Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Warning! This book review of ACOMAF contains slander. Fuck me is what I want to say when I think of this book. Fuck me for giving SJM a chance and trying to figure out if she truly has harmful representation in her books. 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: are you guys ok? Because I’m not.
(Review contains spoilers.)
My rating: ★★ (2/5)
Summary: After defeating Amarantha, Feyre is back to the Spring Court, where her relationship with Tamlin deteriorates quickly. Plus, the bargain Feyre made with Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court, still ties her to him. After escaping the Spring Court, Feyre tries to move on with her life under the guidance of Rhysand’s Inner Circle. She then discovers they are preparing to fight a war that involves every court in Prythian.
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Audience: Young Adult/New Adult
Themes/potential trigger warnings: captivity, mental and physical abuse, a lot of growling and em dashes
TLDR Before You Even R
I know I’m swimming against the current here. Many readers have enjoyed this volume far more than the first one. I didn’t.
So, I didn’t like the protagonist in the first book already. This second installment just cemented my profound distaste for her. But Feyre is not the main reason I struggled with this book. The way the author handles trauma is utterly biased and at first, I thought it felt so because she wrote the book in first-person. However, as it goes on, other characters make the same comments as the main character. The story itself seems to justify 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, makes the book a big nope for me.
Thankfully, Maas entertains 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 pick it up, I’m sure you’ll find positive parts that will keep you rooted.
Rant Part 1: Biased Depictions of Trauma
The story begins with Feyre back with her “lover” Tamlin in the Spring Court. We don’t get to see much between the part where they defeated the villain of ACOTAR and when they’re about to get hitched. We just get to see a very depressed Feyre, who is a young woman 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.
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. Many problems solved in ACOTAR are back. Feyre feels like a prisoner even when she goes out. 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 the author would explain this, but it’s really for plot reasons.
The story develops with Feyre getting “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 Tamlin “locked her up” in an estate for “her own safety…” The narrative feels wrong on so many levels because Tamlin, whom the author gave zero personality in the previous book, turns into some sort of villain. The same goes for Lucien, who honestly risked a lot to save Feyre countless times. All three of them go through some form of PTSD. But unless you’re Feyre, your trauma doesn’t count.
Rant Part 2: The Adventures of Mary Sue
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, allegedly, about empowering women according to the editorial reviews. Frankly, it is upsetting that every step of empowerment is Rhysand’s doing. But I’ll talk more about that later. The main issue is Feyre has no initiative of her own. The author spends more time telling us what Feyre thinks/wants/is instead of showing us Feyre is the deserving person everyone says she is. A classic case of “she’s smart!” with no one knowing why. It’s borderline Mary Suesque.
Like in the previous book, many chapters are more filler episodes than actual progress. I don’t understand why we have them. In fact, there are other important events the characters mention, but those get swept under the rug with a couple of sentences. Example? When Feyre becomes High Lady. It’s supposed to be this historical moment, considering everyone knows and says, “there is no such thing as a High Lady.” But 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 the author handles in odds ways, such as Tamlin’s big reveal coming up during a stroll. Or when Rhysand tells Feyre about the whole “mate” ordeal and what he went through during ACOTAR. That was a massive info dump of about 5 pages. A lot of fans call this “the can of soup that changed everything.” 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. The more I read, the more I see too many attempts at justifying X and damning Y. But when you think about it, they both performed the same actions. And what’s different is that one’s first name isn’t Feyre.
Rant Part 3: Repetition Gallore
Maas is a storyteller, but I don’t see the writer yet. I am patient, and I will read the rest of the series. But frankly, while ACOMAF was better than ACOTAR regarding the writing style, I still saw too many repetitions. Mate, prowl, mate, prowl, vulgar gesture, busybody, mate, prowl… Plot shortcuts, 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.”
Honestly, I thought Maas began writing a while ago, and you can see her writing potential in sporadic paragraphs. I wish her editor (or anyone handling the book prior to publication) would encourage those bits instead of keeping all the repetitions in the text. Because the passion is there, the fans are there, and I’m sure there’s much more to this author’s style than a set of words repeatedly sprinkled all over.
Rant Part 4: Feminism is dead. So are villains.
If this book didn’t introduce characters like Amren or Cassian, I would have thrown this book out of the window. Only they made me go past the suspicion I have that someone paid the editorial reviewers quite a lot to say that this book is about women’s 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, and it’s another to see what happens to Feyre. She leaves a court to join another, and she’s happy because someone *hands* her a job there… Nevermind that the moment her relationship with Rhysand grows a bit it turns out she is his mate, so whether she likes it, she’s bound to him. (Hello patriarchy, it’s been a while since last time!) 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 like Tamlin becomes the villain in everybody’s narrative when the author never developed him. It’s impossible for me to love or loathe a character the author never took the time to polish. 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 this may have to do with the fact that Feyre’s is a self-insert character.
The whole point of having single-POV books with unreliable narrators is to see things from one perspective and watch the characters grow as they realize they were wrong about things. But Feyre’s never wrong. Other characters’ statements back many things Feyre thinks. 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. The author wants the reader to like Feyre so much that there is always a lot of praise for everything she does or says. I don’t see Feyre going through character development because of this.
The next installment of this series is A Court of Wings and Ruin. You can find my review here.