Review: Kingdom of Ash

Aelin Kicks Ass
Kingdom of Ash — the final installment in the wildly popular, roller-coaster thrill ride that is Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series — is finally out, and we’re here to sing its praises!

It has been a looooong journey through vast and complex realms, borne of exotic mythologies and inhabited by wondrous and wicked creatures — and by seemingly hundreds of major characters, including at least a couple of dozen with whom we’ve developed deep, personal relationships.

But in the end, we got our epic showdown between the forces of darkness and light, serially unfolding amidst an onslaught of twists, turns, shocking revelations, and nail-biting suspense. We added new names to our laminated list of favorite fictional friends. We got answers to lots of questions, including some that we didn’t know we had when we started this book. We got a definitive future for Terrasen, Erilea, and even the Southern Continent. And last but definitely not least important to saucy readers, we got generous servings of paranormal power couples to make our Wench hearts feel warm and fuzzy.

We hope you’ll join Wenches Merit and Kathi as we fangirl about this dazzling culmination of our obsessive odyssey, a couple of our favorite characters, and the magnificent spectacle that is Throne of Glass!! We’ll try to keep it spoiler free, though we’ll probably mention a few things from the earlier books.

Wench Merit

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

I was a bit worried while waiting for this conclusion to the Throne of Glass series. You know, a final book is tricky; the author has to tie up all the strings together in a satisfying way, not too hurriedly, and remember the correct order of things. I was not sure all that was going to happen with so many characters scattered across the continent. I was pleasantly surprised how well it was done. All the loose strings connected well and transitioned from one scene to another perfectly.

Yes, there were so many battles, but they were unavoidable; it takes time and gruesome efforts to fight against such an evil. I’ll try to share with you, kind readers, a few of my thoughts here.
Let’s make this a fight worthy of a song.
A kind of synopsis

So here they come, all the surviving characters from books 1–6 and the novellas, forging a way to their fate and the fate of the kingdom. Each group of characters moves slowly north to help Aelin Galathynius fight the evil Valg king and queen. Along the way, each becomes embroiled in dangerous side battles against rogue Valg royalty and minions.

In the north, Aedion already fights a laborious battle against Morath’s soldiers. In the east, Rowan, Gavriel, Lorcan, and Elide are looking for Aelin. Manon and her Thirteen are looking for Manon’s heritage and other witch clans. Chaol has returned from the Southern Continent, bringing his new allies from Tower of Dawn. And Dorian! Oh, I really loved him here. He has evolved so much, into a strong character, quick witted and very brave — he is no longer the princeling we knew in previous books. Now he’s practicing ways to wield his magic, gaining strength and confidence like the king he should be.


Ah, Aelin! At the end of the last two books, she was left in Maeve’s cruel talons, and she is still there in that horrible iron coffin, tortured by the queen, as this book begins. Maas takes Aelin through a harrowing journey; some parts were hard for me to read.
The words were a gentle brush down her cheek. Fireheart, why do you cry? And from far away, deep within her, Aelin whispered toward that ray of memory, Because I am lost. And I do not know the way.
Aelin is completely changed from the days when she roamed the streets of Rifthold as Celaena Sardothien, the deadliest assassin on the continent. (You can read my review of the early books in the series here.) I admit I didn’t always like this change; she seemed invincible, she became too cocky and a bit harsh for my taste. That’s why I liked her vulnerability in this book, though it was painful to read sometimes.
No longer the Queen Who Was Promised. But the Queen Who Walked Between Worlds.

Favorite side character

There is so much story in these 992 pages, we could write a novella about all the leading and secondary characters — and even a few creatures (Abraxos, anyone?)! But no, we will not do that to you, dear readers.

There are more than a few awesome characters, but my most favorite, without a doubt, is Manon Blackbeak, the witch with the pale hair and golden eyes. Manon goes through the biggest change in all characters, from her first appearance in Heir of Fire to this book. She starts as a cruel, cold-hearted, and bloodthirsty witch, then undergoes a painful series of challenges involving her family, friends, clan, and beliefs that transforms her. Manon has suffered abuse by her grandmother, the powerful leader of her witch clan, from the time she was little. She grows to believe she has no heart, but along the way she starts to question her beliefs and her grandmother’s doctrine. As the series draws to a close, she emerges as a powerful, clever, and compassionate leader.

Be the bridge, be the light. When iron melts, when flowers spring from fields of blood — let the land be witness, and return home.
Manon suffers a great loss, but also receives a great “gift”. (It’s not a gift really, but I’m at a loss as to how to explain without revealing a huge spoiler.) I hope that one day Maas will gift Manon with her very own story.

Favorite cameo appearance

I was delighted to discover an unexpected and tasty treat tucked away in a panorama of parallel worlds: a brief glimpse of two other favorite Maas characters — Feyre and Rhys — from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series:
She passed through a world of snowcapped mountains under shining stars. Passed over one of those mountains, where a winged male stood beside a heavily pregnant female, gazing at those very stars. Fae.
Was it all worth it?

I laughed, I cried, and I continually alternated between happy and anxious for this cast of remarkable characters who have let me accompany them for 7 looong books and a few novellas (which are now available as book #0.5). IMO the Throne of Glass series is epic. The world building and mythology run deep, it is sweeping in scope and sometimes heart stopping in action. It was a fantastic journey for me.

I recommend the series to those of you who want to dive into a fantasy world, immerse yourselves completely, and surrender to a thrilling and tumultuous ride.
We came to honor a promise made to Aelin Galathynius. To fight for what she promised us.
“And what was that?”
“A better world.”
We thank this amazing author every day
for Aelin and her friends Source

Wench Kathi

I loved this book!! In part, I’m not gonna lie, because it was finally the last book in a series I began to think would never end. But it was a really good book, all on its own — though without reading what came before, you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on and who the throngs of thousands were.

