As much as I was looking forward to the release of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Frost and Starlight, I did everything I could to keep my hopes down, and I’m so glad I did. Occupying an odd and understandably uncomfortable space between a true novella and a novel, A Court of Frost and Starlight addresses few of the questions still up in the air at the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin, which is unsatisfying. But it was never the purpose of A Court of Frost and Starlight to answer those questions. What this book needed to accomplish was transitioning the main narrative focus of this series away from Feyre (and Rhysand) directly, to the new focus(es) of the series (or at least of the next full novel)—Nesta and Cassian. I thought it accomplished that emotional and narrative transition fairly well, though the implications for the series’ timeline have me scratching my head a bit.
It’s been several months since the war with Hybern ended and the rebuilding of Prythian is moving along at a seemingly glacial pace. But the approaching winter solstice promises to bring everyone together… along with many of the lingering emotional and practical issues they’ve been avoiding. Elain still avoids Lucien. Lucien still finds himself an uncomfortable fit in the Inner Circle and so splits his time in several different places. Nesta has withdrawn from just about everyone, which seems to be a key factor to Cassian’s own unsettled demeanor—though he won’t exactly speak about it. Feyre is eager to help everyone else heal before tending to her own needs. As she comes to realize how broken everyone and everything in Prythian still are, there are some things about her future she decides she doesn’t want to put off till things are more convenient; circumstances will never be convenient so there is only the now.
Another aspect of A Court of Frost and Starlight that can be uncomfortable is the way the narrative shifts. With the exception of one chapter near the end of A Court of Mist and Fury and the prologue of A Court of Wings and Ruin, the novels have all been presented through Feyre’s first-person perspective. This newest book not only expands to include Rhysand’s perspective, but sections from Cassian, Mor, and even a brief flash from Nesta. If it were a full novel, such an abrupt change in style would be incredibly disorienting—and I’m sure there are those for whom the shorter nature of this book only underscored that disorientation—but since there wasn’t a long or complicated overarching plot to contend with, and since the main purpose was to bring one couple to a comfortable resting place emotionally so another could take over as the focus, I think the drastic change in how the book was presented narratively worked well. I found myself satisfied with where the book left Feyre and Rhysand (especially since they’ll still be around in future books, just in the supporting cast rather than leading roles) and eager to dive into the still unsettled relationships of the rest of the Inner Circle.
What makes me a little nervous about the next full novel is the timeline. A Court of Frost and Starlight, like its predecessor novels in the series, begins about two or three months after the last book ended. Except there are only a very few hints at what’s going on politically in terms of rebuilding the larger world in the wake of the war’s end. There are a few crumbs dropped here and there, but given the little sneak peek thrown in as an appendix of sorts, it looks like a much larger time jump is in store for the start of the next full novel… and I really hope that the shift in focus away from Feyre and Rhysand doesn’t mean we’ll lose the politics of the Prythian Courts. That world building is part of what sucked me into the series so deeply. I have faith that Maas to pull it off (if only because of how incredibly she wields the many political threads of her Throne of Glass series) but not getting to see such a long stretch as it’s happening makes me wonder what—if anything—will get glossed over.