May 3rd: So, I just finished this one and my initial reaction? Holy shit, oh my lord, I can’t handle the emotions! I finished this 699-page beauty in less than 24 hours (and it would have been faster, if I didn’t have to work around, you know, a job). This book was definitely worth the wait. So SO good. There were soaring high parts and maybe slightly middle parts, but no real low parts for me. I plan to read it again very soon. Full review to come!
May, 9th: Phew! I have finally been able to gather all of my thoughts about ACOWAR into a semi-coherent review. I will try to keep this organized and somewhat concise, but honestly I find it very difficult to contain myself with these books. So may feels! First, let me just say that I loved this book. I loved these characters, I loved the story – everything! I thought it was a very fitting and satisfying third book in the trilogy, keeping in mind that there are multiple novels/novellas planned to take place this world, as well. We were not meant to have everything tied up into a neat little bow here and that did not happen, which I am okay with. I love the idea of the spinoffs! In-depth stories from the point of view of different characters, exploring this grand world?? Sign me the eff up! I’m just sad that I now have to wait years for more stories about my loves (please let the first spinoff be about Nessian!!). But, before I start rambling and lose any sort of structure to this review along the way, let me discuss my thoughts on ACOWAR. Calmly. And rationally…hopefully. Spoilers under the cut!
Being as this is the third book in Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and the second one ended on a cliffhanger, the book wastes no time diving right into the complex plot. A Court of Mist and Fury ended with Feyre being taken back to the Spring Court by Tamlin, who believes that her mating bond to Rhys has been broken and she is back to being his submissive little wife-to-be. Uh, think again Tam. Feyre infiltrates the Spring Court and lays the groundwork for Tamlin’s, and his newfound ally the king of Hybern’s, demise. She is working to gather intel and return to the Night Court (and Rhys!) as quickly as possible, so that they can begin to prepare for the inevitable war with Hybern. Personally, I LOVED revengeful, spy Feyre. I thought she was cunning and ruthless, and I was absolutely rooting for her to destroy everything in her quest for vengeance (#slayqueen). Her scheming and outsmarting of Ianthe and Hybern’s lackies? So good. The scene where she steals the glory from Ianthe and becomes “Cauldron-blessed” was great. I was highly impressed with her restraint and ability to control her rage, because I know I would have been flipping my shit, if it were me in that position. Feyre’s interactions with Lucien were really nice to see, as well. I liked how he was partially suspicious of her and partially backing her up. Lucien was one of my favorite characters in ACOTAR, so I was glad to see more of him, especially in a way that gave him more agency/support. I was SO happy to see him choose to leave with Feyre and “join” the Night Court.
From that point, when Feyre fucks up Hybern’s commanders and totally wrecks Ianthe, and she and Lucien escape to go to the Night Court, the book becomes a full-fledged beast with twists, turns, battles, emotions, humor, and passion. The story is fucking epic. Like, I cannot think of a more accurate one-word description, because this thing is badass, my friends. The plot is complex and it does not shy away from showing realistic depictions of war, politics, relationships, and disagreements. One of the highlights for me was how Maas chose to portray Rhys and Feyre in this time of war. The snarky, sexy couple that we all adore is still there, but they are not naive about what is going on around them. I think that their relationship, the way they acted around each other, found comfort in each other, and supported one another, was extremely realistic, relatable, and in character for both of them. They read so real! The smut was a little toned down here, but I enjoyed what we got to see. Feyre and Rhys definitely have a healthy sex life, but it shows the depths of their intimacy, love, and care for one another. I think that it is a great representation of a solid couple in a wonderful partnership. They are that couple that has been to hell and back together, supports each other no matter what, are always on equal footing with each other – ugh! Feysand is seriously #relationshipgoals.
