I'm both a big Riyria honk, as well as a big MJS fan, so naturally I was quite excited to pre-order both books (which came with a ton of really nice free swag) and get to reading the history behind one of the better duos in fantasy. The Crown Tower is the first episode in the history/backstory of Royce and Hadrian; explaining how they met, the fabled Crown Tower heist, and, finally, a POV of Gwen and her history. Fun!
The growth of Mike as a writer is apparent - the characters feel alive, dialogue feels natural and flowing, not forced, not awkward. The story moves along, the pacing is good, the plot points are exciting. The story with Gwen is well written and interesting, the rags-to-riches style feel, the showcase of her above average guile and intelligence, using her mild magic to her advantage, even while not fully understanding it. The setup of her storyline for the forthcoming book is exciting - the flow between the two books will be a lot of fun.
What the book suffered from a little bit was the lack of interplay between Royce and Hadrian - their banter is largely spiteful in this novel, simply due to them disliking each other so much from the start. It made perfect sense, obviously, but it took away some of the fun of the series. It was just that "oomph" that helped propel the original series (that said, the deep and involved storyline and crazy twists and turns in the original helped!). Additionally, after all the buildup, the actual Crown Tower heist felt a little underwhelming to me. It's this massive impenetrable building that didn't seem to put up a ton of fight. Maybe it was just the mindset I was in while reading it, but I was hoping it'd be this epic battle to complete the task, but it felt like as much time was spent in the farmhouse hiding from the church knights as was spent on the heist.
In the grand scheme of things, they're minor complaints - the book was really awesome, and I'm really excited for my copy of The Rose and Thorn to arrive. Michael's writing is better in every book, and the character development and dialogue improve as well. I'm as hooked as ever on this series and setting, and I'll continue to feverishly wait for each new book to come out.