The Hod King (The Books of Babel, #3) by Josiah Bancroft

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ARC provided by Orbit in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Senlin Ascends ★★★★★
2.) Arm of the Sphinx ★★★★

“The world is full of wolves and lambs, but precious few shepherds.”

I can’t believe that Josiah Bancroft did it again, but he truly did it again. This is such a wonderful installment in a world that I never want to leave. This entire series is such a unique treat that is truly unlike any other fantasy out there. Every paragraph is so smart, every chapter so perfectly crafted, and each book makes me more and more invested. I am at such a loss for words because of this book’s pure magnificence, but I’m going to try to write this review anyway.

The basic, starting premise of this tale is that a man named Senlin, who is from a small fishing village, recently has gotten married to a woman named Marya. And on their honeymoon, he takes her to this mysterious tower that he is obsessed with, and each level inside this tower is completely unique and an entire world all on its own. Senlin comes equipped with a guidebook and feels confident that he and his new bride will be able to have a safe visit, that is, until his new bride goes missing before they even are able to set foot inside the mysterious tower together. And not to get too spoilery, but we are three books in, and he still hasn’t retrieved Marya, but we have gotten to travel alongside him discovering the individual beauty and horror of each unique level.

Yet, this book is set entirely in Pelphia. And this book is all about the Hods that are forced to live as servants for the rest of the tower. Even though each level of this tower is completely different and unique, the Hods are always present, traveling through the inhumane passages, that are completely unforgiving, but they are forced to walk though nonetheless. But the true mystery of the tower, that this book focuses on, is who is The Hod King and what they and their followers are up to.

“It’s possible, I think, to be so many things at once, that you’re practically nothing at all. If you crush a mountain and spread it across a continent, it doesn’t make little mountains; it just vanishes into dust.”

And this book did surprise me with switching perspectives a few times, but this book starts out with Senlin being sent on a very important mission by the Sphinx, which also happens to be in the same Ringdom that he believes Marya is currently living in. Senlin is truly at a crossroads in this book, and he needs to make a choice to listen to his heart and do what he feels is right, or to listen to his mind and trust in the friends he has made during his time in the tower.

This third installment shines a spotlight on abuse, abusers, and the cycle of abuse those abusers will use to keep their victims stuck in the cycle. This book shows that abusers can be charming, they can be charismatic, they can be leaders and pillars in their community, and abusers can fool you and others into thinking that they are not abusers. But none of these things will ever negate the fact that an abuser is an abuser, and this is a constant theme in The Hod King that I really appreciated. And I truly think that it was so well done, and it really meant a lot to me.

“If someone has absolute control over you, it’s easy to believe they have absolute power over everything and everyone. They can’t be defied or challenged or disobeyed, and every opportunity for escape just feels like a cruel test.”

I also think this book discusses how the tower is very much like our own world, where men view women as resources and investments. Whether that means getting and keeping a woman’s name in the spotlight, to ensuring one will carry your child, to just forcing women in molds that cater to men’s wants and desires. I think Josiah mirrors a lot of relevant themes in our world, but this theme was expertly done and really stood out to me. Especially with how we live in a world that is always expecting and asking more and more of women.

I want this review to be spoiler free, and I don’t want to make this review about the author whatsoever, but I just also wanted to add a little caveat that I think that Josiah becoming a father recently may have subconsciously (or consciously) worked its way into his writing. And, friends, I’m soft, and weak, and I truly think that this element is why The Hod King ended up being my favorite of the series so far. I am not a parent yet, but I think most people can understand that being a parent raises the stakes higher for every aspect of your life. We get to see this very much so in this book, and I completely adored it. I also loved the constant discussion on what it means to raise a child, and what makes a caregiver a parent. Found family is always at the heart of these novels, but it shined so beautifully though in this third installment.

I also loved the theme on how societies do not want to take care or even acknowledge impoverished and underprivileged areas. The rich would rather ignore and exploit the poor than to make a conscious effort to help improve their living conditions that would in turn improve the entire society. In 2014, city officials switched Flint’s water supply to cut costs and poisoned an entire city. When I read Senlin Ascends two years ago, Flint was still without clean water. And in 2019, Flint is still without clean water, when powerful men in this world could easily fix an entire city’s plumbing without even noticing they donated the money. I don’t want to get too preachy, but Josiah is a really smart and really talented author, and the messages he wove throughout this book were not missed on me. And this entire story really shows that empathy could improve every world.

