Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world torn apart.
Where do I even begin? To quote one of our great poets (never thought I would draw Goethe into this): “Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast.” So what’s the deal? Well, I know for a fact that naive 16-year-old me would have loved this series. Not-quite-as-naive-and-a-lot-more-sensitised 28-year-old me not so much. There’s common ground though: it’s just my kind of fantasy world. But while 16 is swooning about just her type of (male) characters, 28 is screeching at her that these characters, their relationships, and some of the concepts are totally fucked up and toxically romanticised, and 16 should just get lost in the past where she belongs (you see, it’s always fun living in my head). Wondering what has them so worked up?
First up, let’s start with the good. It’ll be quick. I really like this world, though it’s not original at all. It’s all based on Welsh mythology plus faeries. I probably wouldn’t have know that and found it all very ingenious if I hadn’t read The Chronicles of Prydain shortly before ACOTAR (btw, I HIGHLY recommend that MG series!). Therefore, the motifs this series draws on were pretty much on the nose, but that’s ok. Not every book has to reinvent the wheel (or break it … still too soon?). I’m a sucker for faeries, though so far I have yet to read an author that can hold a candle to Holly Black in this regard. Still, totally on board here. I especially loved the Night Court – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all. I also immensely enjoyed the new characters that were introduced, namely Rhysand’s inner circle. These four are just so much fun! I wish there had been even more of them in this book. And then, well, there’s Rhys. Rhys who’s one of my dark and brooding, more or less evil and always highly problematic faves. 16 is doing a happy dance. 28 begrudgingly acknowledges that she likes him as a character BUT …
… she does not like how the character is portrayed in relation to Feyre or how some readers champion him as The One and Only White Knight and Saviour of All. Pretty please, he’s a lot, but he most certainly isn’t that. He’s just as bad as Tamlin – meaning they’re both abusive assholes – but your eyes might be clouded by Feyre’s double standards that are supposed to warp everything until we all believe that he is Our Saviour. Don’t know what I’m talking about?
So, Tamlin decides to go all toxic relationship on Feyre and locks her up – and along comes Rhysand and … kidnaps her aaaand locks her up. Feyre, being all double standards: “Guest – not prisoner. Well … the room proved it.” (p. 51). Uh, Feyre, honey, I hate to break it to you but even the most beautiful place is a prison IF YOU CAN’T LEAVE! But that’s only the beginning. Rhysand constantly manipulates and endangers her – for various reasons, mostly to drive “the plot.” Time and again, he puts her into situations that could kill her and Feyre only gets out alive because she miraculously does the right thing without even knowing that a) it is the right thing and b) she’s capable of doing this thing in the first place. And then she’s furious for about a second before she forgives him, because apparently, him putting her life in danger without her knowing, let alone her consent, was oh so important to further their plans! Rhysand lies to her – yes, omitting integral parts of the truth is also lying – and Feyre’s not even batting much of an eye. Even the most jarring, most fundamental, most life altering lie only took her a week or so to forgive (and not only forgive …). The argument: Rhysand is SUCH a tortured soul and only wants the good for everyone and only gets all abusive asshole in order to do just that. No, no, no, NO! This does not justify ANY of his actions! Feyre might as well have Stockholm syndrome for all that it’s worth. Besides, cutting away a lot of his edges turned him into a rather boring character. Why can’t he be “the bad guy” with an agenda the protagonist can get behind (I’ve yet to get my hands on a book the protagonist is actually converting to the dark side … wouldn’t that be fun!)?
And then let’s shortly talk about Feyre. I’m not a fan of her, never was. But this one really brings it to the boil. She’s a fucking Mary Sue. In the first book, she had no power at all and now she’s pretty much the most powerful being ever. I hate this trope so so much. It’s so boring! It’s super annoying! It’s totally unnecessary! Yes, we’ve probably all had Mary Sue fantasies but that just doesn’t make for interesting characters (let alone character arcs) or stories (the stakes are getting considerably lowered).
Oh, and just a quick word on the king of Hybern whom I started out imagining as Thranduil only it turns out that this does Thranduil dirty because this king is an idiot. He’s supposed to be a very powerful – the most powerful? – fae. And then he’s such a whimsical being, doesn’t realise what’s going on right under his nose and lets them all live? Seriously?! If I were him, I would have killed them all. Better safe than sorry and there wouldn’t have been many left to antagonise him afterwards, so his victory should have been safe.
Regardless, I could have cruised through this book with 28 keeping 16 in check but still in a sort of happy daze. Until even 16 woke up with a jarring start. What got to her? The mating stuff, which is THE BIGGEST BULLSHIT! It’s like that fucking imprinting from Twilight! She really chose the worst and most sexist form for this concept. Why does it have to be the patriarchal marital sexual stuff and couldn’t have been the platonic soulmates that might turn into more but doesn’t have to? And, leaving all else aside, it didn’t even start out as horribly as it turned out later on: at first, it was just two beings destined for each other and then gradually falling for each other and consensually accepting their bond – with the option not to. You know, I could have gotten behind that if it weren’t for three things:
- Lo and behold, there might not be an option not to. There’s a scene when a male realises that the female in front of him is his destined mate – although they literally just met that very second – and he basically jumps her. I was screaming at this book (especially since that was a character I’d rather liked up to this point). You’re not entitled to these females, assholes! So there obviously isn’t much of a free choice, especially if one’s female.
- How’d you think one consensually accepts a mating bond? To answer that question, please freeze your feminist 21st century brain because a) you wouldn’t find the answer any other way and b) it’s better to shield your brain from the damage it would get when you read this: the female has to prepare and offer food to the male, who has to accept and eat it. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! You’re writing a fantasy novel, a high fantasy novel at that, the world is your oyster – and you can’t come up with something that’s not yuck?! I mean, they’re about to be one, I don’t know, how about let them share (in) something?
- The males get totally “overprotective” (read: possessive) of their females and pretty much get violent if someone so much as looks their mate’s way. Really?! So basically the female has to be a good little thing, preferably holing up somewhere, especially not speaking to any males so her mate won’t get into trouble … because, you know, they can’t help it. It’s just the mating bond.
I just … HOW is that romantic?! Oh, and have I mentioned that accepting a mating bond also makes you horny as hell? Fine, whatever. I don’t mind that. At least, I wouldn’t, if the sex scenes were done well. I mean, shouldn’t sex scenes be … I don’t know … sexy? I couldn’t take this seriously at all and kind of waited for Feyre’s inner goddess to make an appearance.
So there’s a lot to unpack and I’m really conflicted about continuing this series. On the one hand, there are aspects I like (though they aren’t particularly numerous) and it’s also the feeling of munching popcorn while watching this going to hell. It is quite entertaining dissecting all the bullshit going on. On the other, I could spend that time preserving some of my brain cells reading something much better. Well, we shall see …