Title: Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4/5
I don’t think I’ve ever given Sarah J Maas less than 5 stars before, but I have to say this one just didn’t quite do it for me. I love Chaol’s character, I have from the start, but the absence of top marks is no reflection of the characters, which are always well written and consistent. The problem is that I found it quite a struggle to maintain the momentum of reading this book. Normally with a SJM book, I’m avidly ensconced on my sofa for hours at a time, but with this episode I had to actively force myself to allocate reading time to get through it.
I think the main issue is that this book very much focuses on the development of two relationships (I won’t say who and who, spoilers and all that). Now, I love a good relationship development through the course of a novel, but it must go hand in hand with action and engaging plot. Unlike SJM’s other books, these are almost entirely absent from the first two thirds of Tower of Dawn. In terms of story, it’s a bit on the glacial side, and in terms of action, there is almost none. You get little sparks here and there, but when you look overall, really not much happens except two sets of people spend time together and fall in love.
At 660 pages, this is one heck of a bowl of soup to get through if you’re not that into pure relationship cooking. And it’s no coincidence that SJM’s books are getting longer and longer. It’s a pretty common thing in publishing for editors to start off insisting that your novels stick to a strict maximum word count (lest potential new fans are put off by size), and then when you have proven yourself to be a best-selling author with a giant fanbase, you can pretty much get away with writing however long a book you want (because, hey, fans will buy it anyway). I’m not saying this is a bad thing – it means we get more of what we like – but Tower of Dawn could definitely have benefitted from some editorial pruning sheers.
Also, I don’t know if anyone else is feeling this, but I found SJM’s trademark slideshow writing just a little bit tiring in this one. Her choppy paragraphing is an effective method for conveying fast-action sequences and chaotic scenes, but because a lot of this book takes place in an internal, chaotic environment, there is a lot of this slideshow stuff going on. It’s a bit like when they do fast cutting of action scenes in films so you can barely keep up with what’s going on, just flashing images. It’s effective when used appropriately, but too much and the film just becomes tiring to watch. Same thing here. After chapters containing multiple pages of it, I found myself longing for a nice bit of flowing prose that I didn’t feel like my brain was hiccoughing through. It made for quite uncomfortable reading.
I have another gripe (sorry!), which has actually been simmering away through SJM’s latest books. She has a real habit of objectifying her male characters. You know, wanging on about the quality of their muscles and figures in a way that would be extraordinarily sexist if the same were done for female characters. I know she describes all her female characters as being hot (with the rare exception), but it’s never to the extent that she objectifies males. I know, I know, these books are designed largely for a female audience and I am a female myself, but I’m actually starting to get a bit uncomfortable about it. At the beginning, her male characters were all fairly distinct from one another, but now poor old Chaol has been subjected to SJM’s seemingly favourite male archetype of steamy, unfathomably fit and handsome, over-protective, possessive, brooding and thinking about nothing but the female they are in a ship with. Really? There are more types of men in the world. I know a lot of female readers go gooey over this type of male figure, but I’m afraid those qualities are really not what I find attractive in a male. I don’t mind the presence of this archetype in a book, I just wish she’d have other types of main-character men to make for a more diverse reading experience.
Okay, I’m going on a bit about the negatives here, and you’re all probably wondering why I even gave Tower of Dawn 4 stars. Despite the above, this is still a very good book. SJM is still a very good writer and storyteller. It still is very much worth your time reading it, not least because it picks up on Chaol, who was disappointingly absent from Empire of Storms. I have a great attachment to this character because he was always a bit used and abused by his fellow characters, who clearly did not take into account his circumstances, what he went through and what he was trying to do, i.e. be a good person, which should never be scorned. It also nicely ties in a minor plot line from Assassin’s Blade, and I had been wondering when SJM would tie that one off. It’s also a mildly welcome relief from Aelin, who, let’s face it, is getting a little bit bratty and unbearable (I miss Celaena so much!).
If you’re a fan of SJM and have been reading the Throne of Glass novels, you’ll love it. If you like relationship developments, you’ll love it. Just a word of warning to the plot and action fans out there: persevere to the end.