What else can I even say? Edith has my heart, Violet is such a badass, I want Iren and Ann to be my moms, because I would already die for that sapphic f/f side relationship, glimpses of Bryon, Goll, and Tarrou made my entire 2019 and we are only in the first month, and getting to learn a little bit about Marya felt like Christmas after being on this journey alongside Senlin for so long.

“I will find her. I will offer my help if she needs it, my heart if she wants it, my head, even if she would see it on a stake!”

Overall, I don’t think I’d fare as well at Tom has in this magical tower that has somehow taken root in my heart, but I’d love to be able to go nonetheless. I truly think that Josiah Bancroft’s storytelling is on a completely different plane of existence than any other SFF writer currently. I truly know that is a very bold sentence to write as a reviewer, but I truly mean it with my entire heart. These characters who I think are some of the best ever crafted, these themes that meant the world to me, these perfectly constructed sentences with a lyrical prose that leaves me highlighting quote after quote, these different adventures that are all completely enthralling, this hidden world that is unlike anything in literature, I am just left in complete and utter awe, friends. Just, please pick up Senlin Ascends if you haven’t already, and come gush with me forever about how astounding this series really is. This final book is truly going to slay me.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for slavery, abuse, torture, talk of human trafficking, murder, death, loss of a loved one, violence, captivity, abduction, and war themes.

 

The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden

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ARC given to me by my amazingly kind friend, who I don’t deserve – Lilly at Lair of Books!

1.) The Bear and the Nightingale ★★★★★
2.) The Girl in the Tower ★★★★★

“I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.”

This is a hard review for me to write, because I think my heart doesn’t want to admit that this series is finally over. But it is, and this concluding book was everything I wanted. I cried, I felt gutted, I got my heart broken, but somehow Katherine Arden healed the pieces back together.

Where do I even begin to tell you what this story is about without spoiling anything with a review about the final book. This is a book about the bonds of family, blood and found, and doing whatever it takes to protect the ones you love. This is a book about religion and the beautiful and terrible things people are willing to do in the name of it. This is a book about all the different pieces that make a person, and how it is okay to love them all even if others won’t. But this is ultimately a book about a girl becoming the hero of her own story every single time, no matter who or what tries to block her path.

“There are no monsters in the world, and no saints. Only infinite shades woven into the same tapestry, light and dark.”

But I suppose The Bear and the Nightingale is a Russian inspired fantasy that stars a family living on the edge of the unforgiving Russian wilderness. And our main character grew up on fairy tales, but always hungered for more. And she soon realizes that maybe there was some truth in those tales, and she encounters a frost-demon named Morozko who makes magic a reality before her very eyes.

This story picks up right after the events of The Girl in the Tower in Moscow, and Konstantin Nikonvich’s vengeance knows no bounds. And a bear demon named Medved is happy to aid with the chaos in any way they possibly can. We also get to see Marya, Olga, Sasha, and Dmitrii on very different journeys through this pain and heartbreak. But we also get to see Vasya learn new things about herself and her ancestors, while even venturing into a new land unlike any other. And I truly think this concluding novel was damn close to perfection.

“You denied both the winter-king and his brother, didn’t you? You made yourself a third power in their war.”

Following Vasya, seeing her go to battle for Russia, go to battle for her family, go to battle for herself, has been a journey like none other that I’ve ever experienced while reading. Katherine Arden pulls from a lot of historical events and themes, but I’m convinced that this equal parts harrowing and heartening fairytale that she crafted is the real timeline that happened. I’ll be completely honest, this is a hard review to write, and not because it’s the last book in a series, but because I am in awe of what a damn masterpiece this entire story is. It doesn’t even feel real that I have this story in my hands, that I get to read it, I get to love it, I get to experience this beautiful tale that feels so whimsical but so real. The actual blessings.

“Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.”

