As promised, I’m importing the A Court of Thorns and Roses recaps here from Patreon. These were originally written beginning in August of 2020, so there will be references to upcoming or seasonal events that won’t fit with our current timeline. I am not a time traveler and you’ll never be able to prove that I am. I will also include editors notes like this every now and then as we go, mostly to amuse myself but to give re-read value to those who’ve already been on this awful, awful journey with me.
CW: mention of rape in the analysis (not the book itself).
This is one of those things where I’m not sure if the author intended to make their main character gay or what. And disclaimer, I’m using “gay” to mean this female character unknowingly wants to get with the gash and whether that gashthusiam is prix fixe or a la carte is undefined due to this whole thing seeming hilariously unintentional.
But first, I wanna talk about this:
The trampled snow coating the road into our village was speckled with brown and black from passing carts and horses.
Read that again and close your eyes. What did you see?
Now, I don’t know if this works for people who don’t have visual imaginations but for me, that very simple sentence about one specific detail in the scene showed me the entire scene. Even things that weren’t mentioned. When I read that, I also saw the bare, black tree trunks lining the road, the breath in front of the characters’ faces, the endless snow carpeting the forest, all of it. If I end up liking nothing else about this book, my god, I’ll stand in awe of the descriptions.
Feyre and her sisters are walking to the village to sell the hides from the deer and the wolf.
I didn’t bother talking to them, as they hadn’t deigned to speak to me after last night, though Nesta had awoken at dawn to chop wood. Probably because she knew I’d be selling the hides at the market today and would go home with money in my pocket.
So, even though her sister did ultimately do exactly what Feyre asked, she didn’t do it for the proper motives and therefore it must be bitched about.
But lo, there is wordbuilding I must bitch about, so maybe I shouldn’t be getting on my high horse about bitching.
The village is described as “ramshackle” and the houses “made grimmer by the bleakness.” We’ve heard about the poverty in the village, how no one can help anyone else because they’re destitute to the point that a person would kill another person for a rabbit.
Honestly, that would just be goofy. You could kill the person and eat them regardless. They don’t have to have a rabbit.
Anyhow, remember how poor and horrible the village is?
From a block away, the scent of hot food wafted by—spices that tugged on the edge of my memory, beckoning. Elain let out a low moan behind me. Spices, salt, sugar—rare commodities for most of our village, impossible for us to afford.
If the town is so poor, why are people trying to sell spices and sugar there? Nobody can afford them, so what’s the point? And why cook food people can’t afford to buy and eat? That’s just wasting the food. You’re not making money from it.
On the other hand, Feyre thinks that depending on what she earns, she might be able to buy something from one of the food vendors, though. So maybe it’s like that same twenty-dollars jumping from bank account to bank account on LGBTQA+ Cash App.
They’re almost to the market when they run into:
“May the Immortal Light shine upon thee, sisters,” said the pale-robed young woman directly in our path.
Nesta and Elain clicked their tongues; I stifled a groan. Perfect. Exactly what I needed, to have the Children of the Blessed in town on market day, distracting and riling everyone.
Street preachers! I’m 100% for villainizing proselytizers! This particular brand worships the fairies that want to eat everyone. Or…they “still” want to worship them? But then Feyre says:
Long ago, the High Fae had been our overlords—not gods. And they certainly hadn’t been kind.
I think I might not be catching onto something here. Is she saying they used to literally worship them as gods (hence the “still” earlier in the paragraph) or that people were so dazzled by the High Fae that it seemed like they worshipped them and now that’s morphed into this cult? Either way, they try to get the girls to listen to them.
It was impressive—truly impressive—to see Nesta go ramrod straight, to square her shoulders and look down her nose at the young acolyte, a queen without a throne. “Go spew your fanatic nonsense to some ninny. You’ll find no converts here.”
Yay! Something Feyre thinks Nesta did right! Even if it does make it sound like the acolyte is the queen without a throne.
I reined in my wince. Perhaps not the best way to deal with them, since they could become a true nuisance if agitated—
LOL, of course Nesta did the wrong thing! Stupid, stupid Nesta!
I’m really hoping that at some point the call to adventure gets Feyre away from her sisters so I don’t have to hear the constant complaining.
Here’s a quick lowdown on these preacher weirdos: they wear silver bells to try and attract fairies, they hate iron (which all the villagers wear to ward off fairies) and they grow their hair super long. So, they stick out as they’re walking around the village, making them an easy target. As some village women walk by, they’ve got words to say.
“Faerie-loving whore,” one of them hurled at the young woman. I couldn’t disagree.
Not “whore”; “whore,” italicized. Emphasized so we can be sure not to miss it. And our heroine is like, can’t disagree with that! Total whore!
