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Book Review

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/goaa-thriving "magazine"). It is the fifth book in the “Throne of Glass” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Nineteen-year-old Aelin Galathynius is sole heir to the throne of Terrasen. When the king of Adarlan ordered the death of Aelin’s family, he was under the control of the Valg, monstrous creatures from another dimension. The Valg seek the Wyrdstones, three objects that can open a Wyrdgate allowing the Valg to lead their armies between dimensions and take over Aelin’s world. Aelin has one Wyrdstone. Erawan had two, but one was taken by Elide, a Terrasen noblewoman, who escaped slavery in Erawan’s fortress. Elide now seeks Aelin to give her the second stone.

Aelin defeated the king of Adarlan only to learn that a Valg prince possessed him and that the Valg king, Erawan, was in the body of Duke Perrington, the king’s adviser. Erawan is now strong enough to unleash the monsters he has been breeding. He declares war on the continent of Erilea.

Aelin, along with Fae Prince Rowan, her cousin Aedion and her shape-shifter friend, Lysandra, travel to Terrasen so Aelin can reclaim her throne. Before reaching the capital city, Aelin arranges a meeting with the surviving lords of Terrasen to plan for war with Erawan. To her surprise, they reject her as their ruler due to her age, her past and her romantic relationship with Rowan, whom they do not trust.

During the meeting, the group receives a message that Erawan’s witch armies are flying to Rifthold, Adarlan’s capital city where King Dorian lives. Aelin sends Rowan to rescue Dorian, while she leaves for the coast to gather allies to fight for Terrasen. She tells the lords that while they have rejected her, she will never stop fighting for Terrasen and will return with her army to defend her home. She sends messages to several people, calling in life debts that are owed to her.

Witches attack Rifthold, and Dorian tries to defend it. Erawan had ordered Dorian to be taken alive if possible, but the Yellowlegs have no intention of sparing him. As Dorian is about to be killed by Yellowlegs witches, Manon Blackbeak flies in on her wyvern and kills the rival witches. When Rowan arrives, Manon tells Dorian to leave with him.

Rowan sneaks Dorian out of the city by boat to the pirate port of Skull’s Bay, where they wait on Aelin, Aedion and Lysandra. There they find two of Queen Maeve’s Fae warriors, Gavriel and Fenrys, who have been ordered by Maeve to kill Lorcan.

The warriors tell Rowan that Maeve’s armada is on the way to Erilea. Neither Gavriel nor Fenrys are fond of Maeve, but they have taken a blood oath, which compels them to carry out her orders. They make a deal with Rowan that if they help him fight for Aelin in the oncoming war, Rowan will help them find Lorcan.

When Manon returns to her coven, she lies to her grandmother, the matron of the Blackbeak clan, that she was trying to capture Dorian alive but the Yellowlegs got in the way and she had to kill them. The matron suspects that Manon is lying but cannot prove it, so she orders Asterin, Manon’s cousin and second in command, to be killed as punishment for the Yellowlegs’ death.

Manon frees Asterin and attacks the matron, allowing Asterin and the rest of her witch warriors to flee. During their fight, the matron tells Manon that her father was a Crochan prince, and she is now the last in the royal line, the Crochan queen. Manon is shocked, as the Crochan witches are the greatest enemy of the Ironteeth witches. The matron uses her iron nails to gouge Manon’s stomach before Manon jumps from a ledge and is caught by Abraxos, Manon’s wyvern, and they escape.

Elide escaped Erawan’s fortress, but she is now being hunted by ilken, Erawan’s humanoid monsters. Lorcan, one of Queen Maeve’s Fae warriors, is also in search of the Wyrdstones. He is in love with Maeve and knows she seeks the dangerous power the Wyrdstones offer. Lorcan is determined to find and destroy them for Maeve’s safety. Lorcan meets Elide in the forest and protects her from the ilken. The two form a tentative partnership, but Lorcan doesn’t know that Elide carries one of the stones he seeks.

Aelin travels to a seaside town to visit a temple dedicated to Brannon, her Fae ancestor. Enemy soldiers occupy the town, so Aelin uses fire magic to burn most of them to death. At the temple, she encounters the spirit of the long dead Brannon, who tells her she must find a lock that can trap Erawan. The lock is in an ancient, half drowned city in the county of Eyllwe. Before traveling there, Aelin goes to a pirate port of Skull’s Bay to reunite with Rowan and Dorian.

