10. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

I put off reading this book for so long because I didn’t want to admit that the story was coming to an end. This series filled a hole within me and has come to mean so much to me. When I finally came to read it I was filled with sadness that it was coming to an end up also joy because the characters I’ve come to love were getting the ending they so deserved. I sacrificed hours of sleep last night – which I’m regretting this headache morning – to finish reading this book and can say that at the end of this series I am content with all that happened in this book and all the characters endured and survived.

The synopsis of this book is as follows:

Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to assassin to queen reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world . 

She has risked everything to save her people – but at a tremendous cost. Locked in an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will to endure the months of torture inflicted upon her. The knowledge that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, but her resolve is unravelling with each passing day.

With Aelin imprisoned, Aedion and Lysandra are the last line of defence keeping Terrasen from utter destruction. But even the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save the kingdom. Scattered throughout the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian must forge their own paths to meet their destinies. And across the sea Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen – before she is lost to him.

Some bonds will deepen and others be severed forever, but as the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight if they are to find salvation – and a better world.

Ability to read – Was good, however, I did struggle a little and that did slow down my pace when reading. This book more than the others in the series switched POV and scene regularly through each chapter. This is always a difficulty for me, I struggle to process the information through the continual changes. It wasn’t a huge problem but one I thought was worth mentioning. It did cause me to read at a slower pace so that I understood everything that was happening and so that I didn’t miss anything or find myself accidentally speed reading.

Even though I was reading at a slower pace, I still managed to demolish this book within three days. It helped that I already knew all the characters at play because it made their voices stronger and made it easier for me to concentrate and not get so lost at each point of POV change.

Characterisation – Where to start?

Aelin – Aelin’s character development has been a joy to watch over the course of the series. Like an onion, she has many layers and I have often wondered if we would ever get to see them all. The sheer will of power and determination she has is admirable. She is so inspiring as a character and shows such strength in the face of those that do her harm. Watching her rise up from the ashes as each attack has been placed on her shoulders was addictive. Watching her turn from slave to assassin, from exiled to princess, from captured to Queen made me love the character beyond anything I’d ever imagined. Sarah J. Maas made a character that was incredibly easy to get behind. Aelin is a character who doesn’t show that vulnerable side often but when she does you know it’s for real and you know it’s something you should be there for.

I feel like I learnt more about Aelin than I have learnt with every character before her – in this series and from other books – She was a mastermind in secrets and always had the knowledge she needed to attain the upper hand against her enemies. Nothing she ever did felt forced or too unbelievable. The way Aelin was written made you understand why she was the way she was and how she had survived all she had endured. It made you want to see her journey through to the end and I certainly lived for the moments where we got to see a more sensitive vulnerable side to her.

Her relationship with other characters was joyous to watch because although she started as closed-off, watching her lower her shields and actually form bonds with others was rewarding. I thought it incredible that Aelin, Dorian and Chaol remained friends through all their trials and tribulations. With all they had each gone through, it would have been easy to have the bonds sever but it was comforting to see that they remained bound by the events they’d shared.

I was overjoyed by the end and wept a tear for Aelin, for the hope she represented and for the better world she wanted to create.

Rowan – Prior to this book it took me a while to warm to Rowan because I didn’t know if he was a character that was going to stick around. I’d read as Aelin ended the two relationships in her life and didn’t want to get attached to Rowan less she do the same to him. Yet, he niggled his way into my heart and mind anyway. Rowan’s coldness and battle calculations proved himself as a worthwhile character as he charged ahead and ensured that Aelin became a better version of herself.

I howled with him when they were separated, cried tears at their separated pain and sobbed when they were reunited. Rowan was the perfect mate for Aelin; calm when she was the storm, home when she was lost, joy when she was sad, comfort when she was alone. Everything Aelin couldn’t verbalise, Rowan showed in his actions and words. I was awed by how perfectly the two fitted together and how together they became something more than mere characters to me.

