New York Times bestselling author of young adult literature Sarah J. Maas continues the winning streak she established with A Court of Thorns and Roses, with this worthy sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury. Picking up three months after the first book left off, the novel resumes the exciting adventures of its feisty protagonist, Feyre. Except that Feyre is no longer mortal; having been restored to life by the power of seven high lords after her brutal murder at the hands of the wicked faerie queen Amarantha, she is now the proud owner of an immortal body. However, her soul and personality remain as mortal and likeable as they were in the prequel to this text. While I definitely recommend that readers delve into A Court of Thorns and Roses prior to perusing the second book, in terms of plot and character development the latter stands well enough on its own.
Although formulaic in her agenda, Maas is clever enough to reshape and reinvent certain tried-and-true themes and motifs, making them come across as interesting if not precisely original. Indeed, she succeeds at being more tasteful than many of her literary predecessors when it comes to depicting romantic triangles and other narrative elements. High Lord Tamlin appears genuine about wanting to make Feyre happy, but Rhysand, the formidable High Lord of the Night Court, whisks her off to his realm during their wedding much to Tamlin’s dismay, and initially to Feyre’s chagrin as well. However, over the course of the next couple of hundred pages Maas painstakingly develops Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship to the point where even the most cynical of readers will find themselves convinced that this smart-mouthed, psychologically scarred, witty and tough couple are perfectly suited to each other. Maas wisely avoids the overdone and painful machinations of the Jacob-Bella-Edward triangle of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series by simply allowing romantic tensions to enhance an otherwise well-crafted plot, as opposed to overwhelming it.
A Court of Mist and Fury picks up where A Court of Thorns and Roses left off, and packs an exciting punch
The faerie world of the seven courts that fall between the mortal lands and the north of Prythian is imbued with magic and fantastical beings such as water-wraiths, for example. Rhysand introduces Feyre to his makeshift family that include a fearsome female creature named Amren who is literally older than the hills, a beautiful but formidable cousin named Morrigan, and two memorable warriors, Cassian and Azriel, who come across as crosses between fallen angels and tragic heroes. Although initially resistant to both Rhysand’s twisted charms as well as to the atmosphere of the Night Court, Feyre finds herself drawn to the camaraderie of the group. In this Maas appears to have wisely borrowed from J.K. Rowling’s schemes — the world of Harry Potter would not be half as much fun for a reader were its social dynamics to appear inauthentic. Indeed, as long as the relationships she portrays feel real and plausible the reader is willing to overlook the numerous times Maas expects one to suspend disbelief in order to swallow highly improbable aspects of plot and action alike. Among other things, Feyre gradually develops the ability to travel through space (a phenomenon termed ‘winnowing’), shape-shift, locate magical objects, and wordlessly comprehend Rhysand’s thoughts. Rather endearingly from a mortal perspective, she also learns to read (she was illiterate in the first book) and never really loses her artistic abilities and deep love of painting.
In addition to being the sexiest of the high lords, Rhysand is also the most powerful, and the main plot of the book involves his planning and executing a strategy by means of which he can foil and nullify the threat posed to the faerie kingdoms by the king of Hybern (who governs an island west of Prythian). This involves acquiring artefacts such as certain enchanted books that can help negate the immense power of a magical cauldron under the king’s control. Naturally the spunky Feyre rises handsomely to the occasion and helps Rhysand and his band to the best of her ability. To relieve the tension Maas tosses some lurid, but nevertheless entertaining scenes into the latter portion of the book; it is their sheer novelty that keeps one from groaning, especially when the reader finds out that Rhysand’s most sensitive erogenous zones are his wings! Maas’s series is designed for Grade 10 upwards; in spite of some profanity and earthy, sexual material, it is the psychological angst and violence that readers may find most disturbing. Nearly every major character harbours deep-seated grudges and complexes that invariably find outlets in the form of highly-charged battles that are both political and physical in nature. On occasion, engaging in these battles proves cathartic, but more often than not they complicate matters and create more problems in their wake.
“My heart thundered as I opened the lid. The star sapphire gleamed in the candlelight, as if it were one of the Starfall spirits trapped in stone. ‘Your mother’s ring?’ ‘My mother gave me that ring to remind me she was always with me, even during the worst of my training. And when I reached my majority, she took it away. It was an heirloom of her family — had been handed down from female to female over many, many years. My sister wasn’t yet born, so she wouldn’t have known to give it to her, but … My mother gave it to the Weaver. And then she told me that if I were to marry or mate, then the female would either have to be smart, or strong enough to get it back. And if the female wasn’t either of those things, then she wouldn’t survive the marriage. I promised my mother that any potential bride or mate would have the test … And so it sat there for centuries.’ My face heated. ‘You said this was something of value — ’ ‘It is. To me and my family.’ ‘So my trip to the Weaver — ’ ‘It was vital that we learn if you could detect those objects. But … I picked the object out of pure selfishness.’ ‘So I won my wedding ring without even being asked if I wanted to marry you.’ ‘Perhaps.’ I cocked my head. ‘Do — do you want me to wear it?’ ‘Only if you want to.’” — Excerpt from the book
Certainly there is never a dull moment in Maas’s book — the plot proceeds at a rapid pace and the text is a page-turner in the truest sense of the word, forcing one to avidly burn the midnight oil. Feyre’s fascination with Rhysand and his obvious infatuation with her metamorphose into true love over the course of the novel, though to be perfectly honest it is the doomed and fatalistic aspects of their association that keep the reader enthralled. Not even the most gullible and idealistic of us will be able to label their relationship as either healthy or destined for a happy ending. I will refrain from revealing too much of the ending of the second book, especially since it seems clear that many issues that are left dangling can only be resolved in the next book of the series. However, it comes as no surprise to anyone that Tamlin (and his faithful friend Lucien) are prepared to go to great lengths to get Feyre back, even if those involve treachery and treason. To Feyre’s credit (as well as Maas’s) unlike most damsels in distress the heroine possesses great power and agency, and is quick-witted and good-hearted to boot. It isn’t just Rhysand and Tamlin therefore who believe that she is worth fighting over, the majority of readers will also agree that whoever wishes to lead the winning team must do his level best to ensure that Feyre is a fundamental part of it.
Loyal to her friends as well as to her mortal family, in spite of the danger and difficulties this poses (mortals and faeries generally display animosity, sometimes enmity, towards each other) Feyre appeals, in spite of her immortal form, to the good and human in each of us. While far from perfect, she is quick to take responsibility for her mistakes, and though she has many faults, pride and self-righteousness do not rank amongst them. Maas succeeds in creating a thrilling and highly original universe that contains major characters who invariably display a plethora of intense human emotions — anger, jealousy, love, cruelty, fear, and loyalty. It is this mixture of the real and the fantastical that grips a reader’s attention almost from the very first chapter. By the time one reaches the conclusion, one finds oneself looking forward to the third book. And those readers who may not have had the chance to look at the first one will find themselves racing to bookstores to get hold of a copy of it. No series can expect a higher compliment than this.
The reviewer is assistant professor of social sciences and liberal arts at the Institute of Business Administration, Karachi.
A Court of Mist and Fury
By Sarah J. Maas
Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, August 28th, 2016