Author: Sarah J. Maas
Overall Rating: 4/5
Spicy Rating: 4/5
In A Court of Silver Flames Nesta is cut off from the money that Feyre and Rhysand have been providing her with to live off of because she has deteriorated into a drunk hovel after the trauma of the war where she almost lost her sisters and Cassian, watched her father die, and killed the King of Hybern. Nesta is pissed off and her grief and trauma have trapped her in an endless loop of foreboding, so Feyre is attempting to force her to face the issues she’s having by training with Cassian in the Illyrian mountains.
Nesta, ever the stubborn immortal Fae that she is, would rather sit on a rock and ignore everything than go along with what she’s being forced to do. As the story unfolds she realizes that she and Cassian are cut from the same cloth, a mirror of each other’s grief and insecurities.
Meanwhile, the mortal queen Briallyn is gathering three ancient artifacts, so old that they had been forgotten until now in order to gather enough power to kill Nesta, who she blames for the Cauldron stealing her youth when they became immortal.
Feyre is in her own impending danger, one that comes with happiness and terror, but no one will tell her about the doom that hovers on the horizon if they don’t find a solution to the problem that is rapidly approaching.
One of the things I love about Sarah J. Maas’ books is how she writes and depicts mental health journeys and Nesta’s is no exception. 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.
Unlike with the mental health recoveries of Aelin and Feyre, Nesta doesn’t have any friends to confide in and who is supporting her throughout her struggle and for the period of time during A Court of Frost and Starlight and at the beginning of A Court of Silver Flames she is deteriorating because of that lack of social support. She suffers from nightmares and insecurities, she feels as though she is being cut out of the lives of her family because it’s easier for them to forget about her than to care whether she gets better, she responds to her fears and feeling vulnerable by lashing out and often says or does hurtful things to prevent being hurt herself. When she and Cassian are finally doing better she is pushed to the edge and responds by lashing out at Rhysand and Amren by telling Feyre what they’re hiding and then she becomes catatonic because she knows the damage she inflicted. She cannot bear to lose them but she also can’t bear to let them close.
One thing I think a lot of other readers of Sarah J. Maas’ work don’t like about her depictions of mental health and trauma that I personally love is when she writes that her main character peed themselves. It makes you profoundly uncomfortable and that’s what it’s meant to do. Nesta and Aelin both experience extreme terror and think that they’re going to die. Personally, I feel that it’s a more realistic reflection of how people and characters respond to intense fear than most authors are willing to write because of the discomfort it causes readers. If she can’t make you feel their intense fear, she can at least make you uncomfortable during an intense scene and I applaud her for pushing the boundaries by doing so.
Now on to the things that I really didn’t like about the book:
Briallyn, one of the mortal queens that were introduced in A Court of Mist and Fury, the second book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, has allied herself with Koschei and is plotting to seek her revenge against Nesta for her part in angering the Cauldron and costing her her youth.
Briallyn is one of the six mortal queens that were introduced in A Court of Mist and Fury.
One of the six, Demetra, was killed in the attack against Velaris that occurred during A Court of Mist and Fury when she gave Feyre and Rhysand the second half of the book against the other queens’ wishes.
Vassa, one of the other queens, was sold to an ancient death-lord who cursed and enslaved her with a spell that forces her to become a firebird by day and only lives in her mortal form at night. She has been granted a temporary leave and is living with Jurian and Lucien while she makes plans to break her curse.
The three remaining queens have fled the shared palace, but Briallyn has stayed and is searching for three ancient artifacts, long since forgotten, in the hopes of combining their power and killing Nesta, and returning herself to her once youthful appearance which she treasured.
While this plot sounds fascinating and had the potential to be riveting, it was a fraction of the overall book and the lack of focus made Briallyn an incredibly weak and forgettable villain. The artifacts, which seemed interesting upon their initial introduction were hardly discussed, they broke the rules of magic that Sarah J. Maas had initially established for this world in her other books, and their potential was supposedly unfathomable but Nesta was incapable of wielding them to accomplish what she wanted but was also immune to the obsession that they incur on everyone else.
What should have been an incredible book was instead made boring by the secondary nature of the plot. If I wanted to read a book that was written for smut’s sake I would have picked up Masters and Mercenaries or Masters of the Shadowlands, both of which are great porn books.
The smut, otherwise known as the sex or the spice, in this book, was a dramatic departure from Sarah J. Maas’ previously written sex scenes. She said sayonara to young adult fiction and wrote sex scenes that were fabulous but very graphic in ways that were completely unexpected when compared to any of her other works including the sex scene in Empire of Storms, the fifth book in the Throne of Glass Series, and House of Earth and Blood, her only other adult novel (though technically both House of Earth and Blood and A Court of Silver Flames are New Adult novels), which is the first book in her Crescent City Series.
