Book Review: Empire of Storms (or, more accurately, my immediate, barely articulate emotional rant)

Holy hunky Rowan Whitethorn! This book!

I can’t even express how much I enjoyed this, but I’m going to try.

First, I saw a lot of people who reviewed it early complaining about the length. My response is that this book proves you can’t have too much of a good thing. And Empire of Storms is nearly 700 pages of a good thing.

Sometimes when you read a book you just feel that it’s been a labor of love. Sarah J. Maas said she’s been trying to get this story told since she was 16, and with every successive book in this series I feel that laborious love pouring out of the pages. Yeah, I’m being dramatic, but I don’t care. This book literally made me laugh, cry, yell, feel a whole range of emotions. My husband occasionally wandered by my reading/knitting room (where I’ve been known to cloister myself) and looked at me like I’d lost my mind. When I hollered not half an hour ago that I’d finished it, he said, “It must have been good. It’s been a while since I’ve seen you get that lost in (read: crazed over) a book.” And then he let me hurriedly try to explain what makes this series one of my favorites and didn’t tease me when tears filled my eyes as I told him about Aelin and her motley band of outcasts, misfits and broken people.

Sarah J. Maas has a habit of tricking me with her books. I’ve said this before about her other series, beginning with A Court of Thorns and Roses. When I first read Throne of Glass, I wasn’t all that impressed. I liked it a lot, but I wasn’t really sure what the hype was all about. I had no idea what the series had in store for me, and it transformed as the tale unwound. She is one hell of a story-teller, and I loved every second of this ride from the first book onward.

And I challenge anyone to find me another series that has this many badass, well-rounded female characters. These women are not cursory, and the supporting female characters are not drowned out by Aelin. Maas has painstakingly, lovingly (there I go again) crafted their stories and their personalities. I am so moved by Elide, Manon (+ her 13 warriors), Kaltain, Elena, Nehemia, Lysandra, Evangeline, even Maeve. Yes, this book was nearly 700 pages. But I loved every second of it, because I wouldn’t trade those moments I got to be with Lorcan and Elide on that boat, or Lysandra and Aedion in their quiet moments, or Manon with Dorian or Abraxos or her 13, for anything. I don’t think anything is sacrificed by adding more characters, so long as she does this with them.

The women in this book did for me what I imagine many of my favorite classic fantasies did for boys who read them and imagined what it would be like to be those heroes. They banter, they flirt, they own their shit, the name their swords and rock an unholy amount of swagger. They scheme, they revenge themselves, they make great, sweeping sacrifices. They do unforgivably selfish things. They lie, they love, and they leave those loves shaking in their wake as the girls take one for the team. They leave their lovers out of their plans for their own good and save their asses, time and time again.

I’ve admitted this is less a review than an emotional, immediate reaction. I haven’t specifically outlined strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve taken pains not to include any overt spoilers. I closed the cover not half and hour ago, and that emotional response says to me that I’m satisfied. Truly satisfied with where this tale is going, where it’s been. I am sure there are things to be critical of, there always are, but I ended this loving the pacing, the plotting, the writing, the characters, all of it.

5/5 stars.

So, yes. Please read this series, but don’t for one second think you know what Maas is going to do. She’s going to surprise you if you give her the chance, even if she’s surprised you before. If you’re like I was, and you’re starting/dawdling in the middle/finishing Throne of Glass and you’re not sure of the pay-off, I’m here to tell you it’s so worth it.

 

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