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A Court of Jealousy and Haters: ACOTAR chapter 5, or “Make Prythian Great Again”

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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.

This chapter kind of bummed me out but also made me realize that for all the stuff that’s driving me bonkers, I’m actually really into the story. Because very, very, very little happens in this chapter and I found myself disappointed as a result. So, on some level, I’m clearly invested in the plot. ed.—This feeling does not last.

The beast takes Feyre into the forest and then we hit the second paragraph:

We entered the line of trees. Darkness beckoned beyond.

But a white mare was patiently waiting—unbound—beside a tree, her coat like fresh snow in the moonlight.

I can’t for the life of me figure out what the “but” is there to do. Nothing about trees or darkness somehow precludes the possibility of a horse being around. Is this a no horse zone? Are horses scared of the dark in this world? Other than that, this is good imagery that could have been made better with just a tiny bit more description about the contrast between the snow-white horse and the looming darkness.

She only lowered her head—as if in respect, of all things—as the beast lumbered up to her.

This was point number one when I realized how into the story I am. I was like, “Ooh! Can he talk to animals?” before I realized that Feyre is criticizing the horse for respecting a faerie. ed. — there is literally nothing Feyre will not criticize in this book.

The beast lets Feyre ride the horse and they set off toward the faerie kingdom or whatever.

Live with him. I could live out the rest of my mortal life on his lands. Perhaps this was merciful—but then, he hadn’t specified in what manner, exactly, I would live. The Treaty forbade faeries from taking us as slaves, but—perhaps that excluded humans who’d murdered faeries.

Oh, now we’re remembering the Treaty, all of a sudden? Because in the last chapter it was so ancient that everyone had forgotten it or whatever. But you know for sure he can’t make you a slave and you trust him, a dread faerie, to honor the treaty when it comes to slavery.

Please, please, please tell me this is not a YA book about a white girl being enslaved.

My throat went dry. I’d killed a faerie. I couldn’t bring myself to feel badly about it. Not with my family left behind me to surely starve; not when it meant one less wicked, awful creature in the world.

LOL! I made a vow to my dying mother that I would take care of our family no matter what but if they die, they die, whatevs.

This really is going to turn into some kind of, “I thought they were bad, but really, we are the bad, horrible, intolerant ones and now that I know that, I will become part of their culture and be better at it than them,” or some such similar bullshit.

Is this gonna be Fern Gully?

Because Feyre knows that ash trees are the only thing that can kill faeries, she’s looking all over for one as they go through the forest. But like…she already told us, I think in chapter one, even, those ash trees are almost totally gone due to that fact?

She thinks about how the forest is creepily still and silent, but she’d prefer whatever animals are lurking out there to this faerie guy:

Whatever was out there had to be tame compared to the beast beside me, despite the horse’s ease around him.

IDK if you can describe him as not being tame. He walks upright, rides a horse, and owns land. We consider squirrels tame if they’ll eat out of our hands.

Lands—he’d said he had lands, but what kind of dwelling? My horse was beautiful and its saddle was crafted of rich leather, which meant he had some sort of contact with civilized life.

Back up, girl, that’s not your horse. It’s his horse. He just put you on it to transport you. You are the luggage. Plus, this dude bursts into her house to avenge his friend’s murder, offers to let her live anyway, and she doesn’t think he’s civilized while she’s thinking about how she’d rather her entire family starve than allow a single faerie to cross the border wall…

Ohhhhhhhh.

Well, we know who Feyre voted for, I guess.

And now, more totally nonsensical world building:

There were few firsthand accounts of Prythian itself. The mortals who went over the wall—either willingly as tributes from the Children of the Blessed or stolen—never came back. I’d learned most of the legends from villagers, though my father had occasionally offered up a milder tale or two on the nights he made an attempt to remember we existed.

Mortals who go into Prythian never come back and there are few firsthand accounts? Correct me if I’m wrong, but if all the mortals who go there never come back…how are there any accounts at all? And we already knew the part about the legends. At this point, I feel like we’re not being trusted to remember world-building points that have been relentlessly hammered on. We’re gonna be in the last chapter of this thing, last page, and it’s gonna be like, “For as long as my people have known, the faeries were bad,” and I’m gonna freak the fuck out.

