Monday, 29 October 2018

Review: Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J Maas

This review is spoiler free!

Publication Date: 23rd October 2018
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 984 pages

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .
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.

There was a lot riding on this book - my re-read over the last few weeks had only highlighted that. Sarah had created such a sprawling complex world, peopled with incredible multi-faceted characters, and with such a layered and brilliant plot - followed with the mother of all endings for both "Empire of Storms" and "Tower of Dawn". I honestly didn't know how this book could provide a satisfying conclusion. How, with all of those expectations riding on it, could it live up to it?
Because Sarah is a damn fine writer, and this book showcases her skills extraordinarily, it totally surpassed all my hopes and dreams for it.

I was afraid that for whatever reason this final instalment might mar the series for me - might not manage to provide a satisfying resolution. So I was wary but excited going in, but quickly realised my fears were entirely unfounded.
It is a bittersweet, beautiful conclusion. Sure, it's heart-breaking and terrifying, and there are moments where you honest to god think it's all going to hell and there's no way anyone is getting out of this alive... But there are lighter moments too. Unexpected moments of humour that had me laughing out loud. Touching scenes that had me weeping. Thrilling moments that raised goose bumps on my arms and made me pause to catch my breath before continuing on. I savoured this book. I drew it out as long as I could bear, whilst desperately wanting to race through it, to find out what happens. 

There is heartbreak. There's devastation. Not everyone makes it through to the final pages. But that only serves to add to the overall emotion. The stakes feel very high and very real this time, and I genuinely wasn't certain at various points who would make it through, if this was finally it, if I were witnessing final desperate stands and breaths.

There are a few problems - no book is perfect. And I found myself flagging a bit before the final act because I felt almost a little bit cheated by how some things were being laid to play out. I want to talk about those properly, but not until the book has been out for a lot longer and spoilers are not so stressful. However whilst there were some issues, I didn't find that it ruined my enjoyment overall. I still loved the book, and felt it was a really wonderful conclusion to the series.

I haven't experienced the feeling of community that arose around this book since Harry Potter. Sharing updates with people, checking in at 'OH MY GOD' moments with friends. Swapping emotions and feelings and tears back and forth and feeling as though you're part of something whilst reading this. It's magic. It doesn't come around very often, but when it does it is something truly incredible to be part of.

This series has meant a lot to me. More than I will ever truly be able to articulate. I feel so incredibly grateful that all those years ago I had a parcel drop through my letterbox with a proof of Throne of Glass in, and a note from Bloomsbury saying to read it, they thought it was something pretty special.
It is a series that has developed and matured over the years, and offered me something new every time I go back and re-read it, and whilst this conclusion was satisfying and wonderful and I adore it, I am also bereft that this is it. There will be no more. I will miss this court and all those around them fiercely. I will come back to them again and again.

This is a fitting conclusion to the series. A beautiful final act. A bright beacon of hope in dark times, that reminds us to fight for a better world.

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