Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Release Date: August 27, 2013
(Thank you to the publisher & Netgalley!)
Published by: Bloomsbury USA

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.


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?


*flails* This book was so good. I liked Throne of Glass, but I LOVED Crown of Midnight. (!!!) Watch out below for some spoilers if you haven't read Throne of Glass yet.

Ten Likes/Dislikes:

1. (+) Celaena, the protagonist - Celaena and I haven't had the best of pasts. When I first read Throne of Glass, I thought she was too arrogant - so arrogant that I found it hard to identify with her, so arrogant that I never really believed in the danger that she faced. My wishes were granted, though: you do find out more of Celaena's past, and you do get more into her head in Crown of Midnight. She's still bold and brash, clever and witty, strong and assertive, and yes, quite able to defend herself (and thus proves herself as an assassin and King's Champion)--but where she shines in this novel, it's none of those things. It's when she finally shows some vulnerability, some doubt, some emotion, and that actually made me want to hug her. That got me rooting so much for her that it was nearly inconceivable that I didn't like her before. So if you loved Celaena in Throne of Glass, you will ache for her in this novel. If you weren't her greatest fan in Throne of Glass, maybe you'll like her in Crown of Midnight.
2. (+) World-building - You wanted more on Adarlan and life outside the court and in Rifthold? How about the political system? How about the magic and the King's nefarious plots? How about Elena's history and the beasts we found in Throne of Glass? There's that and much, much more. One of my favorite things about the Throne of Glass series is that there's so much to be discovered in the world, little details about the food and city that give it a different feel besides the usual medieval aspects of high fantasy. These are the kind of details that you can feel and appreciate as a reader but don't have to analyze (though Shannon does quite well in the linked blog post). Yeah, there are some epic fantasy cliches, but they never feel old and too much. Ms. Maas does a great job reinventing old tropes into her own world.
3. (+) Romance - Undoubtedly, the romance will anger some fans as Celaena makes a clear decision in this novel but isn't too tactful about that decision. Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of the non-interest (not just romantic-wise but also character-wise), so while I recognized that Celaena and Chosen One could have done better, I still reveled in the slow-burn that soon came to pass. Most of all, I was just happy that there wasn't the same level of love triangle as in the first book. Both Dorian and Chaol spend some parts in the beginning fantasizing or moping about Celaena but not for too long. And the best part of it is that the romance is one of a few things that forces development of these three characters and fits unexpectedly into the plot. This novel is a much darker, more mature novel than its predecessor, so if you were concerned about that in Throne of Glass, take this as a warning for Crown of Midnight, though I personally think that Ms. Maas was tasteful about both the action and the romance scenes.
4. (+) Plot - Ooh, wow. All the different plot threads of this beauty. The plot improved greatly from the Competition in the former book. There's still the loose threads introduced by the creatures Celaena previously encountered, the romantic threads, the threads of Celaena's past, Celaena as King's Champion, the King's plans and other events that are set into motion by all of the above. So much is happening in this novel, and all the threads come together beautifully. Some of the twists are a bit more predictable than others, but their predictability didn't take away any enjoyment (for me).
5. (+) Character Cast - Nehemia's friendship with Celaena is one of my favorite female friendships in YA. I especially love that it's made clear that Nehemia has her own motivations, her own set of beliefs--a past and a personality before she meets Celaena. Other side characters from Throne of Glass who I didn't expect to be reintroduced are brought back to reinvigorate the plot in unexpected ways.  Some new characters are introduced, though am I allowed to consider a talking doorknob a character?
6. (+/-) Incorporation of Previous Work - Have you read the Throne of Glass prequel novellas? (Side note: they are being bound and made into a print book, if you're interested). If you haven't read them, there are some mentions in this novel that might confuse you (especially novella #2, in the desert). On principle, I dislike the feeling of inside jokes (from the novellas) that you won't understand as a regular reader and figured I ought to warn others of this, though I did think that Ms. Maas had a sneaky and cool way of incorporating the novellas and Throne of Glass (not just the events and relationships and plot details but other details I hadn't remembered until they came up again).
7. (+/-) Themes - I think this is a book that will make some fans cry and rage with its careful exploration of the domino effect of choices and manipulation. The themes of love and loss also come into play a lot more fully in this novel than they did in Throne of Glass. That being said, there was one event in particular that I personally didn't think sent the best of messages, though I'm still not sure what else could have happened to have had as propulsive of an effect on character development.
8. (+) Writing - The writing reminds me of that in Angelfall - not because they're from the same type of POV (they're not), but because they have a similar, cinematic effect that allows me, a non-visual reader, to picture clearly what is happening. There are a few fully-fledged narrative scenes and dream sequences, but overall they were so minor in light of the entire plot that I thought they actually sometimes helped.
9. (+) Pacing - This book starts with action and ends with a bang. There's really no dull moment or unused scene. A lot of things contribute double time towards building the tension for the climax.
10. (+) The Cover - I'm actually a fan of the new covers, though the pose for this one is quite awkward. On the flip side, you have Celaena in a dress, so you get both sides of her and the dramatic fiery colors work well for the book's content.

