Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

It's incredible what a good book can be for you: A refuge during times of change or stress; a companion when you're just plain bored; or a window into others' minds and thoughts and emotions. Needless to say, these aren't the only forms books can take. Its magical, really. When I found out that "Crown of Midnight", the sequel to Sarah J. Maas's thrilling novel "Throne of Glass", was finally coming out near the end of last month, I knew I'd find all of those things in this one book, with Celaena whooping people's butts with her knives and undeniable wit!

Eighteen-year-old Celaena Sardothien has finally become the King's Champion, dispatched to assassinate threats to the kingdom. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown--a secret she keeps even from those who are closest to her heart. Keeping up such a dangerous charade could mean life or death, not just for Celaena herself, but for her dearest friends. But when the King tasks her with killing someone from her past, Celaena finds herself caught up in an increasingly tangled web of lies, secrets and deceit--including one that could alter the fate of the entire kingdom. Where do the assassin's loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

If I loved Celaena in "Throne of Glass", then I completely bonded with her in "Crown of Midnight". What I mean by this is that I found myself seeing her as more than a totally bad-ass assassin, as a girl who's really the same age as I am and deals with issues that any teenager has to deal with. It was through these moments of empathy and understanding--like awkward encounters with exes or the utter feeling of devotion toward a pet--that made Celaena a truly relatable protagonist. Even the problems normal kids usually (and hopefully!) don't have to deal with, such as having to assassinate potential threats to royalty, become believable and understandable. This is because we see Celaena grow as a person and as someone who's human, just like the rest of us. So it's easy to imagine what we'd feel if we were put in the same situation. And that's what Ms. Maas does extremely well--crafting a unique and powerful heroine who, at the same time, is just like us.

The same can be said about the other main characters in the series, like Chaol and Dorian. I really liked how some of the chapters were told from Chaol's and Dorian's perspective, since it really helped to heighten the tension and give us juicy looks into their thoughts and emotions. (And by this, I especially mean thoughts and emotions regarding the love triangle! Who doesn't love some good romantic tension?) Seeing things from their points of view also makes them more dynamic characters, since they become somewhat more real as you experience their worries and discoveries alongside them. There's also some great stuff going on with the other, more minor characters. Nehemia, of course, remains the wise, statuesque princess--not to mention Celaena's best friend and guide. She's definitely a shining beacon in the story, and you can see why Celaena regards her as her soul-friend. There's also Archer, the strikingly beautiful courtesan who grew up with Celaena when she was training to become an assassin. I think Ms. Maas does a great job with depicting his character and shifting our perceptions of him as the story progresses. Handsome men can't always be trusted, eh?

Luckily for us, "Crown of Midnight" doesn't succumb to the 'sequel syndrome', where sequels end up...well, sucking. Instead, the storyline of the novel starts off exciting, and ends up all the more so! The twists and turns in the plot as Celaena discovers more and more things about the mysterious Wyrdmarks and magic really keep tensions running high, and I found my heart thumping rapidly in the really intense scenes (and trust me, there are lots of them). What I especially like about the storyline is that despite all of these revelations, they're never introduced too suddenly; Ms. Maas cleverly weaves in hints into the plot that build up to these turning points in the novel. And that ending! I don't know whether I can say for sure that I saw it coming, but talk about a cliffhanger!

Overall, "Crown of Midnight" is a compelling second installment in the "Throne of Glass" series, with an awesomely butt-kicking heroine, well-developed characters and an exciting storyline that hooks you in and never lets go. If you haven't read the first book, I urge you to go pick up a copy now--it's worth it!

Rating: 5/5

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