Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Synopsis

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places. 


Review

*Mild spoilers if you haven’t read A Court of Mist and Fury or A Court of Wings and Ruin*

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There’s nothing that quite compares to getting your hands on a book that you’ve been waiting for for over a year, amiright?!

I literally could not wait to dive back into Prythian and find out how Rhys and Feyre’s epic story would play out, knowing that this would be the last ‘proper’ book in the series that would focus on the High Lord and Lady of Night as the central characters. Sad face.

As always with a SJM book, there’s action, magic, fight scenes and sexytimes aplenty. The High Fae are still beautiful, the High Lords still growl and snarl like wolves and Cassian and Azriel are still precious baby Illyrians. ‘Maleness’ is still SJMs favourite adjective and Tamlin is still the world’s worst loser. So, the question is, why did this final instalment fail to knock my socks off?

After setting the bar so incredibly high with ACOMAF, I was expecting something just as electric. Like third albums, third books are tricky beans, especially when they’re the final in a well-loved and much hyped-trilogy. The ability to balance readers’ desire for a relatively happy ending with a realistic plot resolution and faithful, fulfilling character arcs is HARD and in this case, I don’t think Maas got it 100% right.

I still love Feyre and I love Rhys even more than that. The Court of Dreams is still kick ass, and I am once again firmly back for Team Lucien. The world building is as gloriously rich as ever, and we’re treated to visits to the Autumn Court, the Hewn City and the Day Court, as well as a vengeful holiday in the Spring Court. The idea of the courts and the different realms was always a big pull for me as far as this series is concerned, and SJM shows absolutely no signs of running out of ideas for places I’d like to live. Sometimes with other fantasy books, I struggle to visualise the settings or places, but the description in this series has also been so vivid, and continues to be, that I almost feel like it’s more real than my living room. I’m usually very sad when I remember that isn’t the case.

The continuation of Rhys and Feyre’s relationship makes my heart happy. Even with war approaching, Tamlin being Tamlin and enemies multiplying at an alarming rate, there is no drama between them, which is good because there isn’t really the time for it, even in this 700 page monster. ACOWAR represents a turning point for the series and now at its half way point, Maas makes a conscious effort to begin to focus more on the budding romantic relationships between some of the other characters; including Nesta, Elain, Lucien, Azriel, Cassian and Mor. Despite the ‘settled’ nature of Rhys and Feyre’s relationship in this book, I was hungry for them to have more page time than they did. Much of the success of ACOMAF was down to the brilliance of the development of Rhys and Feyre’s friendship and subsequent relationship, and the chemistry that Maas created between them is lacking in any of the new partnerships, which I feel very much are powered by Maas’ trademark desire to push characters together and avoid having any single characters as opposed to anything else. It’s something that really peeved me in Throne of Glass, and I’m not keen on it here either. SOME PEOPLE ARE SINGLE. SOME PEOPLE EVEN LIKE IT. Crazy, right?

As we’ve all come to expect from this series, the plot is absolutely jam packed, which made it very difficult to put down for any length of time. There are some flashes of utter brilliance, like Ianthe’s very satisfying demise, Lucien’s first meeting with the Court of Dreams gang, Feyre’s return to the Bone Carver and the scene where (without saying too much) Rhys and Feyre reveal their own game-changing bargains on the battle field.

On the other hand, some important scenes weren’t quite as long as I would have liked, such as Feyre pulling the strings of Tamlin’s court in the very beginning. I was SO up for Feyre being the wolf in spring clothing, and although it go some way to satiating my appetite for revenge over Tamlin, I would have liked it to be a little more drawn out. For me, badass Feyre took a bit more of a back seat in this book, especially when it came to the real down and dirty action that took place on the battle fields. I understood what Maas was trying to do, but I missed her fire and her rage, and I found myself longing for another epic ‘Defender of the Rainbow’ scene, which sadly never came.