Aelin wants an alliance with the pirate king, Rolfe, but the two share a contentious past. To force Rolfe’s help, Aelin sends out a pulse of her magic to alert the Valg to her location. Panicked that the Valg will slaughter and imprison his people, Rolfe agrees to align with Aelin.

When the Valg soldiers arrive on ships, Aelin and Rowan combine their magic to defeat them. Aelin makes the mistake of combining her magic with that of the Wyrdstone she wears on a chain and unwittingly summons the goddess Deanna, who tries to destroy both their friends and enemies. When Rowan confronts Deanna, who is using Aelin’s body, she tells him that Aelin must find the lock in the marshes.

Aelin and her friends leave the pirate port and sail for the marshes of Eyllwe. On the way there, Abraxos, flying with a gravely injured Manon on his back, finds the ship. Aelin uses magic to heal Manon, but Erawan’s tracker has followed her to the ship. The creature, along with several ilken, attack Manon, Aelin and the ship’s crew. The monsters are defeated, but Erawan now knows where Aelin is.

Aelin and her friends find the sunken city but, before they can find the lock, Erawan sends an army of ilken to attack. Aelin summons her fire magic to burn the winged monsters from the sky. Elide and Lorcan reach Aelin as she is destroying the monsters.

Elide’s reunion with Aelin is joyous, but Gavriel and Fenrys are compelled by the blood oath to attack Lorcan. Rowan stops the fight with ritual words, stating that it will be an act of war if they continue. They comply but know the words can only temporarily hold off the oath. Rowan notices that Lorcan demeanor is softer. Lorcan is falling in love with Elide.

After eliminating the ilken, Aelin finds an ancient witch mirror where the lock should have been. The group takes the mirror back to the ship and encounter a captain of a fleet ships. At first, it seems the group will be ambushed, but the captain is Ansel, Aelin’s friend who owes her a life debt.

Aelin is aboard Ansel’s ship when Maeve’s armada arrives, but Aelin is weakened from using much of her magic to kill the army of ilken. Maeve demands Aelin’s surrender. Even with war looming, Dorian knows the importance of finding out how to destroy Erawan. He has the idea that both Aelin and Manon, the Queen of Terrasen and Queen of the Crochans, should touch the mirror at the same time. They do and are transported into the past.

Hundreds of years before, Elena, Brannon’s Fae daughter, and her human mate, Gavin, fought Erawan and his armies. Elena tricked her father, Brannon, and stole an amulet (the real lock) from him, which temporarily imprisoned Erawan. She didn’t know that the lock was to be used to banish Erawan back to his realm forever and seal the gate.

The gods were angry with Elena and wanted to kill her and Gavin, but Elena bargained with them and promised to help a magic gifted ancestor in the future to forge a new lock and do what Brannon intended to do. When two children were born with immense magic, Elena chose Aelin, as she thought she was more mature than Dorian.

Aelin had the real lock all along but it has no power left. Elena tells her that forging a new lock and sending Erawan back will require Aelin’s entire lifeforce. Aelin accepts her fate, and she and Manon are bought back to the present, but instead of being on the ship, they are onshore near Maeve, who has a knife to Elide’s throat. Aelin slips the two Wyrdstones into Manon’s pocket and bargains for Elide’s life.

While Aelin and Manon were in the mirror realm, a bloody battle started. Aelin uses her magic to fight but, with so little power left, Maeve overcomes her. Hundreds of years before, Maeve used her magic and foresaw that Aelin would lead her to the Wyrdkeys. So she has been patiently waiting for Aelin to be born.

She manipulated Rowan, Aelin’s true mate, into taking the blood oath so that both of them would be forever bonded to her. Maeve summons a sadistic warrior, who beats Aelin savagely and tells her that unless she comes willingly, Elide will be beaten as well.

Manon, knowing the importance of keeping the Wyrdstones safely away from Maeve, doesn’t help Aelin. Since Maeve has no interest in the witch, she allows her to go free.

