The Problem with high expectations, or my review of A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

By: Sarah J Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

Publication Date: May 2nd, 2017

Format: Hardcover

synopsis

A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin. I was the nightmare.

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.

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review

4 star (griffin)

Everyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I adore Sarah J Maas, especially her Court of Thorns and Roses series. But I held off reading the third installment for almost two weeks–partially because exams, and partially because I wanted to savor the anticipation of actually reading it. And, though it was delightful, Em and I felt that there were elements that didn’t quite match up to our (admittedly high) expectations.

Granted, there was a LOT in this 700-page brick of a book. The only reason it looks smaller than Order of the Phoenix (or a fridge) is because someone took pains to make it that way. And it was an epic read, too. I loved following Feyre and Co as they tried to stop the maddened dictator from killing all the humans, and as many Fey as got in their way. I liked the dash from the Spring Court to the Night Court, and down into the human lands. In fact, I have no problem at all with most of the story–I finished it going ‘wow’. This is a usual high-octane Sarah J Maas book, which I adore.

But there are some weaknesses that weren’t present in the other books in the series. I remember JK Rowling talking at one point about how the Order of the Phoenix shouldn’t have been so large, how she should have been more dedicated with editing and parsing down to what HAD to be in there. And I feel as if Sarah J Maas made a similar mistake. There were elements of character development and some plot points that felt unnecessary, and that detracted from the greatness of the book, rather than added to it. Even though I loved every page, I don’t think it needed to be this large.

The character development especially felt all over the place. Em was especially unhappy about the new addition of Feyre’s sisters to the core group of badasses. I was more OK with Nesta being included, but we thought she could have been portrayed a bit better. And Elaine was a wet noodle of a person, whose only purpose in the book seemed to be the weaker link/damsel in distress whenever was convenient. Similarly, it felt like the author couldn’t figure out what to do with Tamlin. He’d been set him up to be the grand villain at the end of book two, but in Book Three it was constant guesswork–is he actually the villain? Is he doing the noble thing and spying on the evil forces he invited into the country? Is he just telling everyone he’s a spy so that they don’t think he’s actually evil? Not that any of this should have excused the fact that he was emotionally and physically abusive to Feyre.

The character development was a lot of what made some of the plot twists feel odd. After all, if Tamlin is actually not evil, then what was the point of those first 100 pages where Feyre epically destroyed his world from the inside (and which the synopsis makes seem is a massive part of the book)? If Elaine is such a mentally and physically fragile person, why bring her into the middle of a war where she’s going to be in obvious need of rescue at some point? Why not just stick her in that nice cabin far away from the fighting and let her garden?

And then there was another character shoehorned in, seemingly at the last minute–a queen named Vassa, who was sold to a dark sorcerer and cursed to be a bird (albeit an epic firebird) by day and a girl only by night. Since Em and I thought fairytales had been left behind in ACOTAR, we can only assume that Vassa’s presence in ACOWAR was in order to set up for the next three books in the series. But it felt forced, and I’m wondering if ACOWAR should maybe have been the third of a trilogy. Not that I won’t happily read anything Sarah J Maas writes, of course. But still.

That being said, you could also definitely argue that Em and I are nitpicking here. Yes, there were elements we thought could be done better, but there were plenty of things that we also liked. I really liked how methodically ACOWAR broke down the dysfunction of the relationship between Feyre and Tamlin, showed what elements of their relationship constituted abuse. And in contrast I adored the easy relationship of Feyre and Rhys. It’s not a usual thing to be able to see a couple adapt past the honeymoon phase in a YA romance, and Feyre and Rhys dealt with that well. It did also dutifully showcase the horrors of war.

This is a more than solid book, honestly, and a definite read if you like Sarah J Maas. But maybe a good piece of advice is to keep your expectations realistic, even if ACOMAF *did* blow your mind with its awesomeness.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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