2.5 stars. *****The following contains spoilers*****
I found the first two-thirds of Queen of Shadows difficult to get through. This is the first book in this series that I haven't given 5 stars. I was disappointed in the way both Chaol and Aelin were written for the first two-thirds of the book. I hardly recognized them.
Throughout the series I've found Chaol to be an interesting character. The Captain of the Guard torn between loyalty and love appealed to me. Celaena/Aelin saw him as loyal to the king when she tried to kill him at the end of book two, but really I saw it as Chaol was loyal to Dorian and he saw serving the king as a way to help Dorian take the throne when the time was right. He was caught not knowing what the right thing to do was at times and Celaena/Aelin was merciless when he made any mistake. I lost a lot of sympathy for Celaena when she tried to kill Chaol. I thought that maybe she would come back and apologize in this book and they would set out to mend the relationship, even if they never had a romance again. But we have to put up with the two of them fighting, judging, and being downright mean to each other through almost this whole book. They didn't act like themselves at all. And Aelin was such a hypocrite blaming Chaol for things that weren’t really his fault, and being angry with him over doing some of the same things she herself was doing or had done. I actually understood Chaol’s trust issues when it came to her since she did try to kill him. I could sympathize with her character in the first three books of the series, but I found it a lot harder to in this one.
Let’s be honest here, it really did seem like the first two books in the series set Chaol up to be the end game love interest of the series. And with her saying things like I’ll always choose you at the end of book two to Chaol I feel like the readers were given false hope. There is a point in the last third of the book where Chaol and Celaena/Aelin finally talk and she apologizes to him if her saying that she would always choose him made him think that everything would be fixed when she came back. It felt like that statement was meant for the readers more than for Chaol. This conversation came much too late in the book. By this point Chaol was well and truly over her and so was I.
Aelin is so arrogant in this book. It felt like we were back to square one with her character, except she was even worse. She completely lacked any of the warmth that was a part of her character in previous books. In book three when she goes to Wyndlyn and finally embraces who she is, she meets Rowan who turns out to be a mentor. There was much growth needed on the part of Celaena/Aelin as a character. She was arrogant, she was hiding from who she really was, she was broken emotionally, so that journey in book three was needed and I thought it had brought growth to her character. She was taken down several notches by Rowan in book three. With Rowan as a mentor type figure he was able to help Aelin become a bit more humble. But for some reason the author decided to do a 180 and make Aelin and Rowan attracted to each other in this book, even when they weren't in the last book. After all of their interactions with each other they showed no sign of romantic attraction for each other, which I found good and refreshing. I liked Rowan as a mentor and nothing more. I didn't think it made much sense and didn't really ring true to the way they had been written before for them to suddenly feel this way. I found that Rowan as a love interest was too in awe of Aelin, pretty much a whipped puppy to be honest, and she was back to her old arrogant, narcissistic self throughout the first two-thirds of this book, only colder than before. During the conversation that she finally has with Chaol, Aelin says she changed. I can agree, and not for the better. Her character actually regressed instead of grew.
And about Rowan, as a character I find him less interesting than Chaol. He is the typical Alpha male that we have read about in countless fantasy novels. He’s constantly described in over the top ways. I got tired of reading lines like: “He was hundreds of pounds of muscle.” (Really? Hundreds? Just how many hundreds are we talking here? Should I be picturing one WWE superstar here or two or three rolled into one?), and “She didn’t know how he could bare the amount of power he held.” We all know what he is, we didn't need to be reminded constantly of how big and powerful he was and how much Aelin lusted after him for it, just like we didn't need to be reminded that he had a tattoo covering part of his face constantly either, which I really don't find an attractive thing at all. Another thing I found weird was all the time they spent lusting after each other and they never had sex. Not that it bothered me that they didn't I didn't even want them together, but for two people who are sleeping in the same bed every night, one of whom is wearing some skimpy night gowns, I didn't find it realistic.
Now that I've gotten what I thought about those relationships out of the way, I have to move onto Dorian for a minute. There was a glaring hole without him as himself throughout most of this book. I couldn't believe it when Aelin wanted to just end him so readily. She hardly seemed to care about him at all until near the end. She blamed Chaol for leaving him, for not rescuing him, but the poor guy did what he could. What was he supposed to do? It took far too long to rescue Dorian in this book. On the list of priorities for Aelin it came near the bottom, after she exacted her revenge on Arrobyn, which seemed to consume most of her time throughout the book. And speaking of Arrobyn, I thought he was taken down much too easily. And there is a part that didn't make sense concerning the will and Lysandra. If Aelin changed the will, then how was there still the part in the will about informing the king about what Lysandra was?
On a positive note, I once again enjoyed the character of Manon, She was the one character in the whole book who actually grew. I also love Abraxos and there were developments with Lysandra that I liked and I liked the characters Elide and Nesryn, although Nesryn felt kind of shoehorned in just so Chaol would have a different love interest now. I do like that Chaol ends up with someone who appreciates him and understands him. Honestly he did deserve someone better than Aelin. It’s her loss. I'm half expecting her to dump Rowan at the end of the next book. I mean he is guy number four now in the series if you count Sam who died. Finally at the end of the book the characters seemed themselves again and we get that same warmth between Aelin, Dorian, and Chaol that was present in previous books, but was missing throughout most of this one. It should have happened long before it did.
Even though I was disappointed in this book I will still be reading the last two books of the series. I do want to see what happens next for every other character in the series.