Back in February I read Throne of Glass by the recommendation of a friend. I enjoyed it for the most part, but there were some issues that stopped me from recommending it straight up. It’s a good book with flaws, but it shows a lot of potential for later books to be great. After reading the second book in the series, Crown of Midnight, I can safely say the series is heading in the right direction.
Written by Sarah J. Maas, Crow of Midnight stars a young assassin, Celaena, who’s been assigned as The King’s Champion. The tyrant king loves to use her assassin skills to his advantage, much to the despair of the much more reasonable prince, Dorian. Other major characters include Chaol, the captain of the guard, Nehemia, a foreign princess who’s not a fan of the king, and Archer, a friend from back when Celaena was being trained to be an assassin.
The basic plot is that Celaena is assigned to kill Archer for trying to start a rebellion. Of course Celaena’s been trying to avoid killing the king’s targets, instead helping them disappear. Naming a high profile target in the same city as the castle makes her game much riskier though. As the plot develops, every major character starts carrying secrets of their own. It gives this book a political thriller element that works very well, especially for a YA book. Throw in a bit of magic taking place in a kingdom where magic is banned and you have quite the fantasy building up.
In the first book, Chaol was a bit of a boring character. His secrets and motivations are more complex in this book, making him a much more interesting this time round. There was also a bit of a love triangle between Celaena, Dorian and Chaol. That love triangle is greatly subdued in this book, which at first turns Celaena and Chaol into a couple, leaving Dorian as the odd man out. You can tell that Dorian still cares a lot about Celaena, but the idea that she’s assassinating people for his father disturbs him. A major reveal with Dorian also gives him a huge potential conflict with his father. At about the half-way point, a major tragedy pumps a lot of raw emotion into the story, and it ends up changing a lot of the relationships between characters.
This book also gives some compelling reasons behind some strange character traits. For example, Celaena loves dressing up in fancy gowns and dancing a bit too much for someone who’s been trained as an assassin since her childhood. Without spoilers, it turns out there are good reasons why she enjoys these things. She’s also hiding several secrets that would get her executed if the king ever finds out any one of them. These were hinted at in the first book but not fully revealed until the very end of this book. She’s also got a very strong moral compass, although there are a couple times in Crown of Midnight when she completely loses control and goes on a Wolverine style berserker rage. All in all, she’s easily the most compelling character in this series so far.
The biggest complaint I had with the first book is that there wasn’t enough action for its rather striking cover. There were only a couple actual fight scenes and they went by quickly. This book fixes that problem with a vengeance, throwing in not only duels between assassins, but a couple mythical monsters and bloody murder scenes. The story with Archer is concluded in a very satisfying manner. At the same time, this book is building up an epic story that will surely play out in later books. It feels like there is some sort of war coming. Crown of Midnight strikes a good balance between telling a self-contained story and building up to something bigger.
I ended up giving Throne of Glass a cautionary recommendation, and I stand by that statement. That said, Crown of Midnight is not only a much better book, but some of its reveals actually improve Throne of Glass. It gives the Throne of Glass a much clearer direction as a series. This book is also written in such a way that you could potentially start with this book. You just won’t feel the full context of some of the character relationships. If you like the idea of a book starring a young assassin working for a king who would execute her if he finds out her deepest secrets, check this series out.