A Court of Wings and Ruin

I love reading series but the downside is that you often have great expectations on sequels and they rarely live up to the standard you expect. This is the case with Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Wings and Ruins, the third novel in the A Court of Thorns and Roses-series. I loved the first two novels and, of course, my expectations were sky-high for the third one. I’m sad to say that not only was this novel bad, it was nothing short of a catastrophe. If you’re interested in this novel but haven’t read it yet, or if you read it and loved it, then I’d advice you to leave this review now because it’s honestly not going to be a review at all. It’ll be a crazy, angry rant with a million spoilers. You have been warned.

After the nail-biting ending in A Court of Mist and Fury, Feyre has been separated from Rhysand and the rest of her friends in the Night Court. The trip to Hybern was a disaster and ended with Feyre returning to the Spring Court with Tamlin. He believes they still love each other while Feyre is only there to spy on him and Hybern. Up in the Night Court, Rhysand is getting ready for war but the rest of Prythian is not. While time ticks on and the final confrontation with Hybern comes closer, Feyre and Rhysand must rouse the other High Lords, gather armies and find allies. Feyre walks on a thin line, not knowing who she can trust and who will stab her in her back.

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Especially after that cliff-hanger in the previous novel, were the reader is left wondering if Azriel and Cassian will survive the injuries sustained in Hybern, if Feyre will be identified as a spy or if she will be reunited with Rhysand. There was, of course, also a lot of questions regarding Feyre’s sisters, Nesta and Elain, and their transformation into High Fae as well as the shocking revelation that Lucien is Elain’s mate. The looming war and the fear of who would live and who would die was the icing on the cake. A Court of Wings and Ruin had a lot to live up to and sadly, it managed to fail in every single way. Ever.single.way. That would be quite impressive if it hadn’t been such a disappointment. In my review for A Court of Mist and Fury I talked about my hopes for A Court of Wings and Ruin and ended by saying that I knew it would be an adventure I’d never forget. I wasn’t wrong about that but sadly, I won’t forget this book for all the wrong reasons.

I’ll start with the things I liked, because that’s the easiest since it’s the shortest. I liked two things: Lucien and Azriel. Why? Simply because I’ve liked them all along, they’re interesting characters and they didn’t change for the worst like many of the other characters did. Azriel is as mysterious as in the last book and he intrigues me very much. He hasn’t had too much time in the spotlight yet but I’m hoping that will change in the future novels. Lucien is a character I liked from the beginning but he disappeared for most of the second novel for obvious reasons when Feyre left the Spring Court. He’s back now which I liked but he disappeared (again!) for much of the novel. More on that later. And… well, yes, that’s it. That’s all I liked. Now onto what I didn’t like which was… everything else.

Let’s start with the story in itself because I’m not sure what Maas was thinking when she wrote this novel. She promised the reader a war and she delivered 700 pages of… a lot of useless things that I could’ve been without. Rhysand and Feyre need allies and they spend most of the novel searching for them. There is a big meeting with all of the High Lords invited which should be interesting but it takes way too many pages to arrive and is really just a way for Feyre and Rhysand to bicker with Tamlin and for the reader to be reminded that Rhysand is so good and Tamlin is so bad. Not much is actually said and done concerning the war so it should come as no surprise when Hybern attacks and Prythian can just about defend themselves which leads us to...

The war. It’s not actually a war but rather three battles over the space of… two weeks or something. After everything that’s been said about the great War five hundred years ago that Rhysand and his friends fought in, the war Maas gave us in A Court of Wings and Ruin was a huge disappointment. Around six hundred pages of the book is about finding allies and preparing for the war. The actual conflict is about forty pages. Since Feyre didn’t fight in it, you didn’t get to be in the actual war but rather on the side-lines, watching and it was… quite boring. They had to paus a few times as well, when new allies to Feyre and Rhysand appeared out of nowhere to save the day. I thought Feyre was supposed to save them all with her Amazing Skills but nah. A bunch of other characters did instead.

Related to my previous point is the novels pacing and viewpoint. Nearly everything, short of a chapter in the beginning and end, is seen from Feyre’s point of view and it limits the story greatly. The novel would benefit from other perspectives, preferably three or four (like Cassian, Nesta and Lucien). Instead, everything is seen from Feyre’s perspective and despite the fact that she is the main character, a lot of important things happens to other characters and not to her. To solve this problem, Maas has Feyre tapping into other people’s minds to see what happens to them from their eyes and then she relates it to the reader. This makes the story loose its sharpness and instead fall flat. The whole novel is basically a case-study in “tell, don’t show” and that’s exactly what you don’t want. Never, but especially not in the dramatic conclusion of a trilogy.

