Warning: HERE BE SPOILERS!
“I didn’t know how long my sisters and I lay there together, just like we had once shared that carved bed in that dilapidated cottage. Then—back then, we had kicked and twisted and fought for any bit of space, any breathing room. But that morning, as the sun rose over the world, we held tight. And did not let go.”
I make no secret of the fact that I am not generally a Sarah J. Maas fan. I know a lot of people are (I mean a lot) and, if that’s you’re thing, that’s cool. It’s just not for me. I picked up A Court of Thorns and Roses to give her another shot after hating the bullshit series that is Throne of Glass. It was pretty decent and I decided to give A Court of Mist and Fury a go. ACOMAF was my favorite book of 2016. In many ways, I think that book represents the best of YA fantasy. It’s original, character driven fantasy set in a well developed world and it doesn’t rely too heavily on tropes. It’s expertly plotted and every single character is multidimensional and just so. fucking. interesting. Naturally, A Court of Wings and Ruin was my most anticipated read of this year. Let’s launch into the review to see how I felt about it.
The good: There were a lot of things that I liked about this book, namely that we get to see a lot of characters come full circle. I am more partial to character driven books than I am to plot driven books. So, it was nice to see Rhys and Feyre explore their relationship and to spend more time with our lovely cast of sidekicks. Arguably, we learned the most about Mor in this book but I think we also gleaned new insight into Amren, Cassian, and Azriel as well. I also liked that Elain and Nesta played a fairly large part, mostly because I just really like and identify with Nesta’s stubborn ass. Also, #JURIAN.
The pacing at the beginning of the book was spot on. Things picked up right where we left off and SJM let us hit the ground running. Tamlin remained a piece of shit, which was nice. We all know how much SJM likes to do lovely little character switcheroos that make no sense whatsoever so I was happy to see some consistency.
The not so good: Unfortunately, there was quite a lot that I did not enjoy here. I think the more fantasy I read, the better I get at identifying fantasy that I think is bad because it’s actually poorly constructed and fantasy that I think is bad just because of some personal preference. Unfortunately, this book falls into the first category. While it’s certainly not the worst fantasy I’ve ever read (I’m looking at you, Lightbringer series) it’s just not that great. It’s kind of hard to believe that this book was written by the same author that wrote ACOMAF. I was hoping that SJM would be able to deliver that level of awesome in the next installment and it just did not happen. If you want to see what I didn’t like in greater detail, keep reading.
The first issue that I had with this was how many time someone gave a nondescript “vulgar gesture.” Seriously, come on! Authors should be much better equipped at description than that. I wish I’d counted how many times this appeared in the book before I returned my library copy. Once I started noticing it, I couldn’t stop and it honestly made me die a little every time it was used.
The second issue that I had is with the sex scenes. Now, I am not a romance reader and I certainly don’t read any erotica. It’s just not my thing. The sex scenes in the first two books didn’t really bother me and I thought they actually gave us quite a bit of character development in the second book. This book, however, has the driest sex scenes of life. Seriously, Rhys and Feyre are newly mated immortal beings and their sex life is more boring than this human who has been with the same dude since she was 16. They’re routine, boring, and they offer absolutely no insight into their relationship whatsoever. I honestly have no idea what those scenes are actually doing in this novel and I deem it a failure of SJMs editors that they weren’t either improved or totally omitted.
The third issue is the pacing. The first half of the book is BOMB. I was so excited to be back in this world and to be badass and scheme and plot and fight Hybern etc. Some of that stuff happened in the beginning. The Spring court fell a lot faster than I thought it would but I was happy to get Feyre back to Rhysand. The issues happened after that. For someone as smart and calculating as Rhys, he had absolutely no idea what the hell he was doing in this book. Everyone was always one step ahead of him. I think that was supposed to create tension but all it did was give me a deep sense of dissonance after what we experienced in book two. It made the pacing so, so slow. We’d lurch forward bit by bit. Something would happen and the characters would react. On and on it went. Until it ended. Which brings me to my fourth point.
Ah, the end. And make no mistake, friends, this is the end of this series. Yes, there are spinoffs coming but the main storyline here has come to a close. And yet. There are so, so many unresolved things here. It feels less like SJM was trying to keep things somewhat open ended for the remaining books set in this world and more like she just didn’t quite have the balls to really end things. After an extremely slow middle, we’re rushed through the ending in a matter of, like, 20 pages. Feyre wields the cauldron, Amren dies, the cauldron breaks, Rhys dies, the cauldron is remade, Rhys is remade, Amren is remade, and then we all just magically go home to Velaris and live our lives. HUH?!
Rating: Overall, I did like this book. It’s easy to sound negative after the fact and to focus on things that you didn’t enjoy as much. Like the rest of the series, this was compulsively readable and entertaining. Is it the best high fantasy out there? Absolutely not? Should you read it anyway? I think so.