Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
That whole stereotype about second book syndrome? CROWN OF MIDNIGHT COMPLETELY PROVED IT WRONG. Throne of Glass set up multiple plot threads that were picked up in this book and it was juggled so well. With the same four main protagonists, the story continues to expand and explore what Throne of Glass hinted at. A lot happened and Celaena was put through more hardships and pain but I loved every moment of it. That makes me sound like a sadist but all I mean is that the author wrote an engrossing story that continued to push the stakes higher and force characters out of their comfort zone. There are new revelations and subtle clues for readers to pick up on in order to learn how the past connects with the present.
While the first book leaves readers slightly intrigued, this one is a monster that sucks the reader in with juicy details a whole new world~~ The map displayed in the beginning of the book actually is of use and is somewhat relevant to the story. Celaena has more or less stayed the same in this book so it was super fun seeing how her wit and smarts allowed her to discover the ominous plans of the king. The first book has the ease of distraction through a survival competition but now that her position as Champion is secure, the real worries and identity crisis is back in her life. Celaena has some serious history to deal with and her childhood was so sorrowful and blunt. We as readers begin to empathize with her despite her flaw and determination to run away from her problems.
Nehemia clicked her tongue. “I didn’t realize that you’re just a coward.”
Celaena looked over her shoulder. “Say that again.”
Nehemia didn’t flinch. “You’re a coward. You are nothing more than a coward.”
Celaena’s fingers clenched into fists. “When your people are lying dead around you,” she hissed, “don’t come crying to me.”
Although she has proved her courage multiple times, she is still a coward at heart and it hurt her very much when Nehemia called her out for it. The author showed a great job of Celaena’s emotional instability and mental scarring by the way she seemed to loathe herself. That whole parade of arrogance, superiority, and nonchalance you saw in the first book? It was all a facade. Her mask has been neatly sewn on for ten years. Nevertheless, Celaena is still a protagonist that is fierce, vicious, and highly cunning. She’s reluctant to go against the evil king because she believes herself to be insignificant and powerless even though she has proven otherwise. In Crown of Midnight, Celaena literally leaps off the pages with her liveliness and there was never a dull moment with her around.
I have good things to say about Choal and Dorian since more light was shed onto their personalities and background. Dorian becomes more responsible and ‘kingly’ as a catalytic result of Celaena. How so? Dorian was portrayed as a devil-may-care womanizer whose meager involvement in court politics was by merely showing up at meetings. This new side where Dorian begins to stand up to his father is a complete reversal from his initial apathy and mere tolerance of his father’s atrocities. Whereas he offered his condolences upon hearing of the massacre in Eyllwe, his acts of defiance are more pronounced in the second book. I’d say Celaena imposes a positive influence that forces him to step up to the mantle and seek clarification of his kingdom’s situation. This, however, was only a possibility due to Celaena pushing him away. Instead of shunning his responsibilities by wooing the Champion and doing whatever idle things he did, he has to face court affairs because he still cares what happens to her in her assassin missions.
But this distance between them, this horrible gap that spread every day…it was for the best.
Dorian took a step closer, exposing his palms to her. “Do you want me to fight for you? Is that it?”
“No,” she said quietly. “I just want you to leave me alone.”
The relationship is not necessarily falling apart at the seams but both the prince and the champion are better off as friends when they don’t even have their own identities figured out. Dorian is weak-willed, and Celaena is still coming to terms with her past and learning to do what is right. Chaol is indecisive and his inability to align himself with a specific allegiance is a flaw that runs deep. (I haven’t said much about Chaol, right? He is an interesting character because he cares deeply for Celaena and is like a rock. Ever-present and steady even though he is very guarded in his feelings. Of course, he falls for her and in his own way, he tries to protect her and keep her safe. He has well-meaning intentions that truly comes back to bite him in the ass because he knows it’s not right towards the parties involved. He still does it though. In the end, I can only applaud him for his large heart even though I want to smack him around for acting so chivalrous when it hurts him to do so.)
Whatever shred of hope he’d had for a future with her was gone. She still felt something for him, she’d admitted, but she would never trust him. She would always hate him for what he’d done.
But he could do this for her. Even if he never saw her again, even if she abandoned her duties as King’s Champion…as long as he knew that she was safe, that no one could hurt her…He’d sell his soul again and again for that.
These are all characters that have a lot to sort through and this book dealt a lot with laying their problems bare. There is a lot of character development to speak of but it is more of “developing the characters to make them 3-D to the readers rather than actually making the characters change or become different”. Therefore, I’m expecting Heir of Fire to take the next step by resolving these problems and having characters confront/battle their inner turmoil.
Crown of Midnight brought new revelations to the table because honestly, I did not realize seriously how badly screwed up the kingdom was until Celaena, Chaol, Nehemia, and Dorian began researching. This book really stepped up its game and took it up a notch by highlighting exactly what’s going on with the villainous king. I loved that the author used the same castle setting to uncover new secrets when the conflict is usually laid bare in most books. The genre is now no longer fantasy-lite but high fantasy with a mystery base. The romance is still there but no longer the centerpiece which I’m so thankful for because it downplayed the complex plot.
Before the magic cleansing and tyranny of King of Adarlan, matter were quite different. War is now a constant and the current state of affairs is possible stirrings of rebellion. This is like most dystopian books that incite revolution and place their protagonists at the head of it *cough* Katniss Everdeen, Tris Prior *cough cough*. However, I can feel the hopelessness that’s deeply rooted in Celaena’s mind which stops her from rebelling. Her only aspiration was freedom far away from the iron hand of Adarlan; her desperate wish to be normal is what makes her different from other protagonists. The ‘special snowflake syndrome’ may apply to her since she’s a deadly assassin good at her job, but the extent of the king’s power is hard to challenge. It’s actually ridiculously hard and extremely unlikely for revolutions led by teenagers to overthrow the government/monarchy. So I liked this fresh breath of cold, hard reality where Celaena feels insignificant and wants no part in going against the king. This is a subplot that runs throughout the whole story as she continues to discover more atrocities and the source of the king’s power. I want to write more about the plot but it’s hard to do so when I’m navigating over major spoilers. To sum it up, Crown of Midnight was addicting, quick-paced, and exceedingly suave. If you were less than bedazzled by Throne of Glass, be prepared to be awed by the sequel.