Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury

Book Review: A Court of Mist and FuryA Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2) by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 624
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four-half-stars

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 torn apart.

This review contains spoilers. 

Wow, what a difference between the first and second books of the series! I absolutely loved the second book and was completely thrown by how much more I not only liked Feyre, and her growth as a character and as a newfound High Fae,View Spoiler » But more on that later. I also loved the Night Court and its gang—Cassian, Azriel, Mor, and Amren. I don’t think I wanted to be part of a crew of fictional characters this much since reading Harry Potter as an adolescent. View Spoiler »

 

But perhaps what I love most about Sarah J. Maas’s books is the reoccurring disenchantment of love at first sight. Most young adult books and fairytale retellings have a pretty straightforward “girl meets boy,” “girl and boy develop feelings for each other,” and finally “girl and boy live happily ever after.” While those types of stories have their own unmistakable charm, I find that I much prefer Maas’s brand of romance. Her romances take twists and turns; though the books have fairytale-like aspects, the love-at-first-sight and the romance that follows, if any, are often not true love or even love at all. And even if it is love, people and their feelings change. Whether this is a technique to make the built-up “real” romance of the series appear even stronger and better or is simply a reflection of many real-life romances, I don’t know—but I like it.

 

In this book, we meet Feyre, who is reborn as a High Fae. No longer human, she finds that things she once loved about the Spring Court, and its High Lord, Tamlin, no longer hold true. Ensconced in dresses, she is forbidden to leave the grounds, test her new abilities, or to train with weapons. Instead, she’s forced to be merely the prize of Tamlin as his wife—not High Lady—and no more.

It is not until Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court, appears to whisk Feyre away right smack dab in the middle of her refusal to marry Tamlin that Feyre realizes how unhappy she has become as figurehead for peace and Tamlin’s reward. Using their bargain from the first book as an excuse to answer her silent pleas for help—that she will spend one week with him a month—Rhysand spirits her to his home, where she is treated like an actual person instead of symbol for new peace in Prythian. Ironically, it is in the infamous and feared Night Court, with its High Lord Rhysand, and not the eternal blooming of the Spring Court, where Feyre, weak and dejected, comes alive again, realizing:

 

“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 [Tamlin] 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.”

 

And Tamlin didn’t work for me anymore either. Maas, as is her signature, breaks the mold of the fairy tale prince-and-princess tale, and superbly shows the strains of the relationship under the crushing weight of the memories that took place at Amarantha’s court, Under the Mountain. Tamlin and Feyre were plagued by nightmares of the tortures they endured, with Feyre waking up to vomit, and Tamlin refusing to admit his knowledge of her pain or to address their shared pain. And honestly, I cannot remember how I ever liked Tamlin. With every breath, he ignores Feyre’s needs more and more, forcing her to partake in lavish parties where she cannot stand to socialize or eat, has High Priestess Ianthe pick out her clothes, her wedding arrangements, and locks her up in the castle when he constantly leaves on secretive business for her own “safety.” How could I have ever thought him kind or caring—or anything remotely appealing or good at all? And to top it off, he’s not only secretive, but he also borders on physically abusive and emotionally manipulative—buying Feyre a travelling painting kit, when he won’t even let her leave the grounds.

 

Instead, it is the villainous Rhysand, who immediately teaches Feyre how to read and to shield her mind and thoughts from prying daemanti. It is Rhysand, who never demands, but only encourages. It is Rhysand, who wakes her from her nightmares and shares his own. And when Feyre meets the rest of his ragtag crew, it is at last when she finally finds the home, acceptance, and family for which she were always searching. Gone were the sisters who used her as a hunter, gone was Tamlin, who saw her as nothing but his fragile and his just desserts—his figurehead of peace—instead there were finally people who saw her as not only her witty and fiery self, but also as a capable warrior—the Fae with the potential and power of all of the High Lords, and the former human who had managed to thwart Amarantha and save Prythian.

 

View Spoiler » He himself states, “You think I don’t know how stories get written—how this story will be written? I am the dark lord, who stole away the bride of spring. I am a demon and a nightmare, and I will meet a bad end. He is the golden prince-the hero who will get to keep you as his reward for not dying of stupidity and arrogance.” With Rhysand’s unflinching support, it is at last Feyre and no one else making the decisions. When she finally asks, “what about my story,” it is a victory that can be felt by the reader. And later she realizes:

 

“[Rhysand] thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story….But I forgot to tell him…that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key….He was the one who let me out.”