Overall, this is just one of my favorite trilogies of all time, and I think it always will be. This story just truly has every element that I’m in love with in literature; lyrical writing, winter setting, fae folks of all varieties, strong sibling bonds, heart wrenching romance, and girls becoming the hero of their story. Katherine Arden and this trilogy is a gift from a higher power and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of death during childbirth, graphic animal death, graphic torture, graphic violence, sexual assault (unwanted touching), threat of rape, death, murder, blood depictions, slavery, captivity, and war themes.

Buddy read with Sissi, Lily, Hanaa, & Lilly! ❤

 

The Kingdom of Copper (The Daevabad Trilogy, #2) by S.A. Chakraborty

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The City of Brass ★★★★★

“It is time we get some vengeance for what they have done.”

Friends, this was such a phenomenal installment that was such a treat to read. This is an own voices Muslim Fantasy series, and a historical setting of the early 1800s, which barely touches upon the Ottoman Empire. And The Kingdom of Copper picks up five years after the events of The City of Brass

This is a story about djinn, and magical cities, and people being able to harness powers that they don’t fully understand. This is also a story about oppression, and privilege, and the terrible things people are willing to do in the name of pure blood. The mixed bloods in this world, shafits, are treated horribly and without a second thought. This book very much mirrors present day and the refugee crisis; people are unable to get food and shelter, while others are dying of things that could be easily healed, all because of fear, prejudices, and hatred.

Our three main characters are all very separated and all living very different lives than when we last saw them in the first installment. But they all have also grown tremendously during the five years, and now all have very different goals.

“A threat to a loved one is a more effective method of control than weeks of torture.”

Nahri – gifted healer who is trapped in the royal court of Daevabad and trying to make the best out of an alliance that was forced upon her.

Ali – djinn prince exiled by his father, constantly in fear for his life, while also trying to learn his new abilities.

Dara – one of the best warriors, who is watching soldiers being rallied, who are willing to do terrible things in the name of peace.

“Everyone knew about Darayavahoush, Nahri. They just couldn’t agree if he was a monster or a hero.”

My biggest complaint about this second installment is how long it took for Dara and Nahri’s storylines to actually meet up. Obviously, I ship them pretty hard, so I was just really disappointed when it took forever for them to even interact with one another, especially with what Nahri believes. Also, as much as I love the queer side characters in this story, I’m not entirely sure how I liked how one of them was handled. Also, I very much thought Ali was going to give us some bisexual representation in this book, but it appears that we are just going to get a hetero love triangle, which makes me sad.

But this story was impossible to put down, because I was so enthralled on every page. I feel like this 600+ page book was just completely packed with action, and I never wanted it to end. I love S.A. Chakraborty’s writing, and I think she really expertly crafts three very different characters, with three very different perspectives, all of which I completely adored.

“You don’t stop fighting a war just because you’re losing battle”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and the last line of this book will leave you utterly breathless. I have such high hopes for book three, and fully expect that it’s going to be a perfect conclusion with the way all the threads of this story leave off. This is such a beautiful Middle Eastern story, that ties in so much of the culture’s folklore in an absolutely beautiful and seamless way. I completely recommend this series with my whole heart.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for graphic violence, torture, death, murder, slavery, human trafficking, talk of stillbirth, talk of past threat of rape, and war themes.

Buddy read with Jocelyn at Yogi with a Book! ❤

 

Bound (Book of the Ancestor #2.5) by Mark Lawrence

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ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Red Sister ★★★★★
2.) Grey Sister ★★★★★

“But the fact is that few people are able to see value in the words of someone they truly dislike. Have your own opinions spoken back to you by someone you despise and you will likely begin to find fault.”

This short story is set six months after the heartbreaking and harrowing events of Grey Sister! This would be a very difficult short story to review if I couldn’t talk about the events that happened in Red Sister and Grey Sister, so please make sure you are up to date with this series before reading this review!

But wow, what an early holiday treat. This was a short story filled with action, suspense, and girls kissing! And, dare I say, perhaps the start of a polyamorous relationship? But this is an amazing little story about a mini murder mystery that involves the poisoning of some very wealthy and powerful people, and the poison is being implemented in a way that is impressing even master assassins. And Ara is just the person for the job to go undercover at a party full of nobles, considering her social status, but she will have the help of Regol.