Maeve relieves Lorcan and Gavriel of their blood oaths and dishonorably discharges them from her service, but she keeps Fenrys. Maeve has Aelin put in a box made of iron to ensure that she cannot heal herself or recover her strength. Maeve leaves on her ship.

When Rowan finally arrives, he demands to know where his wife is. He and Aelin were married in secret the night before so that if she dies, Terrasen would have a king. Manon tells the others what happened in the mirror realm and gives the stones to Dorian, the other descendant of Brannon who can banish Erawan.

As the group stands in shock and grief over Aelin, a fleet of ships carrying Prince Galan Ashryver of Wendlyn arrives. Across the marshes, the Silent Assassins of the Red Desert appear. Lysandra shapeshifts into the form of Aelin and greets them. She and Aedion will sail north to Terrasen with their allies, while Dorian will go with Manon to convince the Crochans to ally with them. Rowan will go to find his wife, and they will all meet in Terrasen.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Aelin’s fire magic is a gift from the goddess Mala. Deanna, goddess of sea, sky and storms, is Mala’s sister. The witches worship the three-faced goddess. Elide is watched over by the goddess Anneith, the lady of wise things. Lorcan’s talent for killing was gifted to him by Hellas, who gives violent and burning deaths. Aelin prays to Temis, goddess of wild things, to keep Lysandra safe. Rolfe was given the gift of power by a sea god.

Aelin and her friends are scions, each of them touched and subtly guided together by a different god-like being. In the witch mirror, Aelin sees that the entities that are worshiped are not gods, but beings of a higher existence that can exist in multiple places. They were not from Aelin’s world, but became trapped after wandering through a Wyrdgate. They had struck a bargain with Brannon that when he used the lock, they would be sent back to their worlds along with Erawan. They are very angry with Elena when she misuses the lock.

Authority Roles

Maeve, Aelin’s aunt, foresaw that Aelin could get the Wyrdkeys and has manipulated the girl her entire life. Maeve set obstacles that force Aelin to use her power, and when she was at her weakest, Maeve attacks. After defeating Aelin, Maeve has her brutally whipped.

Elide’s father left her in the care of her uncle Vernon. After her father was executed, Vernon stole Elide’s title, and had her shackled and imprisoned. Elide escapes, and Vernon sends ilken to hunt her down. Eleven years before, Elide’s mother died protecting Aelin. Before she was murdered, Marion told Aelin to tell her daughter that she loves her very much.

Manon’s grandmother, the matron of the Blackbeak clan, is cold and brutal, using threats and violence to control and discipline her granddaughter and other members of the clan. Manon’s mother, Lothian, fell in love with a Crochan prince and became pregnant with Manon. During birth, Lothian revealed Manon’s parentage to the matron, telling her mother that Manon’s mixed blood could be the key to breaking a curse on the Ironteeth witches.

The matron killed Lothian and told Manon that her mother died in childbirth. Manon’s father never stopped loving Lothian and searching for his daughter. The matron killed him after telling him Lothian’s fate and that she would turn Manon into a monster.

After her father’s death, Manon’s half-sister, Rhiannon, searched for Manon and was caught by the Matron. The matron knew Rhiannon’s identity and ordered Manon to kill her anyway. The matron reveals everything to Manon and taunts her for being a "kin killer." The matron fights Manon and cuts open her stomach with her iron nails, almost killing her.

Aedion’s mother died of a disease that was easily cured by Fae magic, but she refused it, as the cure would have allowed the healers to sense that Gavriel is Aedion’s father and report back to Maeve. Aedion’s mother died to keep him out of Maeve’s hands. Gavriel loved Aedion’s mother but respected her wishes to end the relationship. He did not know she was pregnant, and Gavriel is shocked when he finds out that he is a father.

When the two meet for the first time, Gavriel desperately wants a get to know his son, but Aedion is angry and rejects him. Despite the rejection, Gavriel is patient with Aedion and tries to protect him when they go to battle with Erawan’s monsters and Maeve.

Elena argued with her father, Brannon, and stole the lock from him without knowing its true purpose. Elena’s mother is the goddess Mala. She gave up her immortality to marry Brannon, but then gave up her mortality to forge the lock. Mala told Elena that as a goddess, she will not remember her ties to her family, but when the other gods wanted to kill Elena for misusing the lock, it’s Mala who asks them not to.


