Book Review: Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas ★★★

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Wind-seeker, her mother had once called her. Unable to keep still, always wandering where the wind calls you. Where shall it beckon you to journey one day, my rose? 

How far the wind had now called her.”

Guys. This past weekend, I was very prepared to post a book review and my write my Book Tag Tuesday, even though I had to drive to Pensacola for a memorial service. I was so prepared in fact, that I did not even feel the need to bring my laptop >:/ And, of course! I needed it to finalize the post/pictures. So, that did not get done this weekend and then work has already been crazy this week…I know these sound like excuses, but I swear I will tighten up!

But, anyway, I am back for a new review!! Yay! This one is a book that I was not too excited to read, but did so out of loyalty and trust in the author. And of course, Sarah J Maas did not disappoint! Tower of Dawn was an amazing book. It was written so well, the story was captivating, and the ending/plot twists packed a serious punch! There were some things that I did not enjoy, which forces me to give the book 3.5 stars, as opposed to the 5 I would give it otherwise. I feel a bit bad, but I could not overlook the way some things in the book were handled. But, more on that below!

And, duh, spoilers.

Tower of Dawn is the nearly-700 page novel that was supposed to be novella that was supposed to be interwoven in Throne of Glass #5 Empire of Storms. Are you with me? Because Sarah wrote so much about Chaol, Nesryn, and the Southern Continent, their perspectives were cut from Empire of Storms, instead being featured in an entire novella about their adventures. However, Sarah being Sarah, wrote hundreds more pages than was originally planned, thus Tower of Dawn the novel was born! Phew!

Honestly, while some parts of the book did drag a bit and it could have been edited down a smidge, I am so glad that this was its own book and not smooshed into Empire of Storms! That would have bogged EoS down so much and would not have given us the detailed, intricate look at the Southern Continent that we got here. The worldbuilding was fantastic! I loved the rich descriptions and the time Sarah took to set it up. 20170925_195250 And if I so much as hear a whisper about “cultural appropriation,” I will kick you in the shins. Sarah created a beautiful land, city, empire, people, religions, etc. with inspiration from real-life ancient civilizations, namely the Mongolian empire. The book has two main white characters! The rest are POC. So, I am not saying you can’t intellectually criticize her work, but you can’t cry about what you don’t have (representation, different cultures, disabled characters) and then cry again about what she gives you (representation, a different and well-researched/thought-out culture, and a disabled character). Stop trying so hard to find things to hate about Sarah’s books or GTFO.

Well! Now that that’s out of the way. I thought this was such a beautiful book! Tower of Dawn has been named Chaol’s Heir of Fire, because it focuses not only his and Nesryn’s appeal to the Southern Khagan for armies, but on his journey to recovery and self acceptance after he was left paralyzed by the King of Adarlan’s magic. The first few hundred pages of the book deal with Chaol’s feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes in regard to his injury and his possible recovery. Now, I cannot speak for everyone, but I thought that the way his disability was handled, the way that he was given the time to work through his complicated feelings, was extremely inspiring. It was very emotional  and I felt like his feelings were translated on the page so well. His sense of worthlessness, helplessness, humiliation, and then determination, hope, and love were positively tangible.

And I have seen some people bashing the way that Chaol’s injury was “healed,” but I think, in a book about magic, dealing with a magical injury, and curing it with not only magic, but also physical and mental therapy, it was handled quite well.

Of course, Chaol’s journey would not be complete without Yrene, who became a wonderful addition to the narrative. I really liked Yrene’s character and her determination to make the world better through her healing magic. She was strong and steady and sassy. Her initial interactions with Chaol were funny, sometimes quite moving, and very well captured. That being said, I can’t discuss Yrene and Chaol’s interactions without touching on The Thing that brought this book down a whole star and a half for me…

Let me preface by saying that I have never really loved Chaol. I liked him well enough in the first two books and was rooting for him with Celeana. Still, even though I was choosing him over Dorian and thought he and Celeana were cute together… something was still missing between them for me. It became clear when we found out that Celeana was Aelin, because I was like “ah ha!” She is so much more than Chaol is or wants to be. Her destiny, her role in the world, is just too much for him. I remember thinking, “He cannot keep up.” And yes, this might be unfair to Chaol and he is a great, flawed, human character, but I can’t help it. I wanted him to step aside while the interesting characters ran the show. So, I was freaking ecstatic when Aelin chose Rowan and Chaol was involved in a different sort of way. I didn’t hate the guy, he was just boring! And not meant to be with Aelin.

