Sunday, September 15, 2013

Maas Deserves the Crown

The idea of rooting for an assassin is somewhat like watching "Dexter" and rooting for the serial killer. When that happens, you know an author is not only skilled, they can turn everything you thought you believed in on its heels. Sarah J. Maas does this in her Throne of Glass series. In the second book, Crown of Midnight, Celaena Sardothian is a woman we can all admire.

As the King's champion, Celaena must carry out the assassinations he orders. As a paranoid man who enjoys eliminating his possible enemies, the King isn't afraid to send her after anyone who might be plotting against him. As Celaena appears to do his bidding, however, she keeps to herself what she is really doing: helping the targets to disappear while secretly digging up information on the real enemies to the king. Celaena isn't a fan of the king, but she prefers to know what is happening in the kingdom as opposed to operating under fear and assumptions.

Celaena has seen her parents murdered, has been imprisoned to work to death in the mines, and trained under the most lethal and cruel assassins the world has ever seen. She isn't afraid to kill, but she refuses to be the king's hired dagger. While she can't trust anyone with all the knowledge she has amassed, Chaol is the first person she has let enter her heart since she can remember. It seems as though Celaena's ruse is successful until her entire core is shattered by the loss of a dear friend in an evil and brutal way. Celaena is the King's champion, but she will not be led about by a ring in her nose. Celaena is the champion of all her people, and she will find answers to every question she has unearthed.

This series took some huge turns with the switch from the competition in the first book to the true assassin work in the second book, but the pace hasn't slowed. Instead, it seems Maas has picked up even more momentum from the craziness of the first book! It seems impossible, but I think this book got a little darker from the first, and it certainly got more magical. There is a lot of magic hiding under the surface of everything in this sequel, and by the end, it has opened up a magical portal that can never be closed again. While this really changed the flavor of the story, I found it incredible and couldn't put the book down! I mean, seriously, this was a fantastic sequel to an incredible series. The fantasy keeps building and building, bring the reader into a magical world you never imagined you'd see. It is a brilliant way to build such a fantasy world, and I cannot wait to see more from Maas.

More importantly, I love Celaena. A lot of fantasy out there has an epidemic of weak ladies, but lately we have seen a flurry of leading ladies who take no prisoners. They are moral and ethical, but they also aren't afraid to throttle the bad guys in the meantime. It is such a relief to see this shift in gender roles where girls and women aren't weak and in need of protection, they are the characters others should fear! In fact, there is one part of this novel where a character is kidnapped and he tells his kidnappers Celaena will come for him. They muse that there isn't much to be worried about with all their armed guards and the kidnapped man chuckles. He knows 20 grown men are no match for Celaena! I loved this murderous side of Celaena paired with the young woman who is willing to go against the king by faking the deaths of all his marked men (and their women and children, since the King's orders are to kill the whole family). She is a fabulous leading lady, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. The ending of this sequel is so gripping I am going to wait with bated breath for book number three!

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