Note: This post will contain spoilers for the entire series, including the ending of Kingdom of Ash! Turn back if you don’t want to be spoiled.
If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you would know that I’ve had my ups and downs with the Throne of Glass series. I read the prequel novellas before the first book was released, and was intrigued by the world and its characters. Throne of Glass itself didn’t impress me, but I followed on because if there’s one thing I can be trusted to do, it’s to follow the hype train. I enjoyed Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, and Queen of Shadows, and have made countless blogging friends through this series, and because of that, reading these books will never seem a waste.
However, I started becoming disillusioned with SJM’s writing with A Court of Wings and Ruin (yes, it took me that long), and haven’t bothered reviewing any of her books since. Kingdom of Ash is the perfect example of why I can’t enjoy SJM’s writing as I once did, so I’m going to do a book rant and get it all out of my system once and for all. As mentioned above, lots of spoilers below!
The Issues with Racial Representation
There are so many characters in this series, I had to resort to using Fandom Wikia while reading Kingdom of Ash because I didn’t even remember 30% of them. And yet most of them have one thing in common: they’re white. Especially the main cast of characters. Elspeth once said “they’re all the same white woman five times” and I have never heard a more accurate description.
We had Nehemia once, but then she got murdered in the most explicit way possible as character and plot advancement for Aelin. Then we had Nesryn, who barely made an appearance and was quickly bundled off to her own spin-off book. There’s the Southern Continent, which seems to be based on Mongolia, along with a mish-mash of other cultures. However, they were kept so far apart from the main storyline for five entire books that when they were introduced in earnest, SJM had to split off an entire novel to explain who they all were. Writers, let this be a lesson, this is the sort of retcon you have to do when you don’t build a diversity into your world from the very beginning.
Then came the Manongate when the book sleeve art for the B&N exclusive edition was released, where Manon was depicted as East Asian, to the surprise of absolutely everyone in the fandom. SJM’s Pinterest for Manon’s character inspiration are littered with art of white women, Bloomsbury has previously endorsed art of Manon as a white woman, there is certainly no indication in the text that she is Asian. And yet, at the last possible minute, they collectively thought it was a good idea to draw the character as Asian? PSA: No one wants this pathetic attempt at racial representation: off-page, last-minute, poorly thought out, and frankly insulting. Good representation aren’t characters as blank canvases, where readers have to imagine their racial identity. If you want to be a good ally, write it down with ink and paper. Have integrity. Have a spine.
The Unrelenting Heterosexuality
As you all know, this entire series has a lot of issues when it comes to representing anything that is not romantic heterosexual relationships that follows the gender binary. SJM’s obsession with the mating bond between females and males span all of her series. It’s honestly laughable at this point, I can’t tell Rhys and Rowan apart anymore because all of their sentences ends with ‘my mate’. It also sounds ridiculous to Aussie and Kiwi readers because we tend to use ‘mate’ to mean ‘friend’. EVEN THE WYVERNS HAVE MATES. Is nothing sacred. Is nothing safe.
Faes in this book are different to humans in that they’re all referred to either ‘male’ or ‘female’, non-binary and transgender people are absolutely not a thing in any of SJM’s world. Even though they live for millennia and there is an entire kingdom filled with them. The one instance that the book could have used to talk about gender identity, as Dorian learns to shape-shift into a woman, it was played for laughs. Complete with him wondering about breasts and wanting to test out how good he would be at masturbating in this body. Just thinking about it gives me a rage-induced headache.
The scene with Dorian also leads to him flirting with Manon in a woman’s body, leading to her snapping at him to turn back, because what could be more uncomfortable than homosexuality? Keeping in mind that a large part of the fandom has interpreted Manon as someone who is interested in wlw relationships since the day she first appeared. SJM used Dorian/Manon to sink that piece of fan-canon well and truly. Not that Manon and Dorian have any actual chemistry, they both feel out-of-character when they are together. We are meant to believe they share an inexplicable (because even SJM can’t explain why) and powerful attraction because god forbid any of these characters end up without a romantic relationship.
