Friday, May 9, 2014

{Spoiler Free} The Shadow Throne (Ascendance Trilogy #3): Jennifer Nielsen

Rating: 8/10
Series: The Ascendance Trilogy #3
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Suspense, Action, Young Adult, 
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Page Count: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Synopsis: 
One war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does. His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya's throne?Rousing and affecting, Jaron's adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion with The Shadow Throne.

*Check out my spoiler free review and spoiler filled review of The False Prince, which is the first book in the phenomenal Ascendance Trilogy*
*To get up-to-speed on my opinions of the Trilogy, check out my spoiler free review and spoiler filled review of The Runaway King*

*This is new feature I will be doing when I want to write a review of a book with my unfiltered feelings. I will post two versions of the review, spoiler filled, and spoiler free so people can still read the review and hear me gush about how good it is without the plot being spoiled for them. If you want to read the spoiler free click here*
*There are unavoidable spoilers for The False Prince, and The Runaway King in this review, and click here if you would like to see the spoiler filled review of The Shadow Throne*

Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley which does not in the slightest effect my honest review in any way. 

Backstory: Seriously, how else would I begin the review of the conclusion to the Ascendance Trilogy than a long backstory? So, if you read my review of The Runaway King, you will know I finished it around 9:30 on Monday night. This has never happened before, and sounds quite ridiculous.....but I was so full of fells that I couldn't go to sleep. After about an hour of not being able to go to sleep, I (if my mom reads this post, she will be mortified because she thinks sleep is extremely important) picked up my iPod, and starting reading (you guessed it) The Shadow Throne. Around midnight-ish, I finally put the iPod down because I knew I would pay for the sleep deprivation (I no happy without sleep), and there was a lull in the know for about .3% of the book. Fast Forward to Tuesday afternoon. I always read a physical book when I go cycling at the gym, but I made an exception in The Shadow Throne's case, and actually enlarged the font so I could read from my tiny iPod. Now it that isn't commitment, I don't know what the heck is. I then finished the book around 10 pm at night. I finished the entire book in less than 24 hours, which may not sound like that big of an accomplishment, but I had school, eating lunch/breakfast/dinner, homework, and not time to read in school because it was an eBook.

The ends of trilogies always have so much pressure on them, sometimes authors don't even know the end until they start writing it, and by that time, reader's are already so involved, invested, and committed  that they have imagined exactly how things are supposed to happen, and when they don't happen exactly as the reader wants -which is inevitable- readers are unsatisfied. I have to admit that I did not enjoy The Shadow Throne as much as The False Prince and The Runaway King for reasons I just stated above. It was a stunning book by itself, if I had picked it up off the shelves and read it (let's just pretend I already somehow know who the characters are, the plot, setting, and all that information) I would be reeling with the feels (which did still happen), and think it was the best Young Adult and Middle Grade crossover. Yet, it wasn't as good, or as magical as it was in the first two books.

I remember mentioning that Jaron couldn't be killed, yet it seemed realistic even when he seemed doomed to death (which is not a figure of speech). While I would probably fling myself against the wall and sob for days on end if Jaron died, it got a little annoying how he kept surviving. It was almost as if I was praying for one tragedy to be solved in order for him to move onto the next one so I would be closer to finding out what happen in the end.

Characters 8.5/10: I already loved all the characters of the book, (except for a select two -Amarinda and Imogen) but for some reason they seemed more fleshed out and independent to me in The Shadow Throne. It was almost as if the Jaron show now had an ensemble casts without diluting (what am I talking about, wine?) the star of the show. 

Roden ~ I don't know why, but I never liked Roden in The False Prince and certainly not in The Runaway King when he broke Jaron's leg, but I feel like I got to see a different side of him in TST. What readers often forget (or at least I do) is that the characters are the same age as they are, and yet they're experiencing things that us spoiled 21st century teens could never imagine enduring. Roden is just 15 years old, and he is the commander of the Carthyan army. Another point I would like to bring up is that he isn't Jaron. No one owes him anything. No one has to obey or respect him. His soldiers think he is young and inexperienced, and unlike Jaron -who is royalty and has to be obeyed no matter what people think- he is questioned. 
"Nobody gives your respect in this life. You must take it, you must earn it, and then you must hold it sacred because no matter how hard respect is to attain, it can be lost in an instant....Go get it, Roden. People won't follow a leader who doesn't know where he's going. Show them that you do."-----14% Jaron 
Roden's confidence is a little diminished for a short period of time in TST because his troops don't believe in him. I am cursing myself for not highlighting the quote but there is a scene between Roden and Jaron where Roden asks Jaron why he made him captain. Jaron responds, saying he knows how fearsome a force Roden is/would be to reckon with against Jaron, so he knew that he would have to make Roden his captain, and have him on his side. I know I did not do that quote/scene justice in my explanation, but it was a wonderful scene and a stepping stone for the both of them. 

Tobias ~ I also used to think that Tobias was a puny, useless character that was a huge brat and didn't stand a chance against Roden or Jaron for the throne. He does provide some comedic relief as the bumbly friend that doesn't know too much, at least in the way the world works, he knows plenty when it comes to academics. What Tobias also does is provide positivity, he is a steadfast anchor and as loyal as a golden retriever when it comes to Jaron and Carthya, he even gets captured on two separate occasions which could have been easily avoided if he weren't so loyal....or so Tobias. Almost everyone questions Jaron and his decisions throughout the book, but Tobias never does. You know when parents ask, "So your friend would tell you to jump off the cliff and you would do it?" Well, I have no doubt in my mind that Tobias would jump off that cliff even if he knew he would have to endure eternal damnation. 

