Empire of Storms is the fifth and penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass in which a former assassin uses her skills and her magic to save her kingdom. Being the second to last book in the series, it focusses very much on getting our protagonists into the right place for the finale.
What I liked
The pacing. Despite the fact that Empire of Storms is primarily focussed on getting the team into place for the final confrontation, Maas managed to keep the pacing brisk and the tension high. There were several points where I feared for our characters’ lives. There are several confrontations adding to the tension, even if the end result is moving the pieces across the chessboard.
The characters and their group dynamics. This is clearly one of Maas’s real strengths as a writer. I loved the relationships between the characters and their journeys. It was wonderful that each of our characters has a unique skill set, developed over the course of the series, which will be vital in the cause to defeat Erawan. If even one person fails to play his or her part, the world is doomed. I personally have not read the novellas, but I enjoyed the “new” characters who made an appearance and who also must do their part.
Manon’s story. Once again, as in Queen of Shadows I found myself more engaged with Manon’s chapters than with Aelin’s, at least until the ending. It is noticeable that Manon’s arc mirrors Aelin’s. Both start the series as cocksure employees of a leader whose moral bankruptcy does not sit well with our heroines. A crisis ensues causing a break with said leader, a confrontation which leaves our heroines in a pretty dark place. Both must now accept their heritage in order to claim their birthrights to aid the cause of freedom. I really look forward to where Manon’s journey takes her, although I can’t help wishing she’d had as much page space to develop her character as Aelin.
The increase in scope. In Empire of Storms we learn just how long the confrontation between Team Terrasen and Erawan has been brewing and how much has already been sacrificed. The potential cost of the war is also laid out, and I have even more love for Aelin now. I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the final book.
Setup for final book. I really liked loved Maas has set the pieces for the final book. Each character is faced with a task or a role to play and each must perform to have a hope of defeating Erawan. It’s clear that the cost will be high. She has achieved a wonderful balance between bringing existing plotlines to fruition while leaving a great deal of possibilities.
The narration. I picked up Empire of Storms in audiobook format specifically for Elizabeth Evans’ narration. She brings exactly the right amount of sass to Aelin, and her Manon voice is pitch perfect, too. I would recommend this format.
What I didn’t like
Some modern phrasings. Occasionally, Maas will use some modern phrases in her writing, such as “haul ass.” While this probably fits in well with our sassy, modern heroine, the style of the novel is still epic fantasy and such expressions really, really bugged me. Each time they threw me out of the story. You may not have the same experience.
The number of romantic pairings. Please don’t misunderstand me. I LOVED the individual pairings in the series. They were beautifully developed, with each partner both giving and gaining something from the relationship. What did frustrate me though was that almost every character seemed to be paired off in some way. It came across as a little too neat for me. Of course maybe the gods have put a perfect partner in each of their paths to make up for the hardships and pain they must endure!
Despite these minor quibbles I loved Empire of Storms and gave it five stars out of five.
Speculation on the sixth book
I liked that the story could still go in many different ways in this last book. Maas could opt for a happy ending or it could be bittersweet. In any case, I’m calling it now; Lysandra and Dorian won’t make it out alive :o( The tasks ahead of them are simply too dangerous. That is only my speculation though and I would be happy to be proven wrong. Let me know what you think in the comments.