Book Review, Writing

Book Review: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

I have been sorely behind on blog posts. Apologies! Life is hectic at the moment, but I have not slowed down one bit. I’ve been reading a ton and trying to figure out exactly where my book journey is taking me. More on that is coming soon(ish).

Anyways, on to the point of this post: a book review! Sarah J. Maas is basically the Young Adult fantasy author these days. Between her NY Times Bestselling series THRONE OF GLASS and A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, I have read ten of her books in the last year. This author is amazing in that she’s managing to pump out these huge novels each year. They are not short. A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN was 700 pages!

I am here to review TOWER OF DAWN. If you haven’t read the series, there may be mild spoilers ahead, as this book takes place after book four (QUEEN OF SHADOWS) of the series and concurrent to book five (EMPIRE OF STORMS). If you have not read through QUEEN OF SHADOWS, please stop reading right now. If you haven’t read the series at all and think that you might, stop reading!

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Alright…everybody else here caught up?! Good. On to TOWER OF DAWN!

In THRONE OF GLASS, one of the first characters we meet is Chaol Westfall, captain of the king’s guard and best friend of the prince, Dorian Havilliard. He’s portrayed as arrogant, and basically sort of a jerk, until he starts helping Celaena Sardothien (the main character) on her journey. In book two, he falls in love with her; she’s an assassin and also a secret queen in her own right (though he doesn’t know it at the time).

Chaol (pronounced Kay-all according to SJM, but I’ll forever say it like Kale) and Celaena have a pretty volatile relationship. It’s not that all empowering love you feel for someone, but it was a visceral love, a need to have someone to be close to, to maintain your humanity during dark times. That’s not to say it wasn’t truly love…it just wasn’t meant to be. And I was not happy about that.

At the end of book two, the two of them have a pretty harsh breakup. I loved Chaol so much; I related to him. I could see how he struggled between doing what was his duty and doing what was right. He’s similar to a character I’ve written, and it made me love him even more. He sends Celaena away to find the truth of herself, and to protect her from the king. In doing so, she goes on her own journey and ends up finding her mate, her one true love, the person she was meant to be with. And I hated her for it. I refused to like the new guy. But that had more to do with the fact that I adored Chaol and never gave Rowan a chance.

By the time she returns, all hell breaks loose, battles are fought, and Chaol nearly dies at the hands of a very bad guy. The end of book four sees Chaol with a terrible spine injury that leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. I was relieved. Relieved that he was alive, yes, but heartbroken for him because of the injury. He was a soldier. He’d always been a soldier. What else could he do? He was sent to the southern continent to seek out their world renowned healers and convince the monarchy there to join the war.

So, I read on to EMPIRE OF STORMs, ready for some more Chaol action. Two of my friends that read the series before me were egging me on, telling me to get through it because of the book hangover. I got halfway through the book and THERE. WAS. NO. CHAOL.

Where was he?! I honestly couldn’t care less about the rest of the characters.

Then, I found out. SJM had planned to write a novella about Chaol’s journey south. No. Chaol. In. The. Damn. Book. Then, SJM announced that OOPS! She’d written so much for Chaol that it was no longer going to be a novella, but a full length novel! I preordered the book the moment I found out. And so began the six month wait for the novel to release.

This leads me to receiving the book. I was so excited about it coming out that I took off the two days of work after Labor Day just so I could read it. That is how much I love this character. I could go on and on. If you think I’m joking, ask my friends. They’ll tell you.

So, Tuesday after Labor Day. It shipped USPS, Amazon said release day delivery. My mail came on release day. No book.

annoyed-man

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m a pretty patient person. I can understand, since it was coming from Texas, that the after effects of Hurricane Harvey had something to do with this. BUT. SJM is the Fantasy author right now. All of her books become bestsellers the first week they are out. As soon as Amazon realized there was an issue, they should have prepared for this release. Look, even my local Wal-Mart got this book on release day; they usually don’t get them until weeks and months later.

So, I complained, but there was nothing they could do. I had to wait until the next day (look at me, being proactive, taking time off in case of stuff coming up!). My mail delivered and when I got home, it wasn’t in the mailbox. I was about to blow up. But when I checked the tracking, it said they put it on the porch. So I looked outside and there it was. FINALLY! I had Chaol’s story in my hands.

All of this lead up to my favorite book that SJM has written.

If you follow me on any of my social media, you know that I’ve been going through some stuff. I’ve been on a journey of my own–working to find my way back from the hard parts of life. Chaol’s journey in this book was similar to mine. His was a physical injury, sure, but it was all about chasing out the darkness, facing the hard stuff, and learning how to live again. This book isn’t just a continuance of a story. It’s the tale of someone who was broken, beaten down by their lot in life, and their journey to finding the light again.

There were several times I had to stop in my reading just to take a breath. It can be difficult to put your troubles into words sometimes, and I found that SJM was able to do it beautifully.