In Kingdom of Ash, I almost forgot that Aedion was our bisexual representation, because the rep came from a single throw-away line in Empire of Storms. The only other reference we get to it in the 1000 pages here is when he seeks out one of his commanders for rebound sex because he’s angry at Lysandra.
Another thing I found distasteful about Kingdom of Ash is the obsession with ‘claiming’ when it came to sex. We learn that during Aelin’s torture and subsequent healing sessions, she loses a lot of her scars: the ones she got in Endovier, from surviving countless battles, from her promise to Nehemia, her carranam bond to Rowan. While this is a powerful imagery in itself, it’s somewhat soured by the fact that no matter what Maeve did, the one scar that remained the longest was the ‘claiming’ scar from the first time she had sex with Rowan. Because out of all the other events in her life, their consummation and mating bond takes precedent. Yet this book is meant to be the feminist answer to LOTR (let’s not kid ourselves, Aelin is basically Aragorn), sounds fake but OK.
The LOTR Rip-Offs
There is a line between homage and plagiarism, and with Kingdom of Ash SJM takes that line, burns it, and salts the earth. I would wager that most fantasy fans have watched LOTR at least a couple of times, so I don’t know how she thought she would get away with passing off entire scenes and dialogues as original content.
In previous books, we have already seen instances where phrases from LOTR and GoT were re-purposed as though SJM just came home from a garage sale:
- “To whatever end.”, the 2nd most uttered phrase when it comes to Rowan/Aelin, right after ‘my mate my mate my mate x24527’, comes from Theoden’s most triumphant scene in The Two Towers.
- “You bow to no one.”, with regards to Aelin, comes from what Aragorn tells the Hobbits at his own coronation at the end of the trilogy.
- “The Queen Who Was Promised” came straight out of GRRM’s prophecies in ASOIAF, who also goes by Azor Ahai, who wields Lightbringer, and is also known as the Son of Fire. Sounds familiar? I know prophecies are fires are dime a dozen in fantasy, but the similarities here are uncomfortably close.
- Orynth, with its white walls and snow capped peaks is pretty much an amalgamation of both Minas Tirith and Winterfell.
- As mentioned above, Aelin’s journey very much mirrors that of Aragorn. The lost heir to a powerful throne, spent years in the wilderness denying their claim, joined forces with the elf/faes to reclaim it, has an immortal elf/fae as consort.
- That moment where Nehemia names Aelin Elentiya, she used this line: ‘I give you this name to use with honour, to use when other names grow too heavy. I name you Elentiya, ‘Spirit That Could Not Be Broken.” , and it sounds so similar in tone and cadence to the way Galadriel describes the light of Earendil to Frodo. The name Elentiya even sounds Elvish, and sits discordant with the other naming conventions in Eyllwe.
- The famous ““You could rattle the stars.” that people loves to slap on mugs and graphics (I have done it myself once), actually came from Treasure Planet.
In Kingdom of Ash, we take it one step further, with so many of the war-related scenes immediately revoking memories of The Two Towers and Return of the King. So much so that instead of reading the book for the night, I ended up rewatching LOTR instead.
- Manon gathers the witches to go to war by starting a series of beacons, lit all across Erilea, from snow-capped mountains to the woodlands… this was such a powerful scene, and it also came directly from the RoTK segment where Pippin helps Gondor call for aid. I was so mad at this direct rip-off that I could not read the book for hours afterwards. This is one of my favourite cinematic moments of all time. HOW DARE SHE?
- The wall defences of a city is completely sound, except there’s one more way in, through a grate in the water canal. We’re not even trying to pretend this is not exactly Helm’s Deep. There is even a scene where someone asks if there’s a secret passage the women and children can escape through!
- The speech that Haldir gave when he arrived in Helm’s Deep, uniting the elven and human forces, is paraphrased at least three times in this book. Most notably when Manon brings the Crochan witches to fight alongside the humans. She actually says “Long ago, Crochans and humans fought side by side…”
- In that same clip I linked above, Legolas says “that is no orc horn”, guess what, Lysandra says the exact same thing in this book – replacing ‘orc’ with ‘Morath’, because we don’t really wanna be sued here.