The stakes for the characters are never quite high enough in ACOWAR, and despite the battles raging around our cast of characters, I never truly feared for Rhys, Feyre, or even Tamlin. Whilst I love Maas’ storytelling, and I applaud her insane skill for writing adventure and building rich, vivid worlds in which those adventures exist, ACOWAR never fully gets off the ground. The chemistry oozing from the pages of ACOMAF is missing here, and with the focus shifting away from the High Lord of Lady of Night, the series has lost its spark. I hope Maas can rekindle it.

 

In Summary…

  • Rating: 3-stars
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
  • Pages: 699

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Mini-reviews: Release by Patrick Ness & Undone by Cat Clarke

Happy Saturday, lovely bookworms!

Although I haven’t been blogging much, I have been reading quite a bit whenever and wherever I can (I definitely finished at least one of these books in my car before work) so bear with me while I try and power through the review equivalent of Mt Everest! What have you guys been rating recently? Let me know all in the comments. 🙂


Release by Patrick Ness

Inspired by Judy Blume’s Forever and Mrs Dalloway (neither of which I’ve read,

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oops), Release is Ness’ most personal novel yet, and it shows.

The reader follows 17-year-old Adam through one tumultuous day in his life, which starts out as frustrating and gets progressively more difficult it progresses. With family tensions on the rise, his emotions scattered and his best friend leaving him, amongst plenty of other rubbish things, Adam must find hope.

It’s no secret that I adore Patrick Ness’ work (I mean, who doesn’t?!) and Release boasts all of his trademark style. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s sad and it’s hopeful all at once. I connected with Adam straight away, and really felt for him as he faces up to everything going on in his life over the course of twenty-four seriously emotional hours.

There’s so much great YA out there that tackles sex and relationships head-on, but so little of it concerns queer relationships, so it was awesome to read from the perspective of an openly gay character. There are no ‘fade to black’ scenes in Release, and Adam’s sexuality, sex life and relationships are handled in a really frank and touching way. t’s so important for young people everyone to be able to see themselves represented in all aspects of books, and Release ticks that box in a big, bold, brilliant way.

While I loved the basis of the story and was really invested in Adam’s journey, there is a magical realism element to this book that I wasn’t expecting. Every other chapter follows the story of a queen and a faun, which I worked out had something to do with meth addiction in the town (I think?!). While I’ll never have a bad thing to say about the quality of Ness’ writing, the magical realism elements didn’t work in the context of this book because I couldn’t work out what, if anything, they had to do with Adam’s story. The secondary story didn’t overlap very much with the main plot, so after a few chapters I decided to skip them and my reading experience was vastly improved because of that decision! If you’re a big fan of magical realism but haven’t read much of Ness’ work – this will definitely be one for you.

Overall, as with pretty much all of Patrick Ness’ work, this is an important book which has a lot to say for itself. Release never treats the characters or the readers like children, but still manages to have a huge amount of empathy for what it is like to be young. Through one day in Adam’s life, we get to live as a teenager all over again in all of its painful, dramatic, joyous, hilarious glory. It’s wonderful.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 4-stars
  • Publisher: Walker Books
  • Pages: 287

Undone by Cat Clarke

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Undone is one of those books that I picked up on a Kindle deal on a quiet Saturday afternoon and didn’t expect much. I like contemporary YA, but it takes something pretty special for me to finish one in a single sitting.

Undone follows Jem Halliday, who is utterly smitten with her best friend, Kai. There’s only one problem: Kai is gay. Jem is learning to live with the fact that her perfect guy will never be hers, but then the unthinkable happens. Kai is outed online in the worst way possible, and as a result he kills himself. Hurting like she’s never hurt before, Jem sets out on a searing journey of revenge, betrayal and maybe, just maybe; healing.

This book hooked me right from the first page and as I emerged from my little reading cocoon roughly six hours later, I felt a little like Jem: battered, bruised and emotionally shredded. The cover says ‘revenge will tear you apart’ but forget the revenge, this book will do the tearing apart for you.

