First Line: I vomited into the toilet, hugging the cool sides, trying to contain the sounds of my retching.
Sum It Up In One Sentence: Feyre may have defeated Amarantha, but she still needs to deal with Amarantha’s boss while struggling with her feelings for the Lords of two rival courts.
As this is the second book in the series and the parts that gave me the “feelings” would be considered main parts of the story, proceed with caution.
Feyre comes back from Under the Mountain, having defeated Amarantha in A Court of Thorns and Roses. She saved the faeries and broke the curse, but she had to kill two faes to do it. She is haunted by this and wakes from nightmares, vomiting (as evidenced by the lovely first line), and alone. Tamlin doesn’t comfort her, and instead, he spends his moments trying to get his land back to normal. He also tightens his grip on Feyre, working harder to keep her from harm. Nevermind that she gained immortality and powers when the Lords saved her from death. It becomes a point of contention between the two, and when they aren’t having sex, they don’t really even speak. All of this is exacerbated by the pact Feyre made with Rhysand. The fact that she must spend a week a month with him drives Tamlin mad. Eventually, though, Tamlin does the unthinkable, literally locks her in the house to prevent her from leaving. One of Rhysand’s court rescues her, and the novel takes a turn.
Suddenly, she is embroiled in a war between the King of Hyburn and Prythian. Rhys and his companions train Feyre in her new powers all while trying to avert this war. They make contact with Feyre’s sisters and the mortal queens in order to retrieve a book that can stop Hyburn from using a powerful artifact, a cauldron. All the while, it is clear that Feyre and Rhys are falling in love. Well, Rhys was in love all along, because, you see, they are Mates. Meant to be. Eventually, they enter King of Hyburn’s fortress to destroy the cauldron, but Feyre is lured into inaction through its magic. It is then revealed that Tamlin and the Spring Court were working with the King so Tamlin could get Feyre back. The Night Court is trapped while Feyre’s sisters are turned to fae using the cauldron. In desperation to save her new friends and lover, she feigns that she was brainwashed and begs to return with Tamlin. The King removes the bond between Feyre and Rhys, not knowing he only removed the curse and not their mating bond. The Night Court manages to escape, and Feyre returns with Tamlin to act as a spy. The end.
Let’s start at the beginning, the most logical course of action. While I don’t like how it was handled, I did enjoy that we got to see the effects of Under the Mountain. It was raw and gritty PTSD, and it was a nice change from all the lovey stuff. Yet, no one talks about why everyone is so sad. Everyone only talks superficially. Even when Feyre speaks with her friend, Lucien, it is only to get him to convince Tamlin to let her wander farther. These are people who are friends or lovers, have just been through hell and death for each other, and you can’t have a chat about what’s bothering you? No one even bothers to ask, “What’s wrong?” It just feels inauthentic.
Let’s be honest, there is the war plot, which is setting things in motion, but the majority of this novel is centered around the love story of Feyre and Rhys. It reminded me so much of Maas’ Throne of Glass series whose character names I don’t feel like looking up right now. They hate each other, they are attracted to each other, then they are MATES! While the slow build was a nice touch, the whole mating thing is annoying to me. It means that the characters had no choice in the decision. It was a supernatural pull that they have. It makes the whole idea of their love feel forced. It also just gives them this ability to be able to sense each other and speak through minds, which is too convenient for the plot, and honestly makes it all feel a bit lazy.
The war and the artifact were very interesting, and I wish we had more scenes with that rather than pages devoted to Feyre painting or sex scenes. There was so much build up, and then the King just lets them all go or escape. And Tamlin. I will get into more detail in the character section, but that whole thing was crap. I knew something like that was coming, but it felt so overdone. I understand he is the Lord of the Spring Court so not many can oppose him (and he had this nasty little priestess on his side), but are you telling me that everyone else was okay with this? He basically gave up the faerie race and the mortal world so he could get his girlfriend back. Not only is it dumb, but I can’t even imagine his character would do that. Sure, Maas made him go a bit crazy, but after Amarantha, I can’t see Tamlin, as a character, working in cahoots with her boss. It makes no sense to me.
Feyre is so annoying. I don’t know what else I can say about her. Oh, she has her painting, because I guess having a hobby gives you a personality trait. In the scene where she paints the cabin and other characters react, I got this sense that she actually wasn’t very good at it, which gave me a chuckle.