- New lore in Kingdom of Ash dictates that there are kingsflame blossoms, which only blooms when the kingdom is at peace and the rightful monarch is on the throne… totally does not sound ripped off from the White Tree of Gondor at all.
There are many more instances, such as the dam unleashing the force of the river onto Isengar– I mean the city of Anielle. So much of the second half of this book felt like a montage cut and pasted from LOTR. It really calls to question the originality of this entire series. What does it say about SJM’s ability when so many of the most beautifully written moments in these books are not entirely her own work?
SJM Becoming A One Trick Pony
Never mind the liberal usage of LOTR content, SJM also pilfers direct scenes and plot points from her previous books. Honestly, if you have read A Court of Wings and Ruin, you don’t need to bother with Kingdom of Ash because the ending is exactly the same.
- The main character sacrifices their life for humanity, to be called back by sheer force of the mating bond.
- The main character are not allowed to come into harm’s way, and will survive a number of scenarios that would have killed a lesser mortal. They are not allowed to suffer any actual loss or sacrifice anything of note. Aelin’s biggest sacrifice for this entire book was giving up her human mortality and human form to seal the gods away. You mean she has to be a beautiful, immortal, magic-blessed fae forever? WHAT A NOBLE SACRIFICE. WHAT LOSS.
- A multitude of powerful forces shows up at the last possible moment just to help them defeat the great evil just because. What’s the need for foreshadowing or world building when you can just throw a random legion of Wolf-Faes into the fray at chapter 102 of the final book?
- A whole load of het couples angsting about their bond and their desires for one another, while the world is ending in another 3 seconds.
- A lot of Rhys/Aelin posturing about how they are fair rulers who will do things by democratic votes, except they always get to make the call on the most important decision, such as dying and leaving the kingdom without the ruler because noble plot twist.
- A saccharine sweet ending where no real loss or sacrifice has taken place, where traumas are wiped clean, and everyone is just thinking about building libraries and theatres and making babies.
SJM does not have it in her to make her characters confront mortality or old age or long-lasting trauma. You’ll just get pretty words and a few dream sequences.
The only people who ended up actually sacrificing themselves in this book was Manon’s Thirteen. Who were the few remaining characters I actually cared about in this book. The sisterhood of powerful women were largely ignored in Kingdom of Ash in favour of bad Manon/Dorian sex scenes. When they did feature they imploded themselves to save everyone’s asses and fulfil one of SJM’s boring prophecies. I am the most bitter about this particular plot point.
I think I have to come to terms with the fact that SJM peaked at ACOMAF for me. I did enjoy some of this book, especially in the first half, but as you can see there was a whole lot more I was pissed about. I feel exhausted. It’s been a long seven years. What did you think of the finale?
46 thoughts on “Book Rant: Kingdom of Ash”
I’m actually on the last book now, and Aelin losing all of her scars makes me so mad. It almost makes me want to quit the book because those scars are memories of Aelin! Why the hell would SJM do that? I mean, I get it makes a great scene, but she took away almost everything about Aelin.
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I admit I came to read the spoilers and the salt because I’m so so over this series 😂So this was GREAT and very therapeutic. :’) I haven’t read any SJM since Queen of Shadows came out?! I couldn’t stand the (word for word) Game of Thrones lines rip offs?! I’d just been reading GoT so it was like, “Um is this legal to?” 😂But that’s the least of the troubles here with all the problematic diverse rep (can we call it rep??? *raises eyebrow*) and the crushing need for everyone to be straight and white and having sex at any possible moment…and growling. Ah hhahah. Anyway. I was a little interested to see how it would end so 🙊🙊I’m good now! Done forever!
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I’ve never read this series. I started Throne of Glass but the prose felt so flat and childish I gave up. I’m here for the same reason 😂
Thank you for reading this trashfire series so the rest of us don’t have to. I also gave up at Wings and Ruin, and have never picked up Throne of Glass, but I think there’s a sense that you have to have a stance on SJM to be a relevant book blogger.
