Warning, there be SPOILERS ahead!
What started as the temptation to purchase Queen of Shadows (the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas) on Book Outlet turned into a scramble to buy the rest of the series in hardback in order to have a full matching set. Lucky for me, these books arrived by the time I finished Throne of Glass so I was able to immediately start Crown of Midnight after finishing the first book of the series.
The promise of a relationship between Celaena and Chaol kept me speeding through this book and I was not disappointed! Mostly. I’ve been shipping them since the first book, which made me rather annoyed when our protagonist was all kissy-kissy with Prince Dorian at first. But my patience was rewarded in the middle of Crown of Thorns when my ship finally sailed into happily ever after. For about a week, book-time.
And then of course their relationship fell apart for reasons that didn’t feel adequate to me. Especially considering Celaena’s attitude on the situation at the end of the book, as in she forgave Chaol for his accidental role in Nehemia’s death, I don’t feel that the obstacle in their relationship was legitimate and served any purpose other than just adding relationship drama.
So there’s also a plot to this book, which I thought was good. Having succeeded in becoming the King’s Champion at the end of book one, Celaena is officially given a contract and is sent to kill people at the whim of the still way-over-the-top-evil king. I was not particularly surprised to find out that Celaena is not actually killing her targets since her moral compass has been set up pretty well by this point.
The threads that were left hanging in the first book were once again picked up in the second installment with a rebellion against the king of Adarlan picking up steam and coming to the forefront this time around. I was happy to see this since the hints we were getting about this rebellion in the first book were quite tantalizing.
One thing that I’m still not happy about is the relationship between Celaena and the king. I suppose mostly I’m confused because we know very little about the king, but we do know that he clearly doesn’t like Celaena and her interactions with the crown prince and the captain of the guard. Considering how merciless and pragmatic he is in other matters, I have a hard time believing that he would tolerate her and her behavior, especially how in every interaction he is very patronizing to her.
I am once again not happy with Elena’s inclusion. I think ultimately she bothers me because how her presence is possible isn’t explained very well and her function in the plot could have much better handled in a living character.
Regarding the big plot twist wherein Nehemia engineered her own death, I was not happy. For one thing it was very jarring to have one very short chapter following her conversation with Elena. I had not read this book previously, but even on this first read through I knew what was going to happen, which made her actual death considerably less shocking. There are two things that made me uncomfortable about the death specifically.
The first thing is that it seemed very out of character for Nehemia. While she is very dedicated to her people, I have a hard time seeing her get her own guards killed in addition to herself. Furthermore, I really don’t buy into the idea that Nehemia would see the best path forward for her people would be to get Celaena to get her ass in gear. I think she would have been much better off staying alive. Her motivation for engineering her death in order to get Celaena to finally pick a side made me rather uncomfortable as well because essentially we have a black girl who serves the purpose of motivating a white girl with her own death. It’s kind of like “fridging” a woman to motivate a man to do something. Not cool.
I did however enjoy the repercussions of Nehemia’s death on Celaena’s personal reflection. She ultimately finds out that she never really knew a lot about Nehemia and being presented with clear evidence that secondary characters have their own stuff going on outside of the protagonist was refreshing. It mostly feels like the male leads don’t get that treatment so having someone as badass as Nehemia have her own life outside of Celaena really helped to flesh out her character.
Despite these problems that I had with the book I enjoyed the hell out of it. It was exciting and romantic and it was delightful to see the characters interacting outside of the forced conditions presented by the competition in the first book. Ultimately this book was an extremely entertaining read and I highly recommend it.