You know, all the author had to do there was insert any other non-gendered insult for her heroine to agree with and the misogyny could have been avoided.
The weird thing was, just before I started typing this out, I had the thought, “Can you really hold that against, Feyre, though? She’s not the one who said it.” And then I remembered that I’ve been drunk since Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and that anyone who hasn’t been waking up in the middle of the night to smoke pot and pop Xanax to get through the next four hours or so of nightmares uninterrupted would have followed that thought up with, “yes, but also the author could have not written it.” ed.—I’m going to show this paragraph to my husband, Mr. “They’ll never actually get rid of Roe v. Wade because it’s their only political point” and say, “Yet again, I TOLD YOU THE FUCK SO.”
I’m not really against having female characters use insults like that when they’re angry. I’m really not, because I use problematic, misogynist language all the time and I’m AFAB and assumed to have a gender at birth so it’s been socialized into me and it feels comforting when I am enraged. I think that’s true for many, many people socialized as girls. It’s realistic for people to lash out that way, even if it’s reductive and problematic. But I do feel like it’s language that has to be earned in the moment. This woman is addressing a group described as being made up of women and men. And it’s a religious group, also not necessarily a gendered thing requiring a sexually-charged misogynistic insult. Honestly, the line could even stay; the real issue is our heroine throwing her personal endorsement behind it. That’s not something you really want to pop the top on when you’re only in chapter three, dig? Because we don’t know her well, yet, and what we do know of her isn’t great.
The women goes on to say:
“Don’t you idiots understand what those monsters did to us for all those centuries? What they still do for sport, when they can get away with it? You deserve the end you’ll meet at faerie hands. Fools and whores, all of you.”
Why the whores again? “Fool” was right there! Unless the point is to insinuate that these people want to bang fairies?
The women leave but the fairie worshipers aren’t done with the sisters. One of them tells the girls that her cousin was sent as an offering to Prythian and never came back. Obviously, this means she’s been made into the wife of a high-ranking fairy official or something and lives a life of luxury.
“She was likely eaten,” Nesta said. “That’s why she hasn’t returned.”
Right? That’s what I’m saying, Nesta. Like, if my cousin decided to go swim in a cave full of monster sharks and didn’t come back, I’m gonna assume the monster sharks ate her. Not that she married them and she’s queen of the monster sharks now.
I know I’m not supposed to like Nesta because the author has telegraphed exactly how horrible I should find this character, but I like her a lot more than I like Feyre.
Or worse, I thought, if a High Fae truly was involved in spiriting a human into Prythian.
Oh my god, just say they rape people. I mean it. Enough with the dancing around “or worse.” This is the second time Feyre has referred to there being something “worse” than being eaten. We’re all picking up on the subtle hints. In fantasy fiction, “or worse” when we’re discussing stuff that can happen to female characters is almost always rape. Now, I’ve never been eaten by a spooky creature but I have been raped and I feel like I can comfortably say that the really bad one is the one that involves a spooky creature eating you.
I’d never encountered the cruel, human-looking High Fae who ruled Prythian itself, or the faeries who occupied their lands, with their scales and wings and long, spindly arms that could drag you deep, deep beneath the surface of a forgotten pond. I didn’t know which would be worse to face.
Being eaten. Being eaten would be worse.
This interaction stretches out a bit long for my taste; it smacks of the author wanting each character to get the last word. Eventually, it ends and Feyre sends Nesta and Elain off and tells them to meet her in an hour. Then, our heroine goes off on the special journey of awakening to sell her furs. She’s looking for whoever will buy the hides at the best price when:
And then the unknown: a mountain of a woman sitting on the lip of our broken square fountain, without any cart or stall, but looking like she was holding court nonetheless. The scars and weapons on her marked her easily enough. A mercenary.
This character has yet to say a single word and I already like her more than I like Feyre.
That said, I’m liking Feyre a little more with every breathless description of this butch goddess:
I approached the mercenary, whose thick, dark hair was shorn to her chin. Her tan face seemed hewn of granite, and her black eyes narrowed slightly at the sight of me. Such interesting eyes—not just one shade of black, but … many, with hints of brown that glimmered amongst the shadows.
This is more description than we’ve gotten of the guy Feyre has lackluster maintenance sex with.
I pushed against that useless part of my mind, the instincts that had me thinking about color and light and shape, and kept my shoulders back as she assessed me as a potential threat or employer. The weapons on her—gleaming and wicked—were enough to make me swallow.
I can’t be the only one seeing this. I just can’t be. I mean, in the first place, this is the internet. Yous all slash everything anyway. But Feyre is standing in front of this woman, lost in her glimmering eyes…I’m not reading into things here. This is on the page.
