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May 11, 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Publication Date: May 2nd 2017
Genre(s): High fantasy, young adult
Source: Bought
Pages: 699
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Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

This book is the textbook definition of a hot mess. This book is what you get when you try to bake a cake and pie together and you get is a mess that’s sort of well done in some places, raw in some others, and honestly you don’t even know what the middle is, other than a hot sticky mess, but oh well it’s chocolate goo so why not eat it. In plain english, this book might be long, but it drags in places it shouldn’t, and glosses over parts that shouldn’t.

Look, I’ve made it pretty clear in my past reviews that I think that SJM peaked with Heir of Fire. It took me a couple of books after that, but in ACOMAF, I made my peace with the fact that her books were not going to hit me hard in the feels ever again. So I’m not exactly surprised at how I found ACOWAR. In many ways, I feel like ACOTAR as a series is wasted potential, but somehow, it ends up being very readable, so I keep reading, and I keep reviewing, so here we are?

I don’t think these books are bad by any means. What they are, and what ACOWAR especially is, is lazy.

Whether you agree with me depends on what you want out of her books. Do you want a sole focus on character dynamics and romance scenes? Then this book is probably for you. I, for one, enjoyed Nesta’s arc in this book, as well as Azriel’s and Mor’s. Nesta’s and Cassian’s dynamic was so on point because it taught me something new about these characters that felt organic and natural. THAT, kids, is what we call character development. I’ve simply given up on Rhys because he is the definition of predictable and boring. He went from this mysterious what-is-his-deal person in book 1 to this 1000% fluffy bunny who can do no wrong ever. I can’t even call it lack of character development because there is literally no character to work with here here. But overall, I’m not complaining. If I read this book for a reason, it was to see where these characters were going and what they were going to do.

What I wanted, however, was world building and a non-boring plot, and this book most certainly did not deliver. It’s been three books and I literally know nothing about the cultures of any of the seven courts. And no, don’t point out that the book contained descriptions of their palaces and clothes and food and whatnot. That's what we call telling, not showing. The courts are at war against Hybern during pretty much the whole book and we don’t see the effects of war anywhere except during glossed over discussions. Cassian is the general of the Illyrian legions but do we get to see how he commands his armies? Nope. Do we get to see how Azriel operates his network of spies? Nope. Do we get to see how Mor operates and runs Velaris? Nope. Do we get to see Amren actually displaying how powerful and and skilled she is at battle? Nope. Do we get scenes of Rhys when he meets with his governors, addresses his armies as they prepare for battle? Nope. (I mean, why do that when we can read about him going down on Feyre, right)? Do we get the perspective of civilians during the war? Nope.

See what I mean by this book being lazy? And that’s just the characters that have already been established in the first two books. The newer characters? Don’t even ask me what Jurian was doing because he wasn’t on their side and then he was and then he...wasn’t? We got nothing, nothing about his motivations, his character, his personal side of the story. Every time I tried to understand plot, my brain felt it was being poked with a thousand needles so like a normal person, I just stopped trying and went with it.

I don’t even know what to say about the complete shitshow that that ending was. It was like throwing a pot of tropes at the wall and checking to see what stuck. One second there’s a magic mirror, and a Weaver and a Carver and some other creatures who weren’t even spared an explanation in this book (did I mention there were 700 whole pages in this book btw), and the next second we’re confronted with actual characters: Miriam, Drakon, Vassa, Feyre’s dad who barely had ten lines of dialogue before they’re done. Talk about the mother of all deux ex machinas.

I'm on a roll here, so I think it’s worth talking about Sarah J Maas’ prose as well, which I’ve usually had praise for, even if I didn’t like her books. But it’s getting super repetitive and hyperbolic. No matter the severity of, say, an offensive remark thrown at Feyre (which btw is every other chapter), Rhys will respond with maximum righteous stone cold anger and night fury and whatever and I was just SO bored. It’s actually astounding and annoying all at once how little incidents occur all the time and the characters’ response to them remains the exact name. Besides that, the responses are even worded the same way. DEAR? GOD?

And finally, the romance. I’m not making this up, I actually fell asleep while reading about Feyre and Rhys ~making love. That’s how god awfully boring they’ve become. They were at their most interesting when Feyre, as High Lady, acted with the authority and surety of any other High Lord and gave no shits about anyone who had a problem with it, and when Rhys supported and encouraged her. But their relationship underwent zero changes over the course of the whole book. Chapter after chapter, I was fed scenes where they loved each other (quite vigorously, I might add), caressed each other, bantered with each other, and engaged in PDA that was so intense that all the grown adults in the room had to avert their eyes. There is zero struggle in their relationship. No arguments, no growth, nothing. It’s just glowing sex from start to finish.

Did I mention this book was 700 pages long?

(I’m just going to very casually pretend that Amren and Varian never happened because LOL WTF?? As for Elain and Lucien, they are a Titanic-level unship. That’s all.)

I’d like to end with the three things that royally pissed me off the most. More than usual, I mean.

The first is Rhys dying-but-not-really. Listen, I would like to kill this trope with the fucking Cauldron. I’m so mad that this happened, and that he was brought back to life so easily and nonsensically. We are given literally zero explanation as to how he came back to life unless you count MAGIC KERNELS OF LIGHT.

The second is everything Amren-related. I’d grown really fond of Amren in ACOMAF, and while I saw her as part of the ~squad, I respected that she was different from them and had her own goals. I definitely expected her to just do her own thing, even if that meant leaving the group. I really, really hoped that her arc would end in her going home, and the squad helping her get there. But nooope, instead we get High Fae Amren! Gah.

The third is Tamlin. Everything, just everything about him. 90% of the time, I had literally no idea where Tamlin was at, what he was thinking, what his motivations were. That wouldn’t be such a problem, if he wasn’t so freaking integral to the plot. A huge part of ACOMAF was about Feyre dealing with the way Tamlin treated her and nowhere in this gargantuan book is there a follow up to that arc. Like, it just stopped being a problem and went away? There were SO many opportunities for Feyre to face Tamlin (as High Lady), call him out on his behaviour, for a real conversation about what happened, and they were all missed.

I’m a little mad at myself for even reading the whole book, but at the end of the day, it’s about readability, and this book has it and I sure as hell did enjoy myself.

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