After the high stakes climax of A Court of Mist and Fury, the third book in Sarah J. Maas’ beloved series drops right into the loaded circumstances Feyre Archeron has landed herself in. No longer a woman fighting for her place in the world who struggled to see where she belongs, Feyre seized a desperate chance and made the hard choice, leaving the man she loves and the sisters she almost lost in order to save them. She proved that she can be brave, she is cunning and shrewd, and perhaps the only person in Prythian positioned to make the difference necessary in the war to come. Just as book two raised the stakes by bringing “more” to the ACOTAR series, A Court of Wings and Ruin does that and more, with enough to satisfy readers looking for more charged romance as well as those who have been drawn in by the complex characters and beautiful worldbuilding.
The story picks up where the previous left off with Feyre at the Spring Court with Tamlin and Lucien after bargaining for Rhysand and their friends’ lives, allowing them to escape with Nesta and Elain after they emerged from the Cauldron. Feyre’s relationship with Lucien is given special focus, more than I expected. Their rocky start in the first book laid the groundwork, and their complicated roles have only grown, so to see them collide in A Court of Wings and Ruin was fascinating. Feyre has become a completely different person in her time at the Night Court, and Lucien is far more suspicious and discerning than Tamlin, so their dance around what’s really going on as well as Lucien’s morals conflicting with his loyalty to Tamlin all make for a very interesting sequence in the story. This book shows so much more of Feyre’s cunning and recklessness than the previous two, and they are on full display. She is a character that has gained both confidence and agency, and as her plans take shape, she is able to commit to them fully in order to see them through. She takes her role as Lady of the Night Court and Rhysand’s mate confidently, though her headstrong nature certainly causes conflicts even within the confines of Rhysand’s Inner Circle. The tension of the story grows as the war for Prythian rages towards its culmination amid raised stakes, the final clash of the armies of the gathered fae courts to resist Hybern.
A Court of Wings and Ruin is another long book, but like the greater length of A Court of Mist and Fury, it feels like a part of a broadly reaching story rather than a shorter one that has been unnecessarily drawn out. In fact, it beckons to a larger world, the impressive worldbuilding that the author is known for, as well as the dynamic and complex characters. I almost felt like the series is perched on the precipice of epic fantasy with how much the stories offer in terms of breadth and scope. I wanted more from this story, which isn’t always something you get after 700 pages. I wanted a deeper dive into the characters, I wanted to see them wrestle with their dilemmas more. Too many felt too short-lived and fleeting, rather than having a deeper emotional reflection that the reader gets to experience. There are hints that those moments could exist, such as when Feyre clashes with Morrigan after deceiving her, or when Feyre looks into the Ouroboros mirror. The moments are there and Maas is certainly able to write them, but I wish they had been explored more, allowed to have as much weight in the story as other character development moments.
Overall, A Court of Wings and Ruin was a surprising joy for an epic fantasy reader. It brings all the elements I would expect from epic fantasy and weaves them with tender moments and passionate romance, all of which the author uses to tell her story. None of it feels token, it all has a place, though there are certainly some aspects that are stronger than others. The actual writing of the stories and craft of the narrative is the weakest part in my opinion, which is one reason why I imagine the stories do not have as deep of a dive as other epic fantasy stories do. The style and prose fit with the stories the author is trying to tell, but in doing so, sacrifice the potential for greater depth, both for the story and the characters.
An example of this is the relationship between Feyre and Nesta. It’s a significant part of the story, and Feyre’s character, but overall I found it lacking just because it was never given the attention needed to give it depth. There was a lot of buildup in the first two books about how different the two women are, how tense their relationship was, and then is further loaded after Nesta and Elain are thrown into the Cauldron. It’s not a story of reconciliation, and the actual growth there feels somewhat shallow compared to how much went into exploring how the two interacted in previous books. Nesta’s role in A Court of Wings and Ruin flits between being a background supporting character and a significant figure in Feyre’s story, but neither felt properly developed, especially when compared to how Feyre’s relationships with the members of Rhysand’s Inner Circle were developed. It had so much potential, but I felt like the opportunity was missed, despite how much ground A Court of Wings and Ruin had to cover. A Court of Wings and Ruin continues to bring spice and adventure, and brings a climactic moment to the story of Feyre and Rhysand and their fight to save Prythian. Lovers of the first two books will be well rewarded with the third, though the book falls into similar shortcomings of relying on characters and worldbuilding over strength of storytelling and depth of character development. Cementing Sarah J. Maas’ series as a favorite of her fans’, A Court of Wings and Ruin celebrates what the series does well, and does so with faerie magic, spicy romance, and the cast of characters readers just can’t seem to get enough of.
A Court of Wings and Ruin is written by Sarah J. Maas, and is published by Bloomsbury.
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