Mott ~ As well as Tobias, Mott pledged his loyalty in his king, and served as a fierce friend throughout the series. The quote below is the longest he has said in the entire trilogy, and holds a lot of significance because Jaron has a mid-book identity crisis, which is all I'm going to leave that at.  Mott's questions in the quote were needed as the bucket of ice-cold water thrown in Jaron's face in order to wake him up.
"It's your storm, and the future of us all depends on you now. So who are you? Sage, an orphan boy who cares only for himself? Or the undisciplined, rebellious prince your father sent away? Life has tested your resilience and strength and willpower, and you have succeeded in ways nobody ever thought possible. But the storm has never been worse, and it will either destroy you, or define you. When everything is taken from you, can you still stand before us as Jaron, the Ascendant King of Carthya?"----- 52% Mott 
I don't want to get you worried, because even though some of the secondary characters had more depth, and were viewed in a better lighting (at least in my opinion), Jaron still had all of his sassitude. Credits to my friend Tina over at The Book Landers for making up the word. In my review of The Runaway King, I talked a lot about how Jaron is a blend of Day and Anden (if you have been reading my blog for a while you should really know who they are) from The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu. Jaron has to take on even more authority in The Shadow Throne because it is war time, and he has to make all the executive decisions that leaders have to perform, despite people (I'm really pointing my fingers at the 18 other regents that aren't Tobias or Harlowe) telling him what to do. At the same time, his decisions appear to be impulsive, and those of a teenage boy's instead of a king, but we all know that appearances can be deceiving. While Day and Jaron seem like they're huge risk taker's, they're calculated, and even though there is so much at stake, that is what helps Jaron save his kingdom. 
"I thought of my own father, the endless battle over his attempts to control me, mold me, and make me see the world through his eyes. And me, resisting all of that, every time. I wanted to believe that despite the trouble I had caused my father, he had loved me."----- 37% Jaron 
As I mentioned earlier, Jaron had an identity crisis, because knew there was so much on the line. What really put pressure on him was the fact that he thought (this may not have actually been true) people expected him to be like his father, or like Darius. The truth is, he would have lost the kingdom the very first sentence of the second book if Jaron weren't.... How should I put this? Jaron. He is a very complex character, and even though it may seem like he is a very strong, independent person, he still has doubts in his mind. He still has an instinct to cover up who he is and use the conventional method, which we all know never got anyone anywhere, the war started because his father used those conventional methods. In the end, as we all know (assuming you have read the book), he did things the Jaron way, and realized that his father truly did love him.

Romance 5/10: In every other aspect, Jennifer A. Nielsen is the goddess of Young Adult/Middle Grade crossover novels....except for the romance. 

I don't understand Jaron's love for Imogen. You would think this book is the most epic love story of the century -like the Titanic- the way that Jaron deals with something that happens to Imogen, and I truthfully, didn't care too much. I believe this is because Imogen was not very fleshed out as a character, and she wasn't given enough of her own voice in the story. The reason Jaron was so messed up in the first place in The Runaway King was because she was his weakness that his enemies used against him. I sound so mean, but I do think the amount of romance versus the amount of reaction was completely disproportional. 

Of course, then we have Amarinda and Jaron's betrothal to each other, and somebody suggests they get married (because that worked so well in Catching Fire). Luckily, they don't, and for good reason because of some plot twist that I don't want to mention that comes into play that I think reader's will like. 

Title 8/10: So I just had an !AHA! moment where the light bulb went off about the know two weeks after I actually finished the book. I kept thinking, "The Shadow Throne? That has nothing to do with the story." Let me explain my revelation, Jaron is in the midst of war, a war against three other kingdoms and no allies in sight. He is doing everything in his power to keep the throne, and Carthya, to defend the kingdom he has come to begrudgingly love. This also isn't the first time that he almost lost the throne, or the second, maybe it's time #31 he almost lost the throne due to rash behavior, risky decisions, and everything else that comes with being Jaron. Don't you see? The throne keeps almost slipping out of his grasp, he may think he has control of it, but it can slip out of his fingers in a few moments of hesitation, like a shadow. 

Ending 6/10: This is where things got a little unbelievable. Event after event happens in the span of a few chapters, and seems a little too much like there was pressure for "and they lived happily ever after" Even though I wasn't the hugest fan of the ending (although my sleep deprivation would beg to differ), Jaron remains as sassy, clever, and persistent as ever, and makes the right choices in the end that save his kingdom.

Conclusion: The Shadow Throne flies in a breakneck pace with a flurry of action, solid cast of characters, and is a strong conclusion to the Ascendance Trilogy that will leave reader's as satisfied as they can be without Nielsen writing a sequel (because we all know I would worship her if she did write a sequel).

"You were wrong, Commander. Whatever chains you try to place on me, I will always, always rise from them. I'm not buying my freedom because you never owned it. But I am taking it back for me and for my country."----- 95% Jaron

Have you ever been slightly disappointed by the end of the trilogy because you had the character's lives all planned out in your head? Or is there a romance that drives you absolutely insane? Tell me in the comments below :)

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