Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So. Here it is, mes amis. The conclusion to the original Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy - and make no mistake, this book wraps up the story begun in the first book two years ago. Though SJM is planning at least three other books and two novellas, those will all be spinoffs, for which I'm pretty grateful because as compelling as Feyre's story has been, it'll be nice to jump into someone else's POV once in a while. Hopefully Azriel's, mostly because he provided my single favorite scene in this book, when he talked about how he learned to fly a little later than some of the other Fae. I could relate all too well to what amounts to him being a late bloomer - but also, so can many of my characters who are, of course, reading this and many other YA books (Gideon Cabrera just raised his hand.)

Like the first two books in the trilogy, ACOWAR proved to be a very long read for me. It certainly didn't help that the book was itself very long, about the same length as Empire of Storms - and like that book, this one was printed, unfortunately, on super-thin paper that made me feel like I was going to tear the page every time I turned it. And was that page count, pushing 700, really necessary? SJM's proven that as her books become longer and longer, and she all but burns herself out writing more and more books each year, that quality really suffers for it. Usually in the form of overwrought sex scenes (each one roughly the length of Rhys' dick) and an overemphasis on shipping, especially ships that aren't winning this book any diversity points.

True, it appears that Maas is somewhat aware of her problems with diversity, and she tries to rectify them...but she simply doesn't try hard enough. Most of the primary characters are white (with a few POC thrown in, including references to a faraway land in the southeast where gold and lapis lazuli are prized - basically, Ancient Egypt, and I'm seeing a trailer for The Mummy pop up on my phone as I write this) and/or straight (with a few queer exceptions, many of whom, sadly, draw on bad stereotypes.) Most of this book's particular diversity issues have been brought up by others more qualified than I - especially the Desna-and-Eska-like Dagdan and Brannagh, subjects of the "soulless" line which many have accused of acephobia (it's not hard to see it as, instead, referring to incest, though the acephobic reading, sadly, makes just as much sense in context), Mor's coming out as lesbian (and some readers wondering if she would seek a male lover to "turn her straight," though in context, she's more worried about how her heteronormative peers would react to her sexuality - and Feyre, to her credit, offers her the support and confidence she needs), and Helion apparently desiring a three-way just because he's bi (which, yes, hit me a little more personally and ticked me off just a bit, but then I'm also that Lucifer fan who frequently quotes the title character's line, "It's called a 'Devil's Threesome' for a reason!")

Really, though, the above problematic moments are drops in the 700-page bucket that is this book. Though considering how long the book is, SJM really should have striven to cut it down more. The book is still very page-turning, but the trouble is, I found myself more often than not with glazed eyes from reading interminably long stretches that don't really amount to much in the grand scheme of things - that grand scheme, of course, being Rhys and Feyre's plans to unite with other High Fae to take down Tamlin and the dreaded King of Hybern. It'd be nice if we'd been introduced to some more of those other High Fae in previous books, but the first two books spent so much time focusing on the extreme ends of Prythian Fae land - the Spring and Night Courts, as well as Under the Mountain - that all the other courts in between have simply been neglected for so long that detailing them now doesn't earn much interest from me. It's not unlike with Veronica Roth and Carve the Mark - SJM built a pretty big world, but couldn't be arsed to give it the development it needed.

Though I won't lie. I didn't give up on the book the way I kept thinking I would during ACOMAF last year, not even in the face of spoilers and problems. And no, this book isn't perfect, and I've soured somewhat on Feyre and Rhys again in the months since I read ACOMAF because one of my Twitter mutuals absolutely loathes Rhys, especially. But then I also have a Wattpad mutual who finds both Feyre and Rhys relatable for a variety of reasons, and while neither are anyone's definition of a major hero, they're surprisingly complex enough that it manages to keep my interest despite the book's severely bloated overlength.

So, for what it's worth, the book I've been calling TACOWAR for a while is a fatiguing read, but if you want closure on Feyre and Rhys' story, you've come to the right place. You've also come to the right place if you're looking for plenty of this:

I'm at least hoping that SJM's future books (like the spinoffs in this series, or the Chaol-centric Tower of Dawn for another nice change) pick up again and get me back to the levels of fan love I used to have a couple of years ago or so.

To the original ACOTAR Trilogy, I now say vas ir...anoshe.

And one final thought: in case I ever need a place to find Aimal Farooq's hilarious reaction to this book's title reveal, I'll keep it here just in case. Because I can never, ever unsee it, and neither will you. #SorryNotSorry

A court of wings... and ruin
— westfall aimal ❄️ (@aimalfarooq) December 5, 2016

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