Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I talk various bookish and blogging related topics. This past week I made a decision to not continue one of my favorite author’s series and it made me realize that it might be best to give her up altogether.
This discussion comes with a fair amount of warnings, but I promise I will mention them before diving in. This post will also be pretty ranty as I feel the need to vent, so if that’s not something you like, bail now! My number one warning is this: if Sarah J. Maas is your favorite author ever and you feel animosity toward those who might disagree with you, I apologize, but please don’t read this post.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead. The following section contains spoilers for the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas through Queen of Shadows. Please do not continue if you haven’t read and don’t want the series spoiled for you.
I am a big fan of the first few books in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. Crown of Midnight remains a favorite book of mine. I love the world-building and feel that Maas has improved on that aspect as the series has continued. I’ve also really enjoyed the side characters she’s introduced along the way. Celaena was a character that grew before your eyes and I loved seeing how her relationship with Chaol and Dorian evolved in the first couple of books. There was so much to like about these three characters and how important they became to each other. As most of you know, there is very large shift in the story with the fourth book Queen of Shadows. Our Celaena finally embraces who she really is as Aelin Galathynius, the rightful heir of Terrasen, and while I fully supported this, Maas also chose to go in several different directions with her characters and their relationships that felt incongruent when compared to the previous three books.
Let’s get it out of the way. I have and probably always will ship Celaena and Chaol. I shipped them in the first book when she was with Dorian, I shipped them in the second, and I hoped and prayed while reading the third. I don’t think you could rightly convince me with these first three books that Maas was looking to go in another direction. I feel that because it was always so clear who Celaena was going to end up with, Maas had to change certain aspects of her series in Queen of Shadows in order for readers to embrace this entirely new direction.
Rowan became Aelin’s love interest. As a firm Chaolaena supporter, I was heartbroken. This isn’t the first time one of my ships has crashed and burned, but it was the first time that I felt kind of used. Let me explain. It’s hard for me to fathom why Maas spent three books building up a relationship she was just going to cast aside. It’s not even the romantic aspect of Chaol and Celaena’s relationship that I’m most upset about, it’s the way they suddenly began to hate and mistreat each other in Queen of Shadows. When they were in the same room, they became characters I didn’t recognize and frankly didn’t like. One of my criticisms about this fourth book is that both suddenly took on different personalities without any proper build-up, making me wonder if I had missed about a hundred pages of character development (or regression in this case). A large part of me feels like Maas purposefully turned these two against each other in order to further Aelin’s romance with Rowan. It’s something I don’t believe was necessary because this is what happened, the fandom began to hate Chaol. A character that I always felt was essential to both Dorian and Celaena’s development and who suddenly became a casualty in Maas pursuit of a different ship.
Queen of Shadows virtually undid everything that Maas built in the first books. Like I said before, Celaena finally embracing her identity as Aelin was always going to happen, but I didn’t understand how the character so effortlessly dismissed who she was when she was Celaena. Suddenly, she wanted Dorian dead and she never loved Chaol at all, and all those years as Celaena meant nothing. While the first three books made Chaol and Dorian vital characters, their storylines took a backseat. Chaol’s character development, especially where it concerned his father and the deal he made to go home to Anielle, just sort of fell by the wayside. Dorian spent Heir of Fire learning about his magic abilities, only to do nothing but be imprisoned for the entirety of Queen of Shadows. These were two major character in the first three books who suddenly didn’t feel so important anymore.
At the end of Queen of Shadows, I found myself asking…what was the point? Why did Maas invest so much page time into a ship that was going nowhere? Why did she suddenly change her mind when it came to the direction Chaol was going in? Why was it so necessary to turn Chaol and Calaena against each other rather than letting them have an amicable end? Why was Dorian regulated to a damsel-in-distress when he was a main character in the first three books?
I still admire Maas’s world-building ability. I love how she works in so many interesting minor characters (Manon Blackbeak, anyone?). But it’s hard for me to love a series that has jerked me around emotionally with no real payoff and that has taken beloved characters and turned them into people I no longer recognize.
Empire of Storms, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, will be released in September and though I’m no longer as in love with this series as I used to be, there are still several characters that I care strongly for. But I don’t feel quite the same kind of excitement I used to and at some point I know I’m going to have to decide whether it’s worth it for me to buy the book or simply check it out from the library because as much as I want to see what happens to characters like Dorian and Chaol, I’m not sure Maas is as invested as I am in these characters anymore.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead. The rest of this discussion post contains spoilers for A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. If you do not want to know what occurs in these two books, skip the rest of this post and go directly to the questions at the end.
Unfortunately, Sarah J. Maas has a thing for laying the foundation for one ship and then taking a sledgehammer to it in the next book in order to build up another. I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses. As a lose retelling of Beauty and the Beast, seeing Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship grow was truly rewarding. Feyre goes through so much in order to rescue him, you can’t help but believe in the staying power of their relationship.
But I am no fool, reading the first book, it became clear that Maas was setting up her story to explore Feyre’s relationship with Rhysand. It didn’t matter that this first book was focused on Feyre and Tamlin. It didn’t matter that Feyre was undergoing some of the hardest trials imaginable in order to save Tamlin because she loved him. Maas was never going to let these two have a happy ending when Rhysand was there waiting in the wings.
I’ve seen a lot of arguments about Rhysand as a character. A lot of people have a problem with him and feel that his behavior toward Feyre should be considered sexual harassment. I’m not going to make that argument here, it’s an entire post for another time, but I will say that I did feel largely uncomfortable while reading Feyre and Rhysand’s scenes together, especially considering that while there was a whole lot of sexual tension between the two, Feyre was basically being held prisoner, making the whole thing feel like a case of Stockholm Syndrome.
For the past year I’ve been dreading A Court of Mist and Fury. I’ve been debating with myself for month about preordering it and finally came to a decision that I was going to hold off. A few days ago I was glancing at my Goodreads feed and someone had liked a one-star review of the sequel. Curiosity got the better of me and I read it and all my fears about the book were confirmed. Maas once again abandoned one ship in exchange for another. Everything build between Feyre and Tamlin in the first book was thrown out the window. Not only that but she also changes Tamlin’s character completely in order to make this happen. There are so many things about this type of storytelling that I hate. I can’t go from loving a character to hating him in the span of one book, especially when the transition feels convenient, rather than a natural evolution of the character.
And it kind of makes me want to scream. It was one thing to do it with Throne of Glass and if there were a few changes made to Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, I would have probably bought into the direction she took the characters, but to do it again with A Court of Mist and Fury makes it feel very deliberate on Maas’ part. I do not understand the point of building up relationships and characters if you’re just going to dismiss all that in the next book. Now I find myself asking if I should expect the same in her next series. I value the hard-fought ships, so I can’t see myself investing in yet another relationship that is so ephemeral. I’m at the point where I’m not sure I can trust her writing and I’m beginning to realize that I’ve fallen out of love with her as an author.
Have you ever given up on an author before? Have you ever read a series where an author takes a character in a direction you don’t agree with? How do you feel when an author jumps ships? Do you have an opinion on Sarah J. Maas’s storytelling? Do I sound too bitter in this post or just the right amount? Let discuss in the comments!