This has got to be my 4th or 5th time reading this series. I figured I would do it again while waiting for my library to get Empire of Storms in for me to read! In the past, I’ve had a hard time reviewing this book, mostly because I love the series so much that every time I start reading it again, I blow through the whole series. Case in point: I’ve already finished Crown of Midnight (tears, all of them, all over again) before I finished writing this review. I know that most of you have already read this series, so I will keep it short, but I definitely want to talk about why this is one of my favorite young adult books I’ve come across in my time as a book blogger.
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, [Chaol, literally no one calls him Westfall], challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
What I loved: Although the first couple of chapters are not the most engaging, each character in this series develops to the point of practically jumping off the page across the entirety of the first book. Truly they are the reason I reread this book again and again – everyone gets just enough time to make them a real person in your mind, and their stories create these original individuals that you care about as much as your closest friends. Speaking of friends – not only does this book pass the Bechdel test with flying colors, but Celaena and Nehemia have one of the most meaningful female friendships that I’ve ever seen in YA Lit. All of the female characters are almost completely devoid of annoying tropes, and have their own motivations and personalities that make them completely original, from Celaena and Nehemia to Kaltain and Philippa. I could spend days raving about how much I loved all these guys from the get go.
Another thing that could have very nearly been Trope Central but totally wasn’t: the King’s Champion games. I had quite a few complaints about the “games” cliché in A Gathering of Shadows, because of how hyped up it was in Hunger Games-like fashion, yet with no real promise or purpose beyond to benefit the main character’s overwhelming angst. In Throne of Glass, it looks like it will be a young woman who is strong and beautiful and totally wrecks all of the male competition…until it’s not. Celaena checks her arrogance immediately after seeing her competitors for the first time. She feels doubt, and a trickle of fear. However, instead of sitting on her hands and/or magically becoming the best, we get to see her work for her spot in the middle, and actually grow as an assassin in real-time vs through flashbacks. I actually talked to a screenwriter friend of mine about this today: what makes this book – primarily Celaena as a character – relatable to readers is the very human way that she does things during these games. During the tasks, rather than subject us to copious internal dialogue, Sarah J. Maas shows us what’s happening through human actions, like looking down while scaling a wall or registering an opponent’s size before a fight. In addition, Celaena is clearly just as much of a girl as she is a warrior: she buys dresses, eats pounds of candy, and even gets her period as the story progresses. It’s amazingly well done, and honestly something that shouldn’t be a novelty in this kind of literature.
What could have been better: The romance. I fully admit that I will be the first to ship anything that shares a meaningful look with something else, but personally, the romantic subplot between Celaena and Dorian felt forced and unnatural. This is, of course, my individual opinion, and doesn’t change how I felt about the book overall – I simply felt it was unnecessary, and I was happy when she ended it at the end. However, I know that a popular concern with this book is the lack of assassinating, especially from someone who is often referred to as Adarlan’s Assassin. I agree that Celaena definitely has her teenage girl moments more often than her badass warrior moments in this book (the excessive exclamation marks are no joke), but it felt like a negligible concern for me, seeing as people do die: either being shot through the throat, poisoned, stabbed through with a sword, clawed open and disemboweled, or just from falling to their deaths. Luckily for all those whose wanted Celaena to kill all of those folks, though, Crown of Midnight is where the real action happens when Adarlan’s Assassin truly gets back into business.
Share what you thought of this book! Do you agree with my likes and dislikes? Tell me in the comments below! Happy blogging!