Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas, the second installment of the Throne of Glass saga, brings us even further into Celaena’s world. Now, she is the King’s Champion, having defeated her opponents in Throne of Glass to win the title. However, Celaena quickly shows us once again that she is not all she appears to be at face value. Once we realize her true intentions, the stakes rise to a bone-chilling level. While her days are spent fooling the kind and her nights are spent making friends and lovers, the world begins building to a deafening crescendo. When it shatters, what will be left of Celeana?
Okay, that’s a lot of drama in the first paragraph. I like to start off with something like that, though. Makes me feel more professional…or something.
Anyway, here is our opening line: “The shutters swinging in the storm winds were the only sign of her entry.”
It’s a lovely opening line, to be fair. First off, we know exactly who “she” is. Who else? Also, though, given the previous events of Throne of Glass, combined with the secrecy conveyed in this sentence, we have a pretty damn good idea of what she is doing. But she couldn’t, could she? Hmmm…
Anyway, in Crown of Midnight, we once again follow Celeana throughout her adventures and struggles in the Adarlan castle. While it first appears that she is being a good little Champion and is killing every innocent being that the king sends her after, as implied in that opening line, we soon learn otherwise. Yep, turns out that Celaena is totally duping the king. She hasn’t actually killed anybody. And because the evil King of Adarlan is such a thorough guy, he, of course, requires that Celeana bring him “proof” of her completed jobs. And by proof, I mean body parts, of course.
No worries, though. Celeana just strolls through the recently deceased of the nearest sickhouse and borrows some of their…belongings. Then she presents that to the king as her proof. Pleasant.
You should see Chaol’s reaction when she finally reveals all of this to him. It’s probably about what you are doing right now.
If we dig a little deeper, though, we can see that there is actually a lot going on. Maas is a great “salt ‘n pepper” author. What the hell do I mean by that? If you’re not familiar with the term, that’s because I just made it up. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with female rappers.
No, by “salt ‘n pepper” author, I mean that she is very good at taking an ordinary scene and sprinkling almost unseen bits of salt and pepper all over the place. She gives you a giant piece of bread, which seems like a whole lotta boring nothing. But once you sink your teeth in, you actually taste everything that she sprinkled in and then it’s “Like Whoa!” Clear as mud? Good.
You know that old saying for authors that says: If you mention a gun in chapter one, you better have it go off by the end of chapter two? Well, I absolutely love it when authors can put some tiny, minuscule detail in a scene that seems like nothing, only for it to show back up later and actually be…kinda huge and crucial to just about everything. I’m not even talking a gun, I’m talking something so small that you barely even notice it as your eyes scan on to find the “good parts.”
Maas, I must say, is great at that. She peppers in those little nonsensical details, and they have a tendency to come back around, full force, later on.
Do you know who the other master of this particular technique is? That’s right, Ms. J.K. Rowling. It’s kind of like her signature thing, actually. That one little detail from Book 1, Chapter 5 is now blowing things all to hell in Book 7, Chapter 9.
Anyway, with that in mind, the plot of Crown of Midnight seems to…lag. Don’t get me wrong, because it’s lovely and enjoyable reading. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m a ha-uge sucker for flowery and lyrical writing, and I eat it up like nobody’s business.
And, there is one burst of excitement and apprehension when we learn about Celaena’s fooling of the king. After that, though, things kind of settle back into a rhythm of court life and Celeana being Celeana and everybody else just acting like themselves. Now that I mention it, how is that character growth going? Let’s take a look.
Everybody’s favorite Captain of the Guard is such a pleasure to be around. He can’t decide if he’s horny, sad, angry, or just resigned. Maybe a little bit of all those.
Chaol is a bit of a wild card to me, honestly. He really doesn’t fit into his own role, if that makes sense. Even when he’s being all stern or scolding one of his guards, I can never take him seriously. I also get tired of his daddy issues, to be honest. Oh, he definitely has them. And they’re annoying as hell.
That being said, I think Chaol is a sweet guy, and I do think he is experiences a little growth in this novel. It is miniscule, to be fair, but Celaena does inadvertently teach him to be a little more open and understanding about people.
Of course, that all comes to a crashing and burning halt at the end, but I won’t spoil you on that one in case you haven’t read all of it. Suffice to say, Chaol pissed a lot of people off here.
The problem I personally have with Chaol, I think, is that he reminds me too much of myself. Stuck in a less than ideal situation and a little too stunted to do anything about it? Yeah. You may spend this whole novel whishing he would just…do something.
This one is going to be short and sweet. I don’t like Dorian. I know he has a good heart underneath all of that swagger (Good LORD the swagger), but I can’t stomach his entitlement, his riches, his sexuality, his…anything. I’m also kind of pissed at him for making me type the word “swagger.”
Also, I don’t think he really experiences very much growth. Sure, Celeana makes him more aware of things like, uh, slavery is bad, Daddy is a bad man, this is wrong, etc..
But, hey, he SHOULD have known all of that anyway. Come…on. I’m not giving him credit for something that he should have realized, realized and been outraged about, from the start.
And, I could say the same thing about Chaol. But I am giving Chaol a slight pass because he at least had the decency to be miserable and less than approving of the King of Adarlan, even if he didn’t do much about it.
Ah, I saved the best for last. Celeana is like a giant onion, full of many layers. And, every so often, we see one more tiny little later being pulled away to reveal something new and surprising. Just when you think you’ve got her figured out, she does it again. It makes for delicious reading.
Celeana is such a strong-willed character that it is almost necessary to put her in a box to keep her contained and easier to deal with. At one moment, she’ll fit perfectly in that box and then, the next moment, she won’t fit at all.
There are things about Celeana that remain completely constant and expected. She is her own cliché sometimes.
Still, though, I think it’s lovely to watch her grow from a good-hearted yet spoiled brat into something worthy of being great. The process is long and arduous, and there are a few steps back in there, but I think that makes it very realistic and relatable.
And those are all of the characters that I feel are worth mentioning. I may get some flack for this but…I don’t really like Nehemia. She’s okay, but not earth-shattering to me. So-so, though I do appreciate the effect she has on Celeana and the way she whips her into shape a few times. I won’t give away too much about what happened with her character’s storyline, but I will just say that I had a really hard time scraping up any emotion for her. This was one of the few times where I didn’t identify with Celeana that much.
Before I end this review, I want to say one more thing about the plot. As I mentioned, it has bursts of excitement but overall moves rather slowly. That is, however, until the end. The final few chapters of this novel are a rip-roaring joyride and, honestly, they are the best thing about this entire novel. They are its saving grace.
While I wish the whole novel had been this way, the good thing about that happening at the end is that i definitely revs up the excitement for the next installment. Hopefully, that novel will live up to that same, breakneck pace to pull this series back out from the “slower traffic” lane, because it definitely has the potential.