Book Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Warning! This book review of ACOSF contains mild slander. The first thing I want to know is how does a person turn an adult book into a massive YA trope? A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas is a novel that held many promises, one that I firmly believed I’d give 5 stars to. Yet, I find myself disappointed and frustrated because it didn’t live up to the expectations I had in store. Maybe that’s my bad, but I wonder how other readers feel about it, characters aside.

(Review contains spoilers.)

Book review of ACOSF by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Silver Flames official cover art
A Court of Silver Flames official cover art

My rating: ★★★ (3/5)

Summary: Nesta is in a dark place, having trouble coping with the fact she’s no longer human. After the Inner Circle deems her behavior inappropriate and harmful, Nesta must go to the House of Wind. Cassian tries to help her deal with her problems, and Nesta soon finds friends, love, and the meaning of the powers of the Cauldron. But someone else is after those powers.

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Audience: New Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: explicit sex, violence, mental illness, mentions of SA

A Little Introduction

I went in expecting maybe too much from A Court of Silver Flames, considering how disappointing the other books were. But I gathered that this would be an adult book, and it’s about Nesta instead of Feyre. So I thought, this has to be good, right?

Now, this is still a better story than all the nonsense that preceded it. The first reason is the POV. No first-person, not only one POV, granted it’s not a multiple POV either, but it helped. The writing matured, or so it seemed, in the sense that I spotted fewer repetitions and better-crafted sentences. However, this is still a book with a good amount of cringe terms and wobbly narrative. While I thought it wouldn’t bother me as much (you’d think after four Court books I’d get used to it), I still eye-rolled.

Double standards. Double standards everywhere.

So, the story begins with Nesta drinking herself stupid every night and sleeping with whatever male fae she finds. Okay, that’s one way to cope with the fact that your nameless father died in front of you after years of doing smack for you and your sisters. And I will not judge the drinking and sexing. What completely left me with my jaw hanging is when the Inner Circle strips Nesta from her free will. They lock her inside the House of Wind because she spent too much money on things that embarrass Rhysand, Feyre, and their clique. Somehow, this is mercy, care, and love for Nesta.

Did we all forget when Tamlin forbade Feyre to even breathe outside the Spring Court manor “for her own good?” Because she was so sad, broken, and shocked that it was better she stayed away until she felt better. Did the fandom who renamed Tamlin into Tampon forget the biased hate Maas pushed on them through Feyre’s POV for four books? What happens to Nesta here is the same thing that happened to Feyre. But if it’s Feyre doing it and not Tamlin, then I guess it’s alright.

I don’t think Nesta even dealt with her trauma.

Nesta’s problems are rooted in several events. One, the fact her mother never loved her as a mother would, but saw her as a potential socialite. Two, the fact her father was a useless moron who one day brought an army to save the daughters he couldn’t feed, only to die in front of Nesta. Three, the attempted rape. Four, being thrown into the Cauldron and Made fae. Five, having to live in a world where she doesn’t feel at her place.

So, Nesta never solves her mommy issues, quite the contrary. What she learned from her mother ends up used in the Court of Nightmares to woo Eris, of all people. But Eris is already an ally to the Night Court. There was no point in doing that. It was just for the drama points and the half-assed love triangle.

The daddy issues disappear after a five-day hike in the Illyrian mountains when she tells Cassian why she can’t stand the sound of crackling logs in the fire. As much as it was supposed to be this big turning point, all I could think of was the fact that Nesta’s dad never even had a name. He appeared maybe three or four times total in this series. I just can’t see him as a character worth fussing over.

Now, the Cauldron thing and the feeling-out-of-place are elements Nesta throws at Feyre and Tamlin, but mostly Tamlin. Just in case the reader still had some doubts if to hate Tamlin, Maas goes back to the “essential” Tamlin slander by rewriting her own narrative.

Nesta says that the fae world is Feyre’s world. She says it’s Feyre’s fault she and Elain were Made, yadda yadda yadda. But when she meets Tamlin in the Spring Court, it’s his fault now. Oh, he’s “a piece of shit” and someone who “never deserved Feyre.” It’s not like Nesta, Elain, and their father had a roof by Tamlin’s decision. It’s not like Tamlin allied with Hybern because Feyre (who wasn’t supposed to know how to read or write) sent him *a letter* that could’ve very well been fake, instead of being the mature High Fae she always claims she is and tell it to his face that he’s “a piece of shit.”

And the sexual assault? Yeah, that flew out of the window, and Nesta “kind of forgot” about it.

Some things I did like.

Nesta and Cassian are characters I love. They had great potential; they differ from the rest of the cast, and frankly, they’ve got nice chemistry. The smutty scenes were less cringe, compared to Feyre and Rhysand’s. (Although every time faes have sex, it sounds like two animals rutting). What I liked here was the fact that Cassian had Nesta’s back most of the time. Even in front of the rest of the Inner Circle. Even when she was acting like a total ass.

