A Court of Frost and Starlight

I find it rather funny that a part of me is so curious that I keep reading series even though I don’t like certain aspects of the story. Sometimes it’s the actual story that I don’t enjoy and sometimes it’s the characters (and, very rarely, the world). There must be something that pulls me back to the series despite my low ratings and rant-filled reviews on previous novels and in the case of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, the thing that I keep coming back to is the characters. I’m very curious to see how their lives will evolve and what’s going to happen to them and yet I keep getting disappointed (you’d think I’d learn after the train wreck that was A Court of Wings and Ruin, but no). It was for the characters that I read A Court of Frost and Starlight, Sarah J. Maas’ companion novella to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, a bridge between the trilogy with Feyre at its centre and the following three novels that will be published in a few years. In other words, if you haven’t read the first three books but plan to, don’t read this review. And if you haven’t read A Court of Frost and Starlight either, but you plan to, then skip this review because it will be a very (very!) long rant with so many spoilers. Well, now that that’s out of the way, let the ranting begin!

As I said, this is a companion novella, a bridge between two trilogies. It features the Court of Dreams cast, with Feyre, Rhysand, Mor, Azriel, Cassian and Amren as well Feyre’s sisters, Elain and Nesta. A few other important characters make appearances in this 220-page story; both Lucien and Tamlin gets a couple of scenes along with Mor’s father, one of Lucien’s brothers and of course, Amren’s lover from the Summer Court. The story takes place about half a year after the war with Hybern and Prythian is slowly rebuilding (from what, I don’t know since the war only touched a few places of the land but whatever). It’s the middle of winter and Feyre will celebrate her first Winter Solstice in the Night Court so the whole story is pretty much about Feyre and her friends shopping for presents for each other and then, finally, celebrating the holiday. So, yes. Very exciting. But hey, you think, something interesting must happen in those 200 pages, right? And the answer is no. Since this is a bridge between the books, apparently this novella was supposed to set up events for the following three novels and I… guess it did that, but also, not really? I found three things that are mentioned but not really looked into during the course of the story that I think will have bigger meaning in the following novels, but mostly this story is just about Feyre and Rhysand trying to find time to sleep together. In other words, exactly like the previous novel.

So, what did I like about this story? Well, I can, at least, make that short because the answer is nothing. While I still have a soft spot for Azriel, other parts of this novella made me so angry that I couldn’t really enjoy the moments in the spotlight that he got, so yeah, this story sucked. And now I’ll, in a very detailed list, tell you exactly why:

Feyre. First out is, of course, the main character, who certainly have taken two turns for the worst in the last two instalments. I used to like her because she was fierce and brave but now she’s just sitting on her high horse looking down on anyone that isn’t in the Court of Dreams or, you know, living in Velaris. She used to be strong and independent and she left Tamlin partly because he wanted to make her into a show doll. She was to be his wife, give him children and take care of the house. Rhysand, on the other hand, offered Feyre the position as his equal. She would be his Lady and rule the court alongside him and they even decided that they didn’t need to have children and if they did, those children wouldn’t come for many years. It all seemed very nice and modern but then A Court of Frost and Starlight happened. Feyre spends the whole story shopping, doing housework, planning to decorate a house, hosting a party… in other words, she very much got exactly the same position with Rhysand that she was going to have with Tamlin. Oh, and did I mention that while Feyre wasn’t ready to have children six months ago for at least a few decades, she’s now trying to get pregnant after being reminded by a stranger that though immortal, she or Rhysand could die any day? While it’s true it still seems a little strange to me, that she changed her mind so fast. Maybe she realized she liked the housewife-life she so desperately tried to avoid with Tamlin more than she thought? Whatever the reason, it seemed rushed, especially after the conversation Feyre and Rhysand had about children in A Court of Mist and Fury. The fact that the whole series is about a strong woman who wouldn’t settle for a man that would make her into a housewife, but rather chose the man she would be equal with, only for her to then turn into said housewife was disappointing. Feyre is left at home during the entire novella while Rhysand is out dealing with politics and unrest and Feyre never once questions it. I’m not sure what happened with the fierce protagonist of this novel, but she’s certainly not around anymore.

