By: Sarah J. Maas
Book # 2 / 5 (so far) of the Throne of Glass series
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Summary: From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil. Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances. Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
“The best lies were always mixed with truth.”
Review: I want so desperately to like this series. It’s an enticing story and creative idea, but Maas still fails to deliver in Crown of Midnight, which suffers from the same weird “romance” tropes that its predecessor did without being supported by a sufficient amount of interesting, comprehensible action until the last few chapters, where everything basically goes speeding off the rails while simultaneously saving me from yawning throughout the entire book. Up until that point, though, Maas’ writing seems immensely predictable, and the one true plot twist that she does manage to wedge in there (note: not the revelation of Celaena’s secret) was totally unnecessary – or maybe I’m just being emotional. Maas also somehow manages to make me dislike the same characters I loved from the first book, and not because they’re secretly evil or having a crisis; simply just because the way she writes them in this book completely contradicts the way she depicted them in the first. Almost every character in this book, without fail, seems to me to be spineless or alarmingly ignorant, and if I can’t connect to the characters, it’s hard for me to connect to the story.
Crown of Midnight is also immensely messy, for lack of a better word. The stories within the book felt disjointed, as if they occurred at vastly different times, and even when they did connect, it was by loose and frayed threads at best. Just as any action scene began to pick up, Maas would suddenly interject it with some scene of the Celaena’s love triangle or her unnecessarily reiterated thoughts about her past, which felt as if Maas had just copy/pasted the same section at random throughout the story. The only reason this book got an additional 0.5 when I really wanted to give it a 2.5 was because I can tell that Maas is trying to use all of this to build up to further explanations of Fae magic/Terrasen/Adarlan/Erilea/etc. in subsequent books. But I feel like she is frenetically trying to stuff in as much random information as possible without really screening what’s necessary and what’s not, and it can sometimes be overwhelming to the reader to make sense of every tidbit she throws at us, and to determine what is actually important to know/remember.
I think perhaps the largest reason I’m having a difficult time getting into this series is that I really don’t like Celaena, and I really don’t like the way Maas writes her. Maas doesn’t seem like she understands what the phrase “the world’s greatest assassin” means. Maybe she adds all the inane fluffy stuff about Celaena to make her readers connect to her more; but she’s an assassin in a foreign world where magic is strongly at play, so how much can we really? Between Celaena’s proclivity for pretty clothes despite mentioning several times she didn’t understand the need for them when the court women wore them; or her weird obsession with chocolate cake that I feel like is mentioned once every other chapter; or leaving her responsibilities behind to be wooed by a boy, I’m not really getting how she can be the world’s greatest assassin. And as I warned in my previous review of Throne of Fire, I said I was going to scream if Celaena turned out to be a Mary Sue… and lo and behold, she was. So, hear my screams in lieu of spoiling for those of you who haven’t read it yet how exactly this happens.
As for the characters who all fall in line behind Celaena, Dorian is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I am still #TeamChaol, mostly because I think he and Celaena deserve each other, and Dorian deserves to be his own person, especially since I can tell an identity crisis is nigh. Chaol becomes somehow even more uptight in this book, which I didn’t think would be that bad of a thing until he starts letting his emotions rule over every small bit of common sense he had had previously. Nehemia, meanwhile, is still my favorite character in this entire series, and I will just stick to saying that. Maas does as much as she can in the small amount of space she has to develop each of these characters in their own right; but it is clear who she favors. Additionally, Maas begins to introduce characters that I’m not entirely sure even have a purpose; for example, Mort, talking doorknob, which is not a metaphor. Could the information he shares with Celaena not really be given to her through literally any other method? Maybe he becomes more relevant in later books, but I somehow sincerely doubt that. It’s just another way that Maas attempts to add tiny details that accentuate the story, but fails and leaves the reader asking, “But… why?”
Ultimately, I think Maas’ writing took a dip in the second book of the seris, as many authors tend to do. However, a lot of the issues I had with her characterizations and plots were ones that were simply enhanced or compounded from the same problems I had with the first book, so that’s a bit concerning. I’m still entirely intrigued by the premise of the series and I can tell Maas is insanely creative; she just struggles, I think, to put everything she’s thinking about it one cohesive story. Pretty much every person I’ve ever heard talk about this series raves about it, and when I share with them my current feelings about it, they assure me relentlessly “Oh, don’t worry, it gets better”. I sure hope those promises ring true when I pick up Heir of Fire and the rest of the series, and I can see Maas’ writing evolve.