Rowan had the patience of a saint! To walk beside Aelin and not worry over every secret and every decision she made. He was there with her regardless of what decisions she made or actions she took and never made her feel worthless. In his own right Rowan was a strong character – he is not a character made just for Aelin but a character with thoughts and feelings of his own. It was interesting to see him develop over time and interact with the other people that were important to Aelin. His relationship with his fellow fae brothers was important, especially those he’d been in service with and watching them transfer their loyalty from one Queen to another was something I found very rewarding.

Dorian – In the beginning I didn’t think much of Dorian. He started as an extra character that I hadn’t spent much time getting to know. To see Dorian become such a powerful and strong character was rewarding to read. He became so much more than I thought he would be and had such depth to his character that by the end of the series I was happy with all he had accomplished and with who he was. I saw Dorian as a strong character, a character who had been flushed into the limelight and was coping in his own way.

Much of his life seemed doused in darkness and I worried while he wore the collar if we’d ever see Dorian again. Like Aelin, Dorian overcame so much to become a better person and be standing at the end of everything. Dorian used his hardships to fight through all the darkness and still retained the essence of who he was as he shifted through different forms and travelled across many plains meeting many people and discovering more and more about himself.

Chaol – I was constantly warring with myself over whether or not I liked Chaol as a character. He was easy to love and easy to hate at the same time. His relationship with Dorian annoyed me at first because I found Chaol to be a little too whiny for my tastes. However, I grew to love the relationship between Chaol and Dorian the more I read about it.

Chaol was an interesting character and for me, the slowest character to change. There was a lot of stubbornness in Chaol and a hesitance to want anything to change and believe it could change. Chaol’s travels to the south changed my opinion of him and as I watched him grow and take down the walls around himself, I began to believe that he was becoming a better person and that he was open to change.

Chaol’s relationship with Aelin will always aggravate me. I never felt like Chaol accepted Aelin for who she was, even when she was using the name Celeaena. I always felt like he expected more from her or expected her to become the version he saw in his mind. He was never very trusting of Aelin and always doubted her in some way or another and I found that made him difficult at times to like. Aelin will always be the heart of the story for me and I got frustrated when other characters didn’t see or didn’t appreciate all she was doing.

At the end however, I could appreciate Chaol as a character. I might not have liked certain aspects of him but he still became a character that impressed me.

Manon – I loved the addition of Manon and the Ironteeth/Crochan’s. Manon became a new light of unattainable darkness that Dorian could fight for. Watching the two of them interact was like watching flames in a fire fight each other. There was an elegance to their interactions and a deep passion that seemed to simmer below the surface of the dialogue they shared.

At first, adding another component to the series seemed ridiculous to me when there were already so many different aspects of the books to digest and understand.

Watching Manon grow as a character and defy all she was raised to believe was one of the best points for me. It was a character change that was important to show that it was possible for the idea that a ‘better world’ could be achieved. The comradery between Manon and her thirteen was warming and exceptional to read about. It made Manon seem more human at a time when she was anything but and seeing her vulnerable side made me want to connect with her more.

The Manon I read about in the last battle was beyond anything I would have expected to read from my first introduction to her. She fought with bravery and determination. Manon after the battle filled my heart with sorrow and compassion. The love she had for her thirteen and the way she chose to remember them will stay with me for a while I think. The idea that flowers were now blooming in a place that never thought to be good again, was joyous made Manon’s sacrifices during the course of the books seem worth the pain.

Maeve – I never expected Maeve to become who she was. I had always wondered what drove her and why she wanted to attain Aelin so completely but I’d put it down to actions of Aelin’s ancestors a millennia ago and assumed that Maeve was just stubborn when it came to holding a grudge.

Maeve was a hidden character, meaning she didn’t truly reveal who she was until the last few moments. Whatever thoughts I’d had in my mind for the reason behind Maeve’s actions, nothing could have prepared me for what the actual reason. The truth behind Maeve’s character bought new complexity and depth to the story being told and added a layer of weight to Aelin’s shoulders. There were moments in this last book where I thought Maeve would triumph at the last moment and though those moments were adrenaline fuelled to read, I loved them because the mystery behind Maeve drew me further into the story.

Aedion – I never entertained the prospect that Aelin would have family that was still living. I never entertained the possibility that people would be searching for Aelin or that there was a fraction of people that believed her to still be alive but here was Aedion proving all of that wrong.

