Sunday, 25 June 2017
#CBR9 Book 55: "A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5 stars
Spoiler warning! This is book 2 in a series, and it's impossible for me to review this book without giving some spoilers for the book that came before. If you haven't read the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses, you should maybe give this review a miss until you're caught up. There will also be some spoilers for this book, because it's impossible to talk about what happens in it without them.
Feyre is back at the Spring Court a vastly changed woman, after her trials at Amarantha's court Under the Mountain. While Tamlin and his court try to shield and shelter her from everything unpleasant, she's still plagued with horrible nightmares reminding her of what she had to do to survive, and getting used to her new fae body, with its added speed and strength is also difficult for her. It's very obvious that Tamlin and the others just want to forget what happened, and absolutely no one wants to talk about the horrors they experienced. Tamlin just ignores Fayre's obvious distress, hoping it will go away eventually. He wants her to think of pleasant things, like planning their wedding. He also wants to keep her safely locked away in his house, making sure nothing will ever hurt her again, even though just the thought of enclosed spaces makes Fayre frantic.
As her wedding day approaches, Fayre is filled with doubts about whether this is at all a good idea. How can someone as horrible and broken and tainted as her marry Tamlin and rule with him in the Spring Court? Her left hand and arm are still inked with the tattoo reminding her of her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court, but he's not come to collect on the promise that Fayre spend a week a month in his court. Until her wedding day, that is. Tamlin is furious, and Fayre isn't even ready to admit to herself even how relieved she is when Rhysand shows up to spirit her away.
Having seen his behaviour Under the Mountain, Fayre is not sure what to expect from Rhysand or his demands on her time. He doesn't seem to want anything but her company, and sometimes, not even that, leaving her alone for long stretches at at time when she visits. He insists that she rest and eat to build her strength up, seemingly worried about how thin she's grown and how exhausted she always seems. He understands about her nightmares, because he has them too, and has felt her distress through the bond they share due to their agreement. Every time she returns to the Spring Court, Tamlin carefully questions her to find out the secrets of the Night Court, and initially Fayre is quite happy to spy. As the months pass, and it becomes more and more obvious how differently the two men are treating her, Fayre begins to change her mind. When she went through the trials Under the Mountain to free Tamlin, she believed he was her true love. Could she have been wrong?
I really wasn't entirely sure what to expect from A Court of Mist and Fury, but I had heard some things that made me unhappy, especially because of all the hardship and pain Fayre went through in A Court of Thorns and Roses to both prove her love for and eventually rescue not only Tamlin, but all the faeries trapped by Amarantha's vicious rule Under the Mountain. That he now turn out to be an overly controlling jerk who completely disregarded Fayre's severe PTSD was not a direction I was happy for the author to take things.
What I had not expected was how much of the bigger picture Fayre was unaware of when going through her harrowing tests for the psycho faerie queen. It quickly becomes clear in this book that the way Fayre (and therefore the reader) saw Rhysand was a very carefully constructed mask, and that his true self had to be buried deep, so the evil queen who made him her lover didn't suspect that he was in fact helping Fayre all he could. He continues to help her in this book, understanding only too well the trauma she's gone through as he suffered similar things for fifty years, while Tamlin was only Under the Mountain for a few months. While Tamlin believes Fayre to be a fragile creature who should be honoured, protected and sheltered from all that is harsh and unpleasant in this world, keeping her locked away in his mansion so nothing will ever be able to hurt her, Rhysand believes she needs to train to feel strong and confident in herself and gradually face her fears so she can become sure enough of herself to beat her trauma.
I would not have expected the book to take the turn that it did, but found that I didn't actually mind it too much when it happened, as the first third, where the reader becomes all to familiar with Fayre's PTSD and anxiety is very hard to get through. Fayre keeps silently shouting for help, to proud to actually admit to Tamlin or anyone else at the Spring court that she's slowly falling apart. They all seem content to just ignore anything unpleasant, hoping it will go away by itself given enough time. So when Rhysand finally comes to spirit her away, after Fayre's been screaming in her mind for anyone to help her, it feels like such a relief. He clearly has no nefarious designs on her, just wants what's best for her.
While the first book introduced us to the Spring Court and the horrors of Under the Mountain, this book also shows us the Night Court, in all its fascinating variety, and later the Summer Court. Fayre realises that there is so much she didn't know about, living with Tamlin at the Spring Court. As well as conquering her fears and moving past her trauma, she needs to come to grips with the huge changes her body has gone through. Her body isn't just faster and stronger than it was when she was human, she appears to have strange gifts that no other faerie has, clearly a side effect of the ceremony that brought her back from death's door. Now she needs to learn to harness and control these powers, in order to help the fae and humans battle their next big foe, the Fae King himself. Amarantha was just one of his generals, her deviousness and evil is nothing compared to the King's.
I liked A Court of Thorns and Roses well enough, and found it an intriguing retelling of several fairy tales. I had very few expectations going into this book, and certainly didn't expect to love it as much as I did. This was such a page-turner and I was completely engrossed in the story from very early on. The characters, the world-building, the emerging romance, it all works for me. I debated whether giving it five stars was the right thing to do, but even weeks after finishing it, I'm thinking about it and I don't regret my choice. I only wish Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass books could be as well-written and engaging.
Judging a book by its cover: I actually really like the stylised drawings on these covers, with Fayre in a prominent position, her outfit giving some hints as to the contents of the story. Her left hand, covered in the intricate tattoo showing her debt to Rhysand, the hints of a city in the background and Feyre herself in a dress looking more like chainmail than anything else. Our protagonist is changing, and growing stronger.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.