This book filled me with fear before I even opened the damn thing. I was concerned that 1000 pages wouldn't be enough to finish this series and give every character the resolution/ending they deserved. The world was just that big. With every book in this series, the world Sarah created magnified tenfold. From the places, the people in them and history. It was astounding. And still in this finale we learned more. My biggest fear was assuaged early as each character got more than enough page time. I was concerned that characters like Elide and Lorcan would be pushed to the wayside in favour of the main arcs but the way the groups were divided and handled meant that you were never away from any character for all that long.
After ACOWAR I didn't think that I'd feel scared for any characters in this series because they always seem to magically survive. No. I was wrong. So wrong. I felt terror on virtually every page. No one was safe. It was as though George R R Martin possessed Sarah's body for a while.
This series played a huge part in shaping my reading tastes and helping me find the genre I wanted to write it. I couldn't have wished for a more satisfying ending for these characters.
My one wish is that the reaction Aelin and Fenrys had to what they went through was explored and treated more. In my opinion, it was suggested that they were both suffering from PTSD but there was never any real explicit exploration of this. It was an important arc for them both and the healing seemed to happen suddenly and all at once.
Considering my spoiler section is so long I'll tell you here too. It was a 5* read. Obviously.
How I'm supposed to somehow put this into a clear organisation I don't know.
The fear I felt for all the characters stemmed from Maeve and Cairn's treatment of Aelin. At times I struggled to read. How far they pushed her. How they destroyed her body so utterly that her skin held not one scar. It was utterly horrifying, but it wasn't just Aelin that suffered during this time. Fenrys. Oh my god, that absolutely darling. He was forced to sit and watch the entire thing in wolf form. Unable to relieve himself and tethered to the spot by nothing but a command via the blood oath. The code he and Aelin came up with was such a clever idea and I loved that it became a motif for them throughout the book. Possibly the most awful action for Fenrys was watching Connall. His death was horrifying. Not just for how it was performed with Aelin crouched in the glass but for Fenrys. As a reader I was convinced Connall was going to stab Fenrys, the surprise and shock I felt reading that he stabbed himself. A spectacular piece of writing. The impact of it reverberated throughout the novel. In some ways, it was more harrowing than if Fenrys had been killed.
One of my favourite moment was reading as Fenrys breaking the blood oath. I don't think I've ever cried so hard. The emotion in that few pages, and the following scenes when Aelin, now freed, offers him the blood oath. Oh my lord. It was the reaction of the characters around her too that helped emphasise its importance. The bond between Aelin and Fenrys is one of my favourite things to come out of Kingdom of Ash.
In the meantime in another area of the world, I was nearly screaming at Lysandra's sacrifice on the battlefield, knowing that transforming into Aelin would undoubtedly get her killed but would rally the soldiers. Then the following scenes where Aedion realises what a colossal ass he'd been....and Lysandra's rejection. The venom in her words, that she had been humiliated by men before but never more so than when he forced her to crawl naked through the snow. I completely get it and honestly if she'd just forgiven him it would've been poor. I'm glad they had that moment of 'oh shit, they might not actually get together'. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking maybe they don't get together.
My favourite bloodthirsty witch. Watching Manon become Queen of the Witches after slaying the Yellowlegs matron and humiliating her grandmother was so gratifying. If not for Manon but for Asterin. I couldn't explain how happy I felt. I cried at this too.
What the damn hell. Dorian can shift. I think the way Sarah kept his form of magic purposefully vague was very clever. It definitely makes him super OP but he can't fight all that well in comparison to the others so he does have some weaknesses.
The moment we found out Yrene Towers was pregnant I squealed. If anyone in that series deserves a real happy ending its Chaol. Especially, with that nightmare of a father. But my god she was a force to be reckoned with in front of Chaol's father. I don't think anyone knew what to do in that scene. Aside from me whispering YAAAAAAAS into my blanket at silly o'clock in the morning. I was so happy that Yrene and Aelin met again after so long. It was such a sweet reconciliation.
