*Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Throne of Glass series up till the end of Empire of Storms.*
When I started to read Throne of Glass, Celaena Sardothien was a female YA character unlike any I had encountered before. Sure, YA literature does have its fair share of butt-kicking, sassy heroines. But Celaena was an assassin. An unapologetic one too, with a surprising taste for all things fancy and a love for pretty dresses, tacky romance novels, luxurious baths and chocolate cake. On one hand, she was this ruthless assassin and on the other, she was a surprisingly warm character with a big heart and a rather endearing romantic side. These were the things that made her the fun and complex character that she was.
It's true though that we always knew that there had to be more to her than just her assassin persona. And by the time we had completed Crown of Midnight, we realized that what many of us had suspected for a long time was true. Celaena was none other than the heir to the throne of Terrasen. The long lost princess Aelin Galathynius. And most of us, I think, were happy about this revelation. I know I was. I mean, the series could only get even more exciting from this point onward, right? True, the series wasn't the best literary thing in the world, but it sure was super enjoyable.
For many people, Heir of Fire is when the series started to disappoint. I loved it though. In fact, Heir of Fire is my favorite installment in the series to date. I thought it was interesting to see our strong, and arguably arrogant, assassin dragged back to a point where she had to learn to get her strength back. To me, it only added to her character growth. I loved the platonic relationship that began to grow between her and Rowan. I had never seen something like that in YA before and it was refreshing. By the end of the book, I was rooting for her so hard. She was back to full strength and she was more than ready to kick some ass. The rest of the series would surely have to be pretty great, right?
Then Queen of Shadows happened. And it got to that point where it became clear that somehow along the way, the series had turned into something very, very different from what it had once been. Truth is that the series no more felt like the Throne of Glass series we had been introduced to at all. Sure, things evolve in series but here, the changes were so drastic they almost felt out of place.
Chaol had been mercilessly vilified by Maas, Rowan, our stoic Fae prince was suddenly a love interest for Aelin (more on that in a moment), the story itself now felt like a completely different one but worse of all... Celaena was gone. Changing her name shouldn't have changed who she was as a character but it did. Look, most of us who love the series were reading it for her, badass assassin Celaena Sardothien. But somehow, along the way of coming into terms with her identity as Aelin, she had just become a completely different character.
Her personality felt forced in Queen of Shadows. Her beautiful platonic relationship with Rowan from Heir of Fire? Suddenly it had turned into a crazy romance that totally came out of nowhere, felt very out of character for both of them and was, in my opinion, executed very badly. I remember feeling increasingly frustrated as I read QoS and by the time I finished the book, I realized what was wrong. The old Celaena Sardothien was simply gone.
Empire of Storms then happened and for me, and many other fans of the series, it was the worst installment yet. Around the time Maas started writing A Court of Thorns and Roses, her writing seemed to have taken a drastic turn from YA to adult fantasy and while there is nothing wrong with ACOTAR being for an older audience, in the Throne of Glass series, that change really felt super random and awkward.
If you've read adult fantasy, you've probably come across the numerous hilariously steamy sex scenes. They are part of the genre and while they are often laughable, they kind of go with the whole adult fantasy thing. To see those suddenly pop up in Throne of Glass though really felt jarring.
Empire of Storms was the installment that showed that we really were not reading the same series anymore. Apart from the ridiculous love scenes and the jarring changes in the story, EoS was also the installment in which I connected with Aelin the least. It was when I finished it, and boy that took a long time, that I realized that my main complaint was that I missed the old Celaena. Hell, I missed the days when Celaena was her name.
I'll be honest. I really think the series has taken a turn for the worst from which I don't really see it coming back. I hate how quickly Chaol was discarded. I hate that Maas felt like she had to make us dislike him to justify Celaena replacing him with another lover. Which I've come to realize is her go-to move when she wants her characters to get new love interests (Ahem, Tamlin the Tool, anyone??).
I'll still be reading everything she puts out, for a time at least, and I'll still be reading the Throne of Glass series. Not gonna lie though, I am super skeptical about the next two installments. Book 6, Tower of Dawn doesn't particularly excite me. But perhaps having a book that has a main character other than Aelin might be a bit refreshing. I don't know though. At this point, I'm just hoping the series will end on a satisfying note that will be true to the heart of the story and the characters.
Yes, I miss the old Celaena but I'm still hopeful that Aelin will get a fantastic character arc in book 7. I still have hope for the end of the story too. After all, even as Aelin, she remains a cool character. And despite her jarringly changing writing style and storytelling, Sarah J. Maas remains an author who can put out amazing and super enjoyable books. So I guess, we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the two final entries in the series.