Rhys is too perfect. He was all mystery and darkness in the first book, doing what seemed to be some pretty awful things to Feyre and others. But all of that is cleansed because he was doing it to save his people. He was hiding them. He is the most powerful fae in history. He is the only Lord who wants to save the world. He is so thoughtful and caring. He brings in strays and makes them leaders on his council. Everything he has done has been for Feyre. Ugh. Oh, and don’t forget, we have to throw Tamlin under the bus just so people don’t have any misgivings about shipping this new love. Nevermind that it’s okay to move on, to have your feelings grow and change (or be forced into change because, Mates) without making the ex a bad person. Nope. Not Sarah J. Maas.
Tamlin was given the shit end of the stick. He was by no means perfect in the first book. He had controlling tendencies, and there is a great line where Feyre admits that for the human she was at that time, that is what she needed. But it felt like Maas went out of her way to turn this guy purely evil for the sake of the new relationship (and drama). Poor Feyre. She was sad and Tamlin didn’t comfort her. Of course, he suffers nightmares as well, and Feyre didn’t react. She didn’t comfort either. But only Tamlin is to blame, right? There are also several mentions of when they were under the mountain and Amarantha is killing Feyre, only Rhys lunges for her. That Tamlin sits there on his knees. That the only time Tamlin broke away from Amarantha was to make-out with Feyre and not help her escape. Correct me if I’m wrong, please, but wasn’t Tamlin under a curse? Wasn’t he truly unable to do some of these things she is demanding of him after the fact? She had no problem with the make-out session during, and I am not even sure it was feasible for him to help her escape. It’s just more things Feyre and Rhys (and Maas) pile on Tamlin to make their relationship look better. I am in no way saying that he was a good boyfriend in the first book, but the whole thing is just bothersome.
The secondary characters were more interesting, at least some of them. I didn’t get enough Lucien, whom I enjoyed as a character in the last book. The priestess, Ianthe, seemed boring in the beginning, but then we learn some very interesting things about her past. Unfortunately, we don’t see her after this. I am sure what we get in the next book will make her comically evil. The Night Court was more the focus of this novel. Cassian was a fun character, though he seemed like a replica of that fae general in The Throne of Glass series, the cousin, whatever his name was (Aedion?). Azriel was the brooding quiet one. Morrigan and Amren were powerful and interesting women, but I just didn’t get enough of them. I would have loved to get more of these women’s stories.
At first, I had trouble with Feyre falling for Rhys. It didn’t feel realistic to me how she was acting toward him almost immediately. Maas did have some good quotes that helped ease that for me.
A protector—that’s who he was, and would always be. What I had wanted when I was cold and hard and joyless; what I had needed to melt the ice of bitter years on the cusp of starvation. I didn’t have the nerve to wonder what I wanted or needed now. Who I had become.
She did a good job of weaving in these thoughts that show how Feyre knows she’s changed, and while she deeply loved Tamlin, he is not for her new immortal self. I wish she had just gone this route, they grew apart, rather than the way she tore Tamlin down. Especially if she is going to turn around and use the possessive “You’re mine,” between Rhys and Feyre later. And I am tired of the whole mate bond thing. Possessive and controlling relationships seem to be Maas’ thing.
Maas’ writing is immersive, and while there are definitely scenes I find boring, it moves along. Anything having to do with Feyre painting felt very forced. The sex scenes can be steamy if sometimes a bit overwritten. She also uses some horrible analogies. I also just feel that her books are too long. There could be some trimming done for sure.
Listen, I don’t read books just for their literary value. Books can have problematic aspects (like these controlling relationships) and still be enjoyable. I don’t need to look for a life lesson in all my readings. Sometimes, it’s just about pleasure and fun. For me, Sarah J. Maas’ books are those kinds of books. I often find myself rolling my eyes or getting frustrated with either the characters or writing, but I usually find the book as a whole enjoyable. Her ideas are new and interesting, and her worlds are immersive. And sometimes, even when I am not crazy about the book, I still want to see where she takes the series.
6 out of 10
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Format Read: Kindle
Category(s): Fantasy, Young Adult
Series(?): 2 of 6 (possible series extension from 3)