I’ve not ready of Cat Clarke’s other novels, but like Louise O’Neill, Sara Barnard and Holly Bourne, she seems to have a talent for writing young people exactly as they are; faults, drama, quirks and all. The dialogue is a snappy and realistic, and the plot keeps turning the tension up it’s all you can do not to bounce on the sofa screaming ‘DON’T DO IT. DO NOT DO THAT.’ The characters are fully formed and human, and I found it impossible not to fall in love with Kai, Jem and eventually, even Lucas.

This is not a shy book. It really doesn’t cower from big truths, ugly lies and the horrible things that teenagers can do and say to each other when they’re hurting. Sexuality, relationships, female friendship, suicide and bullying are all fair game here, and they’re all dealt with pretty well. Undone tackles a lot; taking you on a roller coaster ride of despair, shame, rage, grief and love and it doesn’t let you go until the monumental cliffhanger on the last page. I got off this particular roller coaster feeling slightly green and a little bit hollow, but exhilarated. An author I’ll certainly be keeping a beady eye on from now on in.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 4-stars
  • Publisher: Quercus
  • Pages: 352

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Review: The Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Möira Fowley-Doyle

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Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

If you’re looking for a suitably witch-y story for the longer evenings and crisper, colder days ahead then stop your search right now because The Spellbook of the Lost and Found is a gem.

After best friends Rose and Olive discover an ancient spellbook and a mysterious group of teenagers at a local party in their rural Irish hometown, things begin to get strange. With the appearance of the unusual book, the girls find that things have begun to go missing. Whilst the townsfolk lose hair slides, TV remotes and even dogs, Olive and Rose find themselves losing bigger things; more important things. As new bonds are forged and long buried secrets unfurl, can the new friends band together to put things right and reclaim the things they’ve lost?

As with its predecessor, The Accident Season, this book is all about the atmosphere. A little bit creepy, a little bit whimsical, slightly confusing and totally engaging. The first half of the book sets the scene nicely; painting a picture of a seemingly sleepy town where strangeness bubbles just under the surface and fleshing out Rose and Olive’s relationship with each other and those around them, laying strong foundations for the action-packed latter chapters to rest upon. It is a little slow in places, but the mystery of the spellbook and the beautifully strange writing was enough to keep me turning the pages.

The characters are well-rounded and interesting, the main two being chalk-and-cheese type best mates, Rose and Olive. Olive is quieter, more of an introvert, and Rose is the storm to her calm. Completing the cast of central characters are trio of runaway teens, Rowan, Hazel and Ivy, and beguiling girl gang; Ash, Laurel and Holly. Spellbook is brilliant in its diversity, and I’m stocked to see Fowley-Doyle continue her mission to create human, engaging, flawed characters who just happen to also be bisexual, deaf, or gay AND talk about things like racism and feminism. More of this stuff in YA, please!

I’m a big fan of split-perspective books, and I think it works well here for the most part. The characters are kind of divided into three distinct ‘groups’, and for each group we have a singular narrator: Olive, Hazel, and Laurel. Seeing the story unfold from three different perspectives adds a great deal of intrigue to the story, because you never quite know whether any of them are telling the whole truth, or purely what they perceive to be the truth. Whilst each of the narrators are treated to brilliant development, some of the side characters receive slightly less, and as a result, are a bit less nuanced. The other problem is that Olive, Hazel and Laurel’s voices are all a little bit similar, and I found myself getting confused here and there as to which perspective I was reading from – a chapter or two from Rowan or Rose would have shaken things up a bit and kept me on track.

In Spellbook, Fowley-Doyle has weaved a sticky web of a story that is both whimsical and dark, unsettling and glittery. The plotting is a little bit slow at the beginning and the narration is just a tiny bit same-y, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful relationships (including brilliant stuff about female friendship and how intense it can be), great representation and a killer twist that was satisfying even when I saw it coming. A perfect read as the leaves turn golden and the nights get darker – get your pumpkin spice candles out and give this a whirl.

Star rating:

4-stars

  • Publisher: Corgi Childrens
  • Pages: 416
  • Publication Date: 1st June 2017
  • For fans of: Magical realism, The Bone Gap, f/f romance, diversity rep, magic and mystery.

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