Author: Sarah J. Maas
Overall Rating: 5/5
Spicy Rating: 3/5
In the first book of the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, we fell in love with Tamlin in a romantic retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where Tamlin has been cursed by a wicked, power-hungry Fae female who has masked him and whose curse can only be broken if someone falls in love with him despite the beast he is. Despite all of that, Tamlin was willing to sacrifice his life and his freedom to see Feyre safely away when he sent her back to the human realm. Feyre returned, went Under the Mountain, and freed Prythian from the talons of Amarantha when she completed the three trials, died, and was brought back as an immortal Fae female.
Something broke in Feyre while she was Under the Mountain when she killed another Fae in order to save Prythian when she was forced to kill. Meanwhile, Tamlin is broken in his own way, and communication has never been their strong suit. Despite the love that they shared, their relationship is quickly becoming toxic, with Tamlin becoming more possessive and controlling than ever, failing to recognize that Feyre is dying a slow death as they prepare for their wedding.
And then, Rhysand calls in their bargain and steals her away on her wedding day.
Tamlin’s complete domination of his relationship with Feyre smothers her. This leads to the downfall of their twisted romance and Feyre is saved by Rhysand in her darkest moments, first through the excuse of their bargain, but then by taking her away when Tamlin resorts to using his magic to trap her within the boundaries of the house leaving her to suffer from her mental instability and a lack of control over the new powers she’s gained alongside her immortality.
Rhysand is a man of many secrets but I absolutely loved seeing the sides of Rhysand that exist when he isn’t wearing the mask he donned Under the Mountain to make Amarantha and the rest of Prythian believe he was a monster. He takes care of her, shows her that there is more to him and his kingdom than she was led to believe, and even though he already knows he loves her, he lets her decide what their relationship will be because he has seen the damage that Tamlin’s control has wrought on her psyche.
Feyre meets Rhysand’s inner circle and we get to know a cast of wonderful new characters, Mor, Amren, Azriel, and Cassian, all of whom form their own relationships with Feyre.
One of my absolute favorite parts of this book was discovering that Feyre had gained powers that had been unwittingly granted by the High Lords with her immortality. Throughout the book, we learn what Feyre can do, both through healing from the trauma wrought by Amarantha and discovering herself and her inner strength, but also when she begins learning what her powers are and how she might control them. Feyre has only become a more poignant and compelling protagonist and I absolutely love who she becomes in this book.
One of the things that I feel Sarah J. Maas does a spectacular job of depicting throughout any of her books is her portrayal of mental health journeys, especially after severe trauma. She doesn’t romanticize or trivialize the characters' pain and the characters often suffer from low self-esteem, panic attacks, loss of confidence, fear, and have triggers to things that remind them of their trauma just like real people. Their recoveries are also often marked by struggling with panic attacks and nightmares, talking about their trauma and triggers with their friends, lovers, and family, finding sympathy and support, and realizing that many of their friends have also had similarly traumatizing experiences that leave them feeling less alone, and through the social support of their confidants, their self-esteem and confidence improve. They still have momentary lapses of their mental health that are recognized by those trusted peers, which are realistic to the recovery of real people from real trauma who often call themselves survivors because that trauma never completely goes away, it is something that they have learned to live with and to relate to.
Tamlin and Feyre are both profoundly traumatized by what happened Under the Mountain but in different ways. Feyre is having nightmares about killing other Fae as part of Amarantha’s trials, she wishes she died instead, and she hates herself and doesn’t know if she can live an immortal life knowing what she did. Tamlin remembers hearing her die, he remembers thinking she was truly gone and being completely devastated, the idea of losing her again is his biggest fear and his response is to try and control everything she does, to eliminate any threat to her, to lock her away in the house where he knows she’s protected. It’s these very things that destroy their relationship and no one is willing to confront Tamlin about how much damage he is inflicting.
I do not condone what Tamlin did, but he was not evil. They went through a trauma and both of their responses to it and to each other were toxic and their relationship ended for very good reasons. But where Rhysand had a close-knit emotional and social support system that was willing to be there when he broke down and also to call him on his bullshit, Tamlin had Lucien and Lucien wasn’t willing or able to stand up to him. When Feyre finally did leave, no one told Tamlin what really happened, and Lucien cleaned up the evidence, including the melted ring, that might have shown Tamlin that she left of her own accord.
During her visits to Rhysand’s kingdom, he has been teaching her to read and write because he recognized that she couldn’t when she was Under the Mountain. That Tamlin hadn’t noticed this was disappointing and showed how little he was actually paying attention to Feyre’s happiness and well-being, but when they were happy he did notice her love of painting and similarly did everything he could to give her that. Trying to push her to paint again was his way of trying to help her but he didn’t even ask why she hadn’t or try to think why she wasn’t painting. When Feyre leaves for good she sends Tamlin a letter saying that she’s left him of her own accord but why would Tamlin believe that she wrote this letter if he doesn’t know that she can read and write now and has never seen her write anything?
Additionally, Rhysand spent five centuries convincing everyone else in Prythian that he is evil, that he is capable of things that they don’t know about, he is the most powerful of the seven High Lords, and he can infiltrate people’s minds and make them think and do things that they wouldn’t otherwise. No one else knows about Velaris, no one even knows he has wings outside of his inner circle, so it begs the question, why shouldn’t Tamlin believe that Feyre has been kidnapped and is being controlled by Rhysand? Especially when she “attacks” Lucien and his guards and grows her own wings?
We all get to see how wonderful Rhysand is when he’s not wearing his mask, but if we recall who he pretended to be Under the Mountain and in the Court of Nightmares, that despicable, vile person is who everyone outside of Velaris truly believes Rhysand to be.
It is because of this that I don’t find the ending where Tamlin sided with the King of Hybern to actually be that surprising. He attempted to get her back on his own, thinking that all sorts of terrible things were happening to her and that his worst fears had been realized. When he couldn’t do that on his own he found the only person that he thought could free her from Rhysand’s powers and asked him to do whatever was necessary to save her.
This is not to say that Tamlin is a good person, he still failed to see that she wanted to be with Rhysand and loved him, he disregarded their mating bond, and he cared more about getting her back and controlling her than letting her be happy with someone else. His love has been convoluted and twisted by his fear and by seeing her die and it costs Feyre her love and her happiness.
If Tamlin were not such a morally grey character I do not think this book series would be as good as it is.
Here you can find a deleted scene that takes place between Cassian and Nesta called “Wings and Embers” which takes place after Chapter 31.
If you enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series you might also enjoy the Throne of Glass Series, the Crescent City Series, the From Blood and Ash Trilogy, The Folk of the Air Trilogy (also known as the Cruel Prince Trilogy), the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and its follow-up the Six of Crows Duology, the Serpent and Dove Trilogy, and The Shadows Between Us.
Buy the book here:
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If you can’t afford to purchase the book, consider subscriptions like Scribd which I reviewed here, or by visiting your local library or using the app Libby to borrow books from the library digitally on your own devices.