It was fun to see Cassian squirm at the possibility of Nesta preferring Eris, but that subplot was too underdeveloped for me to further care about it. Nesta chose Cassian so fast it felt like a soap opera.

Gwyn and Emerie: the Sorority of the Hunger Games

A huge part of this book focuses on Nesta’s training and her forming meaningful relationships with two other faes who went through a lot of crap. I truly liked Gwyn and Emerie and the way the author introduced them. I also enjoyed the scenes where they trained as Valkyries. My problem with the whole Valkyrie thing was when it culminated into a lot of lazy world-building and the copy-paste of the Hunger Games.

I had gotten over the fact that Illyrians were just some bat version of the Greek-slash-Balkan Illyrians, and I had gotten over the failed retelling of Beauty and the Beast, or even Hades and Persephone. Maas’ world is basically a big mashup of a bunch of history and myths mixed with other series and even cartoons.

The Valkyries receive a sloppy backstory where they fought alongside the Illyrians at some point. I thought there would be more since Gwyn plays the assistant to some higher-ranking priestess who is studying the Valkyries. Nope, that doesn’t happen. We get some pieces of meditation, some training with Azriel and Cassian. Then, the three Valkyries end up in the Blood Rite to fight and slay and travel the same path as the men they say they loathe. I lost it at the chapter where someone says, “Valkyries,” and Nesta answers, “Hell yes.” Hell yes?! Are we in high school?

At least, during the Hunger Games of Illyria where the girls use a rope to bind themselves to trees and doze off without falling off Katniss-style, we get to see plot armor personified. Some random dude named Balthazar helps them hide from famished beasts, only to disappear forever afterward. I guess it’s still better than when Feyre and Lucien had a cave magically appear before their eyes when they were about to freeze in the Winter Court.

Things Maas needs to let go of, namely Feysand and character assassination

I originally liked Rhysand. I loved his character in the first volume, and I thought he and Lucien carried the book by themselves because they were neither good nor bad. Although I don’t appreciate the fact that Feyre’s “empowerment” happened through him, I didn’t hate him in the second book either. But I feel like the author mishandled this character somewhere in the third or fourth book. In ACOSF, he’s an entirely different person, a bit like Tamlin.

The Rhysand in this book is a despicable male. He is patriarchal, manipulative, and the author washes him clean (like all the stuff he did to Feyre Under The Mountain) because “Rhysand cares,” or because “Rhysand is the most powerful High Lord,” and… no. In the past, he already had fights with Feyre when he hid things from her and the girl dumped him in the mud for that, but now he can hide the danger of her pregnancy from her and all is fine.

I also don’t understand how anything related to Nesta needs to become a thing about him. For example, when the Inner Circle finds out about Nesta’s connection to the other Made items, Amren goes on this rant about how Nesta is there to make Rhys powerful enough to become High King (because “King” isn’t enough, let’s add “High” before it). Why? How? Nesta alone with the power of the Cauldron and the Trove can shatter Rhysand. But he needs to consider becoming High King? Maas has her set of favorite characters, and it’s a bit too apparent because it weakens a story that could’ve been formidable.

Ableist Endings FTW

Nesta’s ultimate scene is when she throws herself in front of Death to save Feyre and her baby… and Rhysand. Yes, because suddenly, Rhysand is the caring brother who could’ve throttled her whenever she was sad and tortured, but he only locked her away for her sanity. Nesta ends up giving up the Cauldron’s power so that Feysand and their babe can live. Amidst all the crying and begging, apparently Nesta asked the Cauldron to change Feyre’s anatomy and hers as well, so that when she has little Illyrians with Cassian, she won’t die.

Because what’s important even in the fae world, with so many wars ahead, is to have winged babes without shattering your pelvis. I guess Nesta knows Koschei and whoever else wants to kill them all are as weak as Stryga, the Bone Carver, the Crone, and Hy-freaking-bern. Paper-cut, miniature villains without backstories, motivations, or even decent power and politics, anyway. I see why she doesn’t need the Cauldron’s powers, but a wider womb instead. Also, isn’t this need for birthing babies a bit ableist?

And as a conclusion for this book review of ACOSF, I don’t think Maas’ books are problematic. They are just poorly written, and it saddens me to say this because the premise of each book was good. The characters had so much potential but the plotting is straight-up lazy. It’s literally always the same: starved girl being sad, some dude training her to be less sad, a magical item hunt, plot armor, a war that is maybe coming, one or two subplots that pause the war, endless monologues from non-POV characters so they can have a bit of personality, weird smut where characters chuckle at each other’s intimate parts, a war or a battle that ends in five seconds with some irrelevant character dying, lots of crying, happy ending, and a Feysand fan service scene.

I believe Maas can write an adult book, and I am looking forward to the day it happens. But the story needs to be more about the people she created, and less about her or her favorites, or the fans’ favorites.

My first review of Sarah J. Maas’ books started with A Court of Thorns and Roses. Find the review here.