Tuesday, April 2, 2019

A Book Review of Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

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Chaol Westfall has always defined himself by his unwavering loyalty, his strength, and his position as the Captain of the Guard. But all of that has changed since the glass castle shattered, since his men were slaughtered, since the King of Adarlan spared him from a killing blow, but left his body broken.

His only shot at recovery lies with the legendary healers of the Torre Cesme in Antica--the stronghold of the southern continent's mighty empire. And with war looming over Dorian and Aelin back home, their survival might lie with Chaol and Nesryn convincing its rulers to ally with them.

But what they discover in Antica will change them both--and be more vital to saving Erilea than they could have imagined.

Series: Throne of Glass (Book 6)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (September 5, 2017)
Page Count: 672 pages

After reading Empire of Storms I was a little wary continuing with this series because of this excessive content in that volume of this series, but I just had to know what happens in this epic saga. I'm happy to say this book definitely redeemed the series for me.

The Plot: This plot is very gradual since it takes place over months, but it still held my interest throughout, though I find myself a bit disinterested in Nesryn's point of view until it tied in more importantly to the plot near the end. One of the most intense sequences had me flipping pages like crazy and that rarely happens to me. I felt genuine fear. Also, the big bad guy reveal was awesome and unexpected, but it all tied in so seamlessly. The ending left me satisfied but wanting for more.

The Characters: I love that Yrene got to be a main character. I really loved her in Assassin’s Blade so I loved seeing her even more fleshed out and gaining an important part in the plot. I really admire how Maas ties all of these threads together. I want to write that well lol. She’s smart, compassionate, and also very human. Watching her grow past her “soul wound” was really inspiring.

Chaol has a great arc as he comes to terms with his new disability caused by a magical injury and finding new strength in himself and overcoming shame. I felt really bad for him when he felt helpless and embarrassed. 

I found Nesryn's POV interesting about how she finds Antica as her true home as opposed to the place she grew up, but her plotline didn't feel as compelling as the former characters' until close to the climax. I found myself almost wanting to skip her POV to find out more about what happens to Chaol and Yrene.

The Setting:  Antica is a very interesting country. It’s a mix of Arabian and Indian culture. They’re polytheistic, having absorbed different religions and gaining a 36-god pantheon. A hot spring cavern with bells hanging from the ceiling called Silba’s Womb is soo cool. I also really think it's cool that they have a primitive version of paper bills made from mulberry bark and silk. 

I also love the Baast cats cause kitties are awesome. The giant eagles called “ruks” are just awesome and I’m pretty sure they’re derived from the Babylonian “rocs” but the name was changed to sound better. The healers in the Torre are so cool and I love their bonds and desire to help others. Though I do have to say unless this has changed since I took a First Aid class you’re not supposed to tilt your head up when you have a nosebleed cause then it just drains into your throat. I feel like Yrene should have known that unless that’s what old methods said to do yet a lot of other facets of healing are more modern. I’m not sure.

Now as I stated above I loved a lot of the Antica worldbuilding but it being touted as a utopia bothered me. I know this is political but Antica holds a lot of leftist values such as free heterosexual and homosexual sex (one example is how the healers never marry and just have sex if they want a kid or for pleasure and the lesbian princess Hasar was considering having intercourse with a random man to have heirs and then basically throw him out even though he’s the father. That’s just wrong.), free education and healing (which can be alluded to socialist values), New Age principals with the absorption of religions, and women sitting as heads of the household alongside the man. I personally disagree with like all of this for reasons that would lead to my conservative libertarian soapbox. 

The freedom of religion and the fact that class does not give someone immunity to criminal action are great, but it’s accepted that the princes and princesses can slaughter each other for the throne which felt like a primitive notion among these other modern ideals. I know all societies have their flaws and a lot of these things seem good, but using Antica as a model for all societies in this story world (like the characters spoke about how they wished their country was more like this one) just didn't sit well with me and I felt a little preached to. 

Epic Things: I've already mentioned a ton of epic things but I love the description "bruised clouds" for storm clouds-- and that the characters eat baklava.

The Theme: There's a lot of themes centralizing around how wounds of the past can seap into our lives even our physical lives. Another theme I love is that you don't have to learn how to use a sword to be a hero. 

"So I may not be a warrior waving a sword about, may not be worthy of glorious tales but at least I save lives--not end them." ~Yrene

Content Cautions: There's a bit of violence in this book including a lot of blood and a desiccated corpse. A baby bird is brutally killed. There’s an open, sexually-active lesbian relationship and there’s a very free-sex society in general. People can have sex with other people out of wedlock with no repercussions. One character is an open adulterer. There’s a lot of open nudity or near nudity with very scant clothing. There’s also kissing and a brief sex scene. Yrene in a medical fashion asked about Chaol’s privates. A few characters give rude gestures or remarks such as giving the finger, saying "having the balls," and a character saying how she wants a bigger butt for her lover to grip. One of the characters mentions creating basically a morning after draught. Characters smoke opiates.

There's quite a bit of swearing, though believe it or not it's much less than the previous volume in the series: d*** is used 24 times, h*** 18 times, sh** 13 times, ba***** 11 times, a** 9 times, pi** six times, bi*** 3 times, and BS twice.

What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:
1.) Sacred Numbers - In Antica, they have thirty-six gods melded into one religion. They've deemed this number sacred and thus also have thirty-six viziers.

How this can be applied to writing: Does your story culture have sacred numbers? As a Christian seven is the symbol for creation and five is for grace. In Japan, they even have unlucky numbers like the number four. Four is so unlucky that they'll omit the room number four in hotels. 

2.) The Effects of Humiliation and Embarrassment - In one scene, Chaol is devastatingly humiliated when he's removed clumsily off a horse as a lesson to younger healers. This causes a big argument between him and Yrene as he felt extremely weak and helpless. It was very hurtful to him.

How this can be applied to writing: Embarrassment is often thought of as saying the wrong word or not knowing you have food in your teeth, but being ridiculed or made to look foolish in public can be especially devastating for a character--and adds for good conflict.

Conclusion: Overall, I enjoyed this book and I look forward to the conclusion! I give it 4.5 stars, but I only have a five star thingy lol. One of these days I'll make my own rating graphic.

About the Author: Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series (Queen of Shadows, Book 4, will be out in September 2015), as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (out 5/5/15).

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she's not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

You can find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and her website.

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