Once Chaol and his companion Nesryn arrive in the southern continent, they are thrust into the court. The reader is given a brief but thorough explanation of the monarchy and how it works, and they get to see the subtle interactions between the new characters. I always worry when they name a bajillion characters up front. One, because I can’t guarantee that I’m going to remember who they are. Two, I’ve always, always, tried to live by the mantra of “Only give a character a name if they’re important”. [I felt similarly about THREE DARK CROWNS] The thing is, all of these characters are important.

Once Chaol is introduced to the royals, word is sent to the Torre Cesme–the tower where the healers live and practice–for the Healer on High to assess his injuries.

Then, enter Yrene Towers. She is a character introduced in the prequel novella book THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE. When we last saw her, she was a barmaid, struggling with her lot in life. She left her home in the north and traveled toward the southern continent so she might hone her skills and become a healer. At the end of the novella, Aelin (assassin and secret queen) left Yrene a pouch of money to get her to the Torre Cesme and pay for any tuition. The person she was then was left behind in THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE. We are reintroduced to Yrene. She is strong-willed and an extremely talented healer. The Healer on High has set her to the task of assessing Chaol Westfall’s injury.

And Yrene says no.

The healer has plans of her own, of leaving the Torre Cesme and returning to the northern continent. She made a promise to help save her homeland. Healers are always in short supply. Her superior manages to convince her to at least assess Chaol. When Yrene does, she’s determined to hate him. He used to be the captain of the guard for a monstrous king, responsible for the destruction of her home.

What follows is a beautiful journey of two people, each with their own trauma and darkness, finding the light together.

I won’t give away any major plot points. Only this: there are things revealed in TOWER OF DAWN that tie to the bigger picture of the THRONE OF GLASS series. Even if you didn’t like Chaol, I think reading this would give you a different outlook on the character.

One gripe I have about Sarah J. Maas: she refuses to write wedding scenes. She didn’t do it in EMPIRE OF STORMS nor in A COURT OF MIST AND FURY.

There are also other character plots interspersed between Chaol and Yrene–namely Nesryn. I felt like I could have done without those. All I wanted to do was read more about Chaol and SJM kept giving me Nesryn. But! There was a purpose to it all. Nesryn uncovers key information that will affect the final book in this series–that someone is not who they are portraying themselves to be. TOWER OF DAWN tied together some key information that gives the novel what it needs to be considered a full length story.

This novel is a reminder that though there may be dark times, the darkness is only temporary. No matter what happens, it. gets. better.

All in all, I give this book 5/5 Stars. It is my favorite book written by SJM, and my favorite book in the THRONE OF GLASS series. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, go here. You can follow Sarah on Twitter and Instagram. The final chapter of the THRONE OF GLASS series (untitled as of yet) is coming on May 1, 2018!

I’ve got a couple of other book reviews upcoming. Including Alex Bracken’s THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING for some Halloween related fun.

Thanks for reading,
Abbie

Book Review

Book Review: A Court of Thorns & Roses, Mist & Fury, and Wings & Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I have to admit, I was a little late to the Sarah J. Maas party. Late last year, I was a part of an online book club and one of the books was THRONE OF GLASS by Sarah J. Maas. I read through the five books that are out relatively quickly. Maas writes high fantasy Young Adult and Adult novels. Both series she has written are about Fae, a race of magical warriors in fictional lands.

As a result of reading that series, and seeing all of the raves about A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES (released in 2015, henceforth called ACOTAR), I decided to buy that one for my 2017 “To Be Read” shelf. It sat on my shelf for weeks before I finally picked it up. ACOTAR is the first of three books: A COURT OF MIST AND FURY (released 2016, ACOMAF) and¬†A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN (released 2017, ACOWAR). Now that I have thoroughly confused you, let me continue. ūüėÄ

Because I jumped on the ACOTAR bandwagon late, I was able to read books one and two pretty much back to back. ACOTAR was amazing from the very beginning. The description is below:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Given that I already read THRONE OF GLASS (TOG), I worried that I wouldn’t like ACOTAR. I had a hard time relating to the main character in that series. She was a lot of things that I’m not. From the moment I started reading ACOTAR, I related to Feyre. One, because she’s the youngest of three children and, two, because she’s the self-sacrificing type. Feyre is a mortal woman, trying to find food for her family because her father lost their fortune. She has all of the odds stacked against her, but she’d rather be the one out there hunting, trying to find food, than letting her family starve.

So, Feyre is hunting in the woods. It’s snowing. She spots a deer. But she isn’t the only one that spots it. There’s a huge wolf nearby. For a moment, she contemplates if it’s just a wolf, or if it’s a Fae in a wolf’s disguise. This is the first introduction we have to the tension between Fae and mortals. Mortals fear the Fae. Fae have long been rumored to be these ruthless brutes.

Thinking of her family, she kills the deer. The wolf turns and looks at her. Just looks at her. Doesn’t flee or attack. She shoots him through the eye with an ash arrow (ash is hazardous to Fae; she uses it just in case). Then, she skins the wolf, takes the deer, and moves on with her life. She has a family to feed.

