In the longest and potentially most vibrant work of Sarah J. Maas’ I have read, A Court of Silver Flames bursts with color and emotion from the first pages. Returning to the land of Prythian is familiar, but in stepping away from the similarly familiar perspectives of Feyre and Rhysand, the story takes a different cast as seen through the eyes of Nesta and Cassian. The story is much more personal and dives into a more emotional beat than previous books, allowing the characters time to embrace that aspect of their story instead of using it simply as a narrative stepping stone. While some portions of the story are handled enthusiastically, albeit awkwardly, the heart of A Court of Silver Flames is personal and authentic, which allows Maas’ passion for her characters and storytelling shine the brightest.
Shifting to the perspective of Feyre’s sister Nesta Archeron, A Court of Silver Flames follows the elder sister after the conclusion of the war with Hybern, and months after the contentious Winter Solstice seen in A Court of Frost and Starlight. Nesta has continued her own self-destructive path, punishing and desensitizing herself while pushing everyone else away as she struggles with her new, strange life and even more strange and unfamiliar powers. When she is forced to change the direction she is headed, it brings her into closer orbit with Cassian, who is directed to train her while she stays in the House of Wind. Her actions have gone too far for too long, damaging more than just herself, and pushing Feyre and Rhysand more than they could allow.
This is a story that sees Nesta learn and grow and struggle and fight. Even more so than Feyre’s early story, there is a remarkably human and relatable aspect to Nesta’s story that I didn’t catch as much in Feyre’s journey. Her emotions burn brightly and she holds onto them in a way that I found more relatable, especially considering Nesta was a human who was Made fae against her wishes. Her perspective is completely different from other fae, and even her sister, which brings about an entirely unique lens through which she views her situation. Through the story her relationship with Cassian evolves and turns, growing then to only be pushed away, and back again. The powers that she ripped from the Cauldron are constantly writhing within her, fighting against the wolves that lie beneath her skin, and the roar of anger and hurt that has been there since her father was killed in front of her. Her anger and pride blend with fear and trauma, causing her to lash out and push everyone else away, because at the heart of it, she is terrified to be hurt again. And yet, Nesta still finds friendship and a sisterhood of sorts. She finds a goal, a purpose that she can begin to devote herself to. Eventually, she finds her breaking point, and has to decide if she will indeed shatter, or if there is a way that she can come through her trial, whatever may lie on the other side.
Nesta’s journey and specifically her relationship with Cassia take the forefront of A Court of Silver Flames, but Maas does a very good job of allowing the threads of Nesta’s relationship with the rest of the Night Court to have just as much weight and attention, albeit just under the surface. I’m glad this story gives Nesta the focus she deserves. Her character has been so full of potential and vibrance since A Court of Mist and Fury, and letting it show in the spotlight was overdue. As much as Feyre has grown and her character has been developed over the previous books, having a different primary point of view character was a nice change. Feyre was never the most interesting or engaging character for me, and experiencing the story from the perspective of another vibrant character and seeing their growth was refreshing.
Some parts of A Court of Silver Flames are written very well, and the authenticity and vulnerability show. Other parts are strikingly awkward then as they are conveyed. Maas’ writing about martial training, physical exercise, and meditation felt consistently heavy-handed, like a novice who had just discovered something so great and amazing that they couldn’t wait to talk and share it with everyone. It’s driven by good intentions and what I imagine is the desire to take something that has been very significant and meaningful to her and put it in a story that already carries pieces that are personal to her. But it is markedly different seeing how she tries to weave that into the story compared to how she writes a character baring their soul to another, sinking to the depths of their emotions. The vulnerability as Nesta has to reveal the layers of herself and acknowledge them is extremely raw, and something that can really only be conveyed by someone who has seen or experienced that firsthand. Likewise, it is the same vulnerability that sifts through as Nesta has to find how she is going to integrate those pieces of herself into her life, living with her darkness rather than exorcizing it. There is a depth of emotion and awareness that only comes from someone who has intimate knowledge of what being in that place is like, which in turn is handled far more eloquently in the writing.
I don’t know if it’s the shift in perspective characters, an acknowledgement that it’s what the fans want, or something else entirely, but the characters in this book are unbelievably randy and down to do the dirty. Feyre and Rhysand definitely had their moments, and I don’t think anyone will quickly forget reading the marathon those two went through when their mating bond snapped into place. Whew. But Cassian and Nesta? They’re on an entirely different level. We as the readers knew that they both had stuff to work through, but I didn’t expect it to escalate to the heights (maybe the wrong phrasing in this instance) it does in A Court of Silver Flames. Either way, it’s as much a part of their story as any, but hoo boy. It seems that people just get hornier and hornier in each book. And by this point, readers shouldn’t be surprised.
Sarah J. Maas allowing this story to progress through different character lenses is a strong choice, and a bold one especially for how much Feyre is loved as a character. For a book that felt like it is set between major story beats, it was a good time in the series for the shift, as well as serving to let other characters shine. A Court of Silver Flames handles a lot of what I thought previous books had missed while letting the characters shine authentically, and shows that Maas can tell compelling stories driven by character depth and emotion as much as she can with dramatic fantasy adventure.
A Court of Silver Flames is written by Sarah J. Maas, and is published by Bloomsbury.
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