I have to admit; I expected more from this book. I kind of went into it, not knowing what to expect, mainly because I’m not the biggest fan of Chaol anymore. The story started super slow, and it just felt like I was having tons of information-pushed onto me; however, during the second half, it picked up and became a lot more interesting.
This book is based on Chaol and Nesryn’s experience in Antica as they rally armies for Aelin’s war and heal Chaol’s spinal injury. Most of this book is just getting to know the southern continent and the royal family and how the empire rules, with little action. This kind of bothered me, just because I felt like a lot of the information just wasn’t necessary to the war building in the north, which is what they were sent to help with.
The most important part of this book was the healing of Chaol from his spinal injury that left him paralyzed from the battle in the glass castle in Queen of Shadows. Chaol meets a gifted healer named Yrene Towers, who was also the woman Aelin saved as Celaena in The Assassin’s Blade. Yrene works on Chaol every day since their arrival and eventually begins to make progress. We discover that Chaol’s injury was magical and that Antica plays a massive role in the history of healers, the Fae, and the Valg.
Along with all of that, we discover some interesting information about Queen Maeve of the Fae. More like Queen Maeve of the Valg. This completely shocked me, and I had to put the book down and just let it process for a minute. Yes, I do mean the Queen Maeve that has Aelin currently in an iron coffin.
As shocking as this information was, it could make or break the war brewing in the North. We also learned that the Stygian spiders are actually Valg foot soldiers and are called to fight.
Chaol Westfall is the main character in this book. I think we see a lot of development with Chaol as he battles all the events of the past and how they’ve affected him as a person. A lot of events such as the beheading of Sorscha, or not telling Aelin about Nehemia have weighed down on him and made him a colder person than he needed to be. I think that his realization that not everything is his fault, and he helped as best as he could, is a beautiful part of the story. It made me like him a little better as a character after the events of Nehemia’s death.
Nesryn was a character who didn’t know if I should trust from the beginning of the book. She was kind of a side character in the previous books and was never that important to the storyline, however, with her being in her home city, it showed parts of her I didn’t know yet. I liked how much I learned about her from seeing her interact with her family, or from seeing her and the royals of Antica. Nesryn grew on me as a character, and I found myself more interested in her part of the story as the book went on.
Yrene is the most interesting character, in my opinion. I loved reading about her in The Assassin’s Blade and loved her even more in this book. I found that she carried the first part of the book and kept me wanting to read instead of put the book away, and she got even better in the second half when she realized that she is the key to all their problems and could save everybody.
Chaol and Yrene developed a sort of enemies to lovers relationship. I think that it is precisely what both of the characters needed to finally get their affairs in order and work towards the war and helping everyone. It was the perfect push the story required, too, as it was getting kind of boring with just working towards rallying armies that seemed were never coming.
“Aelin frightens everyone…But not him. I think that’s why she fell in love with him, against her best intentions. Rowan beheld all Aelin was and is, and he was not afraid,”
This book took place in the city of Antica. Chaol and Yrene were mostly placed in the Khagan’s palace and the Torre Cesme. The Khagan’s palace sounded incredibly luxurious, and exactly what I expected a palace to be. It is the complete opposite of what Rifthold’s glass and stone castle were like, and I love that such a warm place exists in a world that is so dark.
The Torre Cesme sounded magical. Every aspect of it, from Yrene’s description of a large white tower that greeted her from the moment she set foot on Antica’s shores to the farewell it gave her when she departed, it sounded magical. I think that a place where healers who save people and give lives instead of taking them is beautiful, and I’m glad such a place exists in the Throne of Glass world.
Along with all of this happening in Antica, there was also the Aerie, where Sartaq and Nesryn spent some time. This also sounded very homey, despite the cold described outside. It seemed as if a family lived there, which they did, and I think that is another fascinating aspect of the kingdom that Nesryn and Chaol visited. Everyone is kinder than in Rifthold, and it seems like a city of peace, and I liked that.
The writing in this book did disappoint me at times if I’m honest. The book was slow in the beginning, and it was super hard to get into. I was struggling with paying attention half the time. Despite all of this, it did pick up in the second half with a lot more action and more explicit descriptions and overall less information overload.
I recommend this book to any fantasy lover who loves new worldbuilding. There is a lot of information given to you, which I didn’t enjoy, however, it did get a lot better, and once it was described, it was easy to visualize. I’m excited to get back to Aelin and her court and the events in Empire of Storms.