From there, we learn about her family dynamic. She has two sisters: Nesta (cold, selfish, not quite grateful) and Elain (warm, funny and loves to grow things). Then her father, who used to be rich, but lost his fortune, was injured, and now is unable to work. That’s why Feyre has to provide for the family. Not long after, she takes the pelt of the deer and the wolf to the market to see what kind of money she might be able to get for them. She meets an assassin there, who warns her that the pelt may not have just been an ordinary wolf.

Enter: Tamlin.

A giant wolf busts down the door to Feyre’s home, demanding to know who killed the wolf. He spouts something about the treaty between men and Fae and says a life for a life. Feyre is taken from her home and goes beyond the wall separating the world between Fae and mortal.

Sound familiar?

ACOTAR is a retelling of Beauty & the Beast (BATB). I LOVED it. I won’t give away any major plot points, because I really would like for you to read the book for yourself. Just like BATB, there is a curse that has to be broken by a girl falling in love with a beast. It goes a little beyond the normal BATB storyline, which I really liked.¬†Overall, ACOTAR was one of the best new books I’ve read recently. Given that I was so worried about the main character not being relatable like the main character in TOG, I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I loved Feyre.

I have a couple of friends who are big fans of Sarah J. Maas. I was chatting with one of them when I finished ACOTAR. At that point, I was getting close to vacation, so I told her I would wait until my cruise to read it. I remember her asking me why the hell I wanted to wait so long. I just kept wondering what the big deal about ACOMAF was for her to be that excited for me to read it.

I read it while I was on my cruise and Oh. My. God.

In ACOTAR, a character is introduced. Rhysand. He’s dark and mysterious and cruel. He’s the High Lord of the Night Court (where Tamlin is the High Lord of the Spring Court). The way he was portrayed in ACOTAR, I figured there were some shades of gray to him. I love those types of characters. The ones that you have to dig deeper to find out the truth about. And there are¬†lots of things you don’t know about Rhysand.

In ACOMAF, you see Feyre change. You see her go from this girl who is scared to a woman who is strong. A lot of that has to do with the two male love interests in the story.¬†I don’t¬†want to give anything away,¬†so it’s really hard to write this…because I’d love to gush about the storyline, about¬†the backstory, about the characters, about the ending. But I can’t. That wouldn’t be fair. Just know that ACOMAF is where this world¬†is completely blown apart, and it is not what¬†you would expect by reading ACOTAR.

I finished ACOMAF about five weeks before the third (and final, in this series) was to release on May 2, 2017. (Side note: there will be six books in this world. The first three were this particular plot arc; the next three start in 2018) My excitement for ACOWAR began to jump the closer the release date got. The more I talked about the books with my friends, I joined some fan groups, I was just really excited to see what would happen, because the ending of ACOMAF was left on a cliff hanger.

The book delivered to my house while I was at work on the day it came out (Thank you, Amazon Prime!). It’s been a long time since I’ve had books that I’m genuinely excited about on release day. Before this year, the last time was in 2007 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out. This year, I’ve had multiple (KING’S CAGE by Victoria Aveyard, ACOWAR, & Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare), which is exciting. I’m the type of person that I can’t just savor a new book. I read HP & DH in 8 hours on release day in 2007. Back then, I didn’t have a day job. I could spend all day reading if I wanted to.

That being said, I started reading ACOWAR around 5:30 PM on release day, and I finished it the following day at 10:00 PM. That is how good the story was.

There were things I felt it lacked, but they were very small. I wanted to see some things drawn out a little more. I love a good romance, and I felt like the romance had been set in ACOMAF. This is really Sarah J. Maas’s style of writing, so I wasn’t too mad about it. ACOWAR had everything: tantalizing romance scenes, development of characters (many were introduced before, but this book managed to explore them and the people around them) to where I felt more invested in them and their success, and high octane action sequences. I reached a point toward the end of the book where I couldn’t put it down because the action was going, going, going.

The ending was satisfying, and did not leave anything unanswered. Well. The big stuff. There were some supporting characters that didn’t have their happy ending like I wanted, but I feel like that is because they will be a part of the second trilogy. Or at least I hope so.

I don’t want to give any spoilers but there is one character that I feel was cheated. Sure, he made some bad choices, but his ending was just so…not…settled. I would have preferred this character die and sacrifice himself than to end up as he did. I loved the constant battle I felt in regard to this character. There are times when you’re like, Yes, yes! Do that. And then (I literally sent this to one of my friends) “UGHHHH F*CK….(character name)”. The ups and downs you go through are just heart wrenching. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be a part of the next trilogy and get more. I just wanted more for him.

All in all, I give this series a 5/5, and would heartily recommend anyone to read it. I’ve never been a huge Fantasy reader, but these were worth every second I spent on them, every tear I shed, and every flicker of emotion it made me feel. Maas is such a great author. She’s talented in ways that most authors are not. She knows how to draw an audience in. She knows how to keep just enough from the reader to keep them invested until the very last moment.

I loved this series! If you’re wanting to discuss more in depth (especially the second and third books), I will gladly talk with you! I just feel this story is too good to spoil for anyone who hasn’t read it.

Thanks,
Abbie