All in all, Crown of Midnight does exactly what a sequel should do: advances the plot while developing the characters, world, and themes and maintaining high stakes. If you are a fan of Throne of Glass, you simply cannot miss out on Celaena's latest adventure. Highly recommended. (So recommended that after reading, I actually bought a paperback of Throne of Glass and pre-ordered Crown of Midnight.)

20 comments:

  1. I was also really happy (SO happy) that the love triangle didn't have as much of a place in this book. I just hope it remains that way through the rest of the series now. And yes, you can totally consider a talking doorknob a character! I know I did. I loved the doorknob's amusing conversations with Celaena. ;) I also really appreciated Nehemia and Celaena's friendship -- definitely one of my favorite female relationships in YA too.


    I'm a little nervous about the next book, I have to admit, but also greatly looking forward to seeing what happens next. Hopefully it will be just as strong as this one. :) Fantastic review as always, Christina!

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  2. I have a recommendation, can you please start reviewing some sucky books? I feel like every time I come here I am adding a new book to my wishlist and yet I can't buy them all! Really though, this one was already on my wishlist prior to reading this review because it's been everywhere. I have to read the first one first, of course. I do appreciate the note that I should probably read the novellas before moving on in the series or else I might be confused. Usually that's not the case so it's easy to skip them or read them afterwards. Anyways, I sort of just jumped through this review because I didn't want to get spoilered but I do hope to get my hands on this... eventually ><

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  3. I love how the triangle was resolved, and even though I wasn't a fan of the non-interest AS a love interest, I love how his character was developed in this sequel. (Btw, do we know if he knows what the other two know about HER? It seemed like love interest thought he didn't, but at the same time, I also that love interest had already figured that part out. I know I did. :P) I kind of hate that it took something tragic for others to connect with Celaena...I kind of felt that her vulnerability was always right there under the surface, but maybe it's because I'm a bit of a closed off person, as well, so it was easier for me to detect? Idk...what I DO know is that this was one fabulous sequel. Oh, and I also hated the inside jokes, so to speak. I have NOT read the prequels yet. I want to, though. Are they worth it?

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  4. Jenny @ Supernatural SnarkAugust 20, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    "When I first read Throne of Glass, I thought she was too arrogant
    - so arrogant that I found it hard to identify with her, so arrogant
    that I never really believed in the danger that she faced."


    YES! I felt the exact same way Christina, and I kind of felt like I was the only person in the world that didn't really care for her in Throne of Glass. I felt like she talked this huge game but we got to see none of her skills (until the very end), so I just struggled with her. I had tons of people tell me I should have read the prequels before picking up ToG so I would have seen her badass side, but I kind of feel like I shouldn't have to read a prequel to relate to a character, you know?


    Anyway, so glad she's a bit more vulnerable in this book and that you came to like her so much more. And a huge YAY for her making a romantic decision in this book. *happy dance* I was worried that was going to be drawn out for quite some time. I'm excited to read this now!

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  5. It may not. Apparently there are going to be 6 books??? So there's a good chance that current love interests will change over the course of a series o.O. The doorknob was a nice take on the usual animal companion in high fantasy stories. Plus the humor!! :).


    Me too! Definitely nervous but very eager for the next one :). Thanks, Sam!

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  6. Lol. Yes, I feel that way almost every time I see a blogger review a book they loved. And lately, I've just had good luck with books! I think I'm getting better at picking and choosing the ones that I'm sure I'll like... Please don't wish sucky books on me o.O.


    The novellas part. They're not essential to understanding everything, but there's a certain depth that they add to this book - more so than they did with ToG. It's true this one is everywhere and you might continue to see it. I heard there might be 6 books for this series o.O.

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  7. "Undoubtedly, the romance will anger some fans as Celaena makes a clear decision in this novel but isn't too tactful about that decision."


    Hahahahahaha *points at self*.


    Great review! The worldbuilding comments are spot-on. Am I the only one who didn't guess Celaena's past? Fail. :P

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  8. So true! It actually made me like him as a character. I don't think he does - I don't think he was in a position to see what had happened. She'll probably have to reveal it to him soon.

