& Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, May 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens, May 2016

The Book Itself: Another illustrated woman, this time in an outfit akin to armor: this book’s getting more serious. No barbed wire this time, but a silhouetted city in the background under a stone archway that foreshadows this book’s new setting…

My Review: 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.

Oh boy. This one’s really good, you guys. And I’m saying that coming off of this series’ first installment, which I found to be a little lackluster (review here).

It’s hard to know where to begin. And it’s hard to know how to keep this review spoiler-free. Although if you’ve read any other reviews at all, the rough plot line here will have already been ruined for you.

This is what I will do. The first part of this review will be for those of you who read my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses, maybe even read it as well, and are looking for a reason to continue. I will keep it as spoiler-free as I can. The second half will have all sorts of name dropping and fangirl squealing and itty bitty spoilers that will in no way diminish your enjoyment, I think, but proceed at your own risk, nevertheless.

This book illustrates the emotional aftermath of a traumatic event very well. Tamlin isn’t doing well with what he had to go through Under the Mountain. Feyre is definitely not doing well with what she had to do and who she had to do it to while Under the Mountain. Both of them are beset by nightmares and left directionless in the Spring Court. It feels weird for them to continue on with life as usual when it is so not usual anymore. The way Maas depicted that change, and these complex feelings alone had me knowing that this book was going to be better: better plot and character development, a darker tone, and hints at real action to come.

Also hanging over them is Rhysand’s bargain. Feyre has to honor this bargain while still struggling to maintain the façade that everything is hunky dory, both with Spring Court politics and in her relationship with Tamlin. Add to that her aversion to living life as a pampered princess, coddled in a life full of court happenings and pretty jewelry, and you have yourself some story conflict.

My favorite thing about this book is probably it’s pacing. Yes, it’s over 600 pages long, but I never felt as if it were dragging or wished it would go faster or slower. 600 pages is a lot. It’s enough to change everything in a story’s world, and this book does. I felt like I did when I was a kid and I had a new Harry Potter book in my grasp. I devoured this book in a matter of a couple days – it was so well paced and developed.

The character growth is very well done, too. We definitely get more out of Feyre as a character, and how time and events change her as a person. This book introduces several new, kickass characters as well, and all of them get the perfect amount of development: enough to care about them and flesh out their backstories, but not overdoing it, and making me want to come back for more in future books.

…Is that enough for those of you who haven’t read the second book, and don’t want it spoiled? Yes? Okay, I’ll put some space here between this non-spoilery part and the next part, which might spoil you a bit if you haven’t read A Court of Mist and Fury.

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I accidentally found out only a few chapters into this book that Feyre’s affections would turn towards Rhysand. And when I first heard that, I was genuinely upset. Why spend an entire book putting her and Tamlin together, why have her go through all of that crap, have her be on the brink of death several times, only to remove her from that relationship and have her get into another one? Sure, I liked Rhysand in the first book, and I looked forward to hearing more about him, but she was in love with TAMLIN! How could Feyre be so fickle? How could Rhysand steal her away?

And now that I’ve turned the final page of A Court of Mist and Fury? I don’t know why I even liked Tamlin and Feyre together at all.

But a lot of people took issue with this change. And I can see where they’re coming from.

The issue, I think, is that this book makes Tamlin seem SO controlling and awful, and Rhysand SO inherently good and generous, that it negates everything Maas spent the entire previous book setting up. Why make us fall in love with Tamlin, when he’s going to turn out to be kind of a bad guy? It did seem a little extreme to me, this shift from Tamlin being Mr. Misunderstood, and our leading romantic lead, to someone suffering so badly from PTSD that he physically lashes out to control those around them.

On the flipside of the coin, Rhysand is The Perfect Guy in this story. The façade he had to put on in the first book’s events is shattered during Feyre’s first stay at the Night Court. He’s not manipulative and sneaky and evil anymore. No, that’s all an act: he’s loyal, generous, and conflicted to the bone about the things he has to do and who he does them to. He’s a great foil to Tamlin, and even to Feyre. But his goodness seems a little overdone, like Maas wanted to soothe the rage she knew would come after Tamlin’s fall from grace, saying “No, wait, but look how great I’ve made Rhysand?! He’s perfect.

So it feels abrupt. But them Maas spends 500 pages or so convincing you – and Feyre – that it’s okay to change as a person, and to want and need different things than you wanted or needed before. There’s a maturity in this choice, even though the choice seems abrupt and jarring when you compare it to the first book’s lengthy setup.

I ate this stuff with a spoon. I LOVED it. I haven’t even touched on the plot or secondary characters that we get introduced to at the Night Court (I can’t see me being okay with Amren, Cassien, Azriel, OR Mor leaving the picture. They better all survive this entire freaking series). But if I went into all that, you’d be here for a thousand more words. And I’ve already waxed poetic enough. This book makes the first book’s inanity worth it. My god, is it ten million times better. It does make me fear for the next installment. Where A Court of Thorns and Roses was Beauty & the Beast, A Court of Mist and Fury was the myth of Hades and Persephone. I’ll cringe if the third book is another retelling, or if it’s told from a different character’s perspective (I’m all about it being dual-told from Feyre and Rhysand’s perspectives though. YES PLEASE). The characters are finally in place, and they are all poised for incredible action and story. I hope the next installment (MAY 2017 WHY ARE YOU SO FAR AWAY?!) lets them run with it.

My Grade: A

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