I was a bit late to the Sarah J. Maas party — all my book blogging friends read Throne of Glass long before I got around to it — but I seriously loved A Court of Thorns and Roses when I read it last year. It hit a lot of the spots for me: the folk nerd spots (both folklore and folk music are key interests of mine, and it has them both), the fairy spots, the creepy fantastical spots…
And because I’ve been a bit neurotic and my anxiety is manifesting in strange ways at the moment, I was only reading blue books for a while, which meant that the release of A Court of Mist and Fury was well-timed for me to devour it on the release day. So I can review it. Hooray!
There won’t be any spoilers in this review, as best I can manage — I know the book only came out this week, and I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.
This book felt like a very feminist book. The entire thing deals with Feyre being empowered to break free of people trying to make her decisions for her and learn to be her own person and do what she wants. It’s about her learning to accept that she deserves more, and that freedom is something she’s entitled to. It’s about her choosing what she does with her body and her life, instead of other people telling her.
It’s about asking why do you only get the consort of the High Lord and not a High Lady in her own right? and then doing something about that and saying hell no we can have a High Lady, screw that patriarchal nonsense.
Unlike a lot of fantasy books, it doesn’t gloss over the idea of systemic inequality. Instead, it addresses a society that oppresses women (the Illyrians) face-on, and explores how the characters are trying to overcome that and the struggles they’re facing in breaking free of those prejudices. Plus, it features Feyre making lasting bonds of female friendship, and it’s just … it felt super empowering, you know? She was always quite independent, but here we see her truly learning to be herself and growing into her own personality.
“I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal.
I was a survivor, and I was strong.
I would not be weak, or helpless again.
I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.”
And how does it manage this?
Well, that’s the thing. Tamlin is … basically not in this book. He’s in the first 150 pages or so of it, and he’s a controlling jerk and I wanted to punch him in the face. Bearing in mind that I actually liked him in the first book, and had a lot of issues with Rhysand (despite other readers loving him), this was a confusing emotion to be feeling. But there were no two ways about it. He was being controlling and unpleasant, and I was glad when he then disappeared out of the narrative for 400 pages (he does come back at the end, for good or ill).
And Rhysand? Rhys surprised me. We get to see a side of him that we didn’t see at all in the first book, and explanations for his actions that make so much sense. He actually turns out to be a wonderful, supportive, respectful guy, who never oversteps Feyre’s boundaries and encourages her to be herself, even despite his own feelings.
Rhysand: surprise good guy.
While A Court of Mist and Fury has less of the ballad-based stuff that sent me into full nerd mode while reading A Court of Thorns and Roses, it still had a slight folk music element! Okay, at one moment there’s a character creepily singing a version of Two Sisters, one of my favourite messed up folk songs (one sister drowns the other, her corpse gets turned into a musical instrument which sings about being murdered so that the first sister is exposed, etc etc. I know a few versions where she’s alternately a harp or a fiddle).
It also had cool fairy lore. Less of the conventional stuff that I loved so much about ACoTaR, again, but still stuff I really enjoyed. We’re now looking at the Night Court, so we get to see a whole different side of that world, and this time it’s about dreams and nightmares and starlight and darkness. Rhysand is both a dream and a nightmare and Feyre learns to use her nightmares as strength to achieve her dreams and it’s all a metaphor and I LOVE IT.
Rhysand’s friends were also very cool, and I love the whole group dynamic. They all had distinct and unique personalities, and I loved how they fitted together and how Feyre interacted with them. It’s hard to summarise — it would take an entire book — but they had a very strong sense of self that made them distinct and likeable.
Was there anything I didn’t like? Well, as with book one, it bugged me that throughout the book there’s reference to “males” and “females” instead of “men” and “women”. I think it’s primarily because they’re not human, and it’s highlighting that difference; it links again to the idea of a “mate” as a sort of destined partner (which was weirdly heteronormative and there didn’t seem to be any room in this book for queer characters, something that also bugged me) in an animalstic, biological way. But it still felt weird. The heteronormativity, again, didn’t sit easy with me; it’s not merely that there are no queer characters, but also that it was hard to see where queer characters would have fit in this world.
Then there’s the sex. Some of it was okay. I’m not big on sex scenes — they have to be really good to hold my interest, because mostly I just find them vaguely unappealing and try to skip past them as quickly as possible. There are a few in this book: there’s one right near the beginning, which I have to say I didn’t like at all, but I’m sure it works for some people. Some of them were better than others, and I guess it also depends on your take on the relationships in the book.
At least it avoided going into boring love triangle territory, though, for the most part — having Tamlin be entirely absent for 400 pages helped. I can see book three getting complicated.
“I’m thinking that I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety. And I’m thinking maybe he knew that—maybe not actively, but maybe he wanted to be that person for someone. And maybe that worked for who I was before. Maybe it doesn’t work for who—what I am now.”
I don’t know how to rate the book. It was fun to read. I raced through it, first as a distraction when I couldn’t sleep and then to cheer myself up because I felt ill. That said, I’ve clearly become a total hardass with ratings lately, so I don’t really want to give it five…
I don’t know! It’s probably a 4.5. I’m gonna be nice and give it five here, because I’m nice like that and I’m too stingy with my ratings. I don’t think it’s entirely perfect, and there were some things I was less keen on about it, but it was pretty damn good and I enjoyed reading it, so whatever. It’s getting five.