By Sarah J. Maas
Feyre has killed a fairy, and now she must pay. At least, that’s what the giant wolf is telling her.
Next thing she knows, she’s being held captive by the mysterious Tamlin in his court of magic. Unsure where to turn in this confusing world of bloodthirsty beasts and supernatural monsters, she ignores every warning about the powerful Fae and falls in love with Tamlin. But their feelings may be short-lived, for there is a shadow growing over the land of the fairies… and Feyre might be the only one to stop it.
I’m not sure how to feel about this book. It’s definitely entertaining enough, there are some nice moments and the writing is visually evocative. On the other hand, the story completely changes its setting, premise and tone in the second half, and the entire plot hinges on an uninspiring romance. So, some good and some bad.
For the good: The concepts used in the worldbuilding are interesting, though mostly underdeveloped. The wall separating the human and fairy worlds isn’t exactly innovative, but I like the idea of a small human population stranded on the tip of a continent otherwise full of magical creatures while the rest of the humans are just chilling on another island. The fact that humans have forsaken and forgotten their gods after the fairies massacred most of them is also intriguing, and fairy glamour is used in fun ways (let’s just glamour the whole town away so the human doesn’t get freaked out!) Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, none of these wordbuilding ideas are really developed in interesting ways. They’re just kind of plopped there.
Feyre is a nice enough protagonist, though not particularly memorable. She’s allowed to be sexual on her own terms, and she almost doesn’t feel like a Katniss Everdeen expy (could we please get a YA female protagonist who doesn’t hunt with a bow and arrow to feed her family, has one male friend and a significant relationship with her sister(s)?) Some of the side characters are nice as well, including Lucien (one of the only characters who doesn’t sit around and mope about his pain) and Feyre’s sisters (Listen, I do kind of hate you, but you’re my sister and I sure as hell wasn’t letting some random fairy kidnap you without trying to track you down, okay?)
For the bad: Let’s talk about romance for a second. You can definitely have good romance stories. They exist; they’re out there. But the fundamental thing about romance is this: you are centering your entire story, the whole thing, the plot and themes and character arcs and everything, on the relationship between two people. That is the heart of your story. So you better make damn sure that relationship is interesting.
Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship isn’t very interesting. They’re in love. That’s… it, really. Feyre thinks he’s hot, and Tamlin… also thinks Feyre is hot? I’m honestly not sure.
The point is, Feyre has much more chemistry with Lucien and Rhys than she does with her own love interest. That means that Feyre has more chemistry with the guy who regularly drugs her and sexually abuses her than with her actual boyfriend. Ouch.
So when Feyre decides to leave her whole world and her happy life behind to rescue Tamlin from unspeakable evil by surviving grueling and bloody trials… it kind of falls flat. Let me sacrifice my soul for the guy whose booty I like to squeeze.
Which leads me to the pacing and tonal issues; the first and second half of the book could almost be their own separate stories. The tone, setting, even the cast are radically different from one half to the other, to the point where I often felt like I was reading a sequel rather than a third act.
I know Maas has received some criticism for the overwhelmingly “straight-white-cis-ness” of her characters, and this is definitely the case here (no, I’m not counting the blue-skinned fairy as a POC). To be fair it’s not like mass media is any better about diversity most of the time, and I wouldn’t call her writing egregious in that respect (it’s not like she’s shoving it down the reader’s throat or anything.) But it is something to keep in mind.
Overall, I really struggled about whether or not to get the sequel to this book. I eventually did, because I’m a reckless completionist and my brain wouldn’t let me go, but I’m honestly a little wary of what I’ll find there. Wish me luck.