In this finale, Aedion became more of an intense presence, both with his actions and his thoughts. He was able to lead everyone when no one knew what was happening and when they were running around like headless chickens, Aedion was able to restore some sense of balance or peace. Aedion became so much more than a warrior within the pages of this book and his fight with his feelings for Lysandra gave me all the feels of ‘will they won’t they’ and made me more inclined to fight for the two characters.

I think Aedion survived so much for the chance to return to Terrasen and see his Queen crowned. I learnt so much about the power of hope through Aedion and the power of strength and love. Aedion returned hope to the people as much as Aelin did and watching him at the end attaining all this had wished for was incredibly satisfying.

Lysandra – Aelin likes to collect wayward souls, that much was clear from very early on in the series. Lysandra was another hope inspiring character who proved that dreams were attainable, wishes were granted and hope carries us through all. Watching as Lysandra rediscovered her magic and what that meant to her endeared me to the character. Her fierce protectiveness towards Evangeline made me fall in love with Lysandra and see the good in the little actions for what they were.

Lysandra had a power to her that no one could take away. She was independent to a fault and just as stubborn as some of the other characters. She threw herself into the grittiness of life on the run and life on a battlefield and never once backed down from the choices she’d mad in life. There were many moments when I thought I would be saying goodbye to Lysandra only to whoop in triumph as she managed to scrape through. Lysandra took her jobs very seriously and valued Aelin as a friend and Queen and took every job given with a determination to get it done.

Erawan – I never thought much of Erawan because he always appeared as an evil without a face. I always knew he was someone that Aelin would have to fight eventually but I never allowed myself to think of who he could be and how he would present himself. Next to Maeve, I was unimpressed by Erawan and by the end, I felt that his demise was justified and that the fear everyone had for him was misplaced. Next to Maeve, Erawan didn’t seem that evil, he became secondary to Maeve as the final book commenced. I still saw him as a dangerous character but not what I’d expected and the final reveal of him was disappointing.

Elide – I will always have a soft spot of Elide who rose up from the ashes of her life with a fierce determination and rode through all life threw at her with grace and stubbornness. Elide knew what she wanted from life and it was interesting to watch her change from a meek little thing who had given up on hope into a woman who had a voice and knew how to defend herself from the harrows of life. I thought it justly so that Elide should be the light to Lorcan’s darkness and the driving force behind the change in him. Elide was a powerhouse and she didn’t even know it. I enjoyed watching her grow.

I could go on endlessly listing each character and what I loved about them through the series but then we’d never be done!

Visualisation – The only issue I had was the changing POV and scene changes. It just made the process of visualising what was going on a little harder. I’m well aware that the issue I have with the changes is purely due to my own issues with processing and shouldn’t be an issue to anyone else. Despite reading at a slower pace, I did manage to create a strong visual for all that I was reading about. At no point did I struggle to see what I was reading nor was I jolted out of the text at any point. My visualisation of what I was reading was strong throughout the book and charged with adrenaline as I read through the tension and onto the battle.

Uniqueness – Aelin was such a strong character and she didn’t ever apologise for being the way she was. I found that unique because I think that often enough female leads are ashamed or shown in a weaker light for certain aspects of their characters. It was refreshing to read a character that had been through so much and still didn’t give up. Someone who wasn’t ashamed to show who she was and didn’t belittle or hide any of the negative things she had gone through.

The volume of voices and how they worked together was an interesting point for me. They worked in harmony but still had unique voices of their own. At no point did I find myself lost in chaos or feel like I was struggling to find harmony.

I could probably write ten thousand words on why I loved this book and this series. I am unbelievable sad that it has finally come to an end but I have enjoyed reading the story and hearing about the adventures of all the characters. I have learnt so much in reading this series through the characters and what they have overcome. I feel stronger in myself now and am filled with satisfaction. I know that these books will always be here for me should I need to return to their pages to escape life.

Like the Harry Potter books, this series has become part of me and I will cherish it forever.

Hannah xoxo

One Comment Add yours

  1. Carole says:

    Wow almost an essay on this series of books. Maybe a spoiler saying how it ended. Have read some of the series and they are really interesting and well written.


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