After reading the entire Throne of Glass series in six weeks, I am extremely ready for Kingdom of Ash—maybe more ready than I can remember being for the last book in a series, ever. And by “ready” I largely mean “armed with many details and about a thousand questions, approximately one for each page of the massive final book.”
Here are 10 of the biggest questions—from the mysteries of barely-seen countries and tricksy villains to the question that hangs over every final book in a series packed with conflict: Who’s going to make it out alive?
The entirety of Throne of Glass up through Tower of Dawn is discussed below, so enter here only ye who have read the books.
What will it take to forge the new Lock?
Aelin and company were sent to the Stone Marshes of Eyllwe (more on that later) to find a Lock—an item that Elena, centuries ago, could have used to bind Erawan and seal the Wyrdkeys back into the gate, had she known its true purpose. But what they find in a chest is not the Lock (which, it turns out, is the Eye of Elena) but a witch mirror. In that mirror, Aelin and Manon learn Elena’s story and discover that Aelin will need to forget a new Lock. Forging the original one cost Mala her “mortal body,” which is just specific enough that it could mean a handful of different things for Aelin—assuming she is the descendant of Mala who forges the new Lock. Dorian and Hollin are also of Mala’s blood, but Aelin would never let Dorian take this on himself, and Hollin is a child. (One of my lesser, yet still pressing, questions is simply: What role are Queen Georgina and Hollin going to play in this story’s conclusion? They have to reappear, right?)
Will Aelin somehow sacrifice her mortal body, but not her Fae self? Will she die, but be brought back by Rowan, who’s said a lot of things about how he’d find her anywhere, even after death? Will they somehow all do this together, and not have to die in the process? And can this Lock send both Erawan and Maeve back where they came from, along with those dang mysterious gods? Are they from the same place?
And what role will Manon play in this? Her ancestor, Rhiannon Crochan, helped Mala make the original Lock, so a witch’s power seems a vital element. But the Ironteeth witches can only tap into their magical powers once: the Yielding. Which is also, of course, deadly.
Will Manon subdue the Ironteeth matrons in order to get the Witch Kingdom back in order?
Manon Blackbeak, we know now, is no mere Ironteeth; she’s the heir of the Crochan Kingdom as well. She escaped her nasty grandmother, but barely; that’s an unfinished fight if ever there was one. Now that all the Ironteeth know the truth about her, though, will they still rally behind the High Witches? Or will they be willing to risk the lives they know in order to forge a witch-peace?
I have a strange sympathy for the older witches, cruel as they are; like most of the characters in this series, they’re the product of war and conflict, and scraping out a defensive position in a world that doesn’t want them is somewhat understandable from a certain point of view. But they’ve spent so much time being violent and unyielding that Manon may be no choice but to destroy them.
And let’s not forget that the Valg prince possessing Dorian cringed at Manon’s golden eyes. In Tower of Dawn, we finally learned that there are female Valg, and that they’re something else; is it possible these golden eyes are related? Were the witches bred from female Valg? What is it about the witches that would make a Valg prince cringe?
Will Lysandra remember her original face?
This might seem like a minor question, but I think it illustrates one of the major themes of this series: How people find themselves again after major trauma. Aelin took years to stop being Celaena, to face up to who she was before she lost her family, and later her first love. Rowan took the blood oath to Maeve after the death of the woman he believed was his mate, and it sounds like it took him years to come back from that loss. Lysandra lost her family when her mother threw her out; she lost her original face when the king banished magic; she lost her love when Arobynn had him murdered. She’s been holding herself together for years, but the fact that she doesn’t remember who she was … well, it represents how much of this whole country doesn’t know who it was. How do you find yourself after decades of fear and stress and strain?
Assuming Ly survives, I hope she does remember. I hope she gets to meet her uncle, too.
What will be seen in the witch-mirror in the dark chest under Morath?
The mirror into which Aelin and Manon step was found in “the chest that was the light twin to the dark one beneath Morath.” I think this implies there’s not just another chest—but another mirror. And who is that mirror for? It had to be Aelin and Manon who learned the light mirror’s secrets, so assuming there’s another mirror, who will it reveal itself to? Is it full of secrets for Erawan and Maeve?
What is Maeve’s endgame?
Speaking of our favorite terrible fake-Fae … what is it she wants? Brannon feared she was after something more terrible than conquest, but what does that mean? We now know that she wanted Aelin essentially as a weapon against her fellow Valg—does she want to drive them out for good? Destroy their world? Take over Erilea? Become a goddess? (All that “Mab became a goddess” stuff is such a lie and I can’t wait for that to become apparent. And what about Mora?) She wants the Wyrdkeys, too; she wants to wield those and Aelin, but for what purpose?
