In what be my favorite showing from Sarah J. Maas in this series thus far, A Court of Frost and Starlight takes a slower, more personal, and frankly enjoyable look at Feyre and her family in the days after the end of the war with Hybern and the events of A Court of Wings and Ruin, bridging the gap to the next books in the series. Allowing the author’s strength in bridging the gaps of deeply personal narrative and the dynamic characters she has created, the story feels far more honest and vibrant, leaning fully into her strengths as a storyteller.
Written as a novella that bridges the in-between moments of after the war and what comes next, A Court of Frost and Starlight is a story about Feyre’s family, and mending the space between her blood and chosen families. She tries to find ways to make Elain feel welcome. She tries to coax Nesta in, to allow her a place at the table, and receives only the harsh pushback of a jaded woman. There is the dance of other new members, such as Varian with Amren. Others take more subtle places, such as Lucien’s notable absence but nevertheless offering presents, the duality of his roles to the different members of the group markedly apparent. It’s the story of these individuals trying to return to normal, finding the pace of life again after the trials and atrocities of war.
This book showcases perfectly where Maas’ strengths in storytelling lie. The interactions between characters are allowed to be unblemished by rising or falling action, untainted by narrative stakes. They simply are, and it allows the complex characters Maas has created to showcase that. Honest, simple humor is a hallmark of the familiar interactions between the central characters and within the more intimate interactions, the personal understandings between individuals. There is the banter and lighthearted teasing between Cassian and Mor that belies how deeply they care for each other. There is the quieter, but no less significant, understanding that is seen between Azriel and Elain. All those and more are allowed to shine as the characters exchange gifts on Winter’s Solstice. Things are personal, some given with special understanding, others with humor and levity, and others still with a much more personal and intimate touch.
Another strong feature of A Court of Frost and Starlight is Maas allowing more point of view characters to break through, rather than relying on Feyre and a sprinkling of Rhysand to satisfy the reader. The hints of Cassian and Nesta taking a more prominent role in the narrative certainly piqued my interest. It brings a different dynamic in the short novella form to be bouncing back and forth between more characters more often, especially during a more personal and emotional story beat, rather than during the heights of narrative action seen in A Court of Wings and Ruin. Coming in at around 200 pages, it is able to tell a different sort of story simply due to its length, rather than the previous books counting at 400 to over 700 pages to tell their stories. Maas shows in A Court of Frost and Starlight that she is still able to tell stories that her fans want to read.
In her Acknowledgements section at the end of the book, Sarah J. Maas talks about the intense personal experiences she went through as she was writing this book, and that made it abundantly clear why this one in particular felt so personal. Her craft as a storyteller regarding characters and worldbuilding is why her works are loved by so many, but in A Court of Frost and Starlight, it felt different and it’s hard to imagine that not being because of her chosen vulnerability. She channeled that into a story that doesn’t have dramatic action or intense stakes that threaten the characters. It’s a story about family. It’s a story about trying to heal. It’s about love, and grief, and hope, and loss, and reconciliation. It’s about real things and I think because Maas was willing to let her own vulnerability seep into her story, it made it feel uniquely special.
A Court of Frost and Starlight is written by Sarah J. Maas, and is published by Bloomsbury.
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