    Yes. It was a brilliant move, and even if it was really tragic, at least she made everything else fall into place. Well, I do think there were a few moments of vulnerability before, some hints that she's just another girl, but those, for me, were mostly overshadowed by her arrogance. It could just be because that was my first experience with an arrogant heroine - I mean, I really love her self-confidence now.

    I liked them! The world is really large. With the prequels, you get some backstory on Arobynn, Celaena's upbringing as an assassin, and Sam. Plus having read them, it is easier to picture how this series may include up to six books o.O. (In the novellas, I thought Celaena was easier to relate to. Also, I thought her character development across the four of them was impressive.) I wonder how you'd react to them after having read ToG and CoM.

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  9. She is a definite fan favorite, and I felt bad for not agreeing. I agree - most of her skills didn't come out until the end. She didn't get to prove herself as much in the other tests. You shouldn't have to read the prequels to relate to the character - that's actually something I had marked down ToG for. The prequels showed she was capable of so much more growth and development as a character than I thought was seen in ToG. But that's totally just my opinion.


    I hope you'll like her more too, Jenny! I hope that you'll be pleased with the romantic choice she makes and that you enjoy this one :).

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  10. Lol. I was thinking of our discussion as I wrote that. I was going to comment on your discussion post today too, but since you mentioned having already discussed the book with me, I thought I ought to give other people a chance to voice their opinions ;).

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  11. I definitely found Celaena a little too perfect in ToG, and while I wasn't 100% behind the event that allows the reader to see her as vulnerable in CoM, I definitely warmed up to her in this book.
    I'm not always a love triangle fan, but these relationships are interesting and complicated in a way that makes me happy … so far. And while she does make a decision, I'd guess we haven't seen the end of her romantic drama!


    Great review :)

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  12. Same :). And ahaha, I've been mulling over your theory on the Non Chosen One and Celaena. I thought ToG was just a trilogy, but I heard that it will be six or seven books, so it's quite plausible that your theory could happen in the upcoming books.

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  13. Why are you postong these reviews of books that are MUST reads in my tbr list, but I haven't read yet? :D I have the gorgeous US paperback copy of Throne of Glass which is sitting on my shelf surrounded by Angelfall and Shadow and Bone and everyone is talking about themmmm and I STILL haven't read these. I suck at life. Big time. Anyhow, I saw that you put a + to romance--whohoo. Romance junkie as I am:) I'm a bit afraid of the love triangle, but Nick from Nick's Book Blog said that it basically ends in this book. I can, luckily, read your thoughts on writing and cover and I can say that I'm happy to agree with you hon! The covers are good and even though I liked the first, original cover, I think these suit better since I understand Celaena is a warrior and the first one really didn't deliver it as much as the new ones do. Plus, there're way more possibilities for the new ones as Nick also told me that there're six books in total *shocked* I was planning on not reading them before they're all out, but you know :D I can't wait THAT long O.o I'm also glad to hear that you enjoyed the writing. I've heard nothing but great words about Sarah's ability to create an alluring world with fast-paced plot and intriguing characters so of course I'm all excited:) Glad you enjoyed it, babe!

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  14. Katie @ Doing DeweyAugust 21, 2013 at 4:29 AM

    I've heard great things about this book and your review makes me even more excited to read it. World building is one of my favorite things!

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  15. Crown of Midnight definitely has a fascinating world - one big enough for the six books for the series :). I hope you like CoM when you get the chance to read it!

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  16. SIIRI WHAT ARE YOU DOING lol. Read Angelfall and Shadow and Bone and Throne of Glass!!!!

    The love triangle more or less ends in this book. She might choose to bring it back in the next books - she has six, as you said - but right now, it doesn't look like it, and I actually think you'd really, really like the Chosen One romantic interest. Hee, it might be better to wait until all books are out, but then everyone will be talking about them and we won't get to discuss with you :P.

    I hope you enjoy those books when you get around to them :).

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  17. I really need to read the first book--it's been sitting on my shelves since ALA 2012. :/ I always appreciate how concisely and thoroughly you bullet point the positives and negatives for each review, and it seems as though this one's well worth the time.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  18. Thanks, Wendy. I don't know if this is another incentive to read Throne of Glass, but apparently it's going to be a six or seven book series... so if you can get through ToG fine and read the much-better CoM, you'll be prepared for the coming years o.O. I hope you enjoy ToG if you get to it!

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  19. I think I've read this review three times since you've posted it! I love what you wrote so much :)

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  20. :D :D :D. I see your CoM review and when I am less tired and more coherent, I must also read yours and compare our conclusions. (Oh, hey, we never got around to discussing it, huh?)

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