Read: June 2016
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/New Adult Fantasy, Romance
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
After I read A Court of Thorns and Roses last year, I couldn’t wait for this book to come out. At the time, I was really enamoured by Sarah J. Maas’ writing, and was totally blown away by how much it had improved even from Heir of Fire. While I loved ACOTAR to begin with, I began to have some issues with it later on, particularly regarding certain interactions between Feyre and Tamlin, but I was still eagerly anticipating the sequel. After Queen of Shadows, however, I began to get worried. I really didn’t enjoy it, and thought there was a massive dip in both the writing style and the way Maas was handling her plots. I started to worry that perhaps A Court of Mist and Fury wasn’t going to live up to my expectations. Indeed, rather than reassuring me, the inundation of glowing reviews actually made me even more worried, because I’d seen the same thing happen with Queen of Shadows. When people who hated the first book said that they loved this one, it got my hopes up, and I got excited about reading it again.
I’m saying this because I’m really sitting on the fence with this book. There were parts I really liked, and parts I really didn’t. Really, I think it comes down to the fact that I’ve found that there are just things I don’t like about Maas’ writing more generally. Because of that I know that I run the risk of sounding a little unfair in this review, and honestly, some of the things I didn’t like about this book are probably entirely petty on my part. But an honest review’s an honest review. I can completely see why people love this book, and there were a lot of things that I really liked about it. It’s just that unfortunately, the things I didn’t like distracted me from them. I’m going to start with the negatives, so we can end this review positively. There might be vague spoilers. I’ll try to flag them as necessary, but it’s worth bearing this in mind if you’ve yet to read the book and don’t want to be spoiled.
Frankly, much of my frustration with this book stems from the fact that it is way too long. The case was the same with Queen of Shadows; both books are 600+ pages, and there is absolutely no reason for them to be this long. Length does not a good book make, and because of this, some of the smaller issues that would likely go unnoticed in a shorter book occurred so frequently they unfortunately became genuinely irritating. For instance, Maas massively overuses dashes and ellipses. Because they weren’t used effectively in the book, it meant that the prose was simultaneously dragging itself out and tripping over itself. At times, it lent itself to Feyre’s first person narration, in that it could believably be her voice. However, nearly every character’s speech was characterised this way, and it became way too much. Another issue regarding the length is that it I couldn’t help but notice which passages from the book could have been cut out, and at times, I almost felt bored. That’s not to say that there weren’t great parts in the book, because there were, it’s just that sometimes it seemed that we were taking a long time to get there.
From the get go, it felt like this book pressed restart on the entire series. A Court of Thorns and Roses might as well have not happened. Her relationship with Tamlin is almost entirely brushed to the side the second she leaves the Spring Court for good. Feyre’s time at the Spring Court at the beginning of this book felt rushed, as if we were just getting through it so we could get to the Night Court, and because of this, much of the new development felt sloppy. Particularly the fact that Tamlin and Feyre are getting married in the first place, when it’s only been 3 months since the events of ACOTAR—they’re immortal, so what’s the rush? It felt like it was only to set up the vaguely melodramatic scene when Rhys appears to call in Feyre’s debt at her and Tamlin’s wedding.
I know a lot has been said about the destruction of Tamlin’s character in this book, and it’s true that his possessiveness and controlling nature is pushed to a ridiculous extreme. It wasn’t necessary for this snap change of character to occur just so Feyre could be with Rhys. Realistically, Tamlin could have been just as controlling as he was before, and Feyre could have naturally drifted apart from him. People change, and sometimes relationships end because the person you are no longer fits with the person you’re in a relationship with, and that’s fine. I knew that Feyre was going to end up with Rhys in ACOTAR, so I didn’t particularly care for her relationship with Tamlin. However, much of the later events in this book depend on this new characterisation of Tamlin, and it wasn’t believable because it was done almost lazily. Again, it begs the question: why have the first book? Why spend so long establishing a romance only for it to end so soon into the second one? Especially when there was no plan for how this relationship was going to end.
This is definitely a spoiler: but the fact that Feyre has every power from every court had me rolling my eyes. This was absolute overkill, especially since she just seemed to be naturally good at every single ability. There’s no reason why she couldn’t have had a particular affinity for one gift. For instance, why not Rhys’ gift? That could have worked to bring them even closer together and would have been much more compelling than her being so overpowered. She was human, it would have been nice to see her struggle at least a little with her new Fae body and her plethora of new Fae powers.
An issue I had throughout is that the villain in this book is poorly established. We don’t even see him to the very end, and I felt that the only reason we even saw him as villain is because Rhys told us he was. The King’s motivations were unclear, and given that we never really see a direct attack until the very end of the book, it meant that much of Rhys’ warnings fell flat. Most of the book involves them travelling around collecting things that will be essential to their victory, but because the villain was so distant, it was hard to see why it was so important.
