ride it’s been! From first reading Throne of Glass in 2015 as part of my “reading out of my comfort zone” resolution (and adoring it) and sticking with the series while growing more critical of it, to now, 2018, Kingdom of Ash – the end of an era. Perhaps people will stop having wars about these books on Twitter now, too. One can dream, I guess.

So, Kingdom of Ash. At 980 pages it’s by far the longest book in the series and, truthfully? I don’t think it needed to be that long. There was a lot of repetition and dragging things out. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book! I do have lots of thoughts on it, though, so prepare for a long blogpost (fits with the book, I guess). Oh, and in case you skipped over the title or the first line of this post: this post contains spoilers for Kingdom of Ash.

I’m going to divide this beast into “things I liked” and “things I didn’t like” because I enjoyed using that structure when reviewing Empire of StormsIt also means this post will probably (hopefully) be slightly less long (edit: ha, that didn’t work out as I’d planned).

Things I liked

  • The characters and world: Okay, that’s awfully generic and, sure, I didn’t love all of the characters, but I did love to be back in this world with this cast of characters that I’ve followed for so long. It felt familiar to be back in Erilea with Dorian, Chaol, and Aelin (and the rest) and that was a really nice feeling. Even though I’ve grown more critical of the books over time, I noticed as soon as I started reading that they’re still special to me.
  • Aelin’s vulnerability: Aelin gets tortured beyond belief by Cairn and she suffers from it mentally; her spirit is definitely broken despite breaking out on her own (loved that – no damsel in distress). Now, of course, that’s awful, but I thought it was good to see Aelin being vulnerable again. She pulls off all so many amazing things all of the time that in Empire of Storms she seemed untouchable. Not so in KoA. A part of her is broken and it made her more real as a character to me.
  • Manon & the Crochans: I’ve never been a fan of Manon throughout the series, but I loved her in KoA! She’s changed a lot and I think I like her more because she’s become more human, or at least more empathetic. Her mission to unite the Crochans was interesting and the standoff between her and the Ironteeth Matrons was simply brilliant. And that cool crown of stars! Loved it. The Crochans are also so much cooler than the Ironteeth. I want to be one of them!
  • Dorian: Can we all agree that Dorian is an absolute badass in this book?! He collaborates with Maeve only to outsmart her and bring down the whole of Morath. That was epic. I was cheering (at least on the inside) at that. And I loved the focus on his raw magic and all it could do, like shapeshifting. Then there’s his personal story, as he feels like absolute shit for most of the book. I heard someone describe it as emo and a bit whiny, but I thought it was actually done pretty well. He’s afraid he might not be human and isn’t a good person and I found that to be a relatable aspect of the story – the good person bit, not the human bit. Dorian’s fate is the one that remains most open at the end of KoA. I like to think he won’t end up with Manon (not a big fan of that union) but that he finds happiness again in Rifthold.
  • Everyone coming together to fight evil: I had goosebumps when all the Crochans appeared in Orynth to fight the Valg! In fact, I think I sobbed a tiny bit (don’t tell anyone). So many different people unite to fight against Erawan and his army and I thought that was heartwarming. These other forces (Ansel, the Silent Assassins, the Fae, etc.) sacrifice a lot to help out Terrasen and defeat Erawan, and I liked that.

Things I didn’t like

  • The heteronormative pairing off: I think this is my biggest issue with the entire series. Why does everyone have to end up married or with the promise of marriage? Is that really the ultimate form of happiness? Spoiler: it isn’t. It frustrates me a lot. Of course, Dorian and Manon aren’t technically together at the end of the book, but it’s still implied they will be. And why does it have to be so heteronormative?! Why do we have to have the same number of male and female characters and why do they have to end up neatly paired off? I know it’s been said a lot, but there’s definitely a problem with diversity in this series (and not just when it comes to sexuality).
  • Aelin & Rowan: I like Aelin as a character and I’m okay with Rowan, I guess. He can be pretty badass. But he’s such a territorial bastard (to quote Maas) when he’s around Aelin. I’ve always been rather neutral when it comes to their relationship, but it bugged me in this book. Their constant need to be together while there were so many people out there sacrificing themselves for their sakes was annoying to me and there wasn’t anything romantic about it and them to me either.
  • The Wyrd-gate thing: This was all very confusing to me. Why on earth did Aelin want to trade Elena for Erawan? That makes absolutely zero sense in light of the previous books and the enormous threat Erawan poses. I’d also kind of forgotten about the significance of the gods, so closing the gate seemed a little pointless to me. Also, how convenient that Dorian’s father shows up to save them all and Mala gives Aelin a little bit of magic so she won’t have to die. There were suddenly very convenient bits of magic we’d never heard about before that were here to save the day.
  • Lack of suspense: Don’t get me wrong; I was on the edge of my seat for a good part of the book. But it’s already clear from pretty early on that no one of importance is going to be sacrificed. Everybody is getting their happily ever after. Okay, there’s Gavriel, which was heartbreaking, especially for Aedion, but that was all. It’s convenient and not very realistic. War is war, it doesn’t differentiate between main characters and nameless foot soldiers. Sure, I’m glad my favourite characters get to have a happy life, but it’s not very realistic and also made the book less suspenseful.
  • The writing and length: Is it just me or could this book have done with a little more editing? There are so many sentence fragments, which I’m sure was done for dramatic emphasis, but at some point it’s just too much. I’m pretty sure it hasn’t always been like that, right? The writing was also a little too dramatic for me at some points. The constant repetition of “for Terrasen” and “for a better world” started to grate on me after a while. Especially since the book is so long. A lot happens, but was it really 980 pages worth of events? Not really.

Conclusion

In all honesty, I’m still not sure. I loved this series a heck of a lot for a long time, so my ultimate opinion and rating of the book is coloured by that. I loved to be back in this world for one last time and to finally find out how it ends. But as I closed the book, I wasn’t sad it was over. I was just kind of glad it was done, to be honest. I had a lot of fun reading it, and I even cried a couple of times because I’ve been so invested in the characters and the story for so long. But I’m also very ready to move on to new epic adventures (with way more diversity).

3.5 Really Liked It

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