You may remember I had mixed feelings about Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass, which was the first in a new young adult high fantasy. Although I was disappointed that Maas introduced a love triangle--mostly because that device has become almost formulistic in YA fantasy, dsytopian, and paranormal--I was impressed with her world building and the hint that our heroine's future was not going to be easy.
Thank goodness I listened to a trusted marketing friend, who assured me that the next book in the series, Crown of Midnight, took the story in a new direction. I read it and agree. Not only has Maas avoided the sophomore slump but she has written a stronger, surer novel. I'm now officially hooked.
This review contains no spoilers for Crown of Midnight but assumes you read Throne of Glass.
- What happens? Celaena Sardothien, assassin and king's champion, is as deadly as she is beautiful. Although she is bound in service to a king she hates, she uses her position to find ways to undermine him. Meanwhile, she discovers she's not the only person in court who has something to hide and that uncovering secrets can have life-altering results. The novel doesn't end on a cliff-hanger, but by the last page, Celaena has stepped onto a new path.
- What about that love triangle? Maas neatly and smoothly ironed out Celaena's romantic conflicts. I have nothing against a little love during times of political unrest; I just don't like the obvious and predictable, and I'm especially annoyed by obsession. I'm pleased to report that you'll find none of that in Crown of Midnight. If I say too much, however, I'll spoil the plot; instead let me assure you nothing is simple for any of the characters.
- A note on the audience and genre. This series may be classed as a teen book, but the plot is fairly adult and definitely violent. The genre is fantasy, but this is not a world of wands and wizards, and magic is powerful and deadly.
- A note on the plotting. For the most part, Maas is stingy with her clues to the broader world in which her characters inhabit, doling them out in a tantalizing way. There is no single wise man to whom Celaena can turn for answers. She, and we, must puzzle out the meaning of what she learns. In only one aspect (I'm not saying what) does Maas lay it on heavy in the foreshadowing. But being sure I know something that Celaena doesn't isn't a negative; in fact, it makes the assassin's journey even more interesting.
- General thoughts. Maas is growing as an author, and I'm looking forward to seeing where she'll take us as the Throne of Glass series progresses. I won't have to wait too long because the next book is due out this coming fall. In the meantime, I hope to read Maas's novellas, which act as prequels to the series.
Source: Print: review; audio: bought (see review policy)
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