Also by this author: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1), Crown of Midnight, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3), Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4), A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2), Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass, #5), A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1), The Assassin's Blade (Throne of Glass, #0.1-#0.5), Catwoman: Soulstealer (DC Icons, #3), House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)
Published by Bloomsbury YA on October 23, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 984 •Format: Hardcover •Source: Purchased
The final battle is here.
Aelin Galathynius has vowed 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. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unraveling with each passing day…
With Aelin captured, friends and allies are scattered to different fates. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever. As destinies weave together at last, all must fight if Erilea is to have any hope of salvation.
Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas's New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an explosive conclusion as Aelin fights to save herself―and the promise of a better world.
I admit I slept on Kingdom of Ash. I pre-ordered the special B&N edition and everything but I hadn’t yet read Tower of Dawn and I didn’t want to skip a whole book before heading into the finale of perhaps one of the most well-known YA fantasy series of the decade. So I placed it on my bookshelf and admiringly stared at it until I finally talked myself into Tower of Dawn (mainly because I had spent the past year rereading the previous 5 books and the novella collection and didn’t want the start forgetting details since I so rarely treat myself to rereads!) After Tower of Dawn put me in a MASSIVE slump (it took me over a month to read, and I refuse to even write a review as I don’t want to spend any more time on it) I decided to just jump into Kingdom of Ash ASAP to finally be DONE with the series.
What I wasn’t expecting, however, was for KOA to be such a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. I was pretty hesitant to even read the series from the start, and had a lukewarm experience with Throne of Glass. I then took a chance on Crown of Midnight and liked it quite a lot, and then absolutely ADORED Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows (my favorite of them all). My love for the series then dimmed a bit when I found Empire of Storms to be rather slow and a lot of just characters journeying around (I hate that). So when Kingdom of Ash became an unstoppable reading experience for me, causing me to try and sneak it in at any spare moment amidst one of the busiest work weeks of my life (12-13 hour+ days) I knew it was going to be a 5 star read for me no matter the conclusion. Was it a perfect book? No. But it was a fitting ending to a finale that’s enraptured so many readers and I truly felt invested in the characters and it’s honestly going to be difficult to leave them behind!
As it’s the last book in an epically long series, this review will contain spoilers for both Kingdom of Ash and the previous installments of the series! You have been warned 🙂
I don’t really know how to coherently organize my thoughts on this 900+ page tome so I’m just going to break things down into the categories that I want to talk about!
First and foremost, the beginning of KOA is dark, delving into the capture and torture of Aelin and handling it in a very stark and introspective way that I wasn’t quite expecting of this book. Aelin’s treatment at the hands of Cairn and Maeve was graphically depicted, with no one but Fenrys, trapped in wolf form, to witness it. The bond Alein and Fenrys forged over that time, with their blinking language that they continued to use throughout the rest of the book, was so moving and heartbreaking at the same time, and the fact that Maas spent time focusing on the fact that they were truly the only ones who could understand the dept of each other’s trauma was really well done. I am here, I am with you.
I was a bit wary as to how long Aelin would be held in captivity (worrying it would be the whole book) but her eventual escape was fitting and the perfect combination of Aelin leaning on her Celaena roots as an assassin and fighting her way out just in time to reunite with Rowan and the gang. I appreciated that it didn’t fall to Rowan to save Aelin, and at the end of the day she still manages to save herself. Aelin’s irrevocably changed and her swaggering and posturing is gone- we see Aelin, raw and reborn, silent for days as she processes what happened to her and how she’s going to move forward. In fact, I was so pleased overall with Aelin’s character growth in this book- we see her still planning and scheming and making crazy Hail Mary passes in some instances, but we also see her at times where she so clearly is scared or broken or just doesn’t know what to do. We see glimpses of the Aelin she might have been had Terrasen not fell all those years ago. I am so, so proud of Aelin and her journey from assassin to queen was truly a rewarding one.
Manon is Our Queen
One of my favorite elements this series introduced was Manon and the witches (both Ironteeth and Crochan) and the political and historical intrigue their plot lines carried. They were integral parts of the plot but yet still had this super interesting internal story that didn’t really concern itself too much with the drama happening in the rest of the continent. I’ve always loved Manon and seeing her reclaim her rightful title as the QUEEN OF WITCHES was just !!! Her CROWN though. Seeing her go from a cold blooded killing machine to a peace bringer across just 4 books was incredible, and the sisterhood between her and the Thirteen was so breathtaking. Speaking of the Thirteen- RIP, it GUTTED me. The fact that they all did the Yielding and exploded in LIGHT instead of darkness was just incredible and honestly their sacrifice was the most emotional moment of the book for me. I definitely don’t like that they all died but WOW what a way to go. Also, Manon is a literal QUEEN who deserved better than Dorian in this book which brings me to my next topic…
He SO disappointed me in this book- like I know he’s supposed to be edgy and sassy but I feel like his squishy center was removed and he was too conveniently powerful (like who teaches themselves how to shape-shift in 5-8 business days???) and honestly lacked a lot of depth for me as the series went on because I initially really liked him! I also didn’t like his gross/problematic mindset when he shifted into a Crochan (I was like how did this get past revisions???) I also didn’t like the weird flirtation/alliance thing him and Maeve had going on and I don’t believe for one second that she wouldn’t have killed him? Although I was intrigued by the teasing that Maeve may have gotten a redemption arc- I think that was a welcome reprieve from some of Maas’ other villians who are just evil to be evil (*coughkingofhyburncough*). The villains had some dept to them that really seemed to come out through Dorian’s interactions with them at Morath…but I still think he got way too powerful way too soon.
