F*ck me is what I want to say when I think of this book. F*ck me for giving SJM a chance and trying to figure out whether she truly has harmful representation in her books or not. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas is a book that left a bitter taste in my mouth. It is so NOT what I’d call a good book, and yet, this novel has a marvelous rating across multiple platforms so all I want to ask is–is everyone on crack?
Image from Amazon
⭐⭐.5/5: It could have been more than just OK
The actual rating I want to give this book is 2.5. I know I’m swimming against the current here as many readers have enjoyed this volume far more than the first one, but I didn’t. Honestly, one star goes to the writing, which improved along with the world-building a bit, and another goes to the side characters that are the reason why I managed to finish this book.
So, I didn’t like the protagonist in the first book already and this second instalment just cemented my profound distaste for her, but Feyre is not the main reason why I struggled with this book. It’s the way trauma is handled. It’s utterly biased and at first, I thought it felt so because the book is written in first-person, but as it goes on other characters make the same comments as the main character and the story itself seems to be justifying some forms of trauma while judging others. It’s simply not right. This, coupled with the inconsistency of everyone’s powers and the insane amount of plot armor found along the way, is a nope for me.
Thankfully, Maas manages to entertain the reader with some well-crafted secondary characters that have personality and humor. I’m more interested in knowing what happens to them than anything else. Would I recommend this book? Probably not, but if you do pick it up, I’m sure you’ll find positive parts in it that will keep you rooted.
The story begins with Feyre back with her “lover” Tamlin in the Court of Spring. We don’t get to see much between the part where they defeated the villain of Book One and the part where they’re about to get hitched. We just get to see a very depressed Feyre, a young woman who is discontent with about everything. She doesn’t want to get married, she has nightmares, she can’t and won’t mingle with the court that is about to become her court; she’s just one big mess. It seems that those around her aren’t doing much better either. Tamlin has nightmares too, fits of rage, Lucien shut down completely and I don’t know, there are many instances where the characters feel very OOC. It seems that many problems solved in Book One are back. Feyre feels like a prisoner even when she’s offered to go out, and for some reason, everyone wants to shield her now that she is High Fae while nobody gave a damn (herself included) about her roaming the place when she was a mere human. That’s really weird and I thought there was an explanation for it, but there’s none other than “plot reasons”…
The story evolves with Feyre being “saved” from her wedding (because, you know, God forbid she speaks her mind) by the “hot guy she made a bargain with” before ultimately fleeing her home with said dude after being “locked up” in an estate for “her own safety”… The narrative feels wrong on so many levels because Tamlin, who was given zero personality in the previous book, turns into some sort of villain, along with Lucien, who honestly risked a whole lot to save Feyre countless times. Not to mention that all three of them are supposed to be going through some form of PTSD but it seems that unless you’re Feyre, your trauma doesn’t count.
As it turns out, Feyre finds a new home in Rhysand’s Night Court, along with friends and other pretty things that make her life less crap. This story is supposed to be about empowering women but frankly, it is a bit upsetting that every step of empowerment is never Feyre’s but Rhysand’s doing. This woman has no initiative of her own and the author spends more time telling us what Feyre thinks/wants/is than showing us Feyre is the deserving person everyone says she is. A classic case of “she’s smart!” without anyone knowing what she did to be considered as such. It’s borderline Mary Suesque.
Like in the previous book, many chapters are more filler episodes than actual progress, and I don’t understand why we have them when there are other important events mentioned by the characters that get swept under the rug with a couple of sentences such as the part where Feyre becomes High Lady. It’s supposed to be important, a historical moment even considering everyone knows and says, “there is no such thing as a High Lady” but no, I guess it’s easier to just spend a sentence on it because there’s no more time! We’re at the end of the book!
There are other important events that are handled in odds ways, such as Tamlin’s big reveal being casually talked about during a stroll, or when Rhysand’s telling Feyre about the whole “mate” ordeal and what he went through. That was a massive info dump of about 5 pages. A lot of fans call this “the can of soup that changed everything” but I think that soup evaporated while cooking since Rhys talked for about 40 minutes straight without grabbing a glass of water. Also, I could’ve lived without his avalanche-inducing orgasm. WTF?
I thought the characters of this book would be grey and believable, but the more I read the more I see too many attempts at justifying X and damning Y, while when you think about it, they both performed the same actions.
Use a word count
Maas is a storyteller but I don’t see the writer yet. I am patient, and I will read the available books in this series because of that but frankly, while it was a bit better than in book one, I still saw too many repetitions (mate, prowl, mate, prowl, vulgar gesture, busybody, mate, prowl–JUST KILL ME ALREADY), shortcuts, and world-building that seemed to have bored even the author because whatever she didn’t feel like explaining she pushed in the background and had a character say something like, “Nobody knows why,” or my favorite, “It’s always been like this.” Ok. Honestly, this person has been writing since she was what, sixteen? Seventeen? I believe she can get there or that she already did by now because the ideas aren’t half bad.
Can we have less Feyre and more… everything else?
ACOMAF’s only redeeming asset is the secondary cast. Honestly. If this book didn’t introduce characters like Amren or Cassian I would have thrown this book out of the window. I think the editorial reviewers were paid quite a lot to say that this book is about women empowerment when it’s the opposite. It’s one thing to depict a woman needing a little push and a lot of guidance to find her way but this is not what goes on with Feyre. She leaves a court to join another and she’s happy because she’s “given a job” there–nevermind that the moment her relationship with Rhysand evolves a bit it turns out she is his mate AKA whether she likes it or not she’s bound to him (hello patriarchy, it’s been a while since last time) and every step she takes “to reach the top” is basically Rhysand’s idea, like the whole High Lady business.
I also can’t and won’t accept that a character that was never furtherly developed like Tamlin becomes the villain in the narrative. It’s impossible for me to love or loathe a character the author never took the time to develop. I also think that if an author wants to make a character the victim of domestic abuse they can’t just hint at the theme and then cram it into a black and white subplot. It’s a real disservice and even offensive to people who actually experienced this kind of thing.
But the major pet peeve for me is Feyre being a self-insert character. When you have a first-person POV you’re looking at whether the narrator is unreliable or not and the whole point of not having an omniscient narrator is to see things from one perspective and watch the character grow as they realize they were wrong about things. But Feyre’s never wrong, no–many things she thinks are backed by other characters’ statements. One blatant example is how she feels about Tamlin but there are other instances too like her relationship with Nesta or Lucien’s attitude regarding the Spring Court in general. The author wants the reader to like Feyre so much that at the end of the day there is always a lot of praise for everything she does or says, and I don’t see Feyre going through character development because of this.