But first, she has to brush up on her kissing skills. And what better partner than Nona? If you’ve read my review for Grey Sister then you should know that I very much ship Nona and Ara together, and I was scared with Regol rejoining the picture, because I know he has feelings for Nona. Friends, I did not expect the polyamorous vibes that Mark Lawrence was serving me in this short story, but it is truly all I wanted for the holidays! Oh, my word, the blessings.

“And it’s not like I don’t know how much trouble one little kiss can lead to…”

But anyways, Ara and Regol are off to try and solve the mystery, while Nona is able to somewhat tag along because of a special bond she has with Ara. And friends, I have too many feelings right now. I’m soft, I’m weak, and I’m so in love with these characters. This is my favorite short story of 2018, easily.

Overall, I’m just so damn in love with this series. I loved getting this small glimpse of Nona and the gang, and I can’t wait for more! At this point, I would commit a minor felony to get an arc of Holy Sister! This really is such a once in a lifetime series, and I really recommend everyone picking it up. I mean, warrior, magical, assassin nuns, who many of are queer? I can’t think of anything I’d rather read.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

 

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

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“In Innis Lear it was believed that the reign of the last queen had been predicted by the stars–and had ended, too, because of them.”

This is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear unlike any reimagining I’ve ever read before. Tessa Gratton stays very true to the original play, and really makes a feminist statement on all the themes, but she made something so unique, so powerful, and so much its own thing. And every book I read from her ensures that she is becoming one of my favorite authors of all-time. From the themes she creates, to the lyrical writing she weaves, to the beautiful stories she creates, I five star everything by her. And The Queens of Innis Lear was no different, it is a masterpiece.

King Lear is a story about a king who is ready to give up his throne to his three daughters, but they must prove that they are worthy and devoted. But the sisters decide to take their destinies into their own hands, whether that means betrayal of the King or not. And we slowly get to see the king descend into madness. And, again, The Queens of Innis Lear sticks very close to this storyline, too.

Gaela – the oldest daughter – represents ambition. Is a military commander.

“I will wear the crown, and I will get it like a king. Not as a mother and wife, but as the firstborn child, as the strongest.”

Regan – the middle daughter – represents lust. Wants to be a mother.

“The crown of Innis Lear is not made of love […] it is made of dying stars, and lying mouths.”

Elia – the youngest daughter – represents duty. Loves the island of Lear more than anything.

“You’re not the sum of your birth and stars.”

And these three girls, and everyone they’ve ever been in contact with, have had their fate decided by the stars. And they learned this the hard way from their mother, who was destined to die once Gaela turned to sixteen. In this world, the stars are blamed for people’s actions, so that they don’t have to be responsible for the horrible things that happen.

But ultimately this is a story about three girls battling against the futures that their father and the stars have in store for them. These girls are more than the legacy’s that are expected of them. They are more than the sins committed for them and in their name. People with wombs are more than those wombs and the babies they are able to carry inside them. And people are always more than good and bad, because we are complex beings with complex thoughts and actions. Seriously, this the morally grey character book of your dreams.

There are many more characters who equally broke and warmed my heart; Ban, the fox of the forest, Morimaros, the king who has only known how to be king, Brona, the witch of my dreams, and so many more. This is a full cast of players, set up on a stage that they never asked for. And this book inserts flashbacks more perfectly than maybe any other book I’ve ever read. And it creates a storyline that is complete magic.

“Maybe all three of us are cursed. Maybe this is the end of the kingdom of Lear, and the island will become something new. Maybe we never did belong here after all.”

I also want to take a second to talk about the representation. It is heavily implied that Gaela is aroace, but the word is never used on page. And I feel like every side character was implied to be pan or bi. Also, all the princesses are people of color, said to be biracial (black and white).

Overall, I just loved this. I never wanted to put it down. From the beautiful writing, to the important themes, to the enthralling story, this was just a masterpiece. I will say that this very much reads true to an Adult Fantasy, and the writing can be a bit unforgiving at times, but it is so worth it.

