Sunday, May 15, 2016

Discussion of A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas

C O N T A I N S    S P O I L E R S !!!

  • All books by Sarah J. Maas are up for discussion!

court of mist and furyWelcome to my new discussion feature! The past month, I've been realizing that sometimes a review just isn't enough... I want to share my thoughts with people using actual, you know, textual examples... AKA 'SPOILERS.' It is, of course, rude to give away too much in book reviews, although it is a delicate line to walk. You don't want your review to be bereft of examples, but you can't push it too far.  There are always spoiler tags of course... but I've been wanting to write full-on essays about certain books, and tags just aren't good enough for me anymore. I need to write more down!

This time around, I want to discuss a book that I've read twice over within a week! Yes, this post is a discussion of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.

Maas Has a Dumping Habit

By now, it's no secret that Maas has a bit of a... tendency in her writing.  Yeah, I'm talking about her habit of throwing previously impassioned love stories to the curb and planting new seeds in the rubble.

In her popular Throne of Glass series, Caelena Aelin Whoever is on her third romance.  That is practically UNHEARD OF in YA, where the concept of soul mates reigns supreme. Wait, wait... check that.  Maas believes in soul mates.  She just believes that her characters kiss a lot of frogs that they mistake as their soul mates before they get to the real one.  At least... that's what I think? Funnily enough, Maas, although she's published a ton of books, has yet to finish a series, so we don't have a precedent yet for how she ends her romantic sagas.

One thing is for certain though... just because a Maas heroine has sex with someone, that doesn't mean she'll end up loving him forever.  Pretty established at this point.

Another thing: When a guy tattoos a Maas heroine, it's a good sign she'll fall in love with him.  Even if she's with someone else at the time. Make a note of that!

The big question is... does Maas improvise her love stories or does she always have an endgame in mind?

Rhysand Was Groomed in Book One For His Role In Book Two

With A Court of Mist and Fury, Maas definitely planned on abandoning ship, and by 'ship' I mean Feyre's relation'ship' with Tamlin.  Now that we know that Feyre has a mating bond (heh) with Rhysand, and we've heard his side of the story about what went down in book one, we can go back and pick up all the little hints in A Court of Thorns and Roses.  To my surprise, Maas was indeed paving the way for a romantic upset.

The biggest example of this is where Rhysand visits Feyre at the end of A Court of Thorns and Roses, when he dematerializes, "winnows," after becoming shocked for some mysterious reason.  We find out in book two... that's when he discovered Feyre was, indeed, his "mate."  This shows that Maas intended for Rhysand to become a serious love interest in the sequel books. Why else would she plant that moment in book one, right smack in the middle of Feyre's 'Happily Ever After' with Tamlin?

After finishing book one, did you have a feeling Tamlin was going the way of acid wash jeans and perm hairdos?

Why Most of Us Didn't See It Coming

What made most of us readers unaware of the impending turnaround is how A Court of Thorns and Roses was a Beauty and the Beast retelling.  "Beauty ends up with Beast," is how our minds work.  I was NOT expecting Maas to turn Beast into a huge asshole (although, maybe I should have?) and have him imprison Feyre in his house, EVEN AFTER the "witch" (Amaratha) got dusted. What the hell, Tamlin?

That move on Maas's part was an echo from the Throne of Glass series, where previously über-sweet, desert-in-bed-bringer Chaol turns into a huge turd and tries to stifle Caelena's Whoever's new powers and independent spirit.

But, like Rowan from Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows, Rhysand nurtures the power of our heroine, coming across as dickish at first, but it's all so that the heroine can come into her own, we find out.

A lot of readers HATE how Maas does this — the character turnaround.  And I get it.  I totally get it.  It's... kind of... not the best writing.  However, I like, personally, how Maas's new love interests tend to be more interesting than the guys they replaced.  I always thought that Chaol was a SNOOZE. I really did! And Tamlin didn't have me hopping up and down with joy, even though he seemed to be a good guy.

What do you think? Are Rowan (Throne of Glass) and Rhysand (A Court of Thorns and Roses) steps up from the previous love interests?

Feyre's Character and My Confusion

During A Court of Mist and Fury, I found myself, at several times, wondering about Feyre — Who is this girl?  

I thought it was a bad sign, especially since the book is written in the first person — the most intimate of narration styles.

I think part of it was that Maas wanted to keep some secrets — wanted to keep some suspense going — and the result was making Feyre seem quite reactive and simple-minded.  We didn't get to see nearly enough reflection on her part.

