Since this is the fifth book in the series, I’m not going to talk much about the plot. Instead, I’ll just focus on what I liked/didn’t like about this book in comparison to the others in the series.
First, what I though could have been done better. A disclaimer: I am a proponent of showing healthy sexual relationships in YA. I don’t think it’s done often enough or realistically enough, which was part of the reason I absolutely adored A Court of Mist and Fury. In that book, Sarah J Maas depicts both healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships, but when it comes to sex she makes the focus on the woman’s pleasure. That just doesn’t happen enough in YA! The thing is though, in that series the first book contains sexually explicit scenes. If you read the first and were uncomfortable with the level of sexual content, you could opt out of reading the second.
The first four books of the Throne of Glass series show sex in a way that is more common to the YA genre, with hints and ambiguities. To then all of a sudden include graphic sex scenes in the fifth book was jarring and just didn’t fit in with the tone of the previous books. It felt like SJMaas was trying to make Empire of Storms more like the ACOTAR series and I wasn’t a fan.
Going along with this, I wish SJMaas didn’t feel like it was necessary to pair all of the characters together. I think there were moments (with Elide especially) where SJMaas had perfect opportunities to make the main cast less heteronormative but then decided to go with the same alpha-male-wrapped-around-the-finger-of-a-small-but-feisty-female narrative. I have nothing against that sort of relationship, but to have it repeated with just about every character? I would have appreciated more diversity.
Now for the good: I absolutely loved how everything from the previous four books and the novella came together in this book. I thought the plot was so wonderfully crafted and had me literally cheering at parts. Also, crying. Damn, SJMaas knows how to twist a knife in your heart. And then stab four more knives into it. (In the best way, of course.)
With this book ending as it did, I am in absolute agony waiting for the next installment. BOOK, COME TO ME.