I also adored the characterization of the rest of the Inner Circle (and those outside it that we got to meet!). I was a little salty at first, when I realized that the vast majority of the novel was from Feyre’s point of view still (there are like less than 10 pages from Ryhs’ point of view). Because, that meant that I was not going to see Nessian happen first-hand. I really enjoy the way that Maas’ Throne of Glass books are written with the multiple perspectives, but that would not have worked here, because of Feyre’s first-person narrative. Once I realized how it would be written, though, I was happy that Maas chose to minimize the interactions between the side characters, in a way. With all the supporting characters, it became clear that Maas was clearing the path for them to have their own spinoff books. We saw hints of Nessian, but nothing too revealing. We saw Elain and Lucien (and Azriel, who I am totally shipping with Elain now!) interact, but not in the foreground. We saw Mor reveal a huge, hidden part of her soul to Feyre, but there was not any personal follow-up for her. All of this, I assume, will be addressed in the following stories. Which, I am perfectly fine with! I would rather be able to read those relationships develop in their entirety, than have to get mere glimpses from Feyre’s POV. I also think that it was very smart to focus on the pressing matter of the war and leave most of the romance/personal issues for additional stories. It would not have done any of the characters justice to have their stories tossed into one scene, interrupted by a battle, and resolved in the next. Ultimately, this was the conclusion of Feyre and Rhys’ storyline, so it was fitting that they were the main focus.
As for the plot itself, I was really pleased with what we got to see. I thought that Maas made the effort, again, to represent a realistic war period in these character’s lives. We were constantly reminded that shit was about to go down, that things the character’s loved, feelings, priorities would have to be sacrificed in the face of this war. That is why I understood some of the controversial decisions that Rhys made, some of the less-than-ideal character interactions that we got. I think that on one hand, Maas was trying to preserve content for the spinoff novels, and on the other, was trying to stay true to the idea that “…this is war. We don’t have the luxury of good ideas—only picking between the bad ones.” Of course people are going to be hurt. Of course compromises and hard decisions will have to be made. Entire courts, continents, and people’s lives are on the line. Not everything is going to be giggles and daisies, people. I appreciated that Maas did not sugar-coat anything about this theme. There was an idea throughout the book of consequences for one’s actions and making hard decisions for the greater good. I enjoyed seeing these characters do their best to navigate this impossible situation, while staying true to their beliefs and ideals. Feyre even asked Rhys about it, the distinction between being High Lady and being family. Feyre was capable and badass as all hell in this book, but she was still called out by her friends when she acted rash or selfish. Exploring that idea and the relationships of the characters in this situation was very interesting. I am all for morally grey characters, and I think this book highlights the fact that no one is simply good or evil, especially when you have power and especially when you are at war. Every character in here is complex, muti-faceted, and reflective of true human nature. That is what makes Maas’ writing/novels/characters so appealing!
Not to mention, that her battle scenes were amazing!! She really has a knack for writing harrowing, gut-wrenching, and unpredictable action sequences. And those are hard to convey through writing! I know, because I suck at them. But in ACOWAR, I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book, to be honest. I felt like I was there in the midst of the chaos with the characters. I honestly got chills reading some of her battle scenes, because there were some serious Gandalf-arrives-with-the-Rohirrim-to-save-everyone’s-asses vibes. And that will do it for me every time (Speaking of LOTR, did anyone catch the “second breakfast” reference!?! I died!). Not only that, but her writing again captured the emotion and passion that so draws me to these books. Her words are vibrant, captivating, forceful, and so engaging. I was truly enthralled by this story and I loved every minute of it.
