Sunday, August 2, 2020

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

I almost tossed this down in disgust five times while reading this book. I knew, going in, that it was going to be a massive act of revisionism with regard to Rhysand, the villain of the first book. And as someone who loves villains and the Persephone myth that could have been something I could have gotten behind under the right circumstances. But I wasn't truly prepared for the narrative gymnastics that this book would perform to try to redeem him without really making him do any legwork. By the end of the book, he's still a sleaze lord, only now he's a sad sleaze lord in leather pants who was actually the heroine's soulmate all along and an all around Nice Guy. Pop a fedora on his head and he'd probably "milady" his way through the Night Court.

Big yikes.

The beginning of the book was great, and very much in keeping with ACoTaR. Feyre has PTSD (understandable) and so does Tamlin (also understandable) and they're trying to heal and find the same love for each other that was the fuel for Feyre to save him under the mountain in the first place. The passion between them in the beginning was great. Feyre's misgivings about ruling also made sense. I could even understand why Tamlin would want to be so overprotective. He felt like he had betrayed her in failing to keep her safe and was overcompensating for it in the worst way by essentially treating her like she was made out of glass.

Enter Rhysand, who makes good on his bargain to take Feyre back to his court for seven days a month. He actually ruins Feyre's wedding, where she is about to get married to Tamlin but having a major case of cold feet and PTSD. He tells her that her wedding dress is ugly and tells her that she should thank him for saving her the effort of breaking things off, because he is *chef's kiss* a prince among men. *eye roll* He takes it upon himself to teach Feyre to read and write and is so shocked that she was allowed to be illiterate for so long... which was kind of weird to me, because I was pretty sure that TAMLIN was actually teaching her how to read in book one?? Maybe I'm wrong, but I seem to remember Tamlin teaching her to read was a major part of his introduction as love interest.

Also, apparently Feyre hates painting now and is totally upset that Tamlin gives her a set of paints as a present. Because how dare he get her something that she used to like but didn't tell him that she doesn't like anymore. How dare he not be a mind-reader like Rhysand who is a prince among men.

Anyway, things between Tamlin and Feyre aren't so great when she gets back. She starts noticing that he's really controlling but they never really sit down and talk about it. She whines about it but never discusses anything with him... and yes, while his behavior isn't great, locking her in the tower is hardly the abusive act that Feyre milked for all it was worth. It was bad, yes, but it's not like Rhysand was free of faults (oh no, we'll be getting to that), and yet his past was wiped so clean it was practically sparkling, while Tamlin's smaller crimes are portrayed as the Greatest Wrongs in the History of Wrongs, and you would think he put her up in some kind of prison camp for all that she goes on about Tamlin locking her up and Rhysand freeing her. IT WAS SO ANNOYING.

The "mate" thing is really just a neat excuse to forgo any groveling while also explaining this seeming switch mid-series between love interests. We learn that Rhysand sexually assaulted Feyre for her own good, to keep her angry so she wouldn't give up hope. WOW, WHAT A GREAT GUY. About 370-pages in, he finally brings up the assault and sort-of-but-not-really-apologizes and Feyre merely shrugs it off, despite the fact that in book one, everything he did was infuriating and traumatizing to her, and she HATED his guts and HATED him for parading her around and objectifying her in front of Rhysand, drugged her, mind raped her, and even made jokes about forcing herself on her, but yeah, Tamlin's the bad guy because he locked her in her room ONE TIME.

It's kind of amazing, really, how eager Feyre was to throw Tamlin in the trash.

Also, like Celaena/Aelin in THRONE OF GLASS, it isn't enough for Feyre to be a bad-ass fighter on her own terms, no. When she comes back with the gifts of the other Lords, she comes back with LITERALLY ALL OF THEIR POWERS, and she is so powerful that people are going to kill her just to keep her powers from manifesting. Because a heroine just isn't worth salt if she isn't the Queen of the Specialverse, I guess. Part of what made Feyre so endearing in book one is because she actually did have to struggle to succeed; here, everything is served to her on a silver platter.

I skipped over most of the Night Court things... they were so boring.

