Review: ‘Tower of Dawn’ (‘Throne of Glass’, #6) by S. J. Maas

I would hear one last tale, if you allow it. Before I meet my end.

Rating:

4/5 paper planes

What’s This Book About?

Genre: YA High Fantasy

Synopsis: A glorious empire. A desperate quest. An ancient secret…

Chaol and Nesryn have arrived in the shining city of Antica to forge an alliance with the Khagan of the Southern Continent, whose vast armies are Erilea’s last hope. But they have also come for another purpose: to seek healing at the famed Torre Cesme for the wounds Chaol received in Rifthold.

After enduring unspeakable horrors as a child, Yrene Towers has no desire to help a young lord from Adarlan, let alone heal him. Yet she has sworn an oath to assist those in need – and will honor it. But Lord Westfall carries darkness from his own past, and Yrene soon comes to realise it could engulf them both.

And deep in mountain-shadow, where warriors soar on legendary ruks, long-awaited answers slumber. Answers that could offer their world a chance at survival – or doom them all.

What I Thought:

Chaol Westfall is now hands-down my favourite character in the series. Amazing what just one book’s worth of detailed insight into a secondary character can do!

During the previous five books, Chaol was alright – I liked him well enough and was on his ‘team’ in the Celaena love triangle, but that was as far as my emotional investment extended. Any dismay I felt at his suffering was more due to how it impacted other characters who I cared about more. However, ‘Tower of Dawn’ changed everything. Chaol’s character development is as palpable as if he was a real person who I know and love – he’s had such a complex personal journey, being one of the few POV characters in this series who’s essentially just a regular mortal, and he’s trying so hard to adapt to things and become a better man. No one hated Chaol as much as himself, no one could have punished him as much as he punished himself.

…the pain converged again.
…His brother, small and cowering in their father’s long shadow.
A brother he had traded for another. A brother he had left behind.
The darkness squeezed, crushing his bones to dust.
It would kill him.
I’m so glad Maas took the time to give him the page-time and healing he deserved – I legit had big fat teardrops falling down my face during some of his most poignant revelation scenes. One of Maas’ strengths is her character work, especially in illustrating how characters deal with and gradually recover from trauma and depression.
Failure and liar and oath-breaker.
…He could stay here forever. In this ageless dark… He could remain, and rage and hate and curl into nothing but shadow.
But Dorian remained before him, still smiling faintly. Waiting.
Waiting.
For – him.
[Chaol] had made one promise. He had not broken it yet.
…This crack in him, this bottom, was not the end.
He had one promise left.

“I’m coming home,” he whispered to his brother, his king.
I love Chaol, and I will protect him forever. (He has to survive all seven books! He has to!) I even grew to like (and ship!) other characters more just through hearing Chaol talk about them (for example Aelin and Rowan)! I never realised that Chaol was quite so insightful about other characters – the main vibe I got from him in previous books was general angst seasoned with equal parts brooding and fear-laced confusion. A rather inward-facing, looking back sort of fellow…though of course there was a little bit of development in Books 1 to 5.

The slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance thread was also one of my favourite things about this book. Chaol and Yrene have my everlasting investment!

I will cherish it always… No matter what may befall the world… No matter the oceans, or mountains, or forests in the way.
Chaorene’s love story was so magnetic that unfortunately Nesryn’s romance arc paled in comparison. It felt halfhearted and I only became invested when I thought (highlight for spoilers) Sartaq had literally DIED. It took a DEATH (well, I thought he died) for me to care. (spoiler over!).

One thing that did annoy me about both romances was how we’d spend ages building up a relationship, then turn about-face with one or both parties declaring “oh yes, I knew I loved you from the second I saw you/very early scene etc.”. What’s even the point of having a slow-burn then?! (I’m also sick to death of the word ‘male’. So overused.)

Swinging back to the positives, Yrene Towers is herself a wonderful character. Such a powerful woman whose strength does not come from simply assuming ‘masculine’ traits and eschewing femininity. Rather than being the stereotypical warrior-woman whose mastery of weaponry and clichéd ‘not-like-other-girls’-ness stands in for ‘girl power’, Yrene’s strength comes from her kindness. It comes from her gentleness. It comes from her forgiveness, her work ethic, her courage…so much more nuanced than simply physical brawn.

“I might not have battled kings and shattered castles…but I am the heir apparent to the Healer on High. Through my own work and suffering and sacrifice… People are alive because of that. So I may not be a warrior waving a sword about, may not be worthy of your glorious tales, but at least I save lives – not end them.”
Yrene’s also one of the very few POV characters who isn’t white-coded (though initially I thought she was).

I really liked the disability rep (not just for Chaol, but also another character, Shen) and it felt very well done (though please bear in mind that I’m speaking as a non-physically disabled person). I’m really glad it didn’t head in the cheap direction that I feared it might, and really drove home Chaol’s dawning realisation that being disabled does not make anyone less of who they are.

“Using the chair is not a punishment. It is not a prison… It never was. And I am as much of a man in that chair, or with that cane, as I am standing on my feet.”

In addition to great character work, I also enjoyed the lush, Mongolian Empire-inspired worldbuilding of the Southern Continent, which was (if I’m honest) a fair bit more interesting than Erilea. There were also a few startling plot twists – with one extremely important regarding the wider narrative – though I do feel that ‘Tower of Dawn’ (similarly to ‘Heir of Fire’, Book 3) is more character- than plot-driven. Some of the villain monologues did feel a little overwrought and information-heavy, but this was only of small concern.

Overall, I can definitely say that I enjoyed ‘Tower of Dawn’ more than I expected! My new favourite character AND my new favourite ‘Throne of Glass’ ship, all in one book? Absolute madness. (Also, given that I kinda hate all the series’ English-language covers, I’m surprised to say I actually do like this cover!)

Thanks for reading (it’s been a while since I’ve posted!) – have you read this series? What were your thoughts? Let me know below!

2 thoughts on “Review: ‘Tower of Dawn’ (‘Throne of Glass’, #6) by S. J. Maas

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