Lucien. He gets to come back to the story and redeem himself, which is lovely but… then Maas decides to send him away on a quest for about three hundred pages and no one hears anything from him? What was the point of this, I wonder? His story would be much nicer to follow (rather than all the gag-worthy Feyre/Rhysand interactions that took up most of the novel) and we’re giving none of that, further proof that more POVs should’ve been used.

Feyre and Rhysand. Where to begin? The chemistry between them was gone but they also turned into awful people thinking they had a right to decide who to punish, like they were in charge of everything? They both seem to think that what they want is what’s best for the world and everyone against them should change their mind or die (no, seriously). At one point, Tamlin says that maybe Feyre and Rhysand wants to be in charge of all the High Lords, like a king and queen. No one takes this seriously but I understood what he meant because it was the feeling I got while reading. If you didn’t agree with Feyre and Rhysand you were wrong and would be punished. Doesn’t quite seem like something “good” and “kind” people would do.

Feyre. After two books of being amazing, all that praise finally went to her head. She thought herself smarter than she was and had pretty much every person in the world fawning over her and her intelligence. She talked a lot but did very little. All her ideas are agreed to, despite being flawed. She trained a lot during this novel and yet didn’t fight in two of the three battles but rather stood on the side-lines and looked on. She also seems to have forgotten what it’s like to be poor and flaunts herself in jewels and fancy gowns and she also tells Rhysand that she wants a reflecting pool built in their townhouse. In other words, not very relatable anymore.

Rhysand. He rolls over for pretty much everything Feyre says and I’m not sure why. Yes, he his a great man that listens to a women, he takes her advice and seems very much like a feminist and the opposite of the evil Tamlin. I do think it went to far, to be honest. Yes, you should listen to the woman by your side but maybe don't roll over and let her make decisions about a war that could ruin your whole world when she has no experience and you have a lot more? It made no sense, other than to show off the fact that Rhysand is nothing like Tamlin.

Tamlin. Ah, this is a difficult one because he transformed from a lovely character in the first novel to an awful, evil person in the second one. He has issues with his temper and treated Feyre badly in the second instalment. I neither like nor excuse his behaviour; it was scary and you never knew what he would do. Feyre made her choice to leave and it was good because it was a hard choice but it was what was best for her. But, and there is a huge but here, all the hatred Tamlin received in the third novel was, in my opinion, uncalled for. He, like Feyre, battles PTSD as well and no one seemed to care for his wellbeing, they were only angry at him because of how he treated Feyre and how he allied himself with Hybern while trying to save her. In the beginning of the novel, Feyre returns to the Spring Court to spy on Tamlin and to ruin the trust between him and his soldiers. She spends very much time thinking about her vendetta, wanting to hurt Tamlin as much as she can to punish him for what he did to her. Later on, Rhysand is said to want to kill Tamlin for how he treated Feyre and others agree that this is a suitable punishment for him. I, however, get sad when reading this. Yes, Tamlin wasn’t kind to Feyre and his anger issues shouldn’t be brushed under the mat. But how is it that no one realised that he, too, was suffering? No one helped him, no one asked how he was doing. Everyone leaves him and he has to fight through the things he experienced Under the Mountain and after the woman he loved left him, all the while working against Hybern. I didn’t understand why Feyre and Rhysand hated him so much, why they wanted him dead. They should, in my opinion, be the bigger people and forgive him, realising that he suffers as well. All the talk about killing him and punishing him made me sick, because the truth is that Tamlin only loved Feyre and tried to protect her in the only way he knew how. Was that a good way? No. Does he deserves to die because of it, when he never did any of it to harm her? Absolutely not. The fact that Maas spent a lot of time working on Feyre’s emotional state in the second novel, letting her rest and giving her people that supported and helped her through it was nice to see. It didn’t feel good that Tamlin never got the same care and support and that Maas pretty much just used him to make Rhysand look better. Tamlin deserved more and it’s awful that his emotional state was ignored.

Nesta and Elain. They barely got any screen-time and yet manages to save the day in the end. The romantic relationship building between Nesta and Cassian was too cold and never really evolved (except at the end, when it exploded only to disappear again just as fast). The build-up for the two of them could’ve been better incorporated if the novel hadn’t been seen only from Feyre’s viewpoint. Elain was kept away in her own world for far too long. She was also made into a Seer and I’m not really sure what the point of this was? It had a chance of being good but Maas didn’t work enough with this. Elain just said some weird things a couple of times, then, after a while, those things happened and there was a big revelation that Elain was special, a seer. And then, nothing. It wasn’t mentioned again. Very underdeveloped.

