Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
I was about three chapters into Crown of Midnight when I realized it was a sequel — after that it was a matter of tracking down Throne of Glass, catching myself up, and returning with a better understanding of the characters and situation. As it happens, I was a little lukewarm when it came to Throne of Glass, but I ended up much preferring this story to its predecessor.
Celaena Sardothien is the royal assassin to a king she despises, so it’s just as well she’s never actually killed anyone on his orders. Instead she fakes their deaths and helps them escape the kingdom of Adarlan, though she knows if she’s ever found out she’ll forfeit her own life — and those of her loved ones at court.
But the latest name on King of Adarlan’s list gives her pause. Archer Finn is a figure from her past, back when she was an apprentice at the Assassin’s Keep, who works as a courtesan among the noble ladies. Rumours that he’s now leading a secret rebellion against the royal family is of great interest to her, though she knows she must tread carefully if she’s to bring about the best possible outcome to the situation.
Her allies at court are the Crown Prince Dorian Havilliard, heir to the glass throne; Chaol Westfall, the Captain of the Guard, and Princess Nehemia, a hostage from a conquered kingdom. All of them get their own subplots this time around, and they come across much more three-dimensional; not just as characters orbiting Celaena, but with agendas and motivations of their own.
In fact, there are several improvements in Crown of Midnight on the last book: Celaena actually gets to do some assassinating rather than just talking about it, and also comes across a lot less vapid and obnoxious than she did in Throne of Glass (in which she seemed more preoccupied with her wardrobe than with the life-or-death competition she’d been drafted into). She also faces a more interesting conundrum this time around: projecting the façade of a ruthless killer, even if it means earning the fear and condemnation of her friends.
The tedious love triangle has thankfully been abandoned in favour of establishing a friendship with Dorian and a romance with Chaol, and though Nehemia falls to the usual fate of the black best friend in fiction (it’s not a spoiler, it’s a cliché at this point) at least the aftermath goes in an unexpected direction.
In fact, the more I think about it the more I realize how much I enjoyed Crown of Midnight. There’s a strong underlying story-arc involving supernatural powers and Celaena’s mysterious past that helps alleviate some of the deus ex machinas and Mary Sue-ish qualities that were at work in the previous book — here they’re given some justification, as well as depth and context. The world-building expands to include some pretty nifty ideas, such as a destroyed kingdom of witches and a dangerous otherworld of spirits, both of which have an interesting relationship to Celaena. Even the prose feels a lot more polished.
So it seems I’m going to continue with Sarah J. Maas‘s THRONE OF GLASS series — the final revelation in particular left me intrigued as to where this story and its characters are heading…
Wow, so unusual for the second book to be better, especially when you’re not thrilled about the first one. I’m glad you persevered with this series!