Saturday, May 21, 2016

Book Review: The Shadow Throne (Jennifer A. Nielsen)

Note: Contains some spoilers.

With very little time to recover from his stay with the pirates, King Jaron is now forced to begin preparations for war. But with war coming at his country from three sides, Imogen captured, and his armies spread thin already, Jaron is pushed to his limits mentally and physically, and even though he has strategies, it may cost him a lot more than he is ready for.

The Shadow Throne is the culmination of the Ascendance Trilogy, and the plot urges Jaron and his readers onward at a steady pace, with the worst possible scenarios closing in around them. The few people Jaron can trust are spread all across the country and outside of it, and it adds strain to his responsibilities. We’re just never sure if Jaron has a plan, what it is, or if it’ll even work. Jaron receives blows physically and emotionally, and it leaves him nearly crippled.

What makes this mystery about our lack of knowing Jaron’s mind, at times, interesting is how it’s from Jaron’s point of view, in the 1st person. So we see his thought processes, feel his physical and emotional pain and stress, but at the same time we don’t see his plans all the time. We’re left in the dark as to what exactly the young king is plotting, and only when it plays out do we see what Jaron had planned. It’s almost as if Jaron is truly telling this story to an audience and, true to his mischievous personality, deliberately withholds information from us and makes us eager for answers, waiting until his big (and usually dramatic) reveal. So on one hand we can be worried for Jaron, but on the other hand we suspect he has a plan.

Jaron is, as I’ve said before, an amazing main character. I often fall for the side characters, but Jaron is among the few main characters that have caught my eye and interest and made me kind of swoon (yes, it happens. ;) ). He’s incredibly witty and gives off a devil-may-care attitude, which make people lose their patience with him and consider him incompetent, especially when he does not divulge his reasons for the orders he gives. He’s quick to think and act, but he calculates it with decent accuracy. He also has his flaws, and these combined with his witty tongue make him rather charming. Jaron struggles to cultivate friendships, or understand them fully. While he does try to shield his emotions sometimes, he also doesn’t make a big effort to conceal them, especially when he is with Mott or another of his close friends. He knows his weaknesses (physical, emotional, mental) and he works to compensate for them.

The villain, King Vargan of Avenia, doesn’t make many appearances, but his presence is heavy on Jaron and his friends in the form of his armies and allies. It’s clear that Avenia alone could overpower Carthya, but Vargan makes it worse by recruiting the neighboring countries of Gelyn and Mendenwal. King Vargan himself is malicious and cruel, and with all of his power, it doesn’t seem that he has any weaknesses. He’s close to completely crushing Carthya and its Ascendant King.

Mott, again, is an amazing side character. He is Jaron’s loyal friend and bodyguard, and refuses to leave Jaron’s side unless firmly ordered (usually more than once). I love characters like Mott, strong, incredibly loyal, a close friend and confidant, but also a kind of mentor. He teaches Jaron what it means to truly love, to truly serve. Yes, Jaron drives him mad and I’m pretty sure he would lock Jaron up if it meant keeping him safe, but he is also respectful of Jaron and his title. His character doesn’t go through a lot of development, but his presence in Jaron’s life is really nice to see.

One of my favorite things about this trilogy is how there’s no presence of magic. It’s a high fantasy story, but there’s no magic in it. In its place is political and military strategy, and it makes the trilogy different, I think, than other fantasy novels. Another aspect, overall, was that all three books were clean of profanity (it is referenced, but I mean here that it’s not in the dialogue itself)  and sexual content (bedroom scenes specifically). I enjoy books more when I don’t see those elements in a story, and it was nice to find a story without those elements.


Violence/gore: A lot of bloodshed, since there is war, but it’s not described in detail. Jaron is cruelly abused and beaten, but again it’s not detailed.

Sexual content: Two characters share a few kisses.

Profanity: Only referenced.

Other: Jaron lies often to the enemy. There may be characters who drink wine or other strong drink (I don’t remember if there had been any instances, but it’s probable).


  1. I adore these books, I really do. They are so beautiful and well-done, yet at the same time really light reading so they're perfect for enjoying on a lazy summer afternoon or to unwind and lose yourself in late at night when the day is over. :D (I also have a softspot for high fantasy books that go without magic.)

    1. Yes, exactly!!!! X3 I loved that element too, how there wasn't any magic in them, while it was high fantasy. I enjoy magic in books but the absence here was intriguing and I really liked that take on it. :3 And let's face it Jaron's saucy behavior is pure magic by itself. XD


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