Empire of Storms
Sarah J Maas
Once again I thoroughly enjoyed a Sarah J Maas book. It shouldn’t come as a surprise by now that this woman is one of my favourite authors, and the story of Aelin just keeps getting better. Although they don’t actually get much done during this penultimate installment, this does not mean the story lags. We meet up with old friends and we get the most awesome clashes by new pairings of characters. I do believe that if you take Aelin, our protagonist, out of the equasion, Sarah J Maas would be more than capable of continuing the story just as well without her. Her surrounding characters are just that well written.
Funny I should mention that, right? Those of you who have read the book know what I’m talking about and I think it is a bold move for book 5, considering we only have one more left to go. But of course, the parties involved spend almost every moment of the series apart from one another. The notable exceptions being the first book, in which we didn’t know all the players yet and were just centered around Celaena, Dorian and Chaol, and the fourth book in which (almost) all of the players came together for a moment.
Empire of Storms is a story that even as a fifth book of the series still manages to give us new relationships and storylines, while continuing to tie in with all that has come before. I have applauded Sarah J Maas before about her exceptional strength in building characters, and having the events flowing naturally from who they are as a person and how they react to the world around them.
I was quite miffed, I admit, that when Aelin finally reached Terrasin, the lords there didn’t welcome her with open arms. For some reason I had not expected roadblocks to be put up in that particular place, not when it took her so long to get there. But as the story unfolded, I could undoubtedly see why it had to be so. The lords of Terrasin are now used to ruling instead of their rightful king or queen. They do not know Aelin other than a spoiled eight year old with a temper and powers everyone was scared of, because she couldn’t control them. And in walks this assassin with scars all over her and. That. God. Damned. Attitude. I’d throw her out on her ass just as fast and that was part of what this book was about. Aelin struggling to fit into a society again.
It shows in her clashes with the group around her, their frustration with her keeping secrets from them and not revealing the entire plan. Some might say the last chapters would not have happened had she just confided in the people who helped her. And it is frustrating, to the reader as well. Understandable, after everything she has gone through, but it’s time for Aelin to learn to trust others. She is no longer the only one who has gone to hell and back. Every single one of them has lost something indescribable, every one of them has truly scary emotional scars. And she is not the only one with the fate of a kingdom and the entire world on her shoulders. It’s time that she too acknowledges that although she is immensely powerful, she is also fallible. And not above anyone. Especially Dorian can match her if they would ever do a showdown of who has had it worse.
And that is, I think, the final hurdle for Aelin to overcome in the final book. To finally learn to be humble. Looking more closely at the interpersonal relationships, there was a lot to love. Pairing Lorcan and Elide, for one, has resulted in some serious shipping all around Sarah J Maas’ loyal readers. I thoroughly enjoyed their chapters, although I do think Lorcan should have remained aloof and fought his feelings for at least another book. I feel it did move a bit too fast to make sure the stakes were high enough for the final showndown. On the other hand, I think the pairing of Manon and Dorian was so much deeper than I thought it would be. Instead of it being an attraction not further explained, it was built around some extremely logical thoughts. Human women are too fragile, indeed.
And there was even more to love. I am not even touching the beautifully raw nerve that is Aedion and his father. But I am still filled with everything-good-and-spicy thinking back on every single Manon-Aelin interaction. Give these two women their own spinoff, please. Their love/hate-relationship is so very satisfying, I think I am actually shipping them. While Rowan has become little more than a trained guard dog, and I am happy to see he has to break out of that again. I don’t like seeing him that way, and I guess Sarah J Maas didn’t either. Talking about these characters, I am going to slip Elide into the mix and so we arrive at the moment Elide finally meets up with Aelin and the others. I just cried. I thought it was so beautiful, so painful. Truly superb writing.
The most heartbreaking, however, has been the Lysandra-Aedion relationship. It was slowly going so well for them, and the final chapters have thrown such a wrench in. I am actually savouring it, I’m not ashamed to say. There is something infinitely beautiful in being betrayed so deeply as Aedion has, and still be able to forgive someone for that. I don’t know if he ever will, but looking at Sarah J Maas’ track record, I’m fairly sure it will work itself out in the final book. Speaking of that twist; how utterly brilliant and terrible is Aelin’s solution for what happened? I never would have thought that would ever happen, but once again Aelin thought further ahead than anyone else. And it’s so horrible, but it fits so well, and I just can’t imagine devoting my entire life in service to one request from my queen. You’d never have your life back. It struck me to my core, in the best way.
Once again, we can say that this book hinges on the interpersonal relationships propelling the plot forward. Of course there are MacGuffins to find, and riddles to solve. A seemingly ironclad sacrifice required (I wonder how Sarah J Maas is going to solve that particular problem, by the way). And all of Aelin’s brilliant strategic schemes come down to the fact that she has laid the interpersonal groundwork for them years ago. Yes, we finally get to meet some old acquaintances from The Assassin’s Blade. I don’t even consider this book a prequel novella bind-up anymore. This book fully deserves its place in the line-up, and is essential to the storyline now. Having Aelin meet Rolfe in her current persona made my day.
To be fair, the entire book made my day. There is so much that I did not expect happening, and I have seldom trusted an author so implicitly to take me wherever they wanted to take me, because I have faith in what they are going to do. I don’t question a thing, even if it’s not so much to my liking. It’s necessary to get to an awesome final book, and I really believe that. It is why I am giving this book 5 stars. Not just because this book in and of itself was amazing. Not just because it continues the story raising the bar even more. But also because it made me see how much I trust Sarah J Maas to give me an incredible experience reading her books.