To be honest, the last minute Asian-ness of Manon left a hugely bad taste in my mouth as she’s also the character whose mainly associated with dragons. I also want to bleach my mind now after hearing about Dorian’s gross shapechanging scene.
Wow. This review was so honest and I loved it! I’ll admit that I never even completed book two of the series and I’m glad I DNF’ed it because from what I’ve heard about how the story develops, it just gets more annoying and unoriginal. I loved Dorian in book one, but from what people have said about him later on in the series, he’s a complete jerk and is only there for sex. It makes me quite sad. I used to feel guilty about judging SJM’s books (mainly ToG, as I liked ACoTaR), but this review sealed my thoughts as unpleasant towards this series. I wish that all her characters weren’t all of the same mold (this happens with ACoTaR, too). Again, thank you for writing this!!!
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I did consider to read the series but more and more of what I’ve heard about this series, the more and more I decided not to. This review helped me cement my decision. You did a great job.
Wow. I came here because I saw your tweets about the LotR rip-offs and…I have no words. So glad I read book one of this series and quit. I enjoyed the ACOTAR trilogy. It was entertaining. But that’s probably enough SJM for me for life.
I’ve never read any SJM but miiiight give ACOTAR a shot someday. I’m not super excited about her books.
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Just ugh. I’ve read many of SJM books and they are enjoyable (to an extent) but it does bother me how many elements of the books are just plain old problematic for me and I hadn’t even considered how glaringly white her worlds were and how little representation there is and when it is there it feels strong armed in. My problem was always the fact romance came first even when there were far more important things to consider. If many of the lengthy sex scenes and unnecessary romance was edited out of her books then they would be a whole lot shorter and possibly more enjoyable. I think there were many things SJM could have done a whole lot better with her books and I can only hope that she learns to do better in the future but I don’t hold out much hope.
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The LOTR ripoffs really, really bother me! And I would throw the book across the room for stealing one of my favorite moments, ever, in Return of the King. Also, I watch the extended edition just to get the lights being lit last longer. Okay, I cry while Pippin is trying to light the light, and once the message is sent, I’m literally weeping. 😭
I decided after Heir of Fire that these books were basically all the fantasy SJM really liked mashed into one series whiteout any originality. I enjoyed Tower fo Dawn because it was different, but I haven’t messed with the last book because it just sounds, omg, awful. AND MANON DESERVES BETTER.
Yes, the situation with Manon and the book cover was a disaster. No one seemed to have thought that through at all, despite it presumably being approved by SO many people.
I would say though, I would disagree with the statement that Manon snapped at Dorian to change back because “what could be more uncomfortable than homosexuality?”. Most of what Manon says to Dorian is snapped at him, and this was in the middle of their big disagreement. Manon doesn’t mess around, it’s just part of her character, so I personally don’t think that this was displaying disgust at homophobic attraction/relationships.
I understand what you’re saying about the mating scar being the last to remain and what message that sends about Aelin and the tone of the series. However, I think it makes complete sense that it was the last to fade. It was the strongest connection in her life. Rowan and Aelin actually had a tangible bond between their two souls, and so I think it makes sense that it didn’t disappear as easily.
This was a very well written review of the issues with SJM’s writing (although I can’t comment on the parallels to LOTR, since I don’t know LOTR that well). I also completely agree on your point of nobody really having to sacrifice a lot. Personally, that didn’t detract anything for me, since I’m very shallow and would always prefer a happily ever after, rather than an actual REAL ending (the ending of the Divergent series was a MASSIVE disappointment to me, for example). But I can completely see why other people would feel differently.
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I haven’t read anything by SJM. I picked up Throne of Glass and couldn’t get into it at the time, and I haven’t revisited since. So I read your post to see if any of the spoilers would be big enough to turn me off the series (I only read your headers / opening lines). I’ve only ever heard praise for SJM, so it was nice to see someone with a differing opinion! Thanks for giving me a lot to think about before I decide whether or not I’m going to bother with this series or not.
