The Shadow Throne

The Shadow ThroneThe Shadow Throne brings The Ascendance Trilogy to a close, and I have to say it’s one of the best final books I’ve ever read. This whole trilogy is so tightly written—it ends up exactly as it needs to without any aimless wandering along the way. You absolutely have to have read The False Prince and The Runaway King before you read The Shadow Throne, so I will assume you’ve read those books and my reviews.

As all the surrounding kingdoms declare war on Carthya, young King Jaron has to figure out how to help his kingdom survive when they’re surrounded and outnumbered. The previous book ended on a cliffhanger when Imogen was captured by King Vargan, and The Shadow Throne picks up soon after.

One thing I love about this series is that Jaron has grown and changed throughout, while still very much remaining himself. He doesn’t keep rethinking things that have been handled. It took him a while to learn to trust, but as he gains allies, he doesn’t waste time questioning their loyalty. He has plenty of trouble to deal with, and he doesn’t need to manufacture any of it.

This book brings the trilogy to a satisfactory ending that ties up loose ends and brings things full circle very nicely. Things that were set up in the first two books bear fruit here. I’ve rarely seen a trilogy so nicely structured.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Death, Loss, and Sacrifice

Jaron is prepared to die for his country and/or any of his friends. His friends are equally prepared to die for him. Imogen takes an arrow meant for him, and he believes that she’s dead for much of the book. (She gets better—but her death matters and is handled in a way that makes it matter.)

Plenty of soldiers die. Jaron looks out over the battlefield and sees too many dead. He mourns their deaths and does his best to minimize the fatalities, but war means death.

Mott takes a horrible injury; although he’s saved, he’ll never be the same.


As usual, Jaron spends a lot of the book getting beaten up. He’s still recovering from the beatings he took in the last book. It’s not terribly graphic, but it is pretty pervasive and brutal. The bad guys enjoy inflicting pain, and Jaron gives them plenty of reason to want to hurt him. There’s a war going on, so there’s a lot of violence inherent to that as well.

Love and Romance

Jaron finally learns that love is the most powerful thing. This isn’t only romantic love—he learns the value of the love that he feels for his friends and allies, too. After Imogen is shot, he admits to himself that he loved her. When Jaron and Imogen are reunited, she admits she loves him too. There’s some kissing, but not much.

Amarinda and Tobias fall in love. Jaron is briefly jealous, but he realizes that his love for Amarinda is and always has been platonic.

Roles of Women

Jaron releases Amarinda from their betrothal, telling her that she should choose who she wants to marry. Although all the official soldiers are men, the women are involved in protecting the city—and they’re really good at it. Women are explicitly valued and seen as equally important.


Religion isn’t explicit, but the devils and now the saints are seen as possibly having an impact in the world. The existence of an afterlife becomes very important as Jaron deals with loss. He can more easily deal with death if he’ll be reunited with his loved ones in the afterlife.


Jaron starts to understand his father better as he has to deal with similar situations. Although he thinks he probably would have made other choices, he’s more sympathetic to what his father was trying to do.

Family in many ways is what you make it. Fink becomes a younger brother to Jaron. Harlowe is like a father to him. Family is love and loyalty more than blood.

Brains Over Brawn

Jaron is a capable fighter, and many of his allies are capable fighters. But outnumbered and still dealing with a not-fully-healed broken leg, Jaron absolutely needs to rely on his brains. Much of the fun is seeing what hare-brained ideas he’ll come up with and how his schemes will all come together.

Loyalty, Integrity, and Second Chances

Even those who try to kill Jaron can be given second chances. Many are won over by Jaron’s integrity and eventually side with him. Those who become his allies can be trusted. Even old enemies might be more complex.


I think everyone ought to read this trilogy—it’s just that well put together. But by this point, you’ll already know if this book is suitable since it’s in keeping with The False Prince and The Runaway King, both of which need to be read first.


The Shadow Throne by Jennifer Nielsen
Published in 2014 by Scholastic Press
Final book in The Ascendance Trilogy
Read my personal copy

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