Saturday, September 19, 2015

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas: Let's Talk about Symbolism


Earlier this week I wrote about the Point of View switches in Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas, and since I got carried away with that topic, I wanted to discuss my other thought about this book in a separate post. It might be a bit excessive to discuss this book in two posts, but whatever, my blog my rules, tehe. Anyways, I highly recommend you check my other post out to get my full feelings on the book, but in short, I really enjoyed this book (even if I have some issues). In my opinion the series has only gotten better; some people don't like where the story went, but I'm not one of them!

As in my last post, this discussion doesn't contain spoilers (only minor spoilers from previous books), so you don't have to worry if you haven't read QoS. At least I don't consider them major plot spoilers. You might find the discussion a very minor spoiler, but it builds on stuff that's happened in previous books.


Let's Talk About Symbolism
I'm using symbolism as an umbrella term here, but in particular I want to talk about this name changing business that happens. I'm not sure exactly if the transition happens in Crown of Midnight or if it happens in Heir of Fire, but the series starts off with the main character being called Celaena Sardothien and by Queen of Shadows she's called Aelin Galathynius

This is clearly a symbolic way of showing the change in Celaena/Aelin's character. Not only did I find this annoying because I had to learn a new character name, but I found this heavy-handed with the symbolism. 

It's a basic assumption that the main character is going to change over the course of a book. In most fantasy books the main character comes into some sort of destiny that they have to fulfill. They're the chosen one. This often means leaving behind their home and old way of life, and in the end they become some sort of leader. This is a great trope; readers love to see a character change and transform. However, most authors don't blatantly change the character's name to show their change in life. 

In Queen of Shadows, it's understood that since Celaena has accepted her "real" name of Aelin, she's coming to terms with her destiny. I might have let the name change slide without discussion (because it does fit into the story), but it's brought up over and over again. Not only does Celaena/Aelin insist that everyone call her Aelin, multiple times, at one point Celaena/Aelin actually comments that if she does something that will be getting rid of the last bit of Celaena in herself. It really felt like Maas was using the name change as a crutch to show the change in Celaena/Aelin's character, instead of letting her actions show the change. Her actions easily speak loud enough on their own to show the change. 

My other issue with the name change, was that Maas seemed to imply that by Celaena accepting the name of Aelin, she was a completely different person. I don't want to see a character change so much that they're a completely different person. I'm more interested in seeing characters refined into who they "really" are or a different version of themselves. Celaena/Aelin does have moments of her "old" self, but it just seems a tad drastic.

*SPOILER ALERT* Sorry I lied earlier. I had to include this minor spoiler to prove my point. Read at your own risk. 
.
..
...
..
.
For example, when dealing with Chaol, she acted like she barely knew him. It was just such a drastic change from the other books (and yes I know they had a falling out, but still). 
.
..
...
..
.
When it comes down to it, I'm not necessarily disappointed with where Celeana's character is going or how it changed, but I am disappointed that Maas felt the need to use the name change to symbolize to the reader that Celeana has become someone else. 

Maybe you think this is being nit-picky, but I really wanted to express the need for subtlety in writing. The reader is smarter than you think! Let me know what you thought of the name change, or if you know any other books where a character's name has changed. Also, have you had any experience with heavy handed symbolism? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below! 

Reading: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh 
Listening: Rusty Clanton
Watching: Youtube 

3 comments:

  1. I'm glad you like where the series is going! I ... don't. *sigh* I don't like that Cealena and Aelin are two COMPLETELY different people. It doesn't even feel natural. I almost feel like she's discovered her fey twin or something, but they're still different people. o.O I like character growth and I love change, and I can even get over name changes! BUT. I can't really handle it when the character is completely different from where they started. It's like a personality transplant. I will never forgive Celanea for what she did to Chaol.

    **SPOILERS WARNING***
    Particularly since she acts like they have no history!! And all the promises in CoM about "I'll always choose you" were a lie. She used Chaol I guess? And then she said he was a coward for not leaving the king's service earlier when, in fact, Celanea was technically "in the king's service" right through to Heir of Fire. Chaol left before SHE did. ***sigh***

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I found Celeana and Aelin to be extremely different, but I wasn't sure if it was just because I had forgotten what she was like from the other books. It's definitely a drastic change. As for the spoiler bits, I totally agree.

      Delete
  2. Huh. Strange - I actually liked the Celaena/Aelin 'crutch', as you said. Actions speak louder than words, true, but Aelin had been using the fake name as her own identity for the past ten years - surely, at some point, she had begun to lose her 'own' identity and *become* Celaena, so it's only fair that she would take some time to adjust to the idea of 'releasing' her old name - releasing that part of her history and past.

    Sure, it was heavy-handed, but it worked for me. I do like where the series is going though, and I can't wait for Book 5! :D

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...