For example, when Feyre finally gets together with Rhysand, and they're doing their info-dumping confession thing, we find out that Feyre knew she was in love with Rhysand during the Starfall chapter.  Well, we didn't hear about that in the Starfall chapter.  Which means that our first-person narrator wasn't sharing everything going on in her head.

Because of this, it seemed like Feyre was just passively going along with things, instead of, you know, synthesizing the events in her head, like a smart character would.

I would have preferred that Maas gave us a little more from Feyre's perspective, even if it meant dampening the will-she-won't-she suspense.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down, readers?  Did Feyre come across as more distinct in book one, A Court of Thorns and Roses?

One extra thing — I really liked how Feyre didn't come across as too much of a Mary-Sue.  At the end of book one, she's brought back to life by the powers of all the fae high lords combined, imbuing her with skills from all the fae courts. She can summon wind, water, fire, darkness, light, and shapeshift.  Did I forget anything?

This could have turned her into an unrealistically powerful character.  As it was, I felt that Maas wrote a good balance of Feyre being able to fend for herself (being badass) and having beginner wobbles with her new powers.

In your opinion, is Feyre too powerful?  Why or why not?

Rhysand Is Buckets of Fun

God love me, but I adore a tortured, dark love interest.  I thought Tamlin qualified in A Court of Thorns and Roses, but Rhysand brings the inner-pain in A Court of Mist and Fury.  He's coming off of five decades of being a psychopath's love slave... if anything, he could have been depicted as even more unhinged.

Mainly, Rhysand's PTSD symptoms are moodiness, self-doubt, and crying jags.  Oh, yeah, and an awesome I-don't-give-a-fuck-what-you-think attitude.

He was always there to heighten the drama.  In the beginning of the book, it was stealing Feyre away during her wedding ceremony.  Who didn't love that moment? Then he continued to make the book fun, whether he was whisking Feyre away on some whack-a-doodle, lethal quest, or just making snarky commentary.

One of my favorites moments was when he shoves Feyre into a face off against a flesh-eating, treasure-hoarding forest witch.  Using her new powers, Feyre barely escapes with the item Rhysand sent her to fetch.  We find out many chapters later that she unwittingly stole back her future wedding ring. Ha ha!

For that escapade, Rhysand receives Feyre's fury and the scorn of his friends.  And I did notice, in the early book, Rhysand is far more manipulative with Feyre. He forces and coerces her into doing lots of difficult tasks and assignments. But, later in the book, he gives Feyre free reign... not just that, but really lets her hold the reigns herself by making her High Lady of Night — his equal in political power.

So the question is... Tamlin was protective to the point of stifling Feyre... Is Rhysand's own brand of manipulation just as offensive? 

Call the Fire Department

A Court of Mist and Fury was probably the most sexually explicit YA I've ever read, and I was into it.  In the beginning of the book, there are some suggestive mentions of Feyre's hot sex with Tamlin and it surprised me, frankly.  YA books usually treat sex like the culmination of a long, special road.  Meanwhile, Maas was just putting it out there in chapter one — "We made love for a few hours, la la la."

Well, I was not prepared for the hard boil that went on in the later chapters with Rhysand.  With fanfiction, part of the rating system used by the websites is decided by how technical, or descriptive, the actual sex scenes are. In A Court of Mist and Fury, the sex was pretty descriptive.  There wasn't too much left to the imagination.

It was... awesome.

And there was A LOT of it.  No single, fade-to-black scene.  Rhysand and Feyre are described as being in "a frenzy."  For a few chapters, that's almost all that goes on.

I wasn't complaining. It's nice to see a YA heroine be uninhibited.

What about you, readers?  By the time Rhysand and Feyre got down, were you fully converted to Rhysand's side yet?  — Tamlin, who?


Who Knows What Will Happen In Book Three

When we leave Feyre and Rhysand, Feyre has just saved the hides of Rhysand's inner circle — Amren, Mor, Cassion, and Azriel.  For saving their lives, however, she returns with Tamlin to the Spring Court, which is in league with the evil King of Hybern.  Rhysand's inner circle is highly dismayed to find that their new high lady has been captured, but Rhysand insists that Feyre is not a captive — she's a spy, with a direct line of communication with himself.

On top of that, the King of Hybern tossed Feyre's human sisters into the Cauldron — the crucible of Fae power — and turned Nesta and Elain immortal.  Lucien discovered that Elain is his mate.  And Nesta has a deadly vendetta with the King of Hybern. (The scene where she descends into the cauldron, holding her middle finger aloft, was amazing.)

