C O N T A I N S S P O I L E R S !!!
- All books by Sarah J. Maas are up for discussion!
Welcome to my new discussion feature! The past month, I’ve been realizing that sometimes a review just isn’t enough… I want to share my thoughts with people using actual, you know, textual examples… AKA ‘SPOILERS.’ It is, of course, rude to give away too much in book reviews, although it is a delicate line to walk. You don’t want your review to be bereft of examples, but you can’t push it too far. There are always spoiler tags of course… but I’ve been wanting to write full-on essays about certain books, and tags just aren’t good enough for me anymore. I need to write more down!
This time around, I want to discuss a book that I’ve read twice over within a week! Yes, this post is a discussion of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.
Maas Has a Dumping Habit
By now, it’s no secret that Maas has a bit of a… tendency in her writing. Yeah, I’m talking about her habit of throwing previously impassioned love stories to the curb and planting new seeds in the rubble.
In her popular Throne of Glass series,
Caelena Aelin Whoever is on her third romance. That is practically UNHEARD OF in YA, where the concept of soul mates reigns supreme. Wait, wait… check that. Maas believes in soul mates. She just believes that her characters kiss a lot of frogs that they mistake as their soul mates before they get to the real one. At least… that’s what I think? Funnily enough, Maas, although she’s published a ton of books, has yet to finish a series, so we don’t have a precedent yet for how she ends her romantic sagas.
One thing is for certain though… just because a Maas heroine has sex with someone, that doesn’t mean she’ll end up loving him forever. Pretty established at this point.
Another thing: When a guy tattoos a Maas heroine, it’s a good sign she’ll fall in love with him. Even if she’s with someone else at the time. Make a note of that!
The big question is… does Maas improvise her love stories or does she always have an endgame in mind?
Rhysand Was Groomed in Book One For His Role In Book Two
With A Court of Mist and Fury, Maas definitely planned on abandoning ship, and by ‘ship’ I mean Feyre’s relation’ship’ with Tamlin. Now that we know that Feyre has a mating bond (heh) with Rhysand, and we’ve heard his side of the story about what went down in book one, we can go back and pick up all the little hints in A Court of Thorns and Roses. To my surprise, Maas was indeed paving the way for a romantic upset.
The biggest example of this is where Rhysand visits Feyre at the end of A Court of Thorns and Roses, when he dematerializes, “winnows,” after becoming shocked for some mysterious reason. We find out in book two… that’s when he discovered Feyre was, indeed, his “mate.” This shows that Maas intended for Rhysand to become a serious love interest in the sequel books. Why else would she plant that moment in book one, right smack in the middle of Feyre’s ‘Happily Ever After’ with Tamlin?
After finishing book one, did you have a feeling Tamlin was going the way of acid wash jeans and perm hairdos?
Why Most of Us Didn’t See It Coming
What made most of us readers unaware of the impending turnaround is how A Court of Thorns and Roses was a Beauty and the Beast retelling. “Beauty ends up with Beast,” is how our minds work. I was NOT expecting Maas to turn Beast into a huge asshole (although, maybe I should have?) and have him imprison Feyre in his house, EVEN AFTER the “witch” (Amaratha) got dusted. What the hell, Tamlin?
That move on Maas’s part was an echo from the Throne of Glass series, where previously über-sweet, desert-in-bed-bringer Chaol turns into a huge turd and tries to stifle
Caelena’s Whoever’s new powers and independent spirit.
But, like Rowan from Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, Rhysand nurtures the power of our heroine, coming across as dickish at first, but it’s all so that the heroine can come into her own, we find out.
A lot of readers HATE how Maas does this — the character turnaround. And I get it. I totally get it. It’s… kind of… not the best writing. However, I like, personally, how Maas’s new love interests tend to be more interesting than the guys they replaced. I always thought that Chaol was a SNOOZE. I really did! And Tamlin didn’t have me hopping up and down with joy, even though he seemed to be a good guy.
What do you think? Are Rowan (Throne of Glass) and Rhysand (A Court of Thorns and Roses) steps up from the previous love interests?
Feyre’s Character and My Confusion
During A Court of Mist and Fury, I found myself, at several times, wondering about Feyre — Who is this girl?
I thought it was a bad sign, especially since the book is written in the first person — the most intimate of narration styles.
I think part of it was that Maas wanted to keep some secrets — wanted to keep some suspense going — and the result was making Feyre seem quite reactive and simple-minded. We didn’t get to see nearly enough reflection on her part.
For example, when Feyre finally gets together with Rhysand, and they’re doing their
info-dumping confession thing, we find out that Feyre knew she was in love with Rhysand during the Starfall chapter. Well, we didn’t hear about that in the Starfall chapter. Which means that our first-person narrator wasn’t sharing everything going on in her head.
