First Line: The buzzing flies and screaming survivors had long since replaced the beating war drums.
Sum It Up In One Sentence: War is coming and Feyre and the Fae must find a way to win despite all her relationship drama.
I assume that anyone reading this review will have already read the previous two books in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury. I have a more traditional review for the second book which you can check out here. If you haven’t read the previous books and are still choosing to read this review, here is a brief summary of our story so far.
Human woman, Feyre, kills a fae in cold blood, gets taken back to the fae lands by a different fae, a High Lord, Tamlin. These fae are under a curse. Feyre falls in love with Tamlin (a la Beauty and the Beast) and winds up breaking the curse of the evil Amarantha. She also gets made into a fae. Unfortunately, she had to make a deal with another High Lord, Rhysand, in order to survive. He wasn’t nice. But then it turns out he actually was. Oh, and Tamlin is bad and controlling. She escapes with Rhysand and they fall in love. Of course, they are actually #mates. But Amarantha’s boss in another land, Hybern, is coming for war, so all mighty and wonderful Rhysand tries to stop them. But it turns out Tamlin is even worse than we thought. He betrays them all and takes Feyre back to his lands.
Now that everyone is caught up, it should be known that in order to talk about certain aspects of this book, I may divulge plot details. If this bothers you, you can skip ahead to my Final Thoughts section. In this final(?) book of the series, we start with Feyre spying in Tamlin’s domain and sowing discontent among his ranks. Eventually, she manages to escape back to the Night Court with Lucien in tow. From there, they plan for war by meeting with the other High Lords and other possible allies. Then the fighting begins and the king of Hybern makes his move against the human’s lands.
The overarching plot isn’t bad. Even the side quests give it a more in-depth feel. What I found the most frustrating was the poor plot devices she used. Maas sure does love her surprises, especially when a character keeps information from friends and loved ones. I see a lot of the same themes in her Throne of Glass series. This entire story hinges on lack of communication between people who are in love. I found it unrealistic that no one in the Spring Court knows how to share how they are feeling. Which is even more strange when you consider how many of them aren’t from the Spring Court.
These surprises include small secrets all the way up to big allies showing up at the last minute (Oh whoops, we forgot our hiding spell also hid us from friends). The surprise aspect is fun, but it’s overdone here. The worst one for me, and I actually rolled my eyes when I read it, was when their long-lost father was leading the ships to this surprise ally army. There is even a scene where another character is talking about the father and how he did it so he wouldn’t fail his daughters again. It might have been alright if her foreshadowing wasn’t so obvious. Along the same lines of being overdone, there were too many instances of “oh look, he’s actually an ally!” It happens at least three times with one of them seeming like they are flip-flopping on who they support.
So. Much. Monologuing. It’s a giant info dump and surprising to see at this stage of both this story and Maas’ growth as a writer. Each time the monologue serves that purpose, to dump a massive amount of information, but also to give another character time to appear. It’s disappointing to see in a finale.
I don’t have a lot to say regarding Rhysand. He’s really not an interesting character. He’s the most powerful High Lord ever. He’s so handsome. He ravishes Feyre like no one could. He would die to protect his friends. He’s too perfect. Maas took a character who did gross, abusive things in the first book, made it so that all of those things were for #reasons, and now his only fault is that he wants to do it all on his own so his family isn’t hurt. It’s boring. He’s boring.
Tamlin went from over-protective boyfriend in the first book, controlling and abusive fiance in the second book, to all-out villain here. I was angry in the last book at how the changes to his character weren’t consistent, and it feels the same here. His anger has now moved into slut-shaming as he berates her during the High Lords’ meeting. It felt almost comical in how disgusting the things coming out of his mouth were. Oh, but he still gets redemption, of course, because despite making him out to be so terrible, he still loves Feyre. He saves her life, so that makes it all okay.
And Feyre is just as dumb as ever. Making stupid decisions like running off to look for the Suriel on her own… again. And almost dying… again. She roped Mor into that debacle which also makes her selfish. Then, so many times she will see something happen and would say she could see the painting she would make and give it a horrible title in her head. How is this still a thing? She barely painted before and now it is laughable. I even highlighted this quote: “The Clever Fox Stares Down Winged Death. The painting flashed into my mind,” and wrote it was getting annoying.
And listen, making a woman powerful beyond reason does not make the book feminist. The fact that her life seems to rely on and revolve around men runs antithesis to that. It’s actually frustrating how powerful Maas makes her female leads, especially in this book. Feyre is very new to her powers and has very little training. I understand she has combined magic of the High Lords, but when under pressure she sure knows how to use it. She just doesn’t use it when it matters, like in war. She just can’t bring herself to fight. It’s too sad. Too hard. So they have another powerful warrior, the woman Mor, babysit her. Her sisters stand there too. Oh, and the creature-woman, Amren, who is so powerful High Lords are scared of her, sits back home and studies a book. All of these women who can turn the tide of war are relegated to the sidelines for fighting but can certainly make bandages. How is any of this feminist?
