A Court of Mist and Fury | Thoughts
"But here, being those things wouldn't earn me a life of party planning. Here, I could be soft and lovely at sunset, and awaken in the morning to slide into Illyrian fighting leathers."
Damn. F*cking. Right.
And just like that, I'm through my second read of this and it's once again over too soon. WHY.
Of course, a second read was also meant to clear my mind from the emotional, free-falling high I had upon first completion, and to turn a more critical eye. It's safe now to say that what I feel for ACOMAF is love—plenty of lust, too (but isn't it amazing when those two align?)—and I am left staring around in hopeless denial that the next book isn't out for another year.
Sometimes this happens not necessarily because the book was fabulous, but just because I personally enjoyed it so much I don't want to leave the characters behind. Not only was it impossible to leave the world and characters of A Court of Mist and Fury, but the book was actually that good on all my main critical points.
The depression, the adult relationships, the physical and emotional abuse and the depiction of complicated abusive relationships...while all themes I wouldn't shelter young readers from, if they are at that reading level they can find it in the adult fantasy fiction category. YA, while its lines are blurring, still has a notion of safety surrounding what should be expected of its content. In A Court of Thorns and Roses I thought Sarah J. Maas pushed those boundaries, but after A Court of Mist and Fury, I am putting this series FIRMLY on my adult fantasy library shelf, nestled right next to the likes of Jacqueline Carey.
*gasp* Did I just really liken Maas to my revered Carey? Indeed. Indeed I did, and no one is more surprised than me. The writing, the storytelling, the world building, the character development...let's just dive in, shall we?
First, I picked up this sequel trying to stay blind to the premise. I hoped we saw more of Rhysand, hoped that we saw deeper beneath the villain exterior we were given in A Court of Thorns and Roses. I saw glimpses in the first book and wanted emotional impact without the typical love triangle nonsense. I wanted this book to be good so badly that I was afraid to look at reviews or even read the jacket copy. I'm sorry to say that my faith in Sarah J. Maas was not that strong...sure I liked ACOTAR, but I was worried over her tendencies to change tack on a whim.
"His eyes darkened. 'I'm not your enemy, Feyre.'
'Tamlin says you are.' I curled the fingers of my tattooed hand into a fist. 'Everyone else says you are.'
'And what do you think?' He leaned back in his chair again, but his face was grave.
'You're doing a damned good job of making me agree with them.'
So, while I could gather we would be spending some time on Rhysand, I was worried over how Maas would handle the process. I had some problems with Tamlin in the first book, but overall I was fine with his and Feyre's relationship. I took issue with the fact that he conveniently fell in love, just because he needed Feyre to love him in order to break the curse. Analyzing my complacency further I can see that really I just didn't expect more from Maas regarding their relationship.
I promise you, Maas delivers. I am someone who absolutely loves an author who can give us a villain yet show us glimmers of hope beneath the evil. Not necessarily goodness, but more a deeper understanding of how they justify their actions.
"'There are different kinds of darkness,' Rhys said. I kept my eyes shut. 'There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful.' I pictured each. 'There is the darkness of lovers, and the darkness of assassins. It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good.'"
Jaime from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is my favorite example to date of a character I despised from the beginning, only to find myself calling him a favorite now we've been shown his complicated reasoning. Intentional, these gray characters and our changing feelings for them, and absolutely brilliant. I am a fan of epic fantasy for many reasons, the slow development of characters and intricate details woven into all aspects of the story just a few.
"'He did—does love me, Rhysand.'
'The issue isn't whether he loved you, it's how much. Too much. Love can be a poison.'"
I would like to point out that this book is a romance first, fantasy second. It took a while for me to admit this, simply because the romance is done so differently and it is woven in so well to the fantasy plot. Usually, the main conflict in these is the issue of choosing between two love interests. Here, Maas takes us on Feyre's personal journey through depression and coming to terms with the truth that she has suffered both physical and emotional abuse in the name of love. It's hard even for the reader to see the detrimental effects of Feyre's relationship with Tamlin, though we can clearly see her sinking deeper into numbing darkness.
"I hated the bright dresses that had been my daily uniform, but didn't have the heart to tell Tamlin—not when he'd bought me so many, not when he looked so happy to see me wear them. The day I put on my pants and tunic, the day I strapped weapons to myself like fine jewelry, it would send a message far and clear across the lands."
"I'd stopped cataloging color and feeling and texture, stopped noticing it. I could barely look at the paintings hanging inside the manor."
"The woman who'd hurled a bone-spear at Amarantha...I didn't know where she was anymore. Perhaps she'd vanished that day her neck had snapped and faerie immortality had filled her veins."
ACOMAF is not so much about her leaving one love to find another as it is about her finding a way to love herself and her new life once more, to heal after the horrors she has endured and committed. Every character is trying to heal in their own way after the reign of Amarantha, and while Feyre realizes she must heal herself, Tamlin is still latched onto the idea that she is his salvation.
"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 he 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."
"Some part of me whispered that I could survive Amarantha; I could survive leaving Tamlin; I could survive transitioning into this new, strange body...But that empty, cold hole in my chest...I wasn't sure I could survive that."
Now for the fantasy. Rest assured, the fantasy is fantastic as well. Throughout Feyre's journey back to herself, she is distracted by a new threat, finding new strengths and friends along the way. She is shown Rhysand's inner circle, the family he would and did sacrifice everything to keep safe. As they hunt down magical artifacts in attempt to stop an evil greater than Amarantha from descending upon their treasured hidden city, Feyre finds the family she didn't realize she craved or needed. Morrigan, Cassien, Azriel, Amren...each with their own complicated back stories, and each of whom I feel I know personally. The time Maas devotes to character development is impressive and never boring, the world building intricate and perfect in its detail.
Maas does not hold back in any aspect, from erotic love scenes to brutal deaths and everything in between, and I was spellbound with every word. I want to live in Valaris; I want to walk through the Rainbow and see the stars over the city. I felt the protectiveness for this hidden gem, and despaired over every betrayal and injury. There's a beauty with which Maas crafts her words, and I am nearly more obsessed with the horror scenes than others. Nearly.
"Blood shone on the white marble bridge, sparkling like rubies in the sun. There, on one of those towering, elegant lampposts flanking the bridge...Her body was bent, her back arched on the the impact, as if she were in the throes of passion. Her golden hair had been shorn to the skull. Her golden eyes had been plucked out. She was twitching where she had been impaled on the post, the metal pole straight through her slim torso, gore clinging to the metal above her."
Because I just have to find something to critique, I will say that it's a bit convenient how the couples are lining up. Nesta and Cassien—I shipped those two instantly. But it really is okay if not every character finds love, and I especially do not want another mating bond. Am I the only one who thinks the convenient one at the end diminishes how special a certain main bond is? I also think it takes away from Feyre's unique situation that there are suddenly two more human-turned-fae beings in the story.
But that is trivial, and I for one am looking forward to seeing the havoc Nesta will wreak on friends and enemies. One thing no one can argue is that Maas writes strong female characters—I'm thrilled that in this series, I actually believe them and believe IN them. Plus, she's damn good at a slow burn.
"...you remain your own person. You decide your fate—your choices. Not me. You chose yesterday. You choose every day. Forever."
“My friend through many dangers. My lover who had healed my broken and weary soul. My mate who had waited for me against all hope, despite all odds.”