Let me begin this review by stating that this book changed me. Sarah J. Maas has a writing style that makes readers sit on edge. She hides the details of every character and plot development until the last possible second, making us all flip through the pages of this novel at light-speed to reach the answers buried somewhere within the text. Meanwhile, her words and hidden messages lay us bare before the characters and writing, exposing parts of ourselves we perhaps hadn’t known were there. As for myself, I feel as though my personality and identity were thoroughly ravaged by every chapter of this novel.
Before I begin my analysis, I’d like to speak a little bit about myself. I’m a teenage girl, an artist, a writer (as you were perhaps unable to tell), and in some cases, I find myself at a loss with the way the world works. I’ve always known that I think and feel things differently than my friends and family, and in many cases these feelings cannot be adequately portrayed to those around me. I feel emotions deeply, and I have strong opinions towards many topics. I am also very affected by my surroundings, such as the seasons and weather. During the winter months, I often find myself in a depressive state of mind, uninspired and out of sorts. In this way, I can relate to Feyre, the main character in the story.
As I’m assuming you’ve all read the first book in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, I’m not going to talk too much about the previous happenings. Essentially, readers were left with the perfect image of Feyre and Tamlin, finally safe and alone at last after the events of Under the Mountain. However, at the start of the sequel, we know things are not all as perfect as they seem. This is the first realistic aspect that Sarah J. Maas incorporates into the novel. Tamlin, who has developed to be dismissive and overbearing towards Feyre, gives her little to no control of her life or her surroundings. He treats her as a doll, or perhaps a trophy, and places her on an untouchable pedestal that she cannot hope to climb down from. Tamlin, who readers had all assumed was the “Beast turned Prince” in this Beauty and the Beast retelling, actually plays the role of Gaston. Maas manages to portray the perfect image of an abusive relationship, developing on important concepts of helplessness and denial that women may feel in such circumstances. Feyre feels at a loss; Her deep sorrow, PTSD, and depression all playing a role in her denial towards the actions of her fiancé. Throughout those many months she’d been in Prythian, Tamlin was the only connection and reason she had for not leaving the foreign place. She harboured strong, intense love and infatuation towards the High Lord, and because of this was blind to the changes in his character. My favourite part of their multi-faceted relationship that Maas develops later in the story, is that for Feyre, Tamlin was what she needed at one point in her life. The fact that she left him, does not dismiss the importance he once held to her, and the good things he’d done for her in the past. This makes their relationship all the more realistic. In many novels, relationships between characters are written to be either loving or hateful, and in this way detaches readers from the story. Maas allows for readers to be left to decide for themselves, whether Tamlin is either right or wrong, for most of the story.
It is only later that Tamlin’s abusive ways become apparent. Ianthe, a priest hired by Tamlin to oversee the wedding, is largely a culprit in reducing Feyre to feeling as though she must play the role of housewife. The one request Feyre made to Ianthe, that the wedding ceremony must not incorporate the colour red (because of the Post-Traumatic triggers it induces), was completely disregarded by the woman. The panic attack that ensues as Feyre sees the red petals, and sees instead the blood of the Fae she killed before, is also relatively accurate in its portrayal. I was glad that Maas described the horrific experience to such accuracy, and didn’t downplay its significance within the story.
As Rhysand feels this panic attack through the bond between he and Feyre, he comes to her rescue. At this point, readers have negative opinions towards Rhys, as he had made Feyre do horrifically demeaning acts Under the Mountain. With such an awful personality, Maas effectively sets the stage for immense character growth within Rhysand.
Throughout the few months that Feyre is bound to the bargain Rhysand created, aspects of his lifestyle and personality are revealed; He doesn’t seem like such a bad guy anymore. The tone and mood of the story leans more towards reflecting Feyre’s feelings. I found myself understanding many ways which Feyre experienced depression. The halt on her creativity was something I’d experienced myself; An art block is what I often refer to it as. Colours and expressions no longer held the same meaning to Feyre as they once did, and therefore the tone of the story is appropriately bleak and grey. Her lack of caring, for herself and for others, is also impactful in the development of this heavy tone. For Feyre, it’s an effort just to get up; She now wakes up at noon, missing out on most of her day. Living is strenuous, and if Rhysand hadn’t come to help Feyre, perhaps she would have thought the effort of living was not worth the outcome.
This brings me to my next point. The way that Rhysand understands Feyre’s depression, but does not leave her to wallow in it, is very important. In comparison to Tamlin, who had been content to not deal with Feyre, and who had avoided all conversation about the happenings of Under the Mountain to instead wallow in self-pity, Rhys has tried to fix himself. He went through 50 years of Amarantha’s torture, in comparison to the few months Tamlin spent under her thumb. Of those years, the methods of torture were clearly much, much worse than what Tamlin had to go through. As he was forced into the position of a sex slave for 50 years, to a woman who killed without reason, it would be understandable if Rhys had chosen to wither away into a husk of himself. But Rhysand is a fighter, and that was known since the first novel. He endured and overcame the horrors of those years, and didn’t let them define him. Tamlin, on the other hand, shrunk away and let himself be overcome by all the events that occurred in those few months. He let Amarantha affect him to the point where his love for Feyre had been broken and tainted, and remade into an unhealthy obsession.
To compare this clause to Beauty and the Beast, the story from which Maas drew inspiration, Gaston experienced similar attributes. When Belle turned him down, what he thought was love for the girl turned into an all-consuming obsession, driving him to hunt down the beast.