 

In a way, I think Maas succeeds in creating not only a new kind of fairytale romance, but also a book with a great message for women. It encourages them not to just accept the status quo, and lifts the veil rendering many men, quasi-Prince Charmings, as people who aren’t necessarily right for them, despite all of the material comforts that they offer. She stands for women not having to accept emotional abuse or manipulation and finding their own independence and self-actualization. It doesn’t hurt that Feyre’s growing inner strength often reveals itself in new powers—a sliver of each High Lord who helped to reincarnate her as a High Fae—such as super strength, control of fire, water, air, shadows, and the ability to winnow. It’s amazing to watch her discover her powers under the tutelage of Rhysand and her other friends, and to watch her fight off beings like the Attor and like the super creepy Weaver. (Sidenote: Seriously the description of the Weaver, a supernatural being with perfect skin and hair, and rotting eyes who weaves hair and fat from her human prey was really, really sinister and the stuff of Grimm nightmares).

 

When Feyre finally realizes that these growing powers “did not belong to the High Lords. Not any longer. It belonged to me—as I belonged only to me, as my future was mine to decide, to forge. Once I discovered and mastered what the others had given me, I could weave them together—into something new, something of every court and none of them,” I felt like I had discovered my own potential right alongside her. View Spoiler »

 

And friends as powerful and supportive as the other members of the powerful Night Court, each with horrors in their own pasts, who effortlessly contrast the deceptive and shallow friends of Feyre at the Spring Court, like Ianthe and Lucien. Each of these Inner Circle members of the Night Court, a.k.a. the Court of Dreams, has their own demons, just like Feyre: Azriel is a bastard-born Illyrian who was tortured by his legitimate brothers and now serves as a spy for Rhys; Cassian the half-breed Illyrian with killing power and battle prowess off the charts, as well as the general of Rhysand’s armies; Mor the powerful “third” in command of the Night Court, whose virginity was sold off to the highest bidder; and Armen the unearthly being, serving as Rhysand’s second, who is trapped in a mortal body and feasts on blood. I wanted to train with Cassian, talk clothes with Mor, tell secrets with Azriel, and laugh with sassy Amren. I also loved that Rhysand was the first High Lord to ever dub females as his Second and Third in command. I think he can do no wrong!

 

The only part about the books and its characters I really did not care for much was the inclusion of Feyre’s human sisters, Nesta and Elain Archeron. I simply did not care what happened to the girls who took advantage of their younger sister for years, and did not like their halfhearted attempts at helping their sister and forging an alliance between humans and High Fae to fight against the nefarious King Hybern. Though it was quite satisfying to see Cassian and Rhysand put the sisters down for letting their youngest sibling support them by hunting in dangerous grounds so close to the wall dividing the human world and the faeries. View Spoiler »

 

But the book has plenty to offer besides the sweeping romances. A quest to prevent the Cauldron, which created the very world, its inhabitants, and held all of the magic of the universe, from falling into evil hands—namely the feared King Hybern’s—once more is just as gripping and full of intrigue and twists as Harry Potter’s quest for the Deathly Hallows. Along the way, Feyre is forced to confront the political minefield of the courts, the chilling Bone Carver, the all-knowing Suriel, the aforementioned Weaver, Attor, the prejudiced and reluctant humans, King Hybern who makes his general Amarantha look like a joke, resurrected foes, and worse, her ex-fiancée. It’s one hell of a ride and I was shocked to find myself more interested in the series than I was in my much beloved series of Throne of Glass.

 

But really, I admire the author’s courage and ingenuity to write a re-telling of a fairytale, complete with a character perfectly fulfilling the role of the beast/prince from Beauty and the Beast, only to undress the fairytale and to see all of its humanity laid bare. That is what this story is—it is the story of a shattered girl, more than a princess in a tower, who built herself back up, turned her back on the fairytale ending that was planned out for her and strode out into the sunset, welcoming night and all of its creatures—good and bad—into her outstretched arms. I highly recommend this book—if you haven’t read the series, do it now!

 

four-half-stars
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Book Reviews - BloggingwithDragons - A Court of Mist and Fury

Posted June 22, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Young Adult

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