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I think her series has the ability to draw people in and get them invested with the characters and relationships. Her writing gets worse with each book though, and if you read even half-way critically there are a lot of flaws and problematic issues with race and LGBTQIA+ rep. H
This is exactly why I’ve quit SJ Maas – all her books basically use the rinse and repeat method, tbh, and I’m no longer here for that
She’s only written two series and she’s already become predictable. T R A G I C.
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What a mood
I agree with everything, except for the hate of the HEA ending. I’ve invested a lot of time in these characters and I just want them to be happy, have babies, etc. It’s really sad that having a family is now seen as something bad. Why can’t people be strong, indipendant AND have a husband/wife and children? Anyway, great review 😀
I never said I saw the family as something bad. I feel the book’s ending is cheap because Aelin’s greatest sacrifice is her mortal human self…. which let’s be honest isn’t really a sacrifice. But it was played for maximum drama. It feels like a cop out. She didn’t even lose a lot of her power cos she managed to keep a significant amount in the sword. I would have been ok with their ending if the book didn’t keep insisting on telling me how much they gave up. Thanks for reading and commenting!
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I’m happy with independent families. Bt SJM’s families aren’t that. They are co-dependents. Every single one of Aelin/Rowan, Rhys/Feyre, Lorcan/Elide, Aedion/Lysandra, Yrene/Chaol have promised something to the effect that they will also die if the other one didn’t survive. For the last couple it’s actually literal, also for Feysand if I didn’t misread the ending of ACOWAR. Romantic love is literally all her characters live for. I find that discordant with the idea that they are independent.
I’m only half way through the book and I’m already exhausted and losing interest.
Oh my God!!!!, *I’m screaming*. I’ve only read LoTR books once but the movies? Just this year alone, I’ve watched the whole trilogy 50X already. i’m not even kidding. It’s because when I’m in a writing or reading slump, I watched something that for me is a Masterpiece. It brings back my creativity. And THIS! Everything you said about the rip-offs made me wanna throw the SJM books I own. Or maybe give them away because I will never read them. Ever.
Anyway, great review. 🙂 🙂
I haven’t read this series, or any of her books, but SJM has something I don’t like, and I don’t know why. Thanks for sharing this review, I thought about reading ToG.. but it’s a really long series, and it seems I had a really wrong idea of the plot in my mind.
I haven’t read this series, but I keep seeing “The Queen Who Was Promised” in swirly font all over Instagram and thinking GRRM’s lawyers will have a field day with this one! The whole mate thing bothers me in books too because, being English, mate is something you call someone to ask them to meet you in the pub. I’m sure it sounds wonderful and romantic in the head of authors but it just sounds ridiculous to me. Great post!
Thank you for this. I would like to point out that your usage of “bad” when you refer to “bad Manon/Dorian sex scenes” seems repetitive as I find all of her sex scenes to be dry af. I read the ACOTAR series in spite of them, but just didn’t have it in me to read the last “book.” I read Throne of Glass and planned to finish the series at some point. You’ve spared me a lot of unnecessary pages, I think.
First thing: if you started to lose interest in her books so much, then why did you read the last book? Also, maybe if you actually read the book, you might remember the names of the characters.
Second: Allow me to name all of the LGBTQ characters in TOG
50% of the witches from the thirteen
And that’s not counting fenrys, who’s probably bi and Lysandra who, yes takes a form of a female, but has trouble with taking a form of a male. And are you LGBQT? I am. And have no trouble with her books.
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Omg, a handful of background characters and half-ass last minute rep. We should fall to our knees in gratitude. Look, I’m happy for you that you accept the scraps this book gives the LGBTQIA+ community. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t criticise it. I run a book blog not a stan account.
And I read the book because as I stated I enjoyed parts of it and the series meant something to me. If you were capable of reading SJM’s unedited and bloated book, you should be able to comprehend my 2k blog post.
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I only read the first three books and had to stop. I felt like the third book was SJM’s way of writing a whole new series for her characters and was just confused.
I loved ACOMAF and was a bit disappointed with ACOWAR. That’s a shame that SJM has a formula already.
Um, what happened to Chaol?