This leads me to the turning point of the novel, in which Feyre finally is taken away from Tamlin’s home permanently. After a few weeks, she begins to realize that Tamlin’s ideologies, and the way he gave himself over to the horrors of Under the Mountain, had rubbed off on her. Now, at Rhysand’s side, she begins to take on the attributes of her host. She allows herself to be pulled from that depression, and slowly gains the confidence to begin fixing herself. Rhysand distracts her from her PTSD, and the memories dragging her into a dark frame of mind, by teaching her to read and train. As Feyre begins to steel her mind against Rhys’ intrusion, she too begins to fight back against the harrowing depression she feels. However, there are still many instances in which readers understand that depression is not something that is so easily overcome. Feyre’s PTSD still haunts her, even until the end of the novel.
As Feyre meets with the members of Rhys’ inner circle, and her views of Rhysand’s then controversial character slowly begin to change and develop, readers can once again pull parallels from Beauty and the Beast. While Maas had once allowed readers to believe the beast was a literal interpretation, attributing the shape-shifting Tamlin to the role, it can now be understood that this character is played by Rhysand. He states a few times within the story, that he had to play the role of monster in order to protect his people. Since readers only see the story from Feyre’s point of view, it was understood in the first novel that Rhys was the monster. Therefore, the transformation that occurs is actually metaphorical and symbolic, as Feyre begins to understand that Rhys is actually a wonderful, caring gentleman. By the end of the story, it is obvious that Rhys was able to help Feyre remake herself into the woman she’d envisioned herself to be. As she trains, she gains confidence and power, but doesn’t discard certain important aspects of her personality. Her will to paint, and create artwork is reborn through the time she spends with Rhys. The way Maas continues to incorporate this part of Feyre develops further relatability between her characters and the readers. Many times, authors will create characters who only have one stationary goal to move forward to; For example, becoming more powerful. Feyre wishes for more than just power, she wishes to still maintain the softness that artwork brings to her. She still wishes for femininity, and still strives for things any normal girl would want. The flirting and sexual need that Feyre experiences throughout the story allow for a sense of normalcy amongst the fighting and fantasy. Even the descriptions of clothing that Feyre wears take on a new meaning. In the scene where she and Rhys visit the court of nightmares, she no longer feels ashamed to wear such scant clothing, and somewhat revels in the idea that people think her “slutty” for wearing it and acting in such a way. This is an amazing example of confidence within Feyre, as she basically takes on this “I don’t give a shit what you think” attitude. And Rhys, throughout their time together, feeds into this confidence by praising her sassiness and haughtiness. Truly, Maas develops their “partners in crime attitude” throughout the entire novel, which allows for intense chemistry between the two characters to take place.
Possibly my favourite aspect of the story, is the way that Maas develops on feminism and equality. Tamlin, as readers now understand, promotes some basic ideas of misogyny, claiming he owns Feyre. In contrast, Rhysand proclaims many more aspects of feminism, often stating to his inner circle that Feyre is his equal in every way, and that she cannot be owned by anyone. His self-awareness is also astounding, as he comprehends the ways that his power and status may lead Feyre to believe he is attempting to control her in the same ways as Tamlin had. He reassures her, on the night of Starfall, that he will not attempt to dominate her in any way (except perhaps in bed). He states, in one of my most favourite quotes, that if Feyre had chosen to go back to Tamlin, he would “…find a way to live with it. It would be your choice.” At this point, I put down the book and actually clapped my hands for no one in particular. Thank God. Fuck yeah. Hell YES.
There are many more instances where Rhysand states feminist ideologies. In the final chapters of the novel, he throws away the typical male stereotypes that many of the High Lords live by, and states proudly to his friends that he has made Feyre the Lady of the Night Court. Not his Lady, but the Lady. Bless his soul.
Finally, the last scene of the novella was amazingly well done. Honest to God, I had 100% believed that King Hybern had dispelled the cherished mating bond between Feyre and Rhysand. This again draws on Maas’ ability to leave details to the last possible second (hell, the mating bond wasn’t even discovered until chapter 50). But the most well thought out line in the last pages of this novel, is on page 612. Feyre turns to Tamlin, playing the role of a tortured slave to hide the feelings she held towards Rhysand and his inner circle.
“Don’t let him take me,” I sobbed again. “I don’t want to go back.”
I can’t remember at exactly which point within the final confrontation I’d started sobbing, but I’d definitely had to avoid dripping tears on the book at this point. Because Goddamn! That line had two different meanings! The first, the literal interpretation, was that Feyre was speaking directly to Tamlin, effectively playing the role of a helpless girl, pleading for him to take her away from the “monsters” that were Rhys and his friends.
But the second meaning, oh god, the second meaning, was one in which Feyre was talking to Rhys, and her new family. “Don’t let him (Tamlin) take me. I don’t want to go back.”
Bless you, Sarah J. Maas. You know how to make a reader weep.
In the end, Maas allowed some piece of reprise. The mating bond, was in fact, still intact. The stage for the third novel is wonderfully set, as readers now know what role Feyre will have within A Court of Wings and Ruin. And it’s going to be a good one. As a spy for the Night Court, Feyre will play a much more powerful and entrancing role than she had in the first book.
To conclude, A Court of Mist and Fury absolutely changed me. I’ve never been so deeply impacted by a book. The subliminal meanings and societal impact that the words held within them, were drawn out and thoroughly portrayed. As the third and final book in the series comes out on Tuesday, May 2nd, I would highly suggest readers get caught up in the series. The last story is sure to make an impact on readers and the world, just as it’s predecessors have before it.