Rhysand. Just like Feyre, the male protagonist is sitting on his high horse looking down on everyone and everything that doesn’t live in Velaris. Rhysand is painted out to be a strong, fair leader that cares about his people so much so that he would gladly die for them. He is a feminist, wanting his wife to be his equal, and above all else… he’s so much better than Tamlin. This novella gave the reader a lovely insight in Rhysand, since a few chapters were written from his perspective and I have to say that the result was… less than flattering for Rhysand. Because despite being so smart and so cunning and so amazing, his thoughts are… not that interesting. They are, in fact, pretty much just centred on one thing. Getting Feyre into bed. All the time. All.the.time. Every other sentence was a sexual innuendo, a “flirty” conversation with Feyre, a sad thought about how long it’s been since he last slept with her or a recap about what happened last night. He acted more like a teenage boy than the scary and cunning High Lord of the Night Court. While reading his thoughts, it also turns out that he is perhaps not that cunning, but rather manipulating. He spends a lot of time thinking about “pulling strings” and “weaving things together” so that people will do what he wants. It seemed like he wanted everyone around him to act the way he wanted and when they didn’t he not only got mad but tried to change who they were so that things would turn out just like he wanted. It doesn’t really sound like a good guy to me and it’s especially funny since Rhysand so desperately tries to show the world that he is better than Tamlin but he fails terribly at that.

Feyre and Rhysand. Well, they’re bad apart but somehow even worse together. It really feels like they bring out the worst in each other and yet they seem to think it’s the opposite. What I mean with this is that Rhysand was the one who looked down on people first, he was the one who was manipulating and tried to get everything the way he wanted to and now that has rubbed off on Feyre and she is acting the same way. They believe themselves to be amazingly kind and wonderful people, but I disagree. They lack empathy and are only thinking about themselves and the people closest to them. Rhysand, who is five hundred years old, has seen a lot of things in his life. A lot of awful and sad things. He fought in the old War, he lived Under the Mountain for fifty years. He’s seen so many horrors. You’d think that’s a good way for someone to learn empathy, but no. He (and therefore, also Feyre) thinks people who has done bad things deserve to die. He talks about getting revenge on people after the peace treaty is done (yes, that seems like a good idea, create the peace that you’ve been fighting for during the past years and then kill a bunch of people! I mean, it can’t end with a new war… could it?). Feyre, equally, thinks that there are people who should die for being evil and they’re both mainly focusing their hate on Tamlin, even though he… saved Feyre numerous times, fought on their side in the war and then… helped bring Rhysand back from the dead? But yes, he definitely deserves to die! Besides the lust for revenge, the manipulating traits of Rhysand is very much rubbing off on Feyre as well. A good example is the Nesta-situation around Solstice. Both Feyre and Rhysand wants Nesta to show up at the Solstice celebration, but Nesta doesn’t want to. To fix that, Feyre offers her money and Rhysand is determined to do everything to make sure that Nesta will be there. I suppose this is to make Feyre feel good, because she doesn’t like that Nesta is separating herself from the Court of Dreams. However, no one talks about what Nesta wants and what’s best for her or, you know, letting her make her own choices. Feyre then bribes Nesta with money and everyone (especially Cassian) looks down on Nesta for taking it even though Feyre is the one offering it? I felt like Feyre and Rhysand was living in some grey area during this novella, were they could do whatever they wanted and it wasn’t wrong, but other people needed to follow the rules. Like I said, it doesn’t sound like something good people would do.

Mor. Not too much to say here, actually. She wasn’t a very big part of the story and seemed to be in the same place as in the previous instalment. She didn’t tell anyone about her sexuality, she continued to let Azriel pine after her, making them both feel worse, and she kept talking about getting revenge on something that happened five hundred years ago. If anything, I think Mor really need to see a psychiatrist. She definitely has some issues she needs to work through but instead she drinks and avoids the whole thing. Seems like something a five-hundred-year-old would do. One thing I did notice, though, was that Mor apparently own an estate that no one knows about. Not even her closest friends, not even the High Lord of the land she lives in, not even the spymaster that knows everything about everyone. I have two questions about this. How is this possible and why is it necessary? I guess I have to keep reading the follow-up novels to find out about that.