Wow, I’m hearing and nodding in agreement with everything I’m reading in this. I quit around book three because I was tired of everyones head collectively getting shoved up Aelins perfect Faery backside. My relationship with Maas’s writing is complicated to say the least. I like her and she once wrote me a wonderful email encouraging my writing that I greatly appreciated. But her creative decisions leave me shaking my head.
I was a fan of Maas waaaay back during her time on fictionpress (in that version she ends up with Dorian) and while it was full of cliches I enjoyed it for what it was, fun. Aelin/Celaena was a huge Mary Sue and but I saw Maas’s potential and hoped that with time her characters could get more depth. When she pulled her story down to try to get it published I genuinely wished her luck
But when I got to book three of the series I had to stop. I know all of Maas’s favorite books and movies and they’re all on display here in various unsubtle derivative forms. Sure, a LOT of writing is derivative-especially in fantasy but there’s a difference between taking something old and making it entirely fresh and wholesale lifting and barely disguising it. Which reminds me thanks for explaining the origin of the much lofted “rattle the stars” quote, when I read it originally it tweaked some familiarity in my brain but I couldn’t pinpoint where I’d heard it. Also something to add “Wyrdmarks” are basically wholesale lifted “Charter Magic” from the Old Kingdom/Sabriel series, which bugged me more than a little bit.
I’ll read Maas’s Crescent City series and I’ll still give her chances as I don’t completely dispise her works, but I am a little disappointed and I hope I won’t be in the future.
I think SJM’s writing just isn’t for me. I’m currently reading Kingdom of Ash, and it took me a while to read it without getting distracted. I liked Crown of Midnight, Tower of Dawn, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and A Court of Mist and Fury. Even then, I didn’t love them. I just found them enjoyable enough. That’s four books out of eleven. I figured A Court of Wings and Ruin would give us some indication as to how SJM will end the Throne of Glass series. I always assumed that SJM wouldn’t be bold with her ending. Each character she writes is perfect in her eyes, and somehow they are all the greatest people alive. For the first three books, I really liked Dorian and Chaol. Now, I really only like Chaol. I’m also not done with Kingdom of Ash, so I don’t know how long that will last. I really can’t differentiate between her characters. I agree completely with you on everything you said in this review. I bought into the hype, and it never lived up.
One thing I would like to add—SJM’s Wyrd marks are directly taken from Garth Nix’s Sabriel, which she has claimed many times she loved as a kid. In Sabriel, Charter marks are used in naming and spells, exactly how SJM uses them in her own works. Frustrating to see brilliant pieces of fantasy being ripped off.
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All of this. I loved the first couple books when she was still Celaena, and even when she first started owning her Aelin identity. She was badass and conniving and flawed. So, so flawed for an MC. Then things shifted into fae/queen mode and it plummeted downhill. All the things I loved just disappeared.
-LGBT. Yes, I loved Malaki and Emrys, and was excited when Aedion declared himself bi. But nothing came of it. We never saw the former again, and Aedion took on all the problematic Macho!Hetero!Male stereotypes. As a bi person myself I would’ve been fine with him ending up with Lysandra IF it was treated with more nuance.
-Whiteness. Yup, yup, not much to add here.
-cookie cutter characters/plot. Aelin’s Court by the end had the exact same vibe as Rhysand’s. Quirky, powerful, perfect. And all the main cast being perfectly paired off in frankly uncomfortable, abusive-possessive relationships that I disliked in ACOTAR happened exactly the same way. Planning to die rather than live without your mate? Been there, rejected that in the Twilight years.
-nuanced relationships. One of the big things I loved about the early books was that she didn’t get paired off. Her history with Sam was a huge part of her character. Her time with Chaol was meaningful, and affected her even after it was over. Even being with Dorian for that brief time. And then when she and Rowan thought they were carranam, I was delighted at a close platonic hetero relationship. Once she and Rowan committed to each other, though, all the above abusiveness and frankly terrible sex scenes just made me want to retch.
-Aelin’s character growth making her overpowered, but not actually a better person. She still hides major plans from the people who most need to know them. Come on!!
I’m glad I read the final book to have closure, but I feel like I could have happily read the SparkNotes version. Way too long, not enough payoff.
