Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

I moved immediately into A Court of Wings and Ruin on the heels of finishing A Court of Mist and Fury; the ending of the second book in Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series demanded it. And while the characters, their relationships, the themes, and the content are all as compelling as the first two novels in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin suffers tremendously in pacing and organization, leaving this initial trilogy arc with a satisfying if roughly executed conclusion.

Feyre begins the novel back at Tamlin’s Spring Court pretending that her relationship with Rhys was all a delusion he’d forced on her and that she had really been in love with Tamlin all along. Not everyone buys Feyre’s cover though. When Feyre’s sisters were forced into the Cauldron and turned fae, Lucien felt the deep pull of a mating bond with Elain. Unable to escape his concern and curiosity for her, he keeps a close eye of Feyre, which feeds into her own plans for undermining Tamlin’s hold over his Court and accumulating knowledge about the Hybern forces. From the crumbling Spring Court, Feyre eventually rejoins her mate and family at the Night Court where their preparations for the coming war with Hybern are well under way. Her sisters are adjusting to fae life with varying degrees of success; allies are few and far between; and any possible alliance between the Courts of Prythian will be fragile and tenuous at best. But war is coming and they must do what they can in the face of annihilation.

The strongest part of the for me personally was the Part One with Feyre working in the Spring Court to gather intelligence and carefully chipping away at the power structure that keeps it running. Once the story shifts back to the Night Court there are too many plotlines overlapping and interweaving for each to have the space it needs to develop completely and carry their weight. The timeline becomes confusingly compressed as Feyre’s attention is pulled in six directions and by the time the story gets back around to one thread—her sisters and how they’re adjusting to their new existence—so much has happened it feels as though a week has passed but within the story it’s supposed to have been a day. It’s particularly frustrating because each thread is so compelling in its own right and none of them get the time they deserve.

While I could—and try to—chalk it up to being reflective of the unpredictability and frantic pace of the war they’re fighting, it still doesn’t work. It brings added attention to the details of characters and their backstories where it’s a little fuzzy whether these revelations were always planned or whether they might be shifting from the foundational intent laid in the previous novels. Regardless of whether or not these expansions are truly retcons, the pacing of the second and third sections of the novel only make their seams more prominent.

Ultimately, the biggest issue A Court of Wings and Ruin has is that there’s just too much in it. The novel could have—and should have—been broken into two books. There were several places that would have been logical spots to make such a break; the threads that became needlessly tangled could have been organized differently and the underlying pattern, the emotional impact of the story, could have been clearer; supporting characters could have been given more development to add to that same emotional impact. Because there were so many threads, each chapter felt like it ended with a forced cliffhanger and the emotional tension took so long to build that much of it had fizzled by the time the novel reached the climactic battle.

Even though A Court of Wings and Ruin is probably my least favorite of the series to date, I cannot wait to see what else Maas releases in this series she’s created (and my copy of A Court of Wings and Ruin promises there will be more in 2018 so I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for preordering purposes).

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