Will Tamlin be redeemed, or will he fall deeper and deeper into a habit of bad behavior?

Will Lucien switch sides in order to be with his new mate, Elain? Will she even want him back?

Will Nesta be the one to kill the King of Hybern?

Will Rhysand and Feyre stay faithful to one another and win the day?

Let's Keep the Discussion of A Court and Mist and Fury Going


  1. This is great! I have my "review" scheduled for Tuesday, and it's actually mostly just a discussion of the romance. :p I've only read the first ToG book, so I don't know much about Maas's habits with writing romance in general, but I did sort of predict this at the end of my review of ACOTAR because Maas totally starts hinting Tamlin is boring and Rhys is interesting--and why would she be that sloppy unless she was intending to turn Rhys into a love interest? I just didn't want to believe it because Feyre risked EVERYTHING for Tamlin, and it seems unfair to imply that was meaningless, it wasn't real love, and BTW Tamlin is actually abusive. It's certainly all interesting, but I wouldn't say it's great writing to just throw out all the work and characterization you did in book 1 just to make sure book 2 was exciting and unpredictable or something. If this is a habit Maas has, I'm interested in finishing this series, but I'm not sure I'll be interested in picking up whatever she writes after this.

  2. I really look forward to reading your review! And yeah, Maas is NOTORIOUS for her swap-'em-out romances. And many readers get so annoyed by it. Because, when you're reading a romance, you get emotionally invested in the characters and their stories. So to have a love interest up and become a big douche... well, it can be upsetting. And confusing. And AAUAGHH! However, I've been lucky so far, because I either haven't minded it, or I didn't like the dropped love interest to begin with.

    I think you make a really good point about how perhaps Maas does this to make her sequels exciting or unpredictable. I think that's a part of it, for sure. Part of me also thinks she's trying to make a social point — like, "a girl can have many love stories in her life," or "a girl doesn't belong to just one person forever." But, I'm not sure. I'll have to read some interviews with Maas and get a read on that.

  3. I've actually been wondering what she thinks about love because I think part of my issue is that there seems to be no real definition here. I was also wondering if she wanted to say something (something quite valid actually) about how people can date more than one person before they get married and can actually have been emotionally attached to them. But if that's her point here, she really undermines it. First, because as I said, I think everything Feyre did for Tamlin in ACOTAR was supposed to be a huge, huge sacrifice. And means practically nothing. Second, Maas doesn't let Feyre move on. She had something with the "Tamlin was right for me at that point in my life but not this point" statement, but then she kills the validity by making Tamlin abusive and an obvious villain. She's making sure it's impossible for anyone to see any good in Tamlin anymore, which seems unfair and not with the "You can still be a little in love with your first boyfriend" message.

  4. As much as I love Maas, I really don't think I can stomach the love interest switch and I think I'll be passing on this one. Wonderful thoughts though!!

  5. Sooooo there's another love triangle? Effing hell.

  6. Thank you! Although, I hope my post didn't convince you to pass on this one. :O But, no, that's okay if it did! If you're through with Maas's shenanigans, you're through!

  7. Oh man, Joy! Maybe this is bad of me, but I REALLY want you to read it, just to see what you have to say about it!

  8. Excellent thoughts and so well said. I LOVE seeing someone leave such thoughtful comments on my new discussion feature! Thank you!

    As for Feyre's huge sacrifice for Tamlin being diminished by the events of Mist & Fury, I read an interview with Maas, taken right after Thorns & Roses came out, where she writes that Tamlin and Feyre's first kiss was a huge personal stop for them both, as individuals. Maybe that's how she's seeing Feyre's sacrifice for Tamlin as well? Like it speaks less about THEIR love and more about Feyre's resolve, her vulnerability, etc. So now, even though Tamlin and Feyre's relationship has crashed, her sacrifice still means something on a personal level for Feyre.

    Anyway, arguing a different point is weird, because I hate disagreeing with people to any degree usually! However, I despite some reservations, I really did like Mist & Fury. I think I might be trying to rationalize a bit on my side. Heh.

  9. OMG I LOVE THIS POST. SO MANY THINGS I WANT TO DISCUSS. First of all, I have mixed feelings about the "dumping" habit. I am right with you with thinking Chaol was BORING and then Rowan came along (Maas and her "R" names, hahaha), however I LOVED Tamlin so as much as my heart soared for Rhysand as ACOMAF went on, I did mourn Tamlin for a bit...I mean what Feyre went through under the mountain for him was insane, and definitely indicative of an intense love. Personally I think these romance changes are good overall, because it shows how her characters grow over time, and as they mature their love interests change and they need different sort of people in their lives. Most of us don't end up with the first person we fall in "love" with!

