Last year, Sarah J. Maas’ debut fantasy novel, Throne of Glass, made a massive impression on the Teen literature circuit. Her follow up to this unique blend of fantasy, mystery & romance is due on the 15th of August, but I was lucky enough to snatch a proof from the publishers…
Obviously, spoilers for book one will follow from here.
Picking up some months after Celaena Sardothien, the famed ruthless assassin, is appointed the King’s Champion, after a brutal, supernatural contest, Crown of Midnight sees the heroine out doing her duty for the king she despises so much. Doing all she can to make targets “disappear”, without actually having to kill for the sadistic ruler’s pleasure, Celaena walks a fine line between upholding her morals & risking not only her own death, but also the execution of her closest friend & captain of the royal guard, Chaol Westfall. When the King orders her investigation of an underground rebel group, led by an old friend, Celaena sees an opportunity to investigate what they know about the King’s shadowy actions, especially after her midnight contacting from the ghostly first Queen, Elena, to warn her that something dark & powerful is rising in the great glass castle. Having flashbacks of the previous year’s demonic struggle with her rival Cain, Celaena struggles to keep her own secrets, protect her friends & do what’s right… But as her blossoming relationship with Captain Westfall becomes more of a distraction, she finds her focus slipping, & Prince Dorian & Princess Nehemia are keeping things from her. How can she solve the mystery of a powerful tyrant, without losing the person she’s managed to become? Can she become the ruthless assassin, trusting no-one & doing anything to get what she wants?
So, how does Crown of Midnight fair as a sequel? Better than book one, that’s for sure! Where the first book was a Hunger Games-esque series of contests with a dark subplot, book two is a much more open, free plot that flits from different locations & weaves a really dark, textural mystery that reminds of a court-based thriller, with a magical twist. All the brilliant characters return from book one, including my favourite, the elusive Princess Nehemia, who continues as a mysterious presence in the court knowing more than she ever lets on. Dorian really grows as a character too, struggling with his conflicting feelings towards his father’s rule & his own moral growth, & some of his revelations throughout the book are the most gripping passages in the plot. In the first book, my major bugbear was the heavy focus on the romantic element, which I felt undermined some of Celaena’s back story as a merciless assassin. I have to say, the romance is still present in Crown of Midnight, but it’s handled in way that is much more in-keeping with her character. In fact, in this book, some of her fight scenes are downright awesome, whirring, blending action that keeps the reader glued to the page in short, succinct sections of explosive violence.
Outside of the character development, the plot in Crown of Midnight is full of dark twists & also one pretty devastating revelation (I gasped out loud). The demonic undertones lend the book an uneasy sense of tension, & the investigation into the world’s history was something I had really hoped for after book one. The use of parallel worlds also creates an expansive universe beyond the original setting. The shadowy work of the King & his council is also tantalisingly teased out to the reader in mysterious slivers, implying the next book to have a massive revelation which I personally can’t wait to get to read!
A great sequel, an action packed Fantasy & a twisting mystery, with a sweeping, star-crossed romance thrown in, Crown of Midnight takes what its predecessor offered & times it by ten, giving readers a rollercoaster of emotions & action. It should be a big hit for Autumn!