Themes Explored: fantasy, faire realm, faire mythology, legend, magic, curses, uprisings, rebellions, war, ancient mysterious, inter-realm travel, Stockholm syndrome, post-traumatic stress, regret, remorse, self-loathing, self-hate, freedom, oppression, family, sibling relations, evil, monsters, death, rebirth, romance, sacrifice, betrayal, inter-species relations, secrecy
Synopsis: 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. (Adapted from Goodreads)
Review: Fairy tales have existed since the dawn of storytelling. During the early oral traditions of past civilization, fairy tales served as a way to communicate morals and ethics to the next generation. When different civilizations began to create their unique written languages, the art of the fairy tale took on a new lifespan. Each retooling of classic tales is told in a slightly different light and with unique twists on classic characters. Loosely inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series delves into what it means to be beautiful and beastly; sometimes concurrently. This is not a Disney story; the characters are dark, gritty, and dealt with a lot of conflicting emotions. For a young adult series, this is one of the more complex and compelling narrative currently available. One of my main criticisms of the young adult genre is the lack of strong character development, believable scenarios within the narrative framework, and a compelling storyline. While this is not Lord of the Rings level narration, it is the type of story that draws in the reader until the last page. A good novel keeps you interested, an excellent one makes you engaged. I would consider A Court of Mist and Fury an excellent addition to the fairy tale genre.
A Court of Mist and Fury picks up right where A Court of Thorns and Roses concluded. Feyre managed to rescue both herself and Tamlin from the evil clutches of Amarantha, the Queen Under the Mountain. Yet Feyre emerged forever altered, and not just physically. She is haunted by the terrible deeds she committed in order to win back her freedom and save Tamlin from a terrible fate. However, not everything or everyone is willing to let her recover. With her wedding to Tamlin fast approaching, Feyre is fighting to take back control over her life. All the while her fateful promise to Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court, hangs over her head and threatens Tamlin. On top of that, Feyre also has to contend with her new gifts and convince someone to help her train. Unlike the first book, A Court of Mist and Fury delves more deeply into Feyre’s romantic entanglements. Be prepared for a few steamy, but not explicit, scenes.
This book opens up on an ominous note and continues that theme until the final page. Feyre is drowning under a sea of guilt over the price she paid to escape. And Tamlin has gone into hyper protective mode; he is so scared over losing Feyre that he is in denial about her own ability to protect herself. While their physical relationship seems mutually fulfilling, their emotional connection is beyond frayed. Tamlin is probably my least favorite character. I never really bought his relationship with Feyre in the first book; it seems too much like glorified Stockholm Syndrome. Plus, he comes across as an inconsiderate jerk; which I guess is the point behind his behavior. He is an incredibly one-dimensional character; he fights, rides horses, is a slave to traditions, and nearly emotionally smothers Feyre to death. I was relieved once the focus of the narrative lefts the Spring Court for the Night Court, there are only so many scenes you can write about an overbearing Faerie lord trying to strong arm his lover into adopting certain attitudes. Rhysand is a much more compelling and complex character.
As you recall, in order to save herself Feyre made a deal with Rhysand in the last novel. In return for healing her, Rhysand made Feyre promise to spend a week every month in the Night Court. To seal the deal, he tattooed Feyre’s arm with an intricate design running from her shoulder to her palm. Rhysand decides to call in the debt while Feyre is walking down the aisle to marry Tamlin. Needless to say, the bridegroom was not pleased to see his bride disappear. Without giving too much away, Rhysand is a morally complex character. As a High Fairy, he is the Ruler/Lord/Fairy King of the Night Court. As such, he is in charge of keeping his realm safe from harm. Rhys believes war in one the horizon and needs Fayre’s new unique gifts to help him out. This of course leads to heightened political tensions between the Spring and Night Courts. Rhys comes across as a ruler who genuinely cares about his subjects and who will go to extraordinary lengths to keep them all safe. Also, he is a better match for Feyre as he challenges her to do better and embrace her Faire gifts; unlike Tamlin who wanted her to stay helpless.
Maas does an excellent job fleshing out her world and the secondary characters. Most of the action takes place in the Night Court, so the majority of the secondary characters are new additions. Occasionally, the characters fall a little too neatly into being either completely good or wholly evil. I am not a big fan of situational ethics, but the character behaviors depicted serve as a good relief for Feyre’s emotional turmoil. Plus, sometimes it is narratively appropriate to paint secondary characters with broad strokes and little subtlety. Maas also delves more deeply into the world of Prythian: the history, the peoples, the misogynistic culture, tensions between the High Fae and lesser faeries, relations with the human realm, and inter-court politics. She has mastered the art of revealing enough to keep readers engaged, but vague enough that everyone craves a sequel to fill in the holes. If you are looking for a dark, complex, and interesting twist on classic fairy tale tropes, this book is worth reading.
A Court of Mist & Fury, Bloomsbury USA Children, 2016, ISBN: 9781619634465