How much more do I love this artwork more than I love the cover of the first book? SO MUCH MORE. Celaena looks appropriately otherworldly and scary and whatnot, rather than that Randomly CW-Looking Girl they stuck on the original cover of Throne of Glass.*
Crown of Midnight picks up a few months after Throne of Glass left off: as the King's Champion, Celaena Sardothien is tasked with offing anyone he points a finger at, and since he's the most evil guy around, she's been a busy girl.
But, why would and how could, you ask, our heroine work for such a man? Well, the hows are explained in the first book, and the whys involve her Katniss-Everdeen-Style-Survivor-Not-Paladin personality... but as it turns out, she isn't. Not really: every time he sends her off on a mission to assassinate someone, she allows the intended victim to stage his or her own death and escape.
If she gets found out, though, he'll kill her. And then he'll kill the few people she's close to: namely, Chaol, the Captain of the King's Guard, and Nehemia, the Princess of Eyllwe. And Nehemia's family. And probably her dog.
That's not all she's up to, either: she's keeping secrets from EVERYONE, even the people she trusts with her life... but if I got into all of that—not to mention the secrets THEY'RE keeping from HER—we'd be here all day.
- CINEMATIC ACTION!
- SMOOCHIE SMOOTCHING!
- LOTS OF PLOT TWISTS AND MYSTERIOUS MYSTERY!
- DESPITE A VERY XY-HEAVY CAST (and yes, the love triangle continues), IT PASSES THE HELL OUT OF THE BECHDEL TEST, AS CELAENA AND NEHEMIA MOSTLY TALK POLITICS. SO YAY FOR THAT.
- SECRET LIBRARY CATACOMBS. A DEMENTOR THINGIE. A BREWING REBELLION. MAGIC MIGHT NOT BE GONE AFTER ALL. DITTO THE FAE.
- There's a brief moment that'll make readers think uncomfortable-yet-meaty thoughts about How Things Are versus How Things Are Remembered. History won't necessarily remember us as we truly were, and there's not really anything we can do about it. Oog.
- Celaena and Chaol have to do a difficult, complicated balancing act, in terms of their positions at court, personally, and romantically.
- That pose on the cover? TOTALLY HAPPENS. It's all very River Tam.
- OH MY GOD, THE NUMBER OF TIMES EYES ARE DESCRIBED AS EITHER TURQUOISE OR SAPPHIRE OR EMERALD APPROACHED THREAT LEVEL TOPAZ. (Named for Edward Cullen's famous peepers, naturally.)
- OBSIDIAN IS ALSO OVER-USED, BUT AS IT'S A PLOT POINT, I'LL GIVE IT A PASS.
- THERE IS EYEBROW QUIRKING. OR COCKING. OR MAYBE JUST RAISING. REGARDLESS, IT HAPPENED ENOUGH THAT IT MADE ITS WAY INTO MY NOTES.
- Celaena is eighteen, but reads more like she's in her late twenties/early thirties.
- She swaggers. A LOT. Which grates after a while.
- While I enjoyed identifying most of the tropes that popped up, I did NOT enjoy Nehemia's arc, which touched on a couple of pet peeves of mine. But that's very spoiler-y, so I won't go into it.
Elements that will depend on your own personal taste!
- Celaena is a combination of sultry, tough-girl badass and homebody bookworm, chocolate-loving, shopping addicted borderline-hoarder. If you can suspend your disbelief about her tendency to go into—and win—major fights after not eating for a week, she's pretty fun. (Also—SPOILER much of the side-eye-inducing physical stuff is explained in this installment. END SPOILER)
- Celaena still loves throwing out Vin Diesel-esque one-liners. Nothing as exquisitely bad as "It's been a long time since I smelled beautiful" but she occasionally comes close. Whether or not you feel that sort of thing can be pulled of by someone OTHER than Vin Diesel is your call.
- Is the enchanted door knocker an original, breath-of-fresh air character? No. Is he funny? Yes.
- It's full of theatrical visual clichés—lots of swirling cloaks and dark alleys/hallways/etc., like "She came through the fog, no more than a sliver of darkness. She didn't run—she just walked with that insufferable swagger."—and while they'll drive some readers bananas, I mostly enjoyed them: as in the first book, I found that they gave it a comfortable B-movie feel.
- Ditto many of the tropes (long-lost princess, item quest, poem puzzle, an almost White Fanging) and similarities to other books (Graceling, especially, though the monster-y types have a real Robin McKinley feel): some readers will find them comfortably derivative, others will just find them derivative.
Good lord, I am so sorry about my heavy use of the caps key. I got excited.
Long story short? It has the same strengths and flaws as the first book, so if you liked the first one, read this one; if you didn't, don't. Considering where this one ended up, I'm totally looking forward to Book Three.
*Who, oddly enough, looks a LOT like the author.
Book source: Review copy via Netgalley.