August 21, 2013

REVIEW: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), by Sarah J. Maas
To Be Published August 27, 2013
Publisher:  Bloomsbury
Format: ARC, received at BEA
Genre:  young adult, high fantasy
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble
Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads) 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?
Action. Intrigue. Romance. Magic. A high body count. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) seriously has it all and then some. And it has sealed Celaena Sardothien's place on my list of Bookish Chicks That Kick Ass. 
After Celaena won the right to be called the King's Champion (and one day earn her freedom, which is the true prize here), she is now being sent out far and wide to do the nasty king's bidding by killing his enemies. Celaena is trying to find a way to do that and at the same time keep the respect of her friends and live with herself in the morning. Not an easy task. And, it gets harder when her next assignment turns out to be a sort-of-friend. It's also getting harder to hide her connection with the ancient Fae Queen Elena, especially when Elena seems to be trying to send Celaena a message that could really change how this game is being played. 
So, one of the biggest questions in your mind (or, at least, it was one of the biggest questions in MY mind) is probably, does the love triangle get straightened out in this book. Well, I can tell you that, the short answer is, yes. Actually, Celaena makes her choice fairly early on, and I thank the lovely Sarah Maas for not torturing us with that any longer than was necessary.
But, what I really loved about Crown of Midnight was that, even though the big question on everyone's minds was answered early, that, in no way whatsoever, slowed the story down to leave us with filler until the end. Oh no - in fact, Celaena's romantic entanglements end up being a source of unexpected and excruciating angst and emotion as the book continues. I didn't expect to find myself in tears while reading a high fantasy novel about an assassin. 
Speaking of assassins, you may recall that one of my only complaints about Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) (you can read my review here) was the notable lack of assassinations. Celaena more than makes up for this oversight, however, as the number of dead bodies she racks up in Crown of Midnight is staggering. In one scene she takes out nearly 30 men all by her itty bitty badass self. And, that was just one scene! The part of me that really loves a good blood bath was doing a happy dance. 

Crown of Midnight was really an intense study of the many faces of Celaena Sardothien. I already mentioned that we get to see Celaena the Assassin in action. We also see Celaena the Friend. Celaena doesn't have many of these, so when she finds someone she counts as a friend, she protects that person with every ounce of her being. I loved seeing Celaena the Lover - the dichotomy between the killer and the lover is so awesome. And then there is Celaena the Schemer. In addition to trying to figure out the king's agenda and Elena's puzzle, Celaena is all the while laying the groundwork for the time when she can truly be free of everyone and make her own choices. One thing is certain - not matter what face Celaena is wearing, you know she is wearing it FIERCELY.
There were some BIG moments in Crown of Midnight. In addition to learning whether Dorian or Chaol was Celaena's heart's desire, we also find out some very important things about Celaena's past that will come into play later in the series. Crown of Midnight is at least partly about saying goodbye and knowing when it is time to do so. 
The ending, while not necessarily a cliffhanger in the traditional sense, left me groaning only because I know it will be a very long time before I can find out what happens next. It was a maddening ending that left me raging for awhile. One thing's for certain. Crown of Midnight has risen my expectations for this series exponentially, and based on what I saw here, I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.   

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