The drinking. So, I realizes that this is a story set during a celebration, but I also realize that this is published as Young Adult (believe it or not) and the drinking in this story was certainly excessive. It wasn’t just that they drank, but that they got drunk. They got drunk all the time, nearly every day and as soon as they woke up in the afternoon, they drank some more. To have fun for some, I guess, but mostly to lessen the pain (from what? Nothing bad happened to any of them during the war!). It seems, just like with Mor, that they should all go and talk to a psychiatrist, which would be more productive. It also sends out a not so good message to teenagers reading this story, not only that alcohol will help you forget about your pain, but also that it’s something that’s needed to have fun. That’s not true at all and it’s horrible to read about it at all, let alone in a Young Adult story.

All the damn revenge. I don’t really understand that people who have seen so much pain and suffering, who drink themselves senseless every other night just to forget about what they’ve seen, wants to inflict more pain on people. Rhysand, Feyre, Mor, Nesta, Cassian, all of them want to get revenge on people who hurt them. Stop glorifying revenge! The biggest thing you can ever do is to forgive. Not waiting for the perfect time to kill people you don’t like that hurt you six months ago or, you know, five centuries ago. Accept it, let it go and move on. All of the “that person deserves to die, I will kill him if you don’t” or “I’m just waiting for the right time to get my revenge on her” or my favourite, “there are still many scores to be settled”. Eh, how about no. How about being gracious and kind and I don’t know, lead with example? It should be noted that all of these quotes come from characters that fought in this war (and the previous one) for… peace. Getting revenge on someone is not “peace”. Maybe you should look up what that word means because despite talking on and on and on about how they will achieve peace in their land, none of the main characters seems to know what, exactly, peace means.

Lucien. Ah, I really like him but I’m honestly not sure why he’s in the story anymore. Yeah, okay, I know why. He serves two purposes now; the whole Elain-mating-thing and being the only character that’s nice to Tamlin. While Feyre wants Lucien to settle down in Velaris with her and the Court of Dreams, Lucien is not quite as enthusiastic about that idea. He travels around and shows up once or twice in the novella, but he has been busy though. In an angry conversation with Feyre, Lucien reveals that he's met up with Jurian and the sixth mortal queen, Vassa, and together they’ve formed the Band of Exiles. Lucien, who feels like he has no home anymore due to not being welcome either in Spring or Autumn, has found a group of friends that likes him. What, pray tell, does sweet, kind and lovely Feyre think about this? Well, naturally, she gets extremely angry and even refers to the whole thing as “the band of exiles bullshit”. (Ah, Feyre is so nice and perfect and lovely, isn’t she?). I assume she feels like there’s only one squad – her own – and that Lucien is crazy for turning down an invitation to be with them when everyone would want to join the perfect Court of Dreams if they could. Lucien, however, says no thanks and leaves, which makes Feyre see red. I can understand why, though, since she, just like Rhysand, wants everyone to do exactly what she wants and now Lucien dared to choose his own path. How horrible of him!

Nesta. She is difficult to analyse, since she’s been portrayed as a bitch throughout the series. Yes, she’s not very kind (I’m not really sure what Maas is planning, regarding to this, but she must be up to something) but she seems even worse now, after the war. She watched her father die right in front of her and she killed the king of Hybern, just mere months after being turned from a human to a High Fae. I guess you could say that she’s still in shock, with a side of PTSD? This is much like how Feyre was in A Court of Mist and Fury, a situation that I praised Maas for. She showed Feyre broken and she let her take the time she needed to heal, to find what she needed to be whole again. I find this to be a rare thing in novels, especially YA novels, and it’s why I liked it so much. So many young people suffer from mental illness and I thought that reading about a character that suffers too, a character that breaks apart and then rebuilds herself, would be something that readers in similar situations would find comfort in. It was good of Maas to include this in her novel but now that Nesta is in the same position I realized that Maas didn’t take care of her in the same way. I felt almost like Feyre is special to Maas and that she got the time she needed for recovery but that Nesta is only a tool to move the plot forward. Because despite having seen Feyre in the same position (and, for Feyre, feeling the same way that Nesta does), no one thinks it’s okay for Nesta to take the time she needs. Nesta moves out from the town house that Feyre, Rhysand and Elain lives in to get her own place in a rough part of Velaris. She’s out drinking many nights and often goes home with men because it’s her way of coping. No one in the Court of Dreams seems to understand this and the only person Nesta talks to is Amren. She shuts out Feyre and Elain, which is not surprising since they both want Nesta to act a different way, rather than ask her what Nesta needs. It bothers me so much that less than a year ago, Feyre was given love, support and space to heal but now everyone is mad at Nesta for actually feeling things and for trying to deal with it the best she can, while no one helps her? It felt like Nesta was punished for feeling bad, because she didn’t seek out the Court of Dreams to help her. Maybe because the Court of Dreams seems to think that they’re amazing and that (again) anyone who could be with them would jump at that opportunity. Nesta didn’t and it felt like they despised her for it.