Of course, Tamlin has to become a traitor. Maas basically did to him what she did to Chaol and Dorian in THRONE OF GLASS. They both become terribad people so Rowan can show up and steal the scene with his earth-shattering orgasms. I guess maybe even the author realized that Tamlin didn't look that bad, so making him into a betrayer was necessary for giving Feyre a clean-cut reason to dump his ass without looking petty. Also, apparently he harbors a sexual assaulter in his court, because in this book we learn that YET ANOTHER WOMAN IN THIS BOOK tried to have her way with Rhys without his consent, and Tamlin just keeps her around... because he's the bad guy now.

We're supposed to feel sorry for Rhysand because he was Amarantha's "whore," and yes, I do feel sorry for him... Amarantha was awful... but that doesn't excuse his own abuse. "This is for your own good" is literally one of the go-to phrases of abusers. He was AWFUL in A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES and he never really grovels for it. He tells Feyre about his abuses while crying, but that's all about HIM. He provides plenty of reasons-- excuses-- about why he did what he did, but this serves more to brush off his actions than genuine contrition. I wouldn't even care if he became her love interest as the villain if he was actually KEPT as a villain, but it's like all that brutality gets a pass because he is, in fact, a nice guy. Also, the casual story about what basically serves as an allegory to genital mutilation in his mother's court was super disturbing and mentioned like once, but holy yikes-- his parents were fucked up, and I felt like that should have been unpacked more.

Lastly... the mental illness rep. Some people apparently think it's great. No. I don't think it is. Love basically cures Feyre's ills. While it's true that being in an unhealthy relationship can exacerbate existing mental illnesses and cause ones you are predisposed to to manifest, being in a good relationship is not a cure. You don't lose your PTSD or whatever because the sex is good and you've found your soul mate. That is a toxic trope in way too many romances, and I can't stand for it. ALSO, what about Tamlin's PTSD? This was also never really discussed. Does only Feyre get to behave irrationally and have freak outs? That's an unrealistic expectation to have, and her contribution to that toxic relationship was never even discussed... because of course, Feyre is perfect.

On second thought, maybe she is perfect for Rhysand. They're both selfish trash people.

One of the crowning moments in this book is Feyre saying NOBODY HAS SUFFERED OR GONE HUNGRY LIKE I HAVE while a few chapters before she was hating on Tamlin for literally tithing his people until they starve. I guess she's the High Lady of Virtue Signalling as well. Fuck the poor people if they don't give her an excuse to hate on Tamlin. I don't believe they're mentioned again.

If you forget how perfect this couple is, Feyre and Rhysand will remind you 2342342 times why the two of them are the Faerie Jesuses Incarnate who died and prostituted themselves for your sins.

This almost reads like bad fanfiction of the first book. I really don't feel like Rhyand and Feyre were destined to be together from the beginning. I felt like maybe Maas initially planned on a love triangle but maybe thought Rhysand was too rough around the edges, and so worked double-time trying to find reasons to excuse all of his behavior and make him supes enamored with the heroine. The greatest death in this series wasn't Junian's or Amarantha's... it was Tamlin's character.

It isn't even like Rhysand is perfect in this book. His flirting is literally saying things to Feyre that most men would get slapped for. He talks to her like one of those sexist asshats in Madmen. He's constantly talking about her appearance in a creepy way, and he laughs when she's upset that he used her as bait for the Attor. Even their bargain, which ended up allowing him to read her mind, was done without consent, and he certainly doesn't ask for consent every time he reads her mind. At one point, he even says that he could rip her mind apart if he wanted. It's almost like this book was written out with the intention of having him still be the villain and Maas changed her mind halfway through.

I really couldn't stand this book. Rhysand and Rowan are literally the same person, and their "development" with the heroine follows the same trajectory. It's not the worst book I've read, and it's not even the worst Maas book I've ever read, but I will never for the life of me understand why this series is so popular, or why some people who eagerly condemn other books for being problematic seem so eager to forgive or ignore the flaws in this one.

Your mileage may vary.

1 to 1.5 out of 5 stars


  1. Wow! I finally got to the end of this and now I'm hesitant to read my hardcover copies of this series, which would SUCK because I promised myself to read all the books on my shelves some day.

    Although I haven't read these books yet, I absolutely can agree with your points. Rhysand does not sound like a hero and Feyre sounds like a waste of time. Dang it!

    I always appreciate your honesty so thanks! xo

    1. The first book works as a standalone, and I actually really enjoyed it! I think it's worth reading and then deciding for yourself if you want to continue. A lot of people enjoyed all four books (so far), so you might as well! I definitely don't speak for everyone. ;)


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