Reviews

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

A thrilling conclusion to a beloved series driven by characters you’ll want to befriend. 4/5*

Feyre will bring vengeance. But while war rages, it is her heart that will face the greatest battle.

I must admit that Sarah J. Maas is one of my favourite authors, so this review might be a little biased. But I will try, with everything I have, to set aside my love for Rhys and look at this book from an objective perspective.

As one of the most anticipated releases of 2017, A Court of Wings and Ruin is the final instalment of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Or at least it was until it was announced that it is not and there will be more books. You see, already it gets a little confusing and frankly, a bit dissapointing. Knowing there will be more books before you start reading lowers the final stakes and takes away the danger.  

I agree with the general opinion that the second book in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, was a massive improvement from the first instalment, A Court of Thorns and Roses, on all levels. This trend continues in ACOWAR as the writing seems to have improved even more. Sure, it can get a bit too much sometimes (especially in the more steamy scenes). I personally don’t mind this and don’t find it distracting. Having read all of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Mass, I believe the author is at her best right here. Even though TOG is (at this point in time) my favourite book series.

As with all of Maas’s books, I couldn’t put it down and had to remind myself to go to sleep. The pacing is fast and gripping up until about 70% of the book. Nearing its conclusion the story slows down a little and, dealing with slightly darker themes, gets a bit harder to read. It is always unconfortable to watch your favourite characters go through difficult situations, so from this point on I was looking forward to the end. The fact that ACOWAR is an almost exactly 700-page long colossus probably didn’t help either. I usually have no problem with super long books, appreciate them even, but this time I had trouble getting through to the end. I kept postponing reading it for some time out of sheer exhaustion. 

Frilly writing and pacing problems aside, the best thing about this series is the characters. Feyre, our main heroine, turns into an absolute badass in this one. The first chapters of the book are a great testament to the author’s skill at character development. Feyre is a completely different person from who she was in ACOTAR and even ACOMAF. However, all these changes in her personality and decision-making process make sense in the context of the story.

“My rage had become a living thing inside my chest, an echoing heartbeat that soothed me to sleep and stirred me to waking.” – Feyre

The author doesn’t disappoint and continues to develop even the minor characters. I say minor, even though in Maas’s books, there seems to be no such thing. I especially loved the journey of Lucien. He is an interesting and complex character who I always felt deserved much more page time.

“You are a better friend to me, Feyre,” he said quietly, “than I ever was to you.” – Lucien

I could talk about each of the wonderful pantheon of characters. However, the one that stood out to me particularly in this book was Nesta. She is shrouded in mystery that kept me guessing and waiting to know more. She’s just as lovely as she always was *cough*, but her complex personality, newfound powers and blooming feelings for a certain someone deserve a book of their own. One I would probably read in one sitting.

Concerning Nesta, one of my favourite things about this book is the relationship between the three sisters – Feyre, Nesta and Elaine . Even though they are all very different, their love for each other is felt deeply throughout the story. I love my sister more than anyone in the world so I find it refreshing that not only a romantic relationship is celebrated and explored in a YA novel. I adore the notion that love for family goes much deeper than any other bond.

“If Elain’s mental gates were those of a sleeping garden, Nesta’s…They belonged to an ancient fortress, sharp and brutal. The sort I imagined they once impaled people upon.” 

Along with the characters, the author continues to build the world of Prythian. I didn’t even think it was still possible to surprise us at this point but I was wrong. What started as shallow and small in the first book turned into a massive and complex world. Every court has its own culture, politics, history and its own assortment of different types of lesser faeries. We even get a small glimpse at the intricacies of the human world, which is just as interesting as the world of High Fae. And don’t even get me started on the monsters.

“War would linger with me long after it had ended, some invisible scar that would perhaps fade, but never wholly vanish. But for my home, for Prythian and the human territory and so many others… I would clean my blades, and wash the blood from my skin. And I would do it again and again and again.”

All this considered, it makes no sense to me that the only underdeveloped character in the whole story is the main antagonist. I have had this problem from the first book but waited patiently for some kind of big reveal, some backstory that would explain. Why is the King of Hybern so evil? Why does he want to destroy everything we hold dear? Unfortunately, my questions remain unanswered and I remain dissapointed. 

It seems the author fell into the trap of the one fantasy trope that annoys me the most. The one of the shallow villain, who is evil just so our main characters have something to deal with. He, as a standalone character, has no weight in the world apart from how he affects the main characters. He doesn’t have believable motives or a backstory that would support his actions.

At the end of the day, I still loved this book. It certainly has its weak spots, but my love for the characters and for the world has overshadowed these almost entirely. I even ugly-cried near the end and that kind of emotional attachment is more important to me than a few misplaced words.

There have been a lot of negative feelings concerning this book in the community and in my opinion, the scrutiny goes a little too far. We, as readers, have to keep in mind that it is a testament to the authors skill that these characters represent real people with flaws. Not some perfect moral standard, which would be much easier (and much more pretentious) to write. They are individuals who have made good and bad decisions that shaped them into the people they are now. And like all of us, they are not always perfect, do not always think or say the right thing. But their hearts are in the right place. So, please, don’t let the social justice warriors drive you away from this book.

“We’re all a broken, in our own ways – In places no one might see.” – Mor

I recommend this book (and the whole series) to everyone who loves strong female characters who don’t fall under YA tropes, complex male characters that will ruin your expectations of men forever, wonderful world building and stories of true love. Be it for your family, your friends, your home or the love of your life, because that is the main theme of this epic story.

 

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