And what about Athril? I’m slightly convinced that he’s not actually dead, but is trapped in his owl form, tied to Maeve’s side. Did she actually fall in love with him, whoever he was, or is that the story she made up to justify his disappearance? Would she just have wanted his healing gifts—and his ring—as a defense?
(Also: If the blood oath is a Fae thing, how does it work for her? And whose body did she steal?)
Where the heck is the third Wyrdkey?
Sometimes I get distracted by details, and it’s driving me slightly bananas that we don’t actually know where the third Wyrdkey is. Maybe Erawan has it, but we have no confirmation of that; we only saw the one that was sewn into poor Kaltain’s arm, which presumably was the one from Elena’s tomb. That one, along with the one in the Amulet of Orynth, is now in Dorian’s possession.
The third Wyrdkey could still be where Brannon left it: in Mala’s temple, where only someone with Mala’s gifts might go. If Erawan has it, how (and when) did he get it? If he doesn’t have it, will Maeve use Aelin to go after it?
What about Eyllwe?
So much of this story depends on the actions of a beloved princess of Eyllwe who sacrificed herself to set things in motion. So … when does Eyllwe get involved? When do we get to see it, besides the creepy marshes and the distant towns that Maeve set aflame? There’s much we don’t know about Eyllwe, like how Nehemia knew about Wyrdmarks in the first place; what other old knowledge is kept there? It seems as if the country should have a bigger, more active role to play, and I hope that happens in Kingdom of Ash.
What role is Elide going to play?
I’m curious what the future holds for Elide. I love her to bits, but right now her role is largely symbolic: She’s what Aelin is fighting for. She’s Terrasen, injured but strong, clever and cunning and kind. When Aelin lets herself be taken at the end of Empire of Storms, she does it to save Elide—and everything Elide stands for. But Elide is more than a symbol; she’s scrappy, she befriended witches—she is part witch!—she managed Lorcan, she survived her uncle and Morath … and I really don’t want her role in this story to be too passive. She’s not a fighter, though, and she doesn’t have magic (at least not that we know of). But she’s watched over by Annieth, who’s described as the lady of wise things and slow deaths. What will that mean for Elide?
Will Aelin tap into her water magic to free herself from Maeve?
She has it. We know she has it, though she hasn’t been able to do much with it yet. But does Maeve know she has it? And would she have taken Aelin to an isolated island if she knew? There’s still the matter of that magic-dampening iron coffin. But this is a potential wild card.
Who will die?
You can ask this question at the end of most fantasy series, but it’s particularly relevant here for two key reasons: One, our heroine cannot compartmentalize. This is an understandable human trait—enduring the death of a loved one is devastating—but she’s also a queen, and she has to delegate, and delegating means putting people at risk. Being a queen at war means leading through grief and horror; it means putting everything else aside and keeping going.
Aelin is starting to understand and accept this. She had to make choices, and delegations, at the end of Empire of Storms. But she does all her secret plotting out of a desire to be in control—in control of the situation, so she’s never seen to fail, but also in control of everyone’s fate.
With a Valg king on one side and a secretly Valg queen on the other, Aelin simply can’t control everything, nor can she save everyone. Which brings me to reason two: Aelin is driven by vengeance. It’s not her only driving factor, obviously, but think about what happens every time someone she loves is harmed. It might take a while—it might take years—but she’ll find a way to exact her revenge on the perpetrator.
It’s worth noting, of course, that when she does this, she often hands the killing blow to someone else. Lysandra, not Aelin, kills Arobynn—Lysandra, who suffered his controlling cruelty for even longer than Aelin did. Dorian, not Aelin, kills his father—Dorian, who’d been possessed by a Valg and forced to do unspeakable things; who’d watched his father order his lover murdered. In the end, Aelin doesn’t need to do everything herself. She just needs to plan everything herself.
So the question is really two parts: Who will die, and how will Aelin handle it? Will she die—for good, or to be brought back by Rowan? (I think Maas is too invested in happily-ever-afters to kill Rowan, but I’ve been wrong before.) Will the bond between Chaol and Yrene mean they both are sacrificed in order to destroy one of the biggest Valg threats?
I want to think Manon is safe. I worry the most about Lysandra. I don’t think the cadre—the good members of it—all make it out of this battle. Ansel’s kingdom’s proximity to the Witch Kingdom might render her disposable—or it might make she and Manon fast friends. I’m not sure what to think about the various heirs from the Southern Continent, but that’s partly just because this battlefield is getting crowded.
At least we know that Fleetfoot will survive.
What are you hoping to see in the final book?
Please no spoilers for Kingdom of Ash in the comments! (Save those for next week’s reaction post!)