Profanity includes s---, bulls---, a--, h--- and d--n. Offensive words also include b--ch, pr--k, whore and b--tard. Holy gods, by the gods, gods-d--ned and oh gods are used as a swear phrases. Aelin makes hand gestures that are described as vulgar.

Aelin burns several soldiers to ash using her magic. She battles a soldier who is being directly controlled by Erawan until nothing is left of him but a heart made of Wyrdstone. Aelin and her friends fight ilken aboard their ship and again in the marshes. Elide and Lorcan are hunted by ilken and kill several of them.

Aelin kills several Valg soldiers when they attack Skull’s Bay. Some of the soldiers are killed when they fall into the water and are eaten by sea monsters. Monsters attack Lysandra when she is in sea serpent form and hurt her badly.

The Ironteeth witches attack Rifthold, kill hundreds of people and destroy the city. Dorian and Manon kill several Yellowlegs witches. Manon stands trial for the witches’ deaths, but it’s Asterin who is beaten and ordered to death for the crime. Manon attacks her grandmother to give Asterin and her warriors time to escape. Both Manon and the matron injure each other in the fight.

When Manon first arrives on Aelin’s ship, Aelin beats the witch to get information out of her. Aedion punches Dorian for suggesting that Aelin and Manon go into the witch mirror. Gavriel and Fenrys are compelled to attack Lorcan. Elide jumps in front of the warriors, and Fenrys accidentally mauls her arm.

Maeve’s armada sets fire to several villages in Eyllwe. The battle between Aelin’s allies and Maeve’s armada is bloody. Maeve threatens to cut Elide’s throat if Aelin doesn’t comply. Aelin does comply, and Maeve orders her shirt removed and she be whipped. The beating is brutal, resulting in the skin being ripped from Aelin’s back.

The violence throughout is described in detail, and blood and gore are depicted.


At first, Aelin and Rowan avoid having sex because they are traveling and never alone. The two do kiss passionately, and Rowan presses his erection against Aelin. After the battle at Skull’s Bay, they meet on a beach and have sex for the first time. The sex is described in detail, including oral sex, sexual positions, size of his penis and the sensations she feels during the act. During intercourse, Rowan marks her with his scent. Aelin marks Rowan by using her nails to scar his back, which he sets with salt water to keep the scars.

When they go back to town, their friends know that they have had sex by Aelin’s smell, and Rowan feels animalistic toward other males who are around Aelin. When Aelin and Rowan journey to Eyllwe, they have sex on the ship. Those acts are also described in detail, including oral sex.

Lysandra was forced into prostitution when she was a teenager. Aedion has romantic feelings toward Lysandra, but he doesn’t pursue her because he doesn’t want her to feel pressured. When she is hurt and recovering, he tells her that one day he intends to marry her.

Later, Lysandra tells Aedion that she enjoys their flirting but she knows her history as a prostitute is unappealing. Aedion tells her that he has been with as many people as she, both men and women. He finds pleasure in both, depending on his mood, and the person he is with at the time.

Aedion believes that attraction is attraction. Aelin made arrangements with Lysandra in case she died. She asked Lysandra to shapeshift into her form, pretend to be the queen of Terrasen and secretly have children with Aedion so the family’s bloodline would live on.

Dorian is attracted to Manon and offers to have sex with her while she is chained on the ship. She agrees, but he changes his mind and leaves her room. When she is released from her chains, he goes to her room and they have sex, which is described in detail.

Elide wears baggy clothes and her hair in her face to discourage attention from men. When she stops wearing the disguise, both men and women stare at her body, and Lorcan finds her very attractive. Elide and Lorcan pretend to be married while traveling together. Lorcan is in love with Maeve and has offered to have sex with her, but she refused, taking other warriors into her bed instead. Lorcan develops romantic feelings for Elide, and they kiss passionately.

Aelin’s uncle, the former king of Terrasen, was in a long-term romantic relationship with a Terrasen lord. Manon’s grandmother is sleeping with a much younger witch. After performing at a fair, two women and a man offer Lorcan a spot in their beds for the night. Rowan’s cousin is mated to another Fae male.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Several characters drink alcohol.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

15 and up




Sarah J. Maas






Record Label



Bloomsbury USA Children's Books


On Video

Year Published





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