    Also, I was literally laughing out loud at your "Call the Fire Department" section. I totally agree, I was surprised by how explicit the book was, but I was also totally ok with it because physical intimacy is definitely part of the human experience, and Feyre is 19 or 20 (somewhere around there) and it was nice to see her embrace her body rather than be shamed by it, or treat sex like some grand, irreversible thing (which really does more harm than good in the message it sends, in my opinion).

    Overall I don't think Maas will break apart Rhysand and Feyre in the third book, but I think she will test them quite a bit. It's going to be TORTURE reading about them apart for a majority of the book (which sounds like is what is going to happen).

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!! I'm just pleased as punch that people have 1) read the book so soon after its release date and 2) care to discuss it. It's awesome!

    I think we have a very similar perspective on the Maas-dumping thing. It's great when there's an upgrade in love interest, but what about when it undermines the events and characters of a previous book? Like you said, a HUGE part of Thorns & Roses was Feyre's sacrifice Under the Mountain. What does it mean, now that we know Feyre changed her mind about Tamlin??? Is that sacrifice somewhat diminished at all? Or does it mean something else entirely — that it says more about Feyre's character than it does about Feyre-and-Tamlin's relationship.. In any case, with Maas's dumping tendency,there's both good and bad there, and depending on the reader, it good be more good or more bad.

    I'm so glad you laughed at my Call the Fire Department section. I was serious about what I said, too. I thought the sex scenes were so much fun to read, lol! But, I, as well, flipped some pages and did some math to find out how old Feyre was supposed to be. Nineteen in the beginning and then she turns twenty. Everyone has their own age when they have their "sexual awakening" but Feyre definitely falls in NA territory — she's free to do what she wants physically by our modern-eyes. And in fact, Feyre has had three sexual partners since the beginning of the series... Remember village boy from Thorns & Roses? I think Maas is definitely wanting to make a point here about sexual freedom, and she does it in a very sex-positive way.

    As for book three.... ahhh! I'm trembling with nervous anticipation! Like you, I don't think Maas will full-on disrupt the "mating bond" (and love) between Feyre and Rhysand, but we cannot expect smooth sailing. It's just not how authors roll. I do think, however, that Tamlin will be redeemed in a way.

  11. I was completely hooked by reading your essay/review on the book. I even laughed while reading the s-ex part (and the la la la thing) Honestly, I've been discussing this with some friends and I wonder if Tamlin hasn't encaged Freyre because he knew that she is more powerful than him and that their offsprings can become rulers of Prythian. And I totally agree. In my opinion, Maas intended to introduce this love shift since the first book. I mean, how can Tamlin be so BLING not to see how bad is Freyre?! Tamlin, sex does not solve all the problems, you know!!!! -_-

  12. I love this post! I love it when a blogger does a discussion rather than just mere review! I'm new on your blog but I totally think you should do this more often :P so, you have a lot of questions for me to think about... let's answer some than I can remember :P I agree that Maas seriously has a dumping habit, but in my opinion, Feyre's relationship is thoroughly planned while Celaena/Aelin's is more... random. Feyre's relationship with Tamlin was very necessary, if they weren't together in the first place than there certainly wouldn't be book 2 :P but I think that Celaena & Dorian's relationship wasn't necessary. I mean... they could have been just friends and the story could still continue as it is. I was also a bit disappointed in how drastic Tamlin's character has turned. I kinda wish that Maas at least gave Tamlin more credits... he's got a lot of kindness too :( and I think Feyre is just powerful enough, I'm glad that Maas took the time to explain Feyre's origin of power so it came across very clear, not random. With all the heated scenes in this book, I seriously think this book is an Adult Fiction because HAWT! Hahaha another thing I love most about this book is that LOVE IS IN THE AIR not just for our main characters but also for the side characters. I shipped Mor and Azriel SO HARD and Nesta and Cassian they're amazing! Although, don't you think it's a bit weird that everyone automatically pair up? This book also has some seriously amazing side characters! Rhysand's inner circle, for example <333 I don't know what's gonna happen in book 3 but I'm sure it's gonna be FANTASTIC and probably would destroy me :') loved your post!

  13. […] Instead of just reviewing, discuss the books for a change. Both Alexandra from Twirling Pages and Ellen from Quest Review wrote some seriously amazing discussions about A Court of Mist and Fury. There are major spoilers […]