"A children's story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children's story. The good ones last." --C.S. Lewis
You can find more of my reviews (plus discussions and giveaways) at Christina Reads YA.
*flails* This book was so good. I liked Throne of Glass, but I LOVED Crown of Midnight. (!!!) Watch out below for some spoilers if you haven't read Throne of Glass yet.
1. (+) Celaena, the protagonist - Celaena and I haven't had the best of pasts. When I first read Throne of Glass, I thought she was too arrogant - so arrogant that I found it hard to identify with her, so arrogant that I never really believed in the danger that she faced. My wishes were granted, though: you do find out more of Celaena's past, and you do get more into her head in Crown of Midnight. She's still bold and brash, clever and witty, strong and assertive, and yes, quite able to defend herself (and thus proves herself as an assassin and King's Champion)--but where she shines in this novel, it's none of those things. It's when she finally shows some vulnerability, some doubt, some emotion, and that actually made me want to hug her. That got me rooting so much for her that it was nearly inconceivable that I didn't like her before. So if you loved Celaena in Throne of Glass, you will ache for her in this novel. If you weren't her greatest fan in Throne of Glass, maybe you'll like her in Crown of Midnight.
2. (+) World-building - You wanted more on Adarlan and life outside the court and in Rifthold? How about the political system? How about the magic and the King's nefarious plots? How about Elena's history and the beasts we found in Throne of Glass? There's that and much, much more. One of my favorite things about the Throne of Glass series is that there's so much to be discovered in the world, little details about the food and city that give it a different feel besides the usual medieval aspects of high fantasy. These are the kind of details that you can feel and appreciate as a reader but don't have to analyze (though Shannon does quite well in the linked blog post). Yeah, there are some epic fantasy cliches, but they never feel old and too much. Ms. Maas does a great job reinventing old tropes into her own world.
3. (+) Romance - Undoubtedly, the romance will anger some fans as Celaena makes a clear decision in this novel but isn't too tactful about that decision. Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of the non-interest (not just romantic-wise but also character-wise), so while I recognized that Celaena and Chosen One could have done better, I still reveled in the slow-burn that soon came to pass. Most of all, I was just happy that there wasn't the same level of love triangle as in the first book. Both Dorian and Chaol spend some parts in the beginning fantasizing or moping about Celaena but not for too long. And the best part of it is that the romance is one of a few things that forces development of these three characters and fits unexpectedly into the plot. This novel is a much darker, more mature novel than its predecessor, so if you were concerned about that in Throne of Glass, take this as a warning for Crown of Midnight, though I personally think that Ms. Maas was tasteful about both the action and the romance scenes.
4. (+) Plot - Ooh, wow. All the different plot threads of this beauty. The plot improved greatly from the Competition in the former book. There's still the loose threads introduced by the creatures Celaena previously encountered, the romantic threads, the threads of Celaena's past, Celaena as King's Champion, the King's plans and other events that are set into motion by all of the above. So much is happening in this novel, and all the threads come together beautifully. Some of the twists are a bit more predictable than others, but their predictability didn't take away any enjoyment (for me).
5. (+) Character Cast - Nehemia's friendship with Celaena is one of my favorite female friendships in YA. I especially love that it's made clear that Nehemia has her own motivations, her own set of beliefs--a past and a personality before she meets Celaena. Other side characters from Throne of Glass who I didn't expect to be reintroduced are brought back to reinvigorate the plot in unexpected ways. Some new characters are introduced, though am I allowed to consider a talking doorknob a character?
6. (+/-) Incorporation of Previous Work - Have you read the Throne of Glass prequel novellas? (Side note: they are being bound and made into a print book, if you're interested). If you haven't read them, there are some mentions in this novel that might confuse you (especially novella #2, in the desert). On principle, I dislike the feeling of inside jokes (from the novellas) that you won't understand as a regular reader and figured I ought to warn others of this, though I did think that Ms. Maas had a sneaky and cool way of incorporating the novellas and Throne of Glass (not just the events and relationships and plot details but other details I hadn't remembered until they came up again).
7. (+/-) Themes - I think this is a book that will make some fans cry and rage with its careful exploration of the domino effect of choices and manipulation. The themes of love and loss also come into play a lot more fully in this novel than they did in Throne of Glass. That being said, there was one event in particular that I personally didn't think sent the best of messages, though I'm still not sure what else could have happened to have had as propulsive of an effect on character development.
8. (+) Writing - The writing reminds me of that in Angelfall - not because they're from the same type of POV (they're not), but because they have a similar, cinematic effect that allows me, a non-visual reader, to picture clearly what is happening. There are a few fully-fledged narrative scenes and dream sequences, but overall they were so minor in light of the entire plot that I thought they actually sometimes helped.
9. (+) Pacing - This book starts with action and ends with a bang. There's really no dull moment or unused scene. A lot of things contribute double time towards building the tension for the climax.
10. (+) The Cover - I'm actually a fan of the new covers, though the pose for this one is quite awkward. On the flip side, you have Celaena in a dress, so you get both sides of her and the dramatic fiery colors work well for the book's content.
All in all, Crown of Midnight does exactly what a sequel should do: advances the plot while developing the characters, world, and themes and maintaining high stakes. If you were a fan of Throne of Glass, you simply cannot miss out on Celaena's latest adventure. Highly recommended. (So recommended that after reading, I actually bought a paperback of Throne of Glass and pre-ordered Crown of Midnight.)