Book Review: Crown of Midnight, by Sarah J. Maas

SERIES: Throne of Glass, #2
SHELVES: Young adult, fantasy (high fantasy, magic, fairies), romance, assassins
MORE INFO: Goodreads
DATE READ: 01 January 2014
RATING: ★★★★
SUMMARY: After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown—a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon—forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

REVIEW: Spoilers ahead. To say I love this series would be a slight understatement. My friend introduced the first book, Throne of Glass, to me because she knew I would love Prince Dorian. (Dumb princes are my life, I’m not even sorry about it.) And she was right.

What I love most about the Throne of Glass series is the characters. They seem pretty standard at first—assassin, crown prince, captain of the guard, foreign princess—but Maas develops them really well. Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s Assassin. She’s probably the most feared person on the continent, but she loves beautiful things like shoes and dresses, so you never forget that she’s just eighteen years old.

Prince Dorian Havilliard (my love, my sweet) is a prince who’s pretty handy with a sword in the training room, but his main love is reading. (He recommends a ton of books to Celaena in the first book and it tears me apart a little bit.) He’s a dumb prince not because he’s uneducated or foolish but because he’s LOVELY AND PERFECT and too sweet for life.

(Tiny tangent: there is a mini relationship between Celaena and Dorian in the first book, and I LOVED IT SO MUCH until Celaena ended it because she became the King’s Champion and she didn’t want things to be too complicated at court. I miss my assassin/prince dynamic so much, sigh.)

In Crown of Midnight, Celaena has been the King’s Champion for quite some time. If you’ve read the novellas that take place before the first book, you are probably already familiar with Celaena’s history of letting her targets go. Though she has little to no issue with killing people (aside from children and who she sees as innocent, of course), she cannot do the king’s dirty work. So she fakes their deaths and tells them to leave Adarlan and never return.

I have mixed feelings about this part of the story. I like how Celaena never wavers in her beliefs, but there are times when she doesn’t realize the consequences of her actions and how they affect her friends.

We are also introduced to more of the resistance taking place in Adarlan. The king gives Celaena the task of killing people he believes are part of the resistance, and one of the people on his list is an old acquaintance of hers, Archer. (He’s a courtesan, by the way. Just saying. I kind of loved him a little bit, until the end.) She tries to learn more about information when she is supposed to be figuring out how to “dispose” of Archer, but everything kind of goes to shit.

And Princess Nehemia, oh, god. (Spoiler alert, tread carefully.)
Everything she did was for her people in Ellwye, and her fate is to die for the cause of the resistance. And not just die: she is brutally and violently murdered in her bed. And even worse is that Celaena finds her body after learning that there had been a death threat made against Nehemia.

Another part of the book I’m conflicted about is the relationship between Celaena and Chaol Westfall, the captain of the guard (and Dorian’s best friend). I love their relationship, platonic and romantic, but I knew the moment when Chaol thought it was a good idea to not tell Celaena about the death threat against Nehemia that it would destroy their relationship somehow. It was wonderful while it lasted (Celaena always hanging out in Chaol’s room, reading on the same couch, SHARING CHOCOLATE CAKE late at night, my whole heart), but the end of their relationship was brutal. It was the only way the relationship could have ended, but it was still painful to read and I COULDN’T STOP WHAT WAS HAPPENING, how awful.

(More spoilers.) I’m a little disappointed in the reveal that Celaena is actually the rightful heir to the throne of Terrasen. She’s half Fae, but her only ability is that she can shift forms from human to Fae (which only happens once that we learn of, when she goes into that otherworld she opens to talk to Nehemia’s spirit). The foreshadowing was done well, but just the fact that it happened at all was less than satisfying. It was predictable and almost like Celaena was a Mary Sue. Which, no.

And of course, there’s all the fantasy monster magic business with Queen Elena and weird portals to the other world. Also monsters. And Ironteeth witch queens (which are introduced in the second novella, The Assassin and the Desert, and yes, they have IRON TEETH AND NAILS, it’s freaky). And prophecies.

I would definitely recommend this book and the series as a whole, even if fantasy isn’t your cup of tea. (Is that possible? No.) The characters are really well written, and the political aspect of the books are interesting and developed, though not overwhelming. Also beautiful character dynamics.

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