The secondary characters are interesting, and I cared about them far more than I did the main ones. None of them were perfect, but it helped to fill in the emotional gaps I was missing from Feyre. Of course, everyone has to have a match, which is a bit predictable. No one is really left to carry on the single life.
Maas writes well. The pacing stays consistent, and it is rare that I am bored. There are a few chapters that could be cut where they serve little purpose, but overall her books keep my attention. It could be why I keep reading despite not liking the main female leads in her books (here and ToG). She does a great job with PTSD in this series, and I commend her for showing the raw, gritty, and often ugly side of it. She also manages to have wonderful female friendships where they talk about things other than men. So there’s that point for feminism. I’ll even admit her sex scenes can get steamy.
But then the sex scenes become too often, at least in this series. And I am no prude. I’ve read quite a few romance novels, and a good sex scene is welcome. However, at some point, it becomes too much in a book that is not classified as romance. At least it seems like there is less of it in this book than the second (so much in the second), but they come (pun intended?) at innappropriate times fitting a novel based around a war. When Feyre and Rhysand are reunited, he can hardly keep his dick in his pants, and she has the audacity to commend him when he lets her say hello to her sisters first. Then there was the time it really bothered me. Both of them are standing in the tent after battle, dealing with how many lives are lost and how much more death is going to occur, and then they have sex. Now, I borrowed the book from the library, so I can’t double check here, but I remember it still being pretty graphic. It just felt out of place in that scene. A simple fade to black could have worked, but it wasn’t needed. Along these same lines, she has words and phrases that are cringe-worthy. She felt it in her “core.” “Tightening in my breasts.” He “growled.” It’s repetitive. They also use the term “fuck” which is odd given most of the language is less modern.
I understand the idea that the fae take mates. But if you have a series based around abuse and controlling relationships, this idea doesn’t gel. All of these mate pairings are controlling and possessive, and I don’t see the difference. Is it because both people are controlling and possessive? The scenes where they talk in their head and run fingers down mental barriers was weird as well. Reminded me of Fifty Shades by this point. There is a scene where the fae are meeting with a human entourage, and Feyre introduces Rhysand as her husband and remarks that the term “mate” might turn them off. It was funny to me because she acts as though she has been fae her whole life.
Her worldbuilding is still lacking in this series, and I still couldn’t tell you what the name of the big bad king was. He rules over Hybern, which is the people and the continent, and maybe even the fortress’ name. There are humans on the continent of Prythian with the fae, but there is another human world that we get almost no information for, and it’s frustrating when trying to understand the motives behind some of the characters’ actions.
It is known that these books are criticized for lack of diversity. She finally inserts a few LGBT characters, which is all well and good, but it isn’t done well. Two are mentioned rather casually, and the other is a secondary character, Mor, who up to this point gave no signs of being bisexual. In fact, she has only slept with many men, except Azriel, who pines after her. Suddenly, when Feyre says some childish comment to her, Mor goes into a monologue and tells Feyre that she is actually a lesbian. But rather than have to tell anyone or tell Azriel she would never love him, she sleeps with men to throw them off and apparently give Azriel the hint? It’s a horrible representation, and it feels like it was shoehorned in to appease critics.
It’s a lot of negatives, I know. I am not the only one to comment on the issues that these books have, and I am sure I won’t be the last. It’s easier to pick apart the things done wrong. It’s also boring to read a glowing review that says everything was done well. People somehow expect a young adult novel to give a lesson, a moral to the story. Maybe even teach young people what is right and appropriate. I certainly don’t feel that way. I look at young adult fantasy as fantasy. They often cover the same themes with the addition of a younger protagonist and a little more romance. There are many examples of fantasy, all fiction really, that have similar issues regarding certain tropes, and I not going to put Maas in a different category for having a problematic relationship. I don’t read books to mimic what should be in real life. I read to escape, imagine, and enjoy. So while there are social issues within her books, her writing, plot, and pacing are enjoyable to me. They would be much quicker reads, as far as density, if it weren’t for the page length. And sometimes, it’s also fun to read a book that makes me roll my eyes at some ridiculous scenes. For those reasons, I didn’t hate this book. I didn’t love it. But I’m sure I’ll keep reading her work.
5 out of 10
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Format Read: Kindle
Category(s): Fantasy, Young adult
Pages: 699 (Hardcover)
Series(?): 3 of 3 (series was extended but may be spin-offs)