Because of this, it seemed like Feyre was just passively going along with things, instead of, you know, synthesizing the events in her head, like a smart character would.
I would have preferred that Maas gave us a little more from Feyre’s perspective, even if it meant dampening the will-she-won’t-she suspense.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down, readers? Did Feyre come across as more distinct in book one, A Court of Thorns and Roses?
One extra thing — I really liked how Feyre didn’t come across as too much of a Mary-Sue. At the end of book one, she’s brought back to life by the powers of all the fae high lords combined, imbuing her with skills from all the fae courts. She can summon wind, water, fire, darkness, light, and shapeshift. Did I forget anything?
This could have turned her into an unrealistically powerful character. As it was, I felt that Maas wrote a good balance of Feyre being able to fend for herself (being badass) and having beginner wobbles with her new powers.
In your opinion, is Feyre too powerful? Why or why not?
Rhysand Is Buckets of Fun
God love me, but I adore a tortured, dark love interest. I thought Tamlin qualified in A Court of Thorns and Roses, but Rhysand brings the inner-pain in A Court of Mist and Fury. He’s coming off of five decades of being a psychopath’s love slave… if anything, he could have been depicted as even more unhinged.
Mainly, Rhysand’s PTSD symptoms are moodiness, self-doubt, and crying jags. Oh, yeah, and an awesome I-don’t-give-a-fuck-what-you-think attitude.
He was always there to heighten the drama. In the beginning of the book, it was stealing Feyre away during her wedding ceremony. Who didn’t love that moment? Then he continued to make the book fun, whether he was whisking Feyre away on some whack-a-doodle, lethal quest, or just making snarky commentary.
One of my favorites moments was when he shoves Feyre into a face off against a flesh-eating, treasure-hoarding forest witch. Using her new powers, Feyre barely escapes with the item Rhysand sent her to fetch. We find out many chapters later that she unwittingly stole back her future wedding ring. Ha ha!
For that escapade, Rhysand receives Feyre’s fury and the scorn of his friends. And I did notice, in the early book, Rhysand is far more manipulative with Feyre. He forces and coerces her into doing lots of difficult tasks and assignments. But, later in the book, he gives Feyre free reign… not just that, but really lets her hold the reigns herself by making her High Lady of Night — his equal in political power.
So the question is… Tamlin was protective to the point of stifling Feyre… Is Rhysand’s own brand of manipulation just as offensive?
Call the Fire Department
A Court of Mist and Fury was probably the most sexually explicit YA I’ve ever read, and I was into it. In the beginning of the book, there are some suggestive mentions of Feyre’s hot sex with Tamlin and it surprised me, frankly. YA books usually treat sex like the culmination of a long, special road. Meanwhile, Maas was just putting it out there in chapter one — “We made love for a few hours, la la la.”
Well, I was not prepared for the hard boil that went on in the later chapters with Rhysand. With fanfiction, part of the rating system used by the websites is decided by how technical, or descriptive, the actual sex scenes are. In A Court of Mist and Fury, the sex was pretty descriptive. There wasn’t too much left to the imagination.
It was… awesome.
And there was A LOT of it. No single, fade-to-black scene. Rhysand and Feyre are described as being in “a frenzy.” For a few chapters, that’s almost all that goes on.
I wasn’t complaining. It’s nice to see a YA heroine be uninhibited.
What about you, readers? By the time Rhysand and Feyre got down, were you fully converted to Rhysand’s side yet? — Tamlin, who?
Who Knows What Will Happen In Book Three
When we leave Feyre and Rhysand, Feyre has just saved the hides of Rhysand’s inner circle — Amren, Mor, Cassion, and Azriel. For saving their lives, however, she returns with Tamlin to the Spring Court, which is in league with the evil King of Hybern. Rhysand’s inner circle is highly dismayed to find that their new high lady has been captured, but Rhysand insists that Feyre is not a captive — she’s a spy, with a direct line of communication with himself.
On top of that, the King of Hybern tossed Feyre’s human sisters into the Cauldron — the crucible of Fae power — and turned Nesta and Elain immortal. Lucien discovered that Elain is his mate. And Nesta has a deadly vendetta with the King of Hybern. (The scene where she descends into the cauldron, holding her middle finger aloft, was amazing.)
Will Tamlin be redeemed, or will he fall deeper and deeper into a habit of bad behavior?
Will Lucien switch sides in order to be with his new mate, Elain? Will she even want him back?
Will Nesta be the one to kill the King of Hybern?
Will Rhysand and Feyre stay faithful to one another and win the day?