The wall of Water Aelin obliterated with her flame. Epic. But I think even that was overshadowed by Elide racing onto the battlefield in search of Lorcan. Fulfiling her promise to always find him despite the fact that she loathed herself for loving him after the result of Empire of Storms. Then their declaration of love. I'm thrilled with the treatment of Elide in this series. She has little to no magic, can't fight and still, she is kicking ass. She is such an incredible character who does not allow her disability to define her but instead wears it with pride as a reminder that she survived.
Everyone finding out that Maeve is Valg. Yeah. That happened.
Dorian sneaking into Morath only to find Maeve there and proposing they work together. I about lost my shit. But, he redeemed himself when he tricked Maeve and cutting off her power to teleport...and brought Morath to its knees. Turning it into rubble.
I completely forgot the promise Aelin had Evangeline make, to win her back her Kingdom as a little joke. But she did just that. I adored how Darrow this stuck in his ways hardass melted in front of Evangeline. AND MADE HER HIS WARD TOO. She would inherit two lands now. And made Carravere a recognised place.
Then Aedion and Lysandra almost forgiving each other. I'm so glad this relationship had such a slow burn to it. It was so much more satisfying.
Elide and Lorcan...FINALLY. And it was so sweet 'home. this, with him. this was home, as she had never had'. Again this relationship was handled with such care and I'm so glad how much consent was made apparent with them. When I read that scene I started crying...again. It was the 'home, this, with him' because I now knew what that felt like.
The battle with Lysandra as a Sea Dragon was fantastic. I love how different modes of fighting were utilised throughout the book and the series! It wasn't just land fighting. There was aerial and sea combat.
Abraxos almost being killed had my heart in my mouth. I kept whispering come on Petrah, where are you? AND SHE CAME. I think that was one of the most rewarding moments and technically had been in motion since Manon saved her earlier on in the series. but then THE THIRTEEN PERFORMED THE YEILDING. I had to put the book down. Twelve of the most incredible characters gone in a heartbeat.
Dorian and Chaol meeting again I had been waiting for since they parted and what sweet terms they reunited on 'Well, you're going to be an uncle'. Dorian is already besotted with Yrene as every other character is and rightly so. I'm glad that the men in this series are such criers. They were emotional and sensitive which is such a change from the forever brooding, the unfeeling love interest that seemed so popular in YA once upon a time.
Aelin tricking Dorian into performing the closing of the gate and forging of the lock...only for Mala to give her a way home. Following the map of Wyrdmarks Rowan sneakily inked into her tattoo. So so so clever. Which then led to Aelin arriving on the Lord of the North in front of Lysandra and Aedion but minus her power.
Another reunion I had been waiting for, Gavriel and Aedion. After Chaol's meeting with Gavriel, I couldn't wait to see how this played out. But then Garviel's subsequent sacrifice for his son at the gate. I lost it....then lost it more at the inking of Aedion's, Rowan's, Fenrys and Lorcan's tattoos. Then Aelin gave him the blood oath whilst he was on the plinth.
Aelin going to fight Maeve and Erawan...without her powers and still managing to trick Erawan into leaving Maeve was just mad. She led him right into Yrene, Elide and Dorian's waiting trap. Which was soooo satisfying. I about screamed when Aelin broke herself out of Maeve's mental trap. It was the perfect FU. Then Lorcan, Fenrys and Rowan went to Aelin's side only to have to be broken out of Maeve's dark power. Watching those three strong men unable to break free was torturous. THEN FENRYS USED HIS POWER WHEN AELIN BROUGHT HIM BACK. But his face, a mess of scars that he wanted to keep as a reminder.
I couldn't be more happy that the curse broke for the witches. They could go back to the Wastes which is what Asterin always wanted Manon to do. To lead their people home. I appreciate that Dorian and Manon's story was left a little open, they didn't have a perfect ending.
Aedion was given the blood oath at Aelin's coronation, in perfect Aelin form. I thought you wanted to do it in front of the world...
Then Elide and Lorcan planned to marry and we had the creation of Lord Lorcan Lochan. And he gave up his immortality to live a true life with her. MY HEART.
And finally, Aedion and Lysandra planned a wedding also. A happy ending they both deserved.
I'm so sad this series has come to a close but I couldn't have hoped for a better ending.