My most-anticipated read of 2021 has come and gone, leaving me with a bit of a book hangover. I could honestly start rereading it again today and not even mind.
A Court of Silver Flames, the latest installment to Sarah J. Mass's hit A Court of Thorns and Roses series, was everything I hoped for and then some—except for the cover, am I right? While I can appreciate the art, like many fans of the series I was upset with the cover change simply for aesthetic reasons. I wanted my books to match. But after reading the book, I can appreciate the mask on the front a bit more.
Category: Emotional read
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Rating: 5/5 Stars
Pairing: Peppermint tea + shortbread
“She was a wolf who had never learned how to be a wolf, thanks to that cage humans called propriety and society. And like any maltreated animal, she bit anyone who came near.”
Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she's struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can't seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.
The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre's Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta's orbit. But her temper isn't the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.
Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.
Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance—and healing—in each other's arms.
WARNING: This post is not a spoiler-free zone. Proceed at your own risk.
A Court of Silver Flames begins by retelling the last few chapters of ACOFAS, which might tempt you to skip a chapter or two, but DO NOT—the familiar scenes are slowly built onto with layers of thought and action by both Cassian and Nesta until the story becomes its own.
While ACOSF is set in the epic fantasy realm of Prythian and full of magic, this installment focuses more on Nesta and Cassian's growth rather than furthering the overarching plot. That's not to say it's boring, though. The pace was nice, with well-placed hints and powerful themes, making no part of the story feel like it was dragging or unnecessary.
There's also the fact that it's probably the smuttiest SJM book to date. So. Much. Heat!
And yet their dancing around each other is only part of the excitement in this book; equally present is Sarah's classic emphasis on the power of friendship, particularly with other females who've undergone some form of trauma.
TRIGGER WARNING: This book discusses topics that might be harmful to some readers, such as rape and domestic abuse. Please do not continue with this review or read the book if these topics are too heavy for you.
During her training with Cassian, Nesta befriends a couple females who become closer to Nesta than her own sisters. Their acceptance and love for her helps Nesta to accept and love herself, and also to thaw out and better connect with the friends and family she already has. I looked forward to her scenes with them as much as I did her romantic moments with my favorite bat boi.
What I really appreciate about this book is that while it's a beautiful and entertaining story, Nesta's training also serves as a sort of mini-manual; Maas describes different methods of escape and takedown, the importance of stance and balance, multiple scenes and descriptions on meditation and breathwork, and more.
"I am the rock against which the surf crashes. Nothing can break me."
While I understand holistic healing is not the end-all-be-all, I recognize its value and think it's important for people who don't have access to certain healing methods to see that physical activity, hard work, finding a purpose, and working through mental obstacles can do a world of good when it comes to growth and healing.
I also appreciate that while Cassian definitely has a major hand in her progress, he isn't the one to save her. On more than one occasion, Nesta has to fight for and save herself. She also finds the strength to fight for others, which is a big deal considering how selfish we have seen Nesta can be. Yet while she comes a long way, she never totally loses her tough-girl attitude; she simply learns discernment when it comes to using her iron mask and words as weapons. People (women and girls especially) need to see that we can be prickly, and we can be the thing we always needed—we don't have to wait around in damsel-in-distress mode.
“And even if the laws had allowed it, he would never take that away from her: the chance to save herself.”
One of my favorite things about Cassian is how caring he is down to his core; we've seen in previous installments how passionate he is about helping the Illryian females escape the oppressive hierarchical society they live within, to be able to care for and defend themselves. While training Nesta, he finally gets that opportunity.
When she decides to offer the priestesses at the House of Wind to train with her, hoping to help them in the ways she is being helped, it not only provides her with friends and motivation to keep going, it also helps Cassian meet his goal by helping Nesta establish the Valkyries and showing Devlon that women can pass the Blood Rite qualifiers as well as the males. Seeing so many benefit from the situation is so gratifying.
Then there's the House itself, Nesta's first friend, and possibly one of the cutest side characters ever? Seeing it bond with Nesta, care for and dote on her, and teach her about life is so precious. How can a "character" with no dialogue be so adorable?! The sleepover scene will forever be a favorite.
Lastly, I was SO EXCITED to find out what was in the box Cassian threw into the Sidra on Solstice! And then her current Solstice gift! The amount of time and thought put into both presents is breathtaking. I declare it now: Cassian is the best gift-er.