A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas is the final book in the hugely popular Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy, which follows former huntress Feyre as the fae war between human-opposed Hybern and the seven fae courts of Prythian finally begins. I’ll not say anything else about the plot of this particular book to avoid spoilers for the first two books, A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury.
Let’s start with the plot. While exciting and full of cliffhangers and plot twists to keep the reader hooked, I sometimes found that the tension and suspense were a little too much. Even the smaller conflicts at the beginning felt like they’d escalate into the Final Battle on the next page, which for me only took away from the buildup to the actual final battle.
I also had a little trouble telling what Feyre’s final battle was actually going to be. As a reader, I quite like to be able to predict where the story is headed, so that I can get excited about it and contemplate how it’ll turn out. And while there is an obvious final battle (I mean, this book is about war, so unsurprisingly there are actual battles with, like, armies and stuff), when it came to Feyre’s final “battle”, I couldn’t predict which direction we were headed in, which goal was her main goal. I’d thought it was one thing, then the story completely changed and I thought it was another thing. But then it didn’t seem like that was going to happen, so I altered my expectations again, and then that thing did happen, but it wasn’t the high point of the story, so it felt a bit anticlimactic.
I know they say to keep your readers guessing, but this was a little too much.
So rather than feeling like a journey with a purpose, it kind of felt like just a lot of different things happening… And every single one of those things was full of tension and suspense and conflict.
Now to move on to Maas’ writing style. For the most part, there’s nothing remarkable to say: it’s perfectly passable writing, probably average or above, but we’re here more for the story and the characters than the prose. But there are two things that Maas does that, while not technically bad writing, do annoy me quite a bit. I’ve noticed them in her other books too, especially the ones I read more recently, when I started reading more critically.
Firstly, the worst offender: flashbacks to things that happened just an hour or a day previously, that I’d much rather have read about in real time. If you’ve heard of any writing rules, you’ve probably heard show don’t tell, and Maas told her flashbacks rather than showed them. One of them (an interaction between Feyre and Rhysand on her first morning back at the Night Court) could have been a nice emotional scene, too, had it been properly fleshed out rather than added to the beginning of the next scene as an afterthought just a couple of sentences long.
But that’s not the reason these sections annoyed me, no – it was because they were confusing. I couldn’t work out when the flashbacks stopped and the present started again, especially since this series is narrated in the past tense anyway. This really did take the enjoyment out of reading these sections, as I had to go back and reread to work out what was going on – I still don’t know in what order things happened in at one point (during her stay at the Spring Court); I gave up trying to figure it out and just carried on regardless.
Secondly, the pet peeve: ellipses. Maas seems to use these to build suspense within a scene, but what annoys me about them is that I’m never sure whether Maas is about to tell me what Feyre is thinking when she lapses into ellipses or whether she’s going to assume we know what Feyre’s “I have no words” moment means… Which I didn’t always. And sometimes (for example, when she arrived at the Dawn Court) it would seem like we were going to be left to guess at Feyre’s thoughts, only for the elided thought to be finished a few paragraphs later. Not quite as confusing as the flashbacks, but still confusing.
Now I’m probably sounding like I hated this book, which I promise I didn’t; I just tend to pick out the negatives more than the positives when I’m reading critically! So let’s move on to what I did like!
The characters are definitely a standout part of this series, but not as much as the excitement and drama of both the main plotline and the prominent romantic plotline. Maas always knows how to get an emotional reaction out of her readers – and the finale of the Court of Thorns and Roses series was no different; I sobbed my eyes out! Maas also made an effort to increase character diversity, which has been lacking in her previous books.
It’s certainly an enjoyable, entertaining book with plenty of twists and turns. Buckle yourself in for a ride full of action and surprises (and a few sex scenes too – so if you’re not a fan of those, you have been warned). I’m certainly glad I read it and found out what happened to the characters – plenty of loose ends were tied up, though some were left untied, likely to allow for future spin-off stories.
Do I recommend this book? To people who’ve already read the first two, yes. Do I recommend this series? That’s a difficult one. It’s certainly addictive and I can see the appeal of the intoxicating romance, of all the emotional ups and downs, of all the shocking plot twists. So if all that plus fae, monsters, and magic (and some amazingly badass ladies) sound like your cup of tea, you’ll definitely enjoy this series. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Is it my new favourite thing? (It seems to be everyone else’s favourite thing.) No. Personally I prefer Maas’ Throne of Glass series to this one, but even with that, there are elements of Maas’ style which I don’t favour: I find the hype around her books exaggerate how good they actually are.
Have you read the Court Of Thorns And Roses series? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!