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Content and trigger warnings for miscarrying, domestic abuse, thoughts of suicide, suicide, self-harm, grooming, murder, death, blood depictions, rituals, animal deaths, and war themes.

Buddy read with Riley, Amy, Caidyn, Alex, & Jules! ❤

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

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This was my pick for the September 2018 Book of the Month box!

“Looking back, it seemed to me I’d been trying to escape not just from the camp, but from Achilles’s story; and I’d failed. Because make no mistake, this was his story—his anger, his grief, his story. I was angry, I was grieving, but somehow that didn’t matter.”

Hi, my name is Melanie and 2018 has been the year that I constantly talk about my love for Greek mythos retellings. The Silence of the Girls is a feminist reimagining of Homer’s The Iliad, centering on the Trojan War, but is told in a completely different light than ever before. Yes, we get to see the Trojans and Greeks battle and Achilles be the hero the world knows and loves, but this tale is all about a voice that is never heard in other renditions.

Briseis is a woman that has lost everything; her family, her city, her freedom, but this story gives her an actual voice, unlike all the other tales, but also shows how much more she was able to lose after Achilles is at the gate of her city. This is a very brutal book. Major content and trigger warnings for graphic murder, slavery, pedophilia, cheating, war themes, loss of a loved one, a lot of detailed rape, suicide, self-harm, abuse, PTSD depictions, animal death, sacrificial rituals, the death of children and babies, and heavy war themes and battle depictions. Please use caution with this book and make sure you are in a safe and healthy mindset.

“Another successful raid, another city destroyed, men and boys killed, women and girls enslaved—all in all, a good day. And there was still the night to come.”

I also want to say that I just reread The Song of Achilles a couple weeks ago, and I’m not sure if that heightened or lowered my reading experience. I will say that Patroclus is a sweet angel in every retelling of The Iliad and that didn’t change in The Silence of the Girls. But Achilles? This book makes you truly dislike him and… I just wasn’t expecting it. This book really shows how the stories are always told from a man’s voice and view, and they are always something to be glorified. But Pat Barker gives a voice to the women who are just background noise in all then men’s stories, deemed unworthy.

This reading experience is so unique because the Greeks are hailed as the heroes the entire time, but in this book we get to see behind the heartbreak and devastation they cause on and off the battlefield. Meanwhile, women are just prizes of the war that they never asked to be a part of. And even though Briseis has it a better than a lot of the women taken and enslaved by the Greek, seen as nothing more than spoils of war, her pain is never subsided and never viewed as lesser. Yet, that doesn’t make seeing things from her perspective hurt less. This book truly is heartbreaking.

“Nobody wins a trophy and hides it at the back of a cupboard. You want it where it can be seen, so that other men will envy you.”

My favorite part of this book, as heartbreaking as it is, is how each generation of children (girls, boys, nonbinary) are learning and living in this broken cycle with these expectations and gender roles forced upon them. The cycle never stops; it is just continuously passed down. Yeah, this is a Greek retelling trying to make a statement, but the parallels to our world in 2018 are thought-provoking and leaves an even scarier statement.

And there is a big emphasis on how war will also be passed down from father to son, generation after generation, along with their prejudices, their hate, and their need for revenge. Again, it is never ending and will never be enough. The suffering will just continue and continue being passed down. Meanwhile, the pain and fear will never subside.

“Silence become a woman.”

Overall, I think this is a really important book and I feel very fortunate that I was able to read it. I’ve always loved reimaginings of Homer’s works, but I’ve never read one like this before. Again, this is a really hard book to read and it gets very dark at times. But it really shows how rape will always be about power, not lust. And how men that lust for that power are capable of the evilest of things. And how these men can already have immense power, but it still won’t be enough. How these men and be rich, how they can be good-looking, how they can be the hero of the story.