Wow this review is so insightful and eye-opening! I had not thought about this book in that way!
Amazing review Aentee. I too am completely disillusioned with SJM’s writing. I will eventually read this because I want to finish the series because I’ve made it this far and I want to know how it ends. It was also one of the first series I read when I was trying to get back into reading. But I’ve long felt like SJM is obsessed with writing things that are quotable, instead of just writing. I hadn’t even noticed the similar LOTR lines but wow it’s practically plagiarism.
I came here for the spoilers haha I never even finished Queen of Shadows. I’m actually pretty glad I didn’t bother?
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Ahhhhh, coming here after finishing the end of KOA was so stress relieving and therapeutic, because you nailed everything in a nutshell that was niggling me at the time. OMG how hilarious was Dorian’s scene as a woman HAHAHA. Seriously, the book was so long and draggy and nothing much happened but I just have to laugh at the ending and how it all happened so quickly and easily with a HEA. EXACTLY LIKE ACOWAR what a surprise.
My favourite rip off line was when they were like “Erawan sends his regards” OMFG hilarious. Thank GOT for that one.
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Lovely review! I personally really enjoyed this series, but can absolutely see your point about the issues with racial representation, and I too, can’t look past so many of the lines that are blatantly stolen from LOTR and Treasure Planet. I also found so many parallels between the sieges in this book and the battle of Helm’s Deep. I understand that Lord of the Rings has greatly influenced the fantasy genre, but some of the plot points and lines in Kingdom of Ash were far too close to Tolkien’s masterpiece, in my opinion.
I also really appreciate you expressing your honest thoughts about a series that is typically so well-loved! I really enjoyed reading through your review! ❤
Wow, what an interesting review!
I agree with a few of your points, but to a lesser degree. At the end of the day, this book was just boring. There were plenty of exciting bits interspersed so you wouldn’t abandon it, but there was a lot to wade through in-between. I feel that this is true for several of SJM’s novels, thought I still enjoy them much more than others on the market.
I mostly disagree with your characterization of many of these plot points as being ripoffs. A few of the points are fairly unique to certain series’, (like lighting the beacons in LOTR), but mostly are fairly typical tropes to the fantasy/action/romance genre. For instance, some lines like “*insert bad guy’s name* sends his regards.” have been used in various forms throughout the history of witty badguys’ existence. The ones that ARE more unique (like the beacons or the everlasting tree aka tree of Gondor), have been changed pretty dramatically in KOA. I mean 1) an everlasting “flame” or “light” has been a thing since early mythology 2) *the witches carry a torch on their dragon’s back to other witches dispersed across the continent to spread the word* is pretty different from *series of watch towers signal each other to spread the word*.
While there are a few helms deep moments that I felt were perhaps directly derivative, I definitely felt that SJM was just immersed in her world while writing this, and any inspiration she gained (like any person) from other works she loves is purely that–inspirational.
Just my two sense as someone who has read a LOT of amature fantasy manuscripts–many literally lotr fanfic
I used to love SJM’s books, and to some extent, I still absolutely do, but I think you are also very right in your review. I don’t know about the LOTR references, because I never had the attention span to read the book or watch all the movies (don’t ask me how I did manage to finish TOG, I don’t know either), but it seems legit. However, I do think that in principle it is not necessarily a bad thing? I’m an English Lit major and I’ve always been taught that it is previous texts (and in this case also films) that shape both who we are and what we express, which includes our writing. I agree that it is pretty unoriginal to copy this much, but you can also see it as an ode to the GoT and LOTR, once again establishing that these are great works of art. However, credit should be given where credit is due.
I went looking for a review like this because honestly was hoping to find someone who felt the same! I really enjoyed the first few books of both her series, but I think she lost out on a lot of potentially interesting story lines to follow a safe and predictable plot.
ALSO her lack of note-worthy diversity or LQBTQ characters with any real investment behind them. By the end of it- every character seemed to be straight, white, ~~~beautiful and powerful~~~~, and madly in love with someone they had just met. I couldn’t finish Kingdom of Ash which really disappoints me because I think the author and series had so much potential.