Personally, I enjoyed how she played on previously criticized imagery she used for dicks in her thinly veiled references when writing young adult such as “velvet-wrapped steel” she referred to Nesta as feeling like velvet and Cassian like steel. That being said, I don’t think she wrote anything that was all that earth-shattering as far as book porn, and while it certainly delivered on shock value, it was lacking in unique content. I felt that the scenes she wrote for Aelin and Rowan and for Feyre and Rhysand were more captivating and unique than the ones that she wrote for Nesta and Cassian and that she leaned too heavily on the ability to use explicit language rather than continuing to be creative about designing beautiful and romantic sex scenes.
Everyone wanted a threesome scene between Nesta, Azriel, and Cassian, and the fact that none was delivered made a lot of fans very unhappy. There is a fan-fiction that was written by JA_Whitethorn on Wattpad that can be found here which depicts this deleted scene.
Because of the departure from the young adult genre in this novel I am retroactively qualifying all of the series as new adult fiction because I feel it would be inappropriate to recommend the series to a middle or high school audience that isn’t aware of the explicit content when they get past the first three books.
Speaking on the amount of text that was spent on different things, where the book was sorely lacking in a focus on the actual plot of the novel, it spent an exorbitant amount of time on Nesta’s “training montage.”
From when she finally begins participating in Cassian’s training and is a complete novice, to a few months later somehow beating dozens of Illyrian warriors that have spent their entire lives doing the same training and preparing specifically for the Blood Rite and almost being able to reach the top of the mountain which hasn’t been done since Rhysand, Cassian, and Azriel did so nearly 500 years prior. Without her magic, Nesta is no match for any of them and the idea that she could do so well with less than a year of training was an insult to the characters that Sarah J. Maas had already written. I didn’t buy it, it was unrealistic and it felt like an unnecessary distraction that didn’t actually add anything substantial to the characters or the plot.
I liked meeting Gwyneth and Emerie and there were a few important elements that are discussed during this montage, but overall it felt repetitive and I was skimming the sections where Nesta was “training” near the end because I was so bored by it.
Speaking on Emerie and Gwyneth: I’m predicting that Gwyneth is going to be Azriel’s love interest and I’m hoping that their novel comes next, though at the time of writing this Sarah J. Maas hasn’t released any information about the next novel in the A Court of Thorns and Roses. She did release this deleted scene for A Court of Silver Flames that shows Azriel’s perspective and when he first notices Gwyneth.
Emerie blushes when she first meets Mor and she is supposed to be a gay character. I have high hopes for the future of Mor and Emerie as Sarah J. Maas first gay couple. Unfortunately, we have very little information about Emerie from this book and their brief meeting is the extent of the gay representation we got in this book.
In addition to the main plotline of the book being Briallyn and the three ancient artifacts, there is a subplot where Feyre is pregnant with a baby that they name Nyx who has Illyrian wings. It is said that Fae women don’t often survive the birth of half-Illyrian children because their pelvises aren’t adapted to fit the hard wings through. Rhysand and the inner circle all know this issue and keep it from Feyre until Nesta reveals it in a bout of anger against Amren.
This entire plotline makes no sense. It honestly makes me angry to think about how little sense it makes. Besides the fact that Rhysand would never hide something like that from Feyre because it completely goes against the relationship that they have built based on communication, it also is a complete dramatic fabrication.
We’re told that Feyre and Rhysand conceived while Feyre had shapeshifted into her Illyrian form and that the baby had probably gotten wings because of that but that her shapeshifting before or during the birth or changing her pelvis would put the baby at risk. The other option that we are presented with is that if she doesn’t change the shape of her pelvis she and the baby and Rhysand, because he tied his life force to hers, will almost certainly die. When it’s a choice between maybe hurting the baby and certain death it seems rather stupid to not take the chance that would save the mother and baby’s life.
Additionally, they say that Cesarean sections almost always result in death, to which I am baffled. You mean to tell me that Cassian still has wings after they were completely shredded, he was healed from a battle wound that tore him open from stem to stern and left Azriel to hold his guts in his body while carrying him off the battlefield, but you can’t deliver a baby in a controlled, sterile environment with magic on your side and your patient is capable of healing themselves?
It seemed like this plot was mostly invented to add drama and so that Nesta could tell Cassian that she used the Cauldron’s magic to change the shape of her pelvis so that they can one day have babies. She gives up her magic so that the Cauldron will help her save her sister and niece because she can’t figure out how to use the three ancient artifacts that she gathered, and all she has to show for it are some Illyrian hips that don’t lie.
I guess the only other thing of note is that Elain has regular Fae hips but Gwyneth is part River Nymph so she has “flexible bones”
Overall, the book lacked a driven, enticing, or even cohesive plot.
The smut was decent but it lacked some of the creativity of some of her other novels. The smut scene between Aelin and Rowan in Empire of Storms is one of my favorite smut scenes ever and it didn’t even need to explicitly mention anyone’s genitals to be extremely spicy. Because of the departure, this book takes from young adult I no longer consider the series at large to be young adult and am retroactively labeling the entire series as New Adult and Adult.
There are two deleted scenes that were published in exclusive copies of this novel:
Feyre’s point of view takes place after Chapter 21 and can be found here.
Azriel’s point of view takes place after Chapter 58 and can be found here.
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.