The mercenary does the cliche mercenary tough-guy thing about only working for money and wanting to know what Feyre’s “business with me” is. She even calls Feyre “girl”.
She could have been aged anywhere from twenty-five to thirty, but I supposed I looked like a girl to her in my layers, gangly from hunger.
I don’t understand anything going on in that sentence. How old Feyre looks has no bearing whatsoever on how old the mercenary is. It almost feels like this was meant to be a statement that the mercenary is mistaking Feyre for being much younger but that perception doesn’t have anything to do with the age of the mercenary. I don’t know how an editor didn’t ding this for clarity.
Feyre offers to sell the hides to the mercenary, who accuses her of stealing them.
“No.” I held her stare. “I hunted them myself. I swear it.”
She ran those dark eyes down me again. “How.” Not a question—a command. Perhaps someone who had encountered others who did not see vows as sacred, words as bonds. And had punished them accordingly.
EVERYONE ELSE IS READING THIS, RIGHT? Feyre is sitting here thinking about this woman commanding and punishing. I know I have a dirty mind but jee and zus.
After Feyre tells the mercenary the story of her hunt, the mercenary says she doesn’t think the pelt looks like it came from a fairy. Then she offers to way, way overpay for the hides.
“I’m assuming those two girls watching from across the square are your sisters. You all have that brassy hair—and that hungry look about you.”
How does Feyre react to this?
“I don’t need your pity.”
Dear Reader, please imagine that my head spun all the way around twice while my rage turned to fire and that fire poured from my open mouth and still burns the world to this day. There was an entire chapter devoted to how her prideful family sucks and won’t do anything to get out of their predicament. Yet here’s Saint Feyre, Patron of Hopeless Cases, arguing that she doesn’t need the money that the woman is offering to pay her.
I pure, to the bottom of my soul, hate Feyre and if I weren’t reading this for a recap, this is where I would DNF because I cannot stand her.
I nodded, my cheeks heating as she reached for the coin purse inside her heavy coat. It was full—and weighed down with at least silver, possibly gold, if the clinking was any indication. Mercenaries tended to be well paid in our territory.
HOW?! How is anyone “well-paid?” All we’ve heard about is how everyone in the village is too poor to afford a ditch to shit in. The next paragraph explains that the town can’t afford an army to watch the wall between their land fairy territory.
But the upper class could afford hired swords, like this woman, to guard their lands bordering the immortal realm.
Now there’s an “upper class” in this town?
I’m finding that the deeper we get into this book, the more I’m having to continually readjust my perception of the setting. There’s a treaty, but they still need an army to protect them from the people they have a treaty with. But they can’t afford an army because everyone in town is starving and wretched. Except for the upper class that hasn’t been mentioned any of the times we’ve been told about how everyone in the village except for them is starving and wretched.
But it doesn’t matter, anyway, because as Feyre explains, nothing will stop the fairies from attacking and breaking the treaty and none of the iron they wear or the wards they use will do anything to save them and everyone knows that.
So…if everyone knows that…why pay mercenaries to do absolutely nothing?
The mercenary pays Feyre:
There was no possible chance that my sisters hadn’t spotted the money—no chance they weren’t already wondering how they might persuade me to give them some.
It probably doesn’t take much persuading. They just need to appeal to your self-righteous sense of perpetual martyrdom.
The mercenary also warns Feyre that she shouldn’t go so far into the woods because there are rumors that “things” are getting through the wall. Just say fairies, you know? We know what you’re talking about. They’re the thing that’s on the other side of the wall that people are afraid of.
A chill spider-walked down my spine.
Love that description. Love everything about it.
Feyre is worried that the fairies are going to attack because that will mean potentially trying to move her whole family with the nothing they have.
Once—long ago and for millennia before that—we had been slaves to High Fae overlords. Once, we had built them glorious, sprawling civilizations from our blood and sweat, built them temples to their feral gods. Once, we had rebelled, across every land and territory. The War had been so bloody, so destructive, that it took six mortal queens crafting the Treaty for the slaughter to cease on both sides and for the wall to be constructed: the North of our world conceded to the High Fae and faeries, who took their magic with them; the South to we cowering mortals, forever forced to scratch out a living from the earth.
Again, I ask: if everyone is scratching out a living and just trying to get by, who are these rich people? Also, I’m not trying to be a bitch here because most high fantasy is pretty derivative, but this is like if Tinker Bell wrote a mash-up of Lord of the Rings and A Song of Ice and Fire. A wall to the North that keeps the terrifying killer magic beings from getting all the people? I’m familiar with this.
The mercenary tells Feyre that weird beasts called martax are getting loose and crossing the border and ripping whole villages to shreds.
