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Trope I’m Tired of Seeing: Sacrificing Power


Sometimes I don’t mind seeing particular tropes in books. Other times, I set the book off to the side and go: “Seriously? We’re doing this again?” This is one of those tropes. I was debating on talking about multiple tropes, but honestly, I feel like this just needs a post of its own. What is that trope you might ask? The lead character losing all of their powers at the end of the book, especially if they were near god-like in the amount of power they had.

I’m going to be talking specifically about four books that I’ve read in the last year that fall into this category. SPOILER WARNING since this literally talks about the end of these books/series.

  1. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  2. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
  3. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
  4. Lightbringer by Claire Legrand

Each of the main characters: Alina, Aelin, Nesta, and Rielle lose their powers at the end of their books. And almost all of them are for very similar reasons. They have to give up their powers in order to save the world, while no one else has to. Now, Nesta gives hers up in order to save her sister. But hers is the only instant that I see the trope a little differently. I’ll get into it for each of these books.

Alina in Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo sacrifices her power in order to stop the Darkling from spreading the Shadow Fold. This in turn spreads her light power to other individuals though to a lesser degree than she had. She could’ve been immortal, or done a number of other things to stop the Darkling. But this is the route that the book goes with. All so Mal will truly accept her, as their entire relationship he is constantly wanting/wishing her to not have magic. And after she loses it, then the two get married/together. Honestly, I think it would’ve been more impactful if she had died. Like literally everyone in the rest of the Grishaverse believes her to be. Because the ending she does get makes it feel more like a prize to Mal rather than a fitting ending for Alina.

Aelin in Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas gives up all her power in order to seal the rift between Erilea and other worlds. It was supposed to be a sacrifice where she gives up her life to return the gods to their world, and take care of all the Valg (parasite race that’s wiping out everyone/everything). Instead, she only manages to return the gods and the Valg are left to do whatever since Aelin asked them to spare Elena. Honestly, she should’ve left Elena to a fate she chose and saved the world the way she meant to. Dorian also tries to join her in splitting the power sacrifice, but she kicks him out and takes it all on herself. Granted, she doesn’t die as Elena’s mother spares her and sends her back. But Aelin loses almost all her magic, while Dorian loses nothing. Yes, Aelin never wanted all the power she has, but over the course of the books, she comes into it. She is confident in it, even after everything else she’s gone through. Honestly, it didn’t need to be ripped away from her completely. Aelin made enough other sacrifices throughout her life. It should’ve been split between her and Dorian. Two halves of the same prophecy. Still, two power magic wielders in the end even if they were halved. Versus Aelin going from near god levels to barely any in her veins.

Nesta in A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas lets go of “her” power to save her sister’s (Feyre’s) life when she almost dies in childbirth. Now, Nesta is the one instance where I never saw the power as hers. For starters, she stole it from a magical item called the Cauldron. Characters in the first book after she did that are trying to make her release it back since it’s not hers. And then in her POV book, she ends up releasing it back to the cauldron (again in order to save her sister’s and nephew’s life). She’s still powerful in the end, as she can control the Dread Trove and the Mother (their god) lets her keep some of the magic. An amount we don’t know. Plus, we know mates are equal. Cassian is very powerful and Nesta is his mate, so it stands that she is still powerful. Though perhaps not a Death God. Granted in those moments where that power was used to that level, Nesta was no longer herself. It was like someone else was taking over. The true wielder of that power (aka the Mother) not Nesta. So, her sacrificing the power is more fitting as Nesta has learned to accept who she is. Not what she’s taken in order to have control or revenge over something wrong that happened.

Lastly, there’s Rielle in Lightbringer by Claire Legrand. Rielle spends three entire books gaining powers and magic through artifacts to the point where the magic starts controlling and talking to her. In the end, she has to release the magic or it will consume her. Yes, she keeps it for a time after stopping the angels, but she also doesn’t get to keep it in the end. And the pause is mainly, so she can give birth to Eliana who is the other main character. As Audric tells Eliana in the epilogue, Rielle had to put magic (empirium) to sleep but it will wake up again and only Eliana can deal with it. It’s implied that the process killed her, but we don’t know that. She just leaves one day after giving birth to Eliana, because she was suffering trying to contain all that magic. It’s the best redemption she can get as her country hates her, only her husband wants her, and everyone is fearful of her magic since she almost caused the world to be destroyed when she sided with the angels. Honestly, it was probably the best ending for Rielle. Still, it could’ve been written in a way where she released the magic and lived, and then got to live with her family. As she did fix everything she caused in the end, and honestly if everyone hadn’t thrown a prophecy at her that she was a villain then perhaps she never would’ve worked with the angels for a time. And technically her sacrifice also takes away the magic from everyone but Eliana. So, no one really gains much from this. In many ways, it’s an instance where the trope isn’t used solely to better something for the love interest.

You rarely see a male character lose all his powers in the end. And if he does, it doesn’t have a hidden benefit for the love interest. Whereas, when the female does it grants something for their love interest. Alina loses magic which is actually what Mal always wanted. Nesta loses power and gains a reproductive system that works for her mate. And Aelin loses her powers and becomes Fae (immortal) like Rowan. Something that probably wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t sacrificed her mortal half. Granted, Maeve claims she would’ve settled into an immortal but she could’ve lied. Still, Rowan gets something out of it. More than just she lived. Rielle is the only one where her sacrifice doesn’t grant Audric with something. She was pregnant before her sacrifice, so Eliana isn’t so much a prize. And everyone including Audric loses their magic as a result of what Rielle did. So, she’s an exception to that part of the trope.

What trope(s) are you tired of seeing in books? Also, let me know if you would like me to do more posts like this of discussing specific tropes and how books handle them.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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  1. Brooke Carrington – Los Angeles, CA, USA – I'm Brooke, a woman in science, wife, and bookworm that loves to babble about books. My husband and I created Quill Quotes, a blog where I enjoy discussing my favorite books, quotes, and authors.
    June 11, 2021 / 10:59 AM

    Ooh I enjoyed this post! I feel like men usually lose their power but ultimately get it back in the end so it is really annoying that women have to completely sacrifice there’s.

    • Mae Polzine
      June 11, 2021 / 11:10 AM

      Right?! They get it back or always benefit in some way. Where as the female really doesn’t or their “benefit” is more for their love interest rather than them.
      ♥ Mae

  2. August 15, 2021 / 12:07 PM

    Just a note: Dorian did lose at least half of his power. His powers are no longer godlike. He did not end up as bad as Aelin, but it’s incorrect to say that he kept it all or even most of it.

    • Mae Polzine
      August 15, 2021 / 12:26 PM

      True, he did lose half of his power. But it’s still a lot more than most characters considering he isn’t limited to one form of magic (fire, air, ice, shapeshifting, etc.).
      ♥ Mae

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