Released on August 27, 2013, Crown of Midnight definitely suffered from “second book syndrome”. The story focuses on Celaena, who is settling into her new role as the King’s Champion, but faces ethical dilemmas, romantic woes, and truths she is not yet ready to accept. Unfortunately, while this all sounds quite promising Crown of Midnight just doesn’t live up to the action and intrigue of the first book – nor does it stand out among the rest of the series as anything more than ordinary.
From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil. Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart. Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.
After the masterpiece that was Throne of Glass, I was so excited to dive into Crown of Midnight – but unfortunately, this book really did suffer from that infamous “second book syndrome”, and of all the books in the series, it remains my least favourite (and the least reread).
Crown of Midnight is once again centered on (mostly) the same protagonists – Celaena, Chaol, Dorian, and Nehemia, with The King of Adarlan and Duke Perrington acting as ominous villains (who don’t seem to be doing much of anything). Newly introduced in Crown of Midnight is Archer Finn, who is an old friend of Celaena’s from her assassin training days; he now works as a high-end, much sought-after courtesan in Rifthold. He is also Celaena’s next target – as suspected rebel leader, Archer Finn, has one month to live, unless Celaena can find a way to fake his death – as she has done with numerous other targets since entering the King of Adarlan’s employ. Archer’s rebel movement is trying to track down the lost princess Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, the heir of Terrasen and the only hope to restore the honorable kingdom to its former glory.
This is the main plot point of Crown of Midnight – Calaena’s investigation into Archer’s movements as she tries to thwart the King of Adarlan’s plan to have her assassinate him. As she does so, she and her friends fall into an increasingly complex web of lies and deceit – a web spun so tightly that not even Celaena will be able to unravel it before it ensnares her, and breaks her heart by killing one of those closest to her. While this promises to be an interesting premise – who doesn’t love a good, intriguing mystery, and dashing rebels – Maas just wasn’t able to pull it off, instead delivering a slow-paced novel that seems to reach a conclusion without any real progression. It was confusing, messy, and more than a little disappointing, to say the least.
“The rest of the world quieted into nothing. In that moment, after ten long years, Celaena looked at Chaol and realised she was home.” – Sarah J Maas, Crown of Midnight
Perhaps my favourite thing about this novel was Celaena and Chaol’s relationship. While note everyone is a fan of this relationship – or of Chaol in general (seriously, if you still don’t love him, go read Tower of Dawn) – I felt that it was exactly what Celaena needed to help push her forward. Celaena’s relationship with Chaol really blossoms in this Crown of Midnight. Chaol is initially resistant to the relationship, because feels like his loyalty to the king and to Dorian means he can’t have a relationship with Celaena. For her part, Celaena is also hesistant to love a man who serves the King that has time and time again destroyed her life. But the walls they have both built around themselves slowly crumble, and they are very happy for a short amount of time. Then Chaol is kidnapped, and – to put it bluntly – everything goes to shit.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of Crown of Midnight, it does do a magnificent job setting the stage for Heir of Fire – leaving Celaena ruined, her heart broken, and separated from the world she had known. Despite this, the story just wasn’t compelling, the plot was overly confusing, and it seemed to drag on at a painfully slow pace, resulting in Crown of Midnight being my least favourite book of the series thus far (3/5).