Lorcan + Elide
They were the ship I didn’t know I needed. I wasn’t a huge fan of either of their characters initially but I love how different they are and how Elide’s strength is such a juxtaposition to Aelin’s (she clever and cunning but definitely isn’t made for battle) and how Lorcan comes to love and acknowledge her strengths and find value in them even though they’re pretty different from what he’s spend his centuries of existence fighting for. Also that scene on the horse when he was about to sacrifice himself for Elide and she was like I DID NOT RIDE ALL THE WAY OUT HERE FOR YOUR STUPID HEROIC ANTICS and wouldn’t let him go…I die. Also, Lorcan Lochan LOL I’m glad that was acknowledged because I always thought it was strange how similar his first name and her last name are.
So there were a LOT of battles in this book, and it definitely added to the page count. I’ve seen a lot of complaints that the battles weren’t necessary or were too drawn out, but I actually don’t think that’s the case. I feel like Maas did a good job showcasing how war is a lot of sitting around, waiting to fight, and building up the tension, fear and anxiety all of that waiting causes. From Morath banging the bone drums all night to keep the soldiers up from exhaustion to drawing out battles and retreating each evening to give them the illusion of a reprieve- it was strategic and realistic and well done. The battle at Anielle was probably my favorite, with Aelin & Co finally rejoined with the armies, Lorcan single-handedly fighting his way down a siege tower and the dam breaking at the end- these were some of the best battle scenes I’ve read in YA fantasy, personally. Or when she goes riding into battle at the end on the Lord of the North with her flaming sword, fighting on the front lines with everything she has to protect the homeland that was ripped from her by Adarlan and Erawan a decade ago- truly iconic.
Maas did a fantastic job in this final installment with tying together all of the locations on the map that she’s woven over the course of the past 7 books and novellas. Laura does a great job explaining this in her review, how Maas expertly moves around the armies and players taking things into account like routes, climates, etc. which made the world building feel so realistic. She also introduced even newer settings on top of fully fleshed out world, like the underwater caves that they sail through with the guidance of The Little Folk (whom I loved, and it’s charming that they’ve known Aelin was their true queen all along).
I spoke earlier about how gutted I was by the sacrifice of The Thirteen, and Gavriel’s death right after reuniting with his son was also v. tragic (especially how he did it to save the Western wall from falling, which would have been catastrophic). There were also some other sad loses, such as Murtaugh (foolish old man, but so noble). Did it feel like sort of a cop out that all of the main characters got through the entire war without dying? Absolutely. Was it sort of cheesy that both Dorian and Aelin forged the lock and neither died or was completely drained of power? Totally. But this is Maas’ world and if she wants to give most of her characters a HEA I can’t stop her so I’ve decided to just embrace it.
Random side note- I really don’t understand WHAT happened with the lock business and the gods and the wrydmarks and all of that. It’s kind of a piece of the series I sort of glazed over but I figured “Ok cool now at least Erawan can’t let his brothers in” but then Aelin manages to rip several portals open later on like it’s NBD…
So I miraculously managed to go a year without being spoiled for KOA before reading it, but the one thing I had heard of was that there was a little ACOTAR crossover. I thought it was going to be a tiny easter egg or something but it was SO huge and I was literally screaming when I read it. The fact that they’re just in another parallel universe and Rhys totally helped her out…I have no words. I need a crossover novel SO BADLY.
That Ending Though
I will be the first to admit that the end was a little too easy in its resolution. I didn’t really understand the whole “lost Fae of Terrasen coming out of portals and riding direwolves” thing and I felt like I sort of missed something along the way? Were they mentioned previously? It was pretty convenient but not as bad as ACOWAR so I’m looking past it. I really liked how the final battle took place right outside Orynth where this whole journey began for Aelin and how afterwards we received a glimpse of what Aelin’s court will look like, how they will rebuild, and how she’s now the Faerie Queen of the West. I could read a whole additional series on Terrasen or even a fun fan service novella like ACOFAS. Maas created a truly incredible and vast cast of characters and gave them all such distinct personalities and spent so much time crafting unique voices for them that I would love to be able to check in on them. They’re so human in their thought and feelings, more genuine in some ways than the characters in ACOTAR and you can tell they are a part of Maas and she knows them as well as she knows her family.
Other Things I Enjoyed and/or Just Had a Strong Reaction To:
- I forgot Rowan’s cousin’s name was Prince Endymion LOL please tell me that is a Sailor Moon reference.
- Finding out Dorian’s father’s name was so satisfying- names hold so much power in so many cultures and I love that Maas used that idea in her storytelling!
- The Whitehorns are just casually the rulers of Doranelle now.
- That final goodbye between Aelin, Chaol and Dorian was just heartwarming and really brought everything back to the vibes from book one in the series.
- Aelin basically giving Chaol’s dad a stroke every time they interacted (which he deserved).
- So many female characters that showed strengths in ways aside from just being powerful/good at fighting, such as Elide, Yrene, Evangeline, etc. Also Hasar and Aelin should totally be BFFs.
- The fact that Nox came back was excellent- I felt like there were a lot of little nods to the first book!