So, while I was not overly excited for an all-Chaol novel, I was determined to read it for the story, the new world, and to hear more about Chaol and Nesryn. I thought they were sweet and honest and unconventional. But. Little did I know that my indifference to Chaol would blossom into condescension, anger, and quite frankly hate. In Tower of Dawn, Chaol turns into a pathetic, cheating asshole and no longer warrants any sympathy or understanding from me. By the time he and Nesryn reach the Southern Continent, they have established a steady, if fragile, relationship. Nesryn’s patience and dedication to Chaol is clear, despite his treatment of her in the past and his difficult personality now. It is made clear that they are together, to them and everyone around them.

Then enter Yrene. Yrene, who I liked as a character on her own, but who became a blushing, weak, jealous, unprofessional, “other woman,” in the face of Chaol’s glistening pecs. It was honestly ridiculous how fast Yrene began to “wish Nesryn would stay away” while she was with Chaol. And how Chaol would lust after Yrene before calling himself a bastard for not thinking about Nesryn. Are you kidding me? Yeah, you are a fucking bastard, but instead of doing anything about it, like I don’t know, talking to Nesryn (!), you just accept it and continue on. It was gross. Extremely unnecessary and disgusting behavior from both Chaol and Yrene.

Meanwhile, Nesryn clearly knows that Chaol is mentally and emotionally cheating on her. Still, she supports him and tries to do all she can for him, until finally she breaks and leaves on her own mission/adventure. I was so happy for her, when she accepted the invitation to go stay with the Ruk Riders. It was, for me, the most heartbreaking scene in the book, when she told Sartaq that she “had nothing.” Like, good for you girl, leave that lump of scum and go find your own happiness! Especially with Sartaq, the hot and charming Ruk rider/heir to the Southern Continent.

Of course, my blood was boiling again, when Chaol found out Nesryn left, and told him there were no promises between them, and was super relieved. He wasted no time in getting Yrene in bed, despite continuing to declare his “loyalty” to Nesryn.

Fuck that. Fuck Chaol and his stupid “honor” that makes him think he is better than others, when really he just uses it as a crutch. He was constantly thinking about himself. Oh no, I am no longer honorable, because I was unfaithful to Nesryn. Poor me! Like no, you POS, Nesryn is the victim here. He even makes a point to say that Aelin was better than him, because she made sure she spoke to Chaol and officially ended things, before ever even thinking about Rowan that way. He acknowledges that, and immediately shrugs and doesn’t give a shit. Ugh, so gross. Honestly, I could only stomach the rest of the book after this, because Nesryn and Sartaq’s perspectives were awesome, and I actively read Chaol and Yrene’s perspectives without thinking of any context regarding their relationship. Still, the book as a whole was tainted for me by this…outcome. And no matter how it turned out for the characters, it left a nasty taste in my mouth. Chaol never even apologizes to Nesryn, never admits his guilt or tries to resolve it with her. Nothing. I am so disappointed that Sarah chose to portray the characters this way, because it really does a disservice to all of them. It was absolutely unnecessary to involve cheating.

Anddddd that is how I feel about that particular part of the book. Yikes. Well, once I was able to enjoy the book again, I really began to love all of the intrigue. The Valg activity in this book was super creepy, with the deaths in the library and with the spiders near the Ruks. The action was great and I loved the information we were given about the Valg, the healers at the Torre Cesme, and freaking Maeve! It was so good and exciting.

At this point, so many of the threads that Sarah has woven throughout the series are coming together and I love that feeling of her outstanding foreshadowing tying in. Characters or events that have been connected in the past are finally making an impact and everything is primed for the final showdown. I feel like we are on the cusp of an epic happening in the books and I cannot wait for the final installment. It is going to be amazing!!!

Tower of Dawn Sarah J Maas on Let them Read Cake

Some other thoughts:

  • I loved how we got a view of Aelin and the gang from a removed perspective. We only saw them from either Chaol or Nesryn’s eyes or from people who have never ever met them. It was interesting.
  • I loved how Chaol thought about Dorian constantly.
  • It was killing me that Yrene did not know it was Aelin who saved her!
  • The fierce horse named Butterfly was definitely one of my top 5 favorite things.
  • Hasar and Reina’s relationship was interesting and nuanced. I liked them.
  • The merchant/shapeshifter was a nice surprise!
  • I loved the Lord of the Rings vibes throughout the book.
  • Nesraq > Chaorene any day. No question. But this does beg the question: Why must everyone find their “true love” so quickly in these books? Why at all?
  • Loved the Rowaelin snippets we were given.
  • Another secret wedding?? That was unnecessary and way too fast IMO.
  • Those last 3 pages killed me and I am now in agony until ToG7 😥
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Well, we can’t expect a book to be flawless, but I could have done without all that gross Tomcat behavior, Chaol. Very disappointing.

Thank you for reading and let me know your thoughts, too!

-Chelsi

Wordery | Book Depository

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