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Buddy read with Imi at Imi Reviews Books! ❤

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas

(Thank you so much, Alex, for this tour edition! I love you!)
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#0.1) The Assassin and the Pirate Lord ★★★
#0.2) The Assassin and the Healer ★★
#0.3) The Assassin and the Desert ★★★★
#0.4) The Assassin and the Underworld ★★★★★
#0.5) The Assassin and the Empire ★★★
#1.) Throne of Glass ★★★
#2.) Crown of Midnight ★★★★
#3.) Heir of Fire ★★
#4.) Queen of Shadows ★★
#5.) Empire of Storms ★★★
#6.) Tower of Dawn ★★★★★

“Once upon a time, in a land long since burned to ash, there lived a young princess who loved her kingdom…”

I had a good time reading Kingdom of Ash. And there are no words I have to describe the feeling that I get while reading a book with what feels like the entire book community. All of us updating, crying, and swooning at the same times all over social media. It reminds me of reading Harry Potter with my friends back when I was little, and there really are no words to even begin to describe that feeling, because it truly transcends words and language.

Here is the thing – if you have loved this series from the start, you are probably going to love this conclusion and be very happy upon turning that last page. I’ve had a rocky journey with Throne of Glass even before it became “cool” to dislike this series and even before the stans thought it would be “cooler” to ignore all the gross, problematic elements. I’ve just never loved this series. And I always feel like the characters I do end up liking from this world, get the bad end of the stick. And Kingdom of Ash was no different. And, in true Sarah J Maas fashion, the book was ungodly longer than it truly needed to be.

This review isn’t going to be a drag or a gush, it’s just going to be my thoughts and feelings on what I did love and what I did hate. I’m not looking to hurt anyone’s feelings; if you have been hurt by SJM – you are valid, and if the book means more than words to you – you are valid. These are just my thoughts about a series I never really loved, and a conclusion that I thought was a little too convenient (and a lot too straight and white).

And if you are new to the book world, or just never bothered to actually look up the synopsis, Throne of Glass is a series about a young assassin that is enslaved. A prince from a royal kingdom, and his best friend who is also the captain of the king’s guard, rescue her from slavery so that she can compete to become the king’s assassin. But after a few books, you realize that this world is also full of magic, and Fae, and demon-like creatures called Valg who want to conquer everything. And this assassin, this prince, and this captain of the guard, get way more than they ever dreamed to bargain for.

“The threads of fate weave together in strange ways…”

But if you’re reading this review of the concluding and seventh book of a series, you probably already know this. And you probably want to know my thoughts on this conclusion. Overall, I feel like my favorite character got done really dirty, where everyone else got a happy ending. So, I’m bitter, and petty, and will talk about it more in the spoiler section of this review. Also, a lot of people said really horrible things to their friends/lovers and then didn’t care that they said it until they were about to die. Like, I’m not here for any kind of abuse, and some of the actions of some of these characters to the people they are supposed to “love” was really gross and unacceptable. Plus, I feel like this series ending was way too clean, and that SJM really didn’t listen to the complaints about A Court of Wings and Ruin! The deus ex machina was very abundant at the end, in my opinion and seemed to happen back to back to back in the last 150 pages instead of giving us more substance in the 800 pages before it. I also feel like SJM was really setting up for her new series, Twilight of the Gods, too, maybe? But again, if you love this series, you will probably love this ending. I’ve always felt like this series was just alright, so I felt like the ending was just alright, too!

Also, this book got very dark in the first 25%, so please use caution while reading! Content and trigger warnings for captivity, graphic torture, threats of sexual assault, talk of past sexual assault, murder, death, self-harm, talk of suicide, blood depictions, PTSD depiction, depression depiction, animal abuse, animal death, very severe physical abuse, verbal abuse, enslavement, sexual content, and war themes.

Now, I’m going to get into FULL SPOILER THOUGHTS FOR KINGDOM OF ASH below! Please do not read past this point if you do not wish to get spoiled for Kingdom of Ash and all the books in the series leading up to this final book!

(Breathtaking art by Gabriella Bujdoso)

Okay, friends! Again, I’m going to be talking about SPOILERS FOR KINGDOM OF ASH so please use caution before reading! Basically, all of our main characters are broken up into five different groups, all being tasked with different things.