It was a loooong book, but it kept my interest most of the time. The battles did seem to go on and on, but by focusing on a few main characters at a time and making it personal, Maas kept those scenes from devolving into endless vistas of faceless cogs in a machine. Except when the Valg legions showed up, when she wanted me to feel that way — which generally inspired terror, not boredom.

Source

I thought Maas did a fabulous job of letting her characters grow and complete their epic quests. She tied up all the story lines, and despite a death count in the bazillions — unlike a notorious epic fantasy author whose final books we’re still awaiting — left most of my favorites alive to enjoy the better world they’d dedicated themselves to creating. That doesn’t mean I didn’t cry, though, because Maas ripped my heart out in a couple of places. And like Wench Merit says, Maas excels at torturing her characters (and indirectly, her readers) to “see what they’re made of”, much like sadistic devious Outlander author Diana Gabaldon.

I’m feeling deeply satisfied by the way all the couples ended up. Their reward for unflappable courage and perseverance in the face of the seemingly unwinnable. Their triumphs over their insatiable enemies, over their preordained, ill-fated destinies and martyrdom, and over their stubborn short-sightedness about their romantic destinies. I’m blissfully happy about the future of everyone I care about. I’m not ashamed to admit that I particularly enjoyed a couple of really nasty comeuppances. I’m also relieved that the ghastly gigantic spider aliens played a minimal role, mostly offstage, in this book. They were too grotesque for words and absolutely terrifying.

A series worth rereading

Maas started writing the first book in this series when she was 16. The world she created, the stories, and the characters were compelling, which (along with Merit’s glowing recommendation) kept me picking up the next book, but she wasn’t yet a master of her craft. I’ve enjoyed watching her writing evolve along with her characters. The depth and breadth of her world and her heroines’ roles have grown by orders of magnitude, and the series has become much greater in scope than the first books ever led me to suspect. It has been the best kind of reading treat!

Source

I say heroines, because Maas has created an entire team of fierce and powerful females from diverse backgrounds who band together to save the world, each using her unique skill or type of magic. Each could easily helm her own spinoff series. There is a smorgasbord of delectable males, have no fear, but by this final book, the females have moved to the center of every stage.
“Walk with me.” She gestured to the gates behind her. “All of you.”

This day did not belong to her alone. Not at all.

And when they all balked, Aelin walked forward. Took Yrene Westfall by the hand to guide her to the front. Then Manon Blackbeak. Elide Lochan. Lysandra. Evangeline. Nesryn Faliq. Borte and Hasar and Ansel of Briarcliff.

All the women who had fought by her side, or from afar. Who had bled and sacrificed and never given up hope that this day might come.

“Walk with me,” Aelin said to them, the men and males falling into step behind. “My friends.”
This is a series I feel a strong need to read again, so I can catch the lengthy procession of clues and details I missed the first time through. Not any time soon, but after I’ve had time to catch up on some of the other books that accumulated in my TBR pile while this series kept me mesmerized for months. I think it’ll be one of those rare series (like Fever and Outlander) that is even better the second and third time around because of all the foreshadowing and layers of development I’ll be able to appreciate.

Favorite side character

Aelin Source
There are so many strongly developed characters that it’s hard to have a favorite. Aelin Ashryver Whitethorn Galathynius, of course, is my ultimate favorite. I couldn’t have read eight exceedingly lengthy books recounting her exploits if she weren’t.


But by the end of the series, there’s an embarrassment of riches in characters we love, and the majority of them are female. They are strong, smart, tenacious, and loyal, never losing focus on their mission to banish their powerful oppressors and build a better world. Never compromising the compassion and love at their core.

If forced to choose, I’d have to say that Lysandra is my favorite other character. What an utter delight she turned out to be! If you’ve read only the first book or two in the series, you might be wondering WTF. Keep reading. (Maas is pretty good at those twists. I always get a good laugh out of comments from newbies who are hankering for more Feylin when they pick up A Court of Mist and Fury. Keep reading, ha ha ha ha ha.)

Like Aelin and numerous other characters, Lysandra develops entire new dimensions in later books. Your head might spin at the way Maas takes everything you thought you knew about Lysandra and upends it. But Lysandra and I are soul mates, connected deep within our stealthily vigilant, feral, feline core. She inspires me to aim for new heights of bravery, strategy, resilience, loyalty, perseverance, and innovative problem solving — even if I can soar amongst the clouds, plumb the ocean depths, and prowl the night forests with her only in my dreams. She never compromises what’s in her heart and soul. And her magic is way cool. She’s my hero.

Lysandra fanart Source

Rare archival image of me
and my cub in the wild

That’s not to say this series doesn’t have plenty of males to cheer for and lust over. They’re there, they’re badass, and they’re droolworthy. But IMHO the females really shine in this series, brighter and in greater number than I’m accustomed to.

What’s next?

Maas is working on a third series that’s due out late next year — an adult fantasy series called Crescent City — and we’re so on board with this we can’t even sit still right now. There’s not much information on the interwebs, but here’s what Goodreads says about it:
Set in a world where humans struggle to survive amid intricate hierarchies of demons, shifters, angels, and countless other magical creatures, Crescent City tells the story of half-human, half-Sidhe Bryce Quinlan. After the brutal slaying of her best friend, Bryce joins forces with a powerful warrior-angel to hunt down the killer, leading them toward a treacherous enemy that could destroy the fabric of their world. Source

In the meantime, we’re suffering from major book withdrawal and trying to remember what we used to do before we spent every evening captivated by our fictional Throne of Glass companions! Is it too soon to reread ACoTaR again?

We rate Kingdom of Ash:


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