Onto the positive things: I will say that Rhys is a much better love interest. Feyre’s relationship with him is well-developed over the course of the book, and Rhys is a much more compelling, better rounded character. I just wish that Maas didn’t keep telling us how much better he was, when it was very clear that he is. Often there would be very overt comparisons between him and Tamlin, as if Maas were constantly trying to convince us that Rhys was the one for Feyre, when really, we’re already convinced. Their relationship is very much based on respect and equality, though really, shouldn’t every relationship be? The whole mate thing didn’t really need to happen, because it was very clear that they’re meant to be together.
Because I apparently can’t help myself, I did have problems with things like this:
“I will kill anyone who harms you,” Rhys snarled. “I will kill them, and take a damn long time doing it.” He panted. “Go ahead. Hate me—despise me for it”
Does everyone need to be snarling and panting and growling all the time? I get that they’re Fae, but it felt like Maas was saying on one hand that they were highly intelligent, highly advanced beings, but then they turn into complete animals whenever sex is involved—it can’t be both, so which is it?
Rhys whole “I’ll kill anyone who hurts you” thing doesn’t really do anything for me. I’m pretty sure Feyre’s quite capable of dealing with anyone who wishes her harm, and she does put him in his place when she disagrees with him. The relationship’s strong as it is, this borderline melodramatic stuff didn’t need to be there. Rhys clearly loves Feyre, he clearly thinks the world of her, and it was very sweet to see this frequently throughout the book. Often, however, it felt like Rhys was telling Feyre things she shouldn’t really need to be told, particularly about her being able to do whatever she wants. As I mentioned, I felt like this was to “manipulate” us away from Tamlin, who kept her caged. All the same, I liked that this equality in their relationship was so explicitly addressed, even if it was a little heavy handed at times.
“You might be my mate,” he said, “but you remain your own person. You decide your fate – your choices. Not me. You chose yesterday. You choose every day. Forever.”
I also enjoyed Feyre’s character development. It would have been impossible for her to be the same person in book two as she was in book one. In particular, I thought that her PTSD was handled very well. She’s understandably traumatised by everything that happened Under the Mountain, and it takes her time to work through this. I liked that this book directly addresses the lasting effects of trauma, and I particularly liked that it was done through multiple characters. I liked that Feyre becomes much more aware of her own self-worth, at times it did seem like she needed a man to tell her these things, but eventually she realises that it is her right to be treated fairly and with respect.
“The human girl you knew died Under the Mountain. I have no interest in spending immortality as a High Lord’s pet.”
The world is just as excellent as it was in the first book, and I really enjoyed seeing more of it. Honestly, I think this is where Maas excels. Each Court was distinct and indulgently described, which I know can be a bit much for some, but I really enjoyed it. I do really love the world of this book, and I hope that we get to see even more of it in the next one. Similarly, I know this wears some people out, but I actually enjoyed Maas’ description of things like Feyre’s different outfits. I know it’s unnecessary, I know it’s overdone, but Maas clearly enjoys it, and she’s very good at it.
I also love all of the new characters in the Night Court, and I liked that more female characters were introduced. Maas is very guilty of featuring more, or giving preference to, her male characters, so it was nice to see more ladies being introduced. Azriel, Mor, Cassian, and Amren, are all very well-developed and I really liked seeing Feyre build relationships with all of them. While the romance is certainly the focus, it was nice to see some time being dedicated to friendship.
Finally, and this is definitely a spoiler but, the ending of this book was really, really good. I’m not talking about the confrontation scene with the King—frankly any confrontation like this across Maas’ work never really feels tense or dangerous to me, because I know that no-one’s really going to get killed, no matter what happens. What I liked was Feyre and Rhysand’s plan for Feyre to be a spy in the Spring Court. I’ll admit that I didn’t really see this coming, and it more than made up for my slight disappointment at the events prior. I am actually looking forward to the next book in this series (is it a trilogy? I can never remember). Usually I’m not very forgiving of books that make up for what they lacked in the ending, but I’m willing to make an exception for this one. I almost wish that this book was the first book in the series, I wouldn’t have had anywhere near as many issues if that was the case, and the next book looks really promising.
All in all, I think if you’re a fan of Maas’ writing, you’re really going to like this. Like I said, the reason I’m not praising this as highly as others is largely due to my issues with Maas’ work on a larger scale. It is better than the first book, that much is certainly true in some respects, but I think it would have been much, much better if it had been about 200 pages shorter. I do think I had much higher expectations because of all this hype. Ultimately, I would recommend you checking this book out even if you didn’t like the first one—and if you did like the first one, I’m sure you’ll really like this one too. Issues aside, I’m really looking forward to seeing where Maas takes this series.
I know I’m in the minority on this one, but if you have read this book, I’d really like to hear your thoughts!