Dorian, Manon, and the Thirteen, are trying to unite the witches and find the third wyrdkey, which is being hidden in Morath. Lysandra is pretending to be Aelin, while Aedion is leading the army. Chaol is heading to Silver Lake to meet with his father, with Yrene, Sartaq, and Nesryn. Rowan, Elide, Lorcan, and Gavriel are trying to rescue Aelin. Because Aelin is still in captivity because of Maeve, being tortured by Cairn, with her only ally being Fenrys.

Kingdom of Ash is broken up into two parts, and part one is very much all of these groups trying to come together, while all fighting their own little mini battles. Where part two is really about everyone coming to Terrasen for the big and final battle.

I think I’m going to start out by doing character break downs with my thoughts and feelings about the cast individually.

Celaena / Aelin – My heart actually felt for Aelin throughout most of this book. Like, again, the first 25% of this book, and everything she had to go through, was really dark and really hard to read. But when her *sacrifice* in part two, lead her to just being an immortal fae, completely taking away her being a human…. Come on. And then I was like, “oh, but she lost her powers! That’s the trade!” No, they are just weaker, BUT she infused her blade before, just in case, so that’s still super powerful. Like, my eyes, they are rolling out of my head.

“I told you once that even if death separated us, I would rip apart every world until I found you.”

Rowan – I was actually really empathetic towards Rowan in this book too.

Chaol – It’s no secret, Chaol has always been my favorite character (behind Manon in later books), so I am really biased. But he really let Yrene be the person she wanted to be, without question, every single time, and it made me love him even more. I still think Chaol is easily the best dude in this entire series, and I still never understand the hate he gets.

Yrene – When it first came out that she was pregnant I was so scared. Like, during a war? I was not prepared. But Yrene is honestly such an amazing character, and I loved her entire storyline and every scene that she was in. Also, my favorite part of this entire one-thousand-page book was when Yrene and Aelin met up for the first time in all those years.

Abraxos – Why give him a mate to just… kill the mate? Like, honestly a lot of things made me upset about KoA, but that might be the thing that made me the most upset.

Petrah – The true MVP of this book, for saving Abraxos’ (and my) life.

“Only a Crochan Queen may ignite the Flame of War, to summon every witch from her hearth.”

Manon – Manon, Queen of witches and my personal queen, deserves better than Dorian’s rude, wish washy, refuses to communicate, ass. And no one in this world will ever convince me that Manon is straight, I’m sorry. Like, the most uncomfortable I felt while reading this book was when they had sex, and she told him what she wanted and that she didn’t want him to leave, and then he left without even saying goodbye… I mean, after they fucked. Then seeing her say that she thought it was a promise, but it ended up just being a farewell? Like, friends, Manon deserves every star on her crown and every star in the sky, she doesn’t deserve Dorian’s nasty behavior. Like, I really wanted her to tell him to get bent at the end of this book. And there is no way that she would be this weak over some twenty-year-old dude that was treating her like crap throughout the book. Dump him.

Dorian – I’ll be honest, I thought the reason that I was disliking Dorian in this was because Maas was going to learn from A Court of Wings and Ruin, and actually give a more believable war ending with Dorian dying. But no, he was just an asshole throughout the entire thing to Manon. And when he was like checking out Maeve? I threw up in my mouth. Oh, and when he turned into a girl and was discovering his new body? *throws up again*

The Thirteen – (Minus Manon) Wow, they got done so dirty. Like, I know I touched upon it in the Abraxos paragraph, but like I can’t believe SJM would only kill them and one other dude that we honestly didn’t give a fuck about. Feels so bad. So damn bad. When they told Manon to live, I threw my book to the other side of my bed and just bawled, because I knew that it was going to happen. Asterin dying really messed me up. All of them dying just felt so cheap, so bad, and I knew when it happened that they were going to be the only real sacrifice SJM made with this concluding novel. And it ended up being true, so everyone else could be heterosexually paired off with their mates.

Elide – I love Elide, and her loyalty, but she also said some really abusive things to Lorcan, and then only regretted it when he was going to die. Also, again everyone is just going to heal all their disabilities and it feels a little questionable. Also, also, does Elide have a foot fetish? I mean, I don’t kink shame, but…. what.