“Body big as a bear’s, head something like a lion’s—and three rows of teeth sharper than a shark’s. And mean—meaner than all three put together. They left the villagers in literal ribbons, the nobleman said.”
I like the visual of the dead villagers left in literal ribbons. It makes it sound like the martax ran through, killed everyone, shredded them up, and wrapped the piles like gifts with pretty bows.
The mercenary again warns Feyre to stay away from the wall. One important point that has yet to be addressed is the part where Feyre is like, nobody stands a chance, fairies can kill you by just looking at you, if you face a fairy you’re for-sure gonna die…yet this mercenary’s job is to fight off fairies? The ones that can’t be killed by anything at all?
It’s the contradictions that lose me, okay?
Feyre asks the mercenary about fairies she’s encountered:
The woman pulled back the sleeve of her heavy jacket, revealing a tanned, muscled forearm flecked with gruesome, twisted scars. The arc of them so similar to—“Didn’t have the brute force or size of a martax,” she said, “but its bite was full of poison. Two months—that’s how long I was down; four months until I had the strength to walk again.” She pulled up the leg of her trousers. Beautiful, I thought, even as the horror of it writhed in my gut. Against her tanned skin, the veins were black—solid black, spiderwebbed, and creeping like frost. “Healer said there was nothing to be done for it—that I’m lucky to be walking with the poison still in my legs. Maybe it’ll kill me one day, maybe it’ll cripple me. But at least I’ll go knowing I killed it first.”
First of all, this is fantasy novel foreplay. If these two don’t hook up, this entire meet-cute was a lie. Second, I remain confused re: the lethality of these fairies. One minute, it’s all “everyone knows nobody can fight a fairy,” and the next it’s, “Look at this sexy mercenary’s sexy scars from fighting fairies.”
Feyre says goodbye and her sisters hurry her away, warning her that mercenaries are dangerous. They admit to Feyre that a mercenary (not the one Feyre was just having an intense sexual awakening with) took money from the sisters once.
“Why didn’t you report him—or tell me?”
“What could you have done?” Nesta sneered. “Challenged him to a fight with your bow and arrows? And who in this sewer of a town would even care if we reported anything?”
Mmm, Feyre, you really know how to win me over. I absolutely love to hear someone demand to know why a crime wasn’t reported.
Nesta points out that Isaac, Feyre’s barnyard booty call, is watching them. Feyre describes him as the son of “the only well-off farmer in our village” (what happened to the upper class we just read about?) and has this to say about his appearance and attractiveness:
Relatively handsome, soft-spoken, and reserved, but with a sort of darkness running beneath it all that had drawn us to each other, that shared understanding of how wretched our lives were and would always be.
Ah, okay. I understand now why she can’t have a romance with a mercenary. There is a boy and the boy has pain and the pain calls out to the pain only a YA heroine can heal. I’ve ridden this carousel of hell before.
How did they meet? Why, on their way to market, of course! And what did she notice about him right off the bat?
We’d only talked about the eggs he was bringing to market—and I’d admired the variation in colors within the basket he bore—browns and tans and the palest blues and greens.
We just heard more description about eggs than we get about Isaac in this whole chapter.
I mean, compare and contrast here. There’s blushing and stammering and thinking about commanding and punishing with the mercenary, and with Isaac there’s…relatively handsome and eggs.
Feyre reminisces about that first time they’d met and how she’d felt like she wasn’t as alone with him, and how that led into the sex.
I couldn’t say our lovemaking was particularly skilled, but it was still a release, a reprieve, a bit of selfishness.
She admits that while she doesn’t love him, it’s a bummer that he’s getting married because she’s not gonna keep up doing it with a married dude. But he ain’t married yet, so when he gives her the signal, she gives some money to her sisters and heads off for some steamy, off-page barn time.
At this point, a “contraceptive brew” is mentioned; I’m pleased to see birth control options represented in a fantasy novel since the genre usually relies on tropes of like illegitimate heirs and shit.
After a section break, it’s post-dinner and everyone is kind of chilling in the house and getting along. Feyre decides that’s a good time to start some shit, I guess, because she wants to bring up the guy Nesta wants to marry. She’s about to ruin everybody’s evening by opening her mouth when:
But there was a roar that half deafened me, and my sisters screamed as snow burst into the room and an enormous, growling shape appeared in the doorway.
Keep an eye out for the next recap to come after October 10th. I’m about to finish the second draft of The Daughter, after which I will be running into the woods to write a different book. ed.—Obviously, this note was not for present day readers. And The Daughter was the working title of the book that I ended up calling Sophie instead, so don’t panic, you didn’t miss a whole book.
I hope no sexy mercenaries come to save me from a martax. That would be just terrible.