Written by Lauryn Smith
As promised, I read “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas. You may remember my slightly scathing review of its predecessor, “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” Though I still have some qualms, the second in the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series exceeded my expectations.
The story picks up right where the first left off. In the aftermath of bad girl Amarantha’s demise, Feyre returns to life in the Spring Court with soon-to-be hubby Tamlin. But things are not all roses and daisies anymore. First of all, she has that tattoo linking her mind to Rhysand’s, as well as Rhysand’s pesky bargain regarding Feyre’s living arrangements, to worry about. Add to that Tamlin’s newly developed overprotective personality, and the fact that all in the Spring Court abide by his command to keep Feyre safe by restraining her to the grounds and limiting her access to information. Feyre used to feel thankful for Tamlin’s protection, but now she feels stifled, bored and unchallenged. She also cannot get over the guilt regarding the crimes she committed in order to save everyone from Amarantha’s wrath. In addition, the more she gleans about how the courts work, the more repelled by the system she becomes. Oh yeah, and she now has all the powers of a High Fae, powers that reflect those of each of the courts’ High Lords.
On the day of Feyre and Tamlin’s wedding, Feyre falls apart. As he did multiple times in “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” Rhysand pops in and saves the day, whisking Feyre away to the dreaded Night Court. That is when everything changes and Feyre’s perspective shifts. Instead of willingly remaining a veiled treasure, Feyre gets her life back on track. She grows familiar with the people, places and politics of the Night Court, trains to control her potent powers and flirts mercilessly with Rhysand. All the while, a new and fiercer evil looms. And once more, Feyre is key in ending it.
Maas again focuses on the good versus evil trope, this time on a dual level, both between the courts and an outside force as well as between individual courts. This is a classic and widely appealing theme, so no complaints there, granted the lack of emphasis on the plot leaves something to be desired. Also again, Maas attempts to make the story grab adult readers by including explicit sex scenes. Maas needs more than said sex scenes to make the novel appropriate for adults. Take them away, and this book is young adult through and through. I will contend, though, that the integration of action and romance is accomplished much better in “A Court of Mist and Fury” than in its predecessor.
The characters are also more intriguing this time around. Well, I should clarify. Most characters are more intriguing. Feyre is still difficult to root for. Perhaps it has to do with her “all about me,” self-pitying attitude. Or perhaps it has to do with disparities in her personality. She questions everything, from her worth to her skills. Sometimes this trait is crippling, lending for her guilt and isolation. Other times, it is nonexistent, lending for her swagger and cockiness. And there is still Maas’s irksome attempt at making Feyre appear deep and artsy through her “will she or won’t she” relationship with painting, a completely unnecessary aspect of Feyre’s persona. However, Rhysand and his friends are likable and refreshing. In fact, their affection for Feyre makes her tolerable. Now, if Rhysand were the protagonist, this book would be leaps and bounds better. If we are going to have a powerful female lead, she might be a little more self-reliant in everyday situations, and her inner strength might be a little more consistent.
I have most of the same gripes about Maas’s writing style as before. Her misuse of the word “hiss” is still annoying, plus the words “snarl” and “prick” are everywhere. However, her prose is proficient and easily readable. And, to be fair, the second in the series feels at least a little more original than the first (granted, the love triangle thing has been seen time and again, and all these alpha males—Maas seems to want to provide lady readers with another book boyfriend or two (yes, I am calling Rhysand out for his near imperfection)).
I also continue to struggle with the story’s realism, and not in the sense that magic is involved, but in the sense that emotions and interactions often seem forced and fanciful. Add to that poor transitions and subpar integration of dialog, which is often blunt rather than finessed. When it comes to action scenes, plot points flow well. But when conversation is introduced, Maas takes extreme artistic liberty to produce outcomes that are necessary in moving the story forward (especially since Feyre’s inner turmoil does not do the trick in doing so). Take, for instance, when Feyre and Rhysand visit the Bone Carver to gather information. For being a creature so unlikely to offer information, he ends up communicating relatively easily. One caveat regarding the dialog is the interplay between Feyre and Rhysand. Their relationship is arguably the most intriguing aspect of the book, even if it is a bit farfetched. At least their back-and-forth is often clever.
I am sure it sounds like I dislike “A Court of Mist and Fury,” but that is not the case. It is a fun read, and I do want to know what happens next now that there is some sort of plot to follow, even if it is somewhat secondary. I just see room for improvement. I will be the first to admit that I have no experience writing fantasy, so mine is merely the opinion of an avid reader. Maas exhibits a decent handle of the craft, and given that fantasy is her genre of choice, I am sure each successive book she writes in said genre will be better than the last. If you can easily get lost in a fantasy novel and ignore technical shortcomings, “A Court of Mist and Fury” is worth the read, even if you did not enjoy “A Court of Thorns and Roses.”
As with the first, the purpose of this book appears to be pure entertainment, and Maas accomplishes this well. As its content is predominantly romantic fantasy, it makes for a good beach read. The book maintains surface-level interest, nothing more, nothing less. Maybe that is all that matters. Plenty of people are in love with this series, and I can see why “A Court of Mist and Fury” appeals to steadfast Maas fans. I still stick by conviction that this series is one for YA enthusiasts, as well as those who appreciate an occasional guilty pleasure read. As is my way, I will be sticking with this series to the end despite my apathy.
Title: A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Page count: 640
List price: $18.99
Awards: 2016 Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction
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