Conclusion to Maas’ ‘Crescent City’ Trilogy Underwhelms

This review contains vague spoilers

Fans of Sarah J. Maas have been anticipating the arrival of her conclusion to the “Crescent Citytrilogy, “House of Flame and Shadow, for over two years. With a thrilling cliffhanger to the second book in the series, “House of Sky and Breath,” promising a crossover to Maas’ other adored series, the hype around this book was unanimous among her readers. I have been a fan of Maas’ epic fantasy series for over a decade, and having read her other fifteen books, I have to say—I found HOFAS to be incredibly underwhelming. 

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading this book. With over 800 pages in length (and five exclusive bonus chapters scattered about online), I devoured this book and its bonus content in under two weeks. It was a joy to see the conclusion to the story of main character Bryce Quinlan, a half-fae party girl who is hellbent on saving her friends and the world from a government of god-like power. It was still a classic Sarah J. Maas story filled with intense action, passionate romance, incredible worldbuilding and lovable, complex characters. All of it is told through a very entertaining and beautiful writing style. Still, there were aspects of the plot and pacing that felt rushed. 

Maas is typically a master of multiple point-of-view storytelling, weaving different plot points from different character’s arcs into the overarching plot. This was not my experience with HOFAS. I absolutely adore reading multiple points of view, but when I am getting multiple POV shifts within the same chapter, I feel like my brain is melting. There is so much jumping around from character to character at such a rapid pace, I craved a moment to take a breath and linger with the character for a little longer. 

It would have been more bearable if I cared more about our side characters, but so much of their stories were spent unsuccessfully scrambling to just figure out how to aid in what would certainly be a final showdown against the villainous Asteri or fixing personal issues that they caused (looking at you, Ithan and Tharion.) If their character arcs had more of an impact on the main plot of the book, it would be reasonable to get these side stories. Instead, it felt like an obvious set up for future books set in this world, with consequences that had little or no effect on the main plot of this book. 

For what is supposed to be an epic conclusion featuring the main cast of heroes overthrowing an impossibly powerful government, the final battle lacked any stakes. At no point did I feel that the characters were in any real danger. There were two close calls with the main cast, and in both cases, the characters were saved by miraculous circumstances—with a main character suddenly discovering he had healing abilities lying dormant all this time. Truly, I expected better from Maas. 

At certain points, I felt like I was reading an early draft of what this novel could have been—and I think there is a reason for that. According to TODAY, Maas had scrapped the entire first draft of HOFAS, refusing to give readers her “second-grade” work and choosing to start over. With the obligations of deadlines and strict publishing schedules, I imagine that Maas was under a lot of pressure to meet her deadline after making this decision. While it might have been for the benefit of the story, it also limited how much time she had to truly make it the best it could be.

Even with all of its flaws, I greatly enjoyed reading HOFAS. The multiverse crossover elements were absolutely thrilling and it was so refreshing to see characters from other series through Bryce’s perspective. Additionally, seeing the conclusion of her growth and healing from trauma through all three books in the series—and the growth of her companions—was absolutely inspiring. As always, I will be counting down the days until Maas decides to bless the world with another one of her stories.

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