Aaaagh it’s finally arrived! I will admit this series (Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series) has been a guilty pleasure for me from book one, but just like everyone else who read ACOMAF in 2016, I had to find out what was going to happen in book three, this new May release, A Court of Wings and Ruin. As usual, no spoilers ahead for book three, but you should check out A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury before reading further, as it’s pretty impossible to do a series book justice without mentioning things that have happened earlier.
About the book: Feyre is spying on Spring Court, pretending to have preferred Tamlin all along, with Rhysand and the rest of the Night Court’s Inner Circle preparing for war back home and worrying about their new High Lady. The snags in Feyre’s plan come in the form of Lucien’s suspicions about her lies, and Ianthe’s outright evilness and determination to ruin everything for Feyre. Plus, of course, there’s Tamlin, who’s trying to be less controlling but still has too many strikes against him. Feyre does have an opportunity to get closer to some key players in Hybern’s army, though, who are using the Spring Court as their portal both to Prythian and, through the wall bordering it, into the mortal realm. But even if she can pull it off and escape the dangers Spring Court poses for her, will the information she gleans be enough to give the Night Court an edge in the coming battles? Hybern’s forces are enormous–the Night Court will need all the allies it can get, and deciding who to trust presents a whole new set of risks and challenges. Deals must be struck. Bargains must be upheld. Monsters must be unleashed. Hybern’s people fight for a single cause, while the High Fae would rather be at each others’ throats than stand together for their common interests. And nothing–absolutely nothing–can prepare Feyre for the war set in motion, and the losses it will bring.
There’s a lot of pressure for greatness on A Court of Wings and Ruin after the phenomenon that was ACOMAF. Without making this too much of a comparison between the two, I’ll attempt to answer whether ACOWAR lives up to the challenge.
First, a note on the layout: I didn’t feel that there was much to gain in the sections at the beginning and end of this book written from Rhysand’s perspective. Rhysand’s chapter at the end of ACOMAF felt more vital to that story–he was in a different place than Feyre, and was telling his Inner Circle something new pertaining to the plot. But in ACOWAR, though it was nice to see how Rhysand’s thoughts lined up with Feyre’s and with the things that he told her, they felt like…gold foil, some extra decoration on top of the real substance of the book, and I, personally, would always rather have the gritty substance than the gilded fluff on top of it. Is that just me? Am I the only one who skims superfluous detail, all the place description and the clothing and material objects, to pick out the kernels of plot and character? Either way, I don’t think Rhysand gives the reader anything new with his narration in this book.
Next, I’d like to acknowledge that this is basically a whole book about a man (okay, faerie) saying, “I want women to be equal to men, starting with you, you can do whatever you want,” set in a fantasy world (albeit with equality between humans and faeries also up for debate). And yet, even with all that promotion of female power, there is definitely not as much character growth in this volume as in the previous two (thought the characters are still just as irresistible). I would even go so far as to say that the potential character growth I expected to see in this book with a lot of the secondary characters feels postponed. I think it’s important to keep in mind while reading this book that there are three more books expected in this series; although those next three books will be presented from other characters’ perspectives rather than through the eyes of the now-familiar Feyre, there are a lot of loose ends left in ACOWAR that suggest to me those next three books are going to be more coherent to the main plot than traditional companion novels. Of course, I don’t know anything for certain about the future books, but I hope that those next books in this series are going to answer some questions about Feyre’s family and friends because none of their stories are resolved by the end of ACOWAR.
But back to the main plot. I thought it was funny that basically everything I’d heard about this book before I started reading revolved around Feyre spying at Spring Court, pretending to Tamlin that her time with Rhysand was a lie. She’s spying and sewing seeds of discord and doing all her Feyre things, sans Rhysand, but that only lasts about100 of the 700 pages. She’s at Spring Court for a quick matter of weeks, and then she’s thrown back into the preparations for war she began with Rhysand and the Night Court in book two. By the time I got to the end of the book, it hardly even felt like those first hundred pages were part of book three because so much else was going on afterward. Basically, all hell breaks loose, but it’s difficult to talk about without spoiling the survivors and the battlefield surprises. In the end, this is a book of war, of fighting for equality and freedom and safety, and the strength it takes to win those battles.
“Even for an immortal, there was not enough time in life to waste it on hatred. On feeling it and putting it into the world.”
“Remember that you are a wolf. And you cannot be caged.”
I was worried that after ACOMAF this one would let me down. I tried to manage my expectations. While I didn’t like ACOWAR enough to call it a new favorite, it didn’t disappoint me, either.
My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I believe that’s the same rating I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses, but without a doubt I would say I liked ACOWAR better than book one. And neither of them compare to book two. But…I am completely on board for book 4. It’s going to be an easier wait than the wait for ACOWAR was, but I’ll be ready to pick it up as soon as it’s published. And in the meantime…I may even pick up Throne of Glass. I’m under the impression that the Throne of Glass series is not quite as beloved as Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which makes me hesitant. Should I read more Sarah J. Maas? Or just wait patiently for the next ACOTAR release in 2018? (Patiently, ha ha, what a joke. This is why I prefer to read the entire series at once, usually starting right before the last book is published when it’s really popular still but I won’t have to wait.)
- Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy kept creeping into my thoughts as I was reading ACOWAR, and I think it would make an interesting read in comparison with the first three ACOTAR books. I was surprised how many similarities I saw–are all the fantasy trilogies so alike nowadays? Anyway, these first three books in Bardugo’s Grishaverse (starting with Shadow and Bone) feature a girl thrust into a new world of power who must form new alliances while preserving old relationships, and fight for her own independence as well as the salvation of the man she loves. If you’re a Sarah J. Maas fan who hasn’t read Leigh Bardugo’s books yet… what are you waiting for?
What’s next: Now that I’ve finished rereading all the good parts of ACOMAF (basically all the parts, to be honest) and put Feysand away, finally, I’m starting my other much-anticipated May release, Paula Hawkins’ new thriller, Into the Water. I’m excited to see where the popular The Girl on the Train author is going with this new novel.
The Literary Elephant