Cassian. The only reason why I decided to write something about him is in regard to Nesta. He was okay during most part of the novella, but he infuriated med when he thought about Nesta (I say thought, because he rarely spoke to her). For a guy who hasn’t said many words to Nesta, he seems to have an awful lot to say and he also seems to have a very clear view of who she is. But what bothered me the most was that he seemed to think that just because he professed his love for her (in a stressful situation, something they haven’t talked about since) he’s entitled to her, in some way. He is angry that she spends her nights with men (and he gets very angry when thinking about the guy who took her “maidenhood”). Worst of all is that everyone seems to think this not only is okay, but as it should be? The other people in the Court of Dreams looks down at Nesta and are angry with her for how she “treats Cassian”, but no one cares for how she’s feeling. Nesta doesn’t belong to Cassian and he has no right to feel like she’s stepping on his toes just because he told her he loved her once and never talked about it again (and also spent months avoiding her and not saying a word at all to her). She’s wasting away and she so clearly needs help. She barely eats and she keeps loosing weight yet despite Amren pointing this out in front of everyone, Cassian still looks at Nesta and thinks that she has big breasts. I’m not sure what Maas is trying to do here but Cassian is not looking good at all. Last time I checked, a guy could actually look at a woman and care about her wellbeing without only seeing her boobs and her attractive face. I mean, for a book series that’s supposed to be feministic, this is a very strange way to show equality between the sexes and you know, empowering women. Because Nesta is not empowered and Cassian, like so many men, thinks he is entitled to her for no other reasons then that he has feelings for her. He doesn’t care about her. Very equal.

Elain. She is growing and coming out of her shell, which is nice to see. I would love to see more from her in future novels and she is one of few reasons that I would consider continuing this series. I felt so bad for her when everyone (especially Feyre, of course) was telling her to give Lucien a chance. They’re mates but Elain has never shown any interest in him, still mourning her mortal lover and trying to find her footing in this new world (and body) that she lives in. However, the Court of Dreams kept pushing her towards Lucien and Feyre kept saying that Lucien is “such a good guy” and that Elain “really should give him a chance”. While it’s true that Lucien is good, Elain really should find that out herself, if she wants to. She clearly has no interest in it (at least not yet) and Feyre (again!) has been in situation were she was pushed into things she didn’t want. She should have enough empathy to let Elain sort out the situation herself but of course she doesn’t. It’s like she’s comparing herself and Rhysand with Elain and Lucien and thinks that it’s the same thing, but it’s not. I don’t know what Feyre is doing, but it often comes across as she (the youngest) believes herself to be the oldest and wisest of the sisters because she fed them when they were broke humans and she was the first to be turned into a High Fae. Now she’s the only one married and it feels like she can decide for her sisters what they should do. Elain, like Nesta, needs time but Feyre thinks she just need to accept Lucien so they can live happily ever after. I think Elain would flourish, if only Feyre let her do so.

Tamlin. As always, this is the one I have most problems with and like in the previous novel, the situation with Tamlin is delicate. He is portrayed as a bad person who hurt Feyre and as a reader, I’m supposed to hate him, but I don’t. He has anger-issues, he’s jealous and he’s controlling. He didn’t treat Feyre right when she didn’t feel good after Under the Mountain, he didn’t ask her how she felt or listen to her when she tried to tell him and he ended up locking her into the house. Yeah, it’s not good. But does it make him a bad person? I don’t think so and the reason is this: he didn’t do it to hurt her. Had he wanted to hurt her, to punish her for some reason, he would be evil. But Tamlin did these things to keep her safe and I understand. Yes, the anger-issues are not good but he could work through that. Despite this, everyone in the series hates him and sees him as the enemy. In the last novel Tamlin sided with Hybern to be a spy, he saved Feyre when she was about to be captured and killed which blew his own plan to continue to spy on Hybern. He later saved Rhysand’s life. He gave Feyre and her family wealth beyond dreams when she was a mortal, he did everything for her when she came back to the Spring Court with him. Yet for some reason, he is a bad, bad guy. The thing is, I understand why he locked Feyre into his house, why he was so controlling and possessive. He thought Rhysand to be evil and that he would hurt Feyre just like she was hurt Under the Mountain. What person would want the person they love to end up with someone they think is hurting them? No, I understand why he did what he did and he had a somewhat nice ending to A Court of Wings and Ruin were I thought he was forgiven and would be able to move on. This, however, was not the case in A Court of Frost and Starlight.