The LGBTQ representation. More diverse characters? That’s always a big yes. But it didn’t seem natural in this novel because there wasn’t one in the previous two books and now Maas introduced a bunch in a very short amount of time. Many of them was not equal to their partners but rather in a lower position and that felt strange. One of them was very stereotypical, which I didn’t like at all. And the worst one, of course, was the revelation of Mor’s sexuality. Her being a lesbian (or was she bi? I’m not even sure) was quite a surprise but it didn’t feel real. It came out of the blue and seemed like a last-minute decision from Maas. It also seemed very strange that Mor didn’t dare tell anyone about her sexual preference for five hundred years, not even the people she trusts most in the world. Of course, that’s her choice but unfortunately, Azriel got caught in the middle of it and this revelation changed the way I viewed Mor. It was apparent early in the second novel that Azriel is in love with Mor but Mor’s feelings wasn’t quite as clear. In the third novel, when she tells Feyre about her sexuality, Mor says that she can only fall in love with women and that she can never be with Azriel the way he wants. She’s not ready to tell anyone about preferring women (which is fine, but I just wonder how much trust she really has for her friends if she still doesn’t feel ready after five centuries?) however, she never really needed to say this to Azriel. She could’ve just said that she didn’t have feelings for him and he could’ve moved on. Instead she makes him feel like he isn’t worthy of her and whenever he shows her his feelings Mor chooses a guy to sleep with to make sure Azriel remembers that she doesn’t want him. This has happened for the last five hundred years and I do wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier for Mor to tell Azriel that she’s not interested. She claims that she doesn’t want to hurt him but instead she strings him along only to pick another man to show him that she doesn’t love him. Seems to me that that hurts him more than just telling him the truth. So, yes, Mor coming out wasn’t quite as great as it should be. Not only did it seem like a strange move (and something that wasn’t really mentioned again for the rest of the book) but it also changed Mor completely.

The storylines. Overall in the novel, a lot of storylines and threads were left loose or not worked through enough. Yes, they might just be the groundwork for the following novels (the series is originally a trilogy ending with this one and then followed by two novellas and three spin-off novels). However, I really don’t think you should put so many things in a final novel that will be further investigated in a spin-off book. It seemed strange to not focus on the story happening now and I wasn’t satisfied when I finished reading. Many storylines were a little light, as well. They lacked depth and it seemed like Maas was in a rush when writing this novel because many things didn’t get to evolve naturally. The depth and richness in Maas’ writing and story building is one of the things I liked the most in the previous novels and it was very sad to not find it in this one.

The convenience of the plot. Everything just happened. If Feyre or Rhysand needed something I knew they would get it. The threat from Hybern is great, their army huge, but Feyre and Rhysand manages to find allies everywhere to help them. I never once feared for the character’s lives and it was very easy to feel Maas behind every word, creating every situation with perfect care so that her characters would get out without a scratch on them. The plot was very convenient and it bored me greatly.

The writing. It wasn’t too bad, the story in itself is still rich, but there is a lot of repetition and why oh why do Maas keep writing questions without question marks? This bugged me a lot. It’s fine to do it once or twice since it gives the impression that the character doesn’t really care for an answer, but it was something that was done all the time. A few words were also used a lot. A lot, a lot. Mate, male, velvet thickness (dear gods, give me a breaaaak). Maas also re-used quite a few ideas and it wasn’t to any great success. (Another meeting with the Suriel? With the Weaver? With the Bone-Carver? Another dead-but-not-dead situation? Yawn. Get me something new, please). And of course, big part of the plot was Feyre and Rhysand… bantering. Flirting. Flirting in real conversations. Flirting in conversations down their mating bond. Sending each other nude mental images. Talking about sleeping together, actually sleep together… it’s almost like they weren't aware that there was a war brewing and maybe their energy and mental focus should be put on… I don’t know, stopping the enemy, finding allies and save the world? Thankfully, the plot was so convenient that they could do all of that and still win the “war” (thanks to their allies showing up on time, not because they actually managed to rouse a really strong army).

In conclusion, this is not just a bad book, this is a very bad book. A huge disappointment. The only reason I’ll continue is to find out what will happen with Azriel, Lucien and Tamlin.