Bloomsbury, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-4088-5790-8
A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third book in Sarah J Maas’s young adult series revolving around Feyre, our human turned the most powerful fae in the galaxy (or so it seems), and it closes up a main story arc that ran in the previous two books. Therefore, this is not a book to jump into when you are unfamiliar with the series. If you wish to know the background details of the main characters and all, you can refer to my reviews of the previous two books in the series. Do note that this review references some events that took place in the previous two books, so you should avert your eyes if you wish to read those books in the future and don’t want to spoil yourself in any way.
So, here we are. After a series of betrayals by the end of the previous book, Feyre has to pretend to sever her mate bond with Rhysand, the High Lord of the Night Court and her husband, in order to pretend to be good with Tamlin again. In fact, she starts setting in motions a chain of events that will compromise Tamlin’s standing in the eyes of his men as well as to drive a wedge between Tamlin and his second-in-command Lucien, while trying to glean whatever information she can get from the enemies to send to Rhysand via their telepathic bond. But eventually, the vile and cruel emissaries of King Hybern pushes her cool to breaking point, and she kills them before having to flee with Lucien back to Rhysand’s side. They all have to go to war, but it is going to be tough trying to get all the High Lords to come together when she and Rhysand have burned some bridges with a couple of them. What will happen next?
This is supposed to the closure of a major arc, but A Court of Wings and Ruin feels strangely lackadaisical for a story of this nature. Things are gripping and even fun when Feyre is committing all kinds of sabotage in Tamlin’s court – it’s nice to see a heroine being this wicked, heh – but the party doesn’t last long. Once Feyre is back among Rhysand and his entourage, these people basically talk and talk and talk. I’ve mentioned in my reviews of the previous books in this series that the author really loves having her characters go into long expositional monologues with one another, and here it is no different. But they are supposed to be going to war! Where is the sense of urgency? No, these people would rather exchange quips and wisecracks in Buffy-speak when they are not sharing their stories.
The author does this because this book is not the end of a trilogy. What, you think the author and the publisher will kill off a moneymaking franchise just like that? Oh, come on. There is a teaser after the last page of the story, advertising more books to come, so it’s no wonder that there are so many life stories coming out even at this late stage of the arc. After all, the author is setting up future books here, so here’s that bisexual lady who likes girls to share with everyone her tragic back story, even if that story serves no purpose to advance the plot. Buy her book, y’all… provided that the author and the publisher have the fortitude to put out a mainstream young adult fantasy story with a bisexual heroine who likes the ladies, that is. My money is on that story being a digital exclusive instead. In the meantime, ooh, this one likes that one, that one has the hots for this one, so buy that one’s book, this one’s book, and so forth, people.
What? War? Oh yes, that part happens in the late third or so of the book. Things pick up a lot during those chapters, but even then, because the author is already committed to extending the series, the plot armors are in full force. No one in the core cast of characters dies. Many potentially complicated obstacles to victory have resolved themselves off-screen by this point, making the victory feel a little less well-earned than it should be, while all the problematic characters are redeemed, even Tamlin. Seriously, the author couldn’t have made her intentions clearer – she may as well call me up to scream at me to keep buying her books by the way this story played out.
Also, do note that there is a strong sex negative tone to this story, in case you are not keen on this kind of thing. All the women that pose a competition to Feyre are portrayed as evil and slutty, that slutty part being highlighted several times as if actually liking sex is a sin for women. Women can only enjoy sex and still lay claim to virtue if their sex partner is their “true love”. Also, Tamlin’s betrayal is said to be due to Ianthe’s influence, and yes, Ianthe is a SLUT who LIKES TO HAVE LOTS OF SEX, as the author reminds me again and again in the entire series. I know, I know, slut shaming is basically the foundation of both young adult and new adult stories, as it sells for reasons that I don’t want to speculate on (I’ll end up a sad panda if I do) but still, it is never fun to read about it.
At any rate, A Court of Wings and Ruin is still on the readable side of things, but it is a disappointment following the excellent second book. It is especially disappointing how the author seems to stop trying too hard to sell me a good story and instead focuses on setting up the next few books in the series. Rhysand is practically a extra in this story, and his love story with Feyre has no development at all, but that’s okay, the author wants me to be happy that there are more books to come and, oh, buy the coloring book as well, fam. I’m not joking about the coloring book, no matter how much I wish I am.