Rhysand visits him twice at the Spring Court and both times is heart-breaking. Tamlin is not only depressed, but suicidal. He is all alone in a ruined house and he seems to be waiting for someone to come in and kill him, like he wants it, like he longs for it. It’s horrible but it gets worse when it’s revealed that Rhysand and the rest of the Court of Dreams (these lovely, kind people who wants nothing but peace) thinks that Tamlin deserves to feel this way. They think he deserves to be depressed, to be suicidal and to be killed. Who, I ask, deserves to feel suicidal? Who deserves to want to kill themselves? That Rhysand goes to the Spring Court only to rub Tamlin’s face in the fact that he lost everything (everything!) and that he not only deserves it, but also deserves to die, is so incredibly cruel. But, of course, it still got worse. After that first meeting, Rhysand returns later on because he feels a bit bad for what he said to Tamlin (to which Feyre, by the way, replied that “it’s okay to have a slip-up now and then. This is your slip-up”. Eh, no. It’s not okay to tell someone who is suicidal that they should just kill themselves, that they deserve the pain they feel and that the world will be better without them. That is not a slip-up, especially not since it was exactly what Rhysand meant to say. He said it with intent, he meant it and it’s not fucking okay). Anyway, Rhysand returns to check on Tamlin and proceeds to cook him dinner (and by that I mean using his magic to turn the dead moose on Tamlin’s kitchen table into some steaks that he threw into a frying pan). It all seems rather nice until Rhysand thinks that Tamlin must eat so that he can live long enough to get the peace treaty signed, and then he can die. Eh, sorry, what? He only wants Tamlin to live until he has served his purpose to Rhysand. And now we’re back to where we started, with Rhysand, his manipulating ways and the fact that he seems to think that he’s such a good person. Does that sound like a good person? Does a good person tell someone who is suicidal to just kill themselves and that that’s what they deserve? I didn’t think so. And that this, after the mental illness that Maas so beautifully portrayed in A Court of Mist and Fury, is how Maas handles another mentally ill character is so beyond awful that I don’t even have words for it. No one (no one!) deserves to kill themselves. No one deserves to feel that way and it’s not fucking okay for anyone to say these things. That Feyre tells Rhysand that it’s fine that he said it, that it was a mistake but that it’s okay, is so disgusting. The message Maas sends out here is not a good one and I really think this whole thing is appalling.

To sum things up, I felt like Feyre thinks herself not only better than other people (while still trying to seem like she’s so good, volunteering so much at charities that they have to force her to go home, her hate for shopping and needless spending, despite shopping and spending money needlessly during the entire novella, wanting to buy a studio for herself but not wanting to spend the money and then ending up being given a whole house by some strangers?) but also like she is Right and she needs to teach everyone How To Live Up To Her Standards. And the first step in doing that is, of course, to find a husband. She pushes Nesta and Cassian together while nearly forcing Elain to be around Lucien, to give him a chance, because “they’re mates”. And again, I felt like because Feyre accepted her own mating bond with Rhysand very quickly, she thinks the same will happen for Elain. I just felt like Feyre and Rhysand tried to dictate what everyone would be doing, like their friends were marionettes whose strings they could pull. In terms of a feministic perspective, this story sucked. Elain is supposed to accept “the good guy” because he is good, not because she neither is interested nor ready to date. Feyre is living the life like a housewife because her superfeministic husband said that she can be his equal but she can also work at home, if she chooses. Nesta is just a pair of boobs for Cassian and Rhysand only thinks about sleeping with Feyre. The portrayals of mental illness is also horrifying and makes me so angry. On top of it all, the story is not well-written, the plot is none-existing and every character took a turn for the worst. In short, this is a horrible novella in pretty much every way and I can’t for my life understand that someone who wrote A Court of Mist and Fury also wrote this.