Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: High Fantasy, Magical Realism, Mystery, Paranormal, AWESOME
Publication Date: August 27, 2013 (Bloomsbury – North America)
Source: NetGalley review copy
Synopsis: An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.
After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.
Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.
Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?
☆: 5/5 stars – MY FEELS. THEY HURT.
Review: After finishing this book, it feels like my heart went five rounds and lost, hard, face down on the floor. After “Throne of Glass”, it feels like Maas has made a huge leap from the writing in all technical aspects, which was originally setting us up in her world with her characters in book one, to making them feel so very, very real and full and there in book two. Definitely in my top ten for 2013 so far, “Crown of Midnight” is everything I could have possibly wanted in a sequel for “Throne of Glass” and more.
Since the technical aspects were more or less flawless here, I’ll talk about parts of the book I loved the most, or where I felt Maas improved the most. I’ll try to keep it spoiler-free, but I can’t promise I’ll be able to completely do so.
One thing that I found interesting was that it felt like Maas let herself go a little further this time, and let the book stray more into the new adult or mature YA genre. Perhaps because new adult has become such a big thing, and the usual restrictions that we see that keep YA, well, YA have been a bit loosened by the arrival of the NA genre, it makes it a little easier for authors and their editors to see what can still fly within the newly widened horizon of YA. Or maybe it makes it easier for the well-seasoned YA reader to see the differences, I’m not really sure. It’s not really a problem, or an issue, just simply a thing I noticed while reading this book – and in my opinion, a good thing. Why? Because it feels like Maas has a little more freedom to really express Celaena and her misadventures to their fullest while still keeping one foot in the YA pool, and the other in the NA pool. Maas has matured Celaena and book in general a great deal, mostly due to the whole King’s Championship that happened in book one, and you can really feel it in this book. The stakes are a lot higher, the feels are a lot more intense, and everything in general is a lot more vivid and, well, brilliant.
So when people are calling Maas the new George R R Martin for the YA/NA genre? I think it’s pretty spot-on.
The most improved area: the worldbuilding and the fullness/development of the main cast. The worldbuilding was already really good in book one, but it feels here that we get a bigger sense of the entire real world (including continents, countries, and backstory) of Endovier and beyond. This book was so tightly written that I read it in more or less one sitting, and I just wanted more by the end of it. And yeah, there’s a cliffhanger – one so good that fans of book one? Your jaws will drop. I know mine did. It felt like this time around, Maas really knew what she wanted to put out there, and it felt like Bloomsbury really allowed her to do that. So I give a tip of my hat to Bloomsbury for not dumbing down “Crown of Midnight”, because they could have taken that route in so many places – both in terms of plot, and in the actual backstory section of worldbuilding, where we see not only more of Celaena’s past, but that of the entire world in general, including more of a history with Queen Elena and the Fae. And it’s not all hearts and rainbows.
The main cast finally felt really developed. While we get a more or less final decision on the love triangle, the feels on all three sides are still there. I won’t say who gets the girl, but Maas took some risks, and for that, I love her. She could have kept the love triangle going, but she really takes out your feels, stomps on them, puts them back in your chest, and when you least expect it, does it all over again. And strangely, I was okay with that. We get more on pretty much everyone in this cast, and some shocking choices are made by Maas concerning these characters that would make GRRM absolutely beam with pride. As in, the heartbreaking kind. The Abrams kind. The Whedonian kind. Yeah, I think you guys know what I’m talking about there. But in this book we get more on everyone, even the smallest parts of the main cast, and they finally all feel like full, really people. They may have felt somewhere around a 2.8 or 2.9D out of 3D, but now they feel almost 4D in their realness. And that made me really happy, despite the feels-stompingness of it all.
Final verdict? An absolute must-read and one of my favorite sophomoric efforts of 2013 so far, if you’ve read book one, you simply cannot miss book two. “Crown of Midnight” is out now from Bloomsbury Kids in North America so be sure to check it out when you get the chance! Absolutely awesome. And I’m still nursing those wounds on my feels.