Lorcan – I really loved Lorcan in this. He tried so hard, for Elide, for his friends, and for himself, and it really warmed my heart. Also, now he’s making and packing his own homemade pads for Elide. Bonus points.

“How long until the allies you collected start asking why the Fire-Bringer does not burn.”

Lysandra – I’ll be honest, Lysandra and Aedion’s points of view were easily my least favorite. And let’s be real, Lysandra could do way better…

Aedion – …Because Aedion was an asshole in this book and was so hurtful. And again, things are realized, and things are forgiven, because death almost came for them. That will never excuse abuse, ever.

Gavriel – I actually hated how he and Aedion reunited for only like one page, just for him to see his dad die. Like, not only did it feel pointless, it felt cheap.

Evangeline – Sweet lil’ bean. And I really do love her found family with Lysandra, and I just wish her the best in life.

Falkan – I loved his reunion with his niece, Lysandra.

Fenrys – *blinks once* I actually loved this character and felt so many sad feelings for him, but I think the book was honestly better with the addition of him.

Nesryn – I still feel like Nesryn was such a fill-in character, always, but I’m happy she’s happy, I guess.

Sartaq – I enjoy him and his birds, and I’m happy he makes Nesryn happy, I guess, but it’s whatever.

Erawan – The last remaining Valg king! But how they *tricked* him was like the most Scooby-Doo thing I have read in years.

Maeve – I felt like she was going to get a redemption arc like five times while reading this book, and I was so scared. But, again, anticlimactic ending. And I hated how when these two villains were taken out, so was their army. It just felt too easy, and even the battle scenes weren’t great.

But let’s talk about the real character that I want to talk about…

“Do you know the story of the queen who walked through worlds?”

Rhysand – Did Aelin really see Rhys and Feyre in Valerius and did he like help her get back to Rowan and the gang? Like, I felt like he was playing Star Fox 64 and he gave her the boost (or slow) or something? Like, I’m not making this cameo up, right? Like this happened? My mind still can’t process this information. I mean, we all knew the crossover was going to happen, but I truly didn’t expect it to be like that.

Okay, let’s talk a bit more about things that happened. First off, everyone is a couple. And more importantly, everyone is a straight couple. Next, everyone was a shapeshifter in this book! Like, Lysandra totally lost her unique and cool ability because like everyone and their mother can do it in this book. I hated it. Seriously. And Maeve could have done so much more with her powers, but she just chose not to for some reason. Thirdly, there is still a lot of sex in this book, but I feel like the scenes were a lot briefer and much more fade to black. So, that’s either going to be a good or bad thing for you.

I kept forgetting two things while reading. 1.) that Aelin is only twenty-years-old. That’s so wild! I’ve been reading these for so long, it just feels like she should be older. And 2.) This entire series really plays out just over the course of a year! Again, I’ve been reading these for so many years, I just can’t wrap my head around this timeline and everything these characters have done. I mean, how many relationships they’ve had, how many deaths they’ve witnessed, and how many terrible things that have happened. It seriously blows my mind that this it’s only been a year.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring this up for not, but I guess I will briefly, especially if you’ve read the entirety of this monstrosity of a review: I was hurt by the Charlie Bowater art, found in the B&N special edition, and I just wanted to say that Asian and white will never, ever, be interchangeable. Ever. And you know what SJM didn’t do with these 1,000 pages of KoA? Anything to say or show that Manon was Asian. I am half white and half Asian, and this is not the representation that even I will ever think is acceptable, and most certainly not the representation that will ever make me feel seen. And authors and artists (who have previously drawn characters as white) need to do better.

I also want to link Aentee’s review, because it is amazing, and she really talks about the lack of diversity in this book. And she brings up a lot of similarities that really blew my mind regarding The Lord of the Rings. It’s a really good review, you all should check it out!

Overall, I am happy that this series is over. I’m not sure if I will pick up more by Sarah J Maas or not, but I am happy to have finished this series off. Again, this will never be a series that I love, but I truly love the reading experience of feeling like I’m a part of a massive buddy read with 75% of the book community. It’s a feeling that I can’t put into words, but one that means a lot to me and that I cherish with my whole heart.

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