Still, despite my utter adoration for this book, there were just a few things that I was disappointed in. While Maas’ writing and characterization (and plot and dialogue and themes and witty banter, etc.etc.) were beautiful, I did notice a…lack in ACOWAR. In this book, we did not really get to see any new realms, save two rooms at the Dawn Court and the Autumn Court wilderness. I thought this was such a missed opportunity, because there is so much potential in the physical world of Prythian. It felt like the worldbuilding here was underdeveloped, in favor of working through the very complex plot. Also, while we got to see all of the High Lords (loved that scene!) and a few other new characters, not all of them were fleshed out. I am hoping this will be rectified in the spinoffs, but it made meeting them have less of an impact. Some other things/characters, as well, felt a bit rushed: the “evil” creatures agreeing to fight for the Night Court and then being killed off very quickly, the mirror of Ouroboros, which was built up so much, but we did not actually get to experience it, Amren’s true form, Nesta and Mor’s powers, which were talked up, but never really panned out… Those are the main things that struck me as being…a bit underwhelming. And I appreciate that a book of this size, that is trying to wrap up a complex trilogy, with the promise of spinoffs, will not be able to focus on everything. I get it, I do. That is a serious undertaking (not to mention that Maas is crazy and writes 2 series a year! Seriously, how tho?)! Still, I do feel like readers would have benefited from more in-depth discussions on these topics. I wanted more! I think, though, that I would want more no matter what we were given, because I will never be tired of reading about these characters and this world.
Overall, definitely give this book 5 stars. It was fantastic and while ACOMAF miiiiight still be my favorite of the series, this one is absolutely a close second. Honestly, ACOMAF is just sheer perfection, so it is pretty much impossible to top it. And, I believe that encompasses the majority of my thoughts during, and after, reading A Court of Wings and Ruin. There is still so much I could talk about and fangirl over, but then this review would be like 100 pages long. So, feel free to message me if you want to chat! I will probably be obsessed with this series for eternity, so…
Here are some bonus half-baked thoughts/opinions on the book, just because I can’t help myself:
- Nessian is EVERYTHING!!!!
- I liked Tamlin’s arc. I thought it was realistic and not overly “sweet.”
- I also liked Jurian, and possibly Eris’, remdemptions. I am intrigued to see more.
- I thought Mor’s reveal was in character, honest, and very emotional. I felt for her so much and I would love read more about her story. I want her to find happiness and love. The tangled mess between her, Azriel, and Cassian is extremely complex and frustrating. I just want them to be honest with each other and work it out! But, I definitely understand how it could have gotten to this point. I know how hard it is to confront feelings, your own or someone else’s, how hard it is to disrupt the norm or break away from what is familiar and comfortable. To take a chance. Basically, I love them and I can’t wait to read more!
- Totes on the Elriel train! Those two were so cute and I love the juxtaposition of their character traits.
- I have honestly never cried this much at a book before. Ever. The Suriel scene, Rhys’ speech before the battle, Papa Archeron’s return, and Rhys’ death honestly had me blubbering like a fool.
- Helion is perfect Egyptian glorious perfection.
- Lucian was always described as darker than his brothers, even in ACOTAR, but Feyre just assumed it was because he lived in the Spring Court, so I don’t think that he was “suddenly biracial” like I have seen some people say.
- The foreshadowing/”show don’t tell” was not as good in this novel as the previous two.
- The diversity was awesome! I loved Thesan and his lover, and Nephelle. The Nephelle story was really interesting and inspirational. And Mor’s story about Andromache! That was heartbreaking.
- LOVE the mythology, allusions, and fairy tales that were incorporated like Snow White, Vasilisa and the Firebird, Koschei the Deathless, Moses, Exodus, Swan Princess, etc.
- I really liked the bargains that were made with the “monsters” and the Bone Carver was definitely a highlight.
- I enjoyed the scenes of Feyre alone with Cassian or Azriel. It was nice to see them bond and interact without the others for a change.
- I like Miryam and Drakon, but I don’t know if I want to “waste” one of the spinoff novels on their story. It depends on what the others are about.
- Elain’s PTSD and reaction to her situation was realistic and portrayed well. She did not just suddenly forget about her fiance and run into Lucien’s arms, which I was glad to see.
- Azriel is sassy and has dry humor. I love it.
Gah! I love it all. It is such a beautiful gift from Sarah, all of it. Well, what did you think Cake?
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