Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
The penultimate book in Sarah J. Maas‘s THRONE OF GLASS series goes on an unexpected detour: instead of following Aelin Galathynius (the protagonist of the previous five books and a collection of novellas), Tower of Dawn (2017) focuses on supporting players Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq, who have travelled to the southern continent and the city of Antica to try and enlist its armies to assist them in the coming war.
At this stage, there’s no point reading unless you’ve already read the previous books. These aren’t standalone novels, but different parts of an overarching story that need to be read chronologically in order to make sense. In this case, Chaol suffered a terrible injury at the conclusion of the previous book, and has come to Antica not only for political reasons but in search of a famed Torre healer that might help him walk again.
Nesryn has accompanied him partly out of feelings for him, but also to see her family and home country once again. Once there, the two meet the elderly khagan and his five heirs — only to discover that the youngest one has recently died in mysterious circumstances, and the court in which they’ve entered rife with grief and suspicion.
As Nesryn befriends one of the princes and travels with him on the back of his beautiful ruk (basically, a giant eagle), Chaol begins to investigate the internal politics of the palace with the help of Yrene Towers, a talented young healer that readers of The Assassin’s Blade (the collection of novellas) will have already met — albeit in very different circumstances.
I have mixed feelings about the story itself: despite Tower of Dawn‘s great length, I felt much of the page-count was given over to a lot of sitting around, when there was plenty of drama to be mined from the tense court atmosphere and the suggestion of a Valg demon in their midst. The khagan’s children in particular (sans Sartaq) are given short-shrift, which is a shame given their interesting dynamics.
Maas instead focuses on more melodramatic romances that don’t really do much for me, especially when there’s a much more interesting war on the horizon.
But I loved Nesryn’s adventures with the ruk-riders and the information she gleans from various mountain ruins, and by the end plenty more light has been shed on what exactly our heroes are up against, and how they plan to stop it.
It all serves as a good set-up for the final book, Kingdom of Ash, putting the final pieces into place for the big conclusion. Some may feel impatient to have lost track of Aelin, Dorian, Manon, and the other main characters for an entire book, but the final chapter certainly whets your appetite for what’s to come…