And then it keeps going, casting doubt on literally everything that’s been established before:

As far as we knew, the High Fae still governed the northern parts of our world— […]

Wait now, “As far as we knew?” We’ve been told over and over again that yes, absolutely, the faeries run shit on the other side of the wall. At what point did this become in any way uncertain?

The rest of the sentence, though, actually tells us what this land is like:

[..] from our enormous island over the narrow sea separating us from the massive continent, across depthless fjords and frozen wastelands and sandblasted deserts, all the way to the great ocean on the other side.

There is just a leeeeeeetle too much George Martin in here. A wall to the north separating the pale, immortal, violent beings from the miserable, poverty-stricken villagers to the immediate south. A huge island with, for some inexplicable reason, every single climate on it, separated by a “narrow sea” from the larger continent. I mean, the narrow sea separating Westeros from Essos is called “The Narrow Sea”. And then there’s the religious cult that still wants to believe in supernatural stuff beyond the wall…

Fantasy is a weird genre, okay? You have the navigate tropes super carefully. You can easily go from “fantasy story about a magical world beyond a wall,” to accidentally ripping off another author. And I just really feel like that’s what’s happening here. It’s less homage or trope, more “this sounds good but I don’t realize that’s because it’s from another person’s really good book.” 

This is the kind of duplication that happens without malice, because the rest of the world-building and plot here are so different, the focus so narrow (nobody is really gonna try to rewrite Game of Thrones from a single, first-person viewpoint on purpose) that the author likely never once connected the two in her mind. It’s an occupational hazard that happens a lot, especially in genres like High Fantasy.

Some faerie territories were empires; some were overseen by kings and queens. Then there were places like Prythian, divided and ruled by seven High Lords—beings of such unyielding power that legend claimed they could level buildings, break apart armies, and butcher you before you could blink.

I’m never going to get tired of being told that they know nothing at all about the faeries right before telling us exactly what’s going on over the wall.

 No one had ever told me why humans chose to linger in our territory, when so little space had been granted to us and we remained in such close proximity to Prythian. Fools—whatever humans had stayed here after the War must have been suicidal fools to live so close.

Or they had their fortunes and property decimated by the horrible war that you already told us about.

Even with the centuries-old Treaty between the mortal and faerie realms, there were rifts in the warded wall separating our lands, holes big enough for those lethal creatures to slip into our territory to amuse themselves with tormenting us.

WE KNOW OH MY GOD WE KNOW PLEASE, SARAH, I BEG YOU, TRUST US NOT TO INJURE OUR MEMORIES BETWEEN PAGES FOR FUUUUUUCK’S SAKE.

I know this has been shelved as YA, but most people I’ve known who’ve read it have said that no, it’s really not YA. I have no idea what it is, but it feels like insultingly introductory Fantasy for an age bracket where a Fantasy reader has already been through the middle-grade classics that are far, far more complex and which underestimate the intelligence of the reader far less.

Live with him, I reminded myself, again and again and again. Live, not die.

 Though I supposed I could also live in a dungeon. He would likely lock me up and forget that I was there, forget that humans needed things like food and water and warmth.

This is a really cool detail. I like it when authors remember that there are going to be practical side concerns because the character doesn’t know what’s going on in the author’s head.

Prowling ahead of me, the beast’s horns spiraled toward the night sky, and tendrils of hot breath curled from his snout.

While I like the imagery, I’m still real stuck on the part where they’re “elk horns.”

She thinks about killing him again, when she gets the opportunity:

We had to make camp at some point; the border of Prythian was days away.

Wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait. We’ve been hearing about how they have to wear these bracelets and put wards on their doors because they live so close to Prythian? I thought they were like, real, real, real close. Either I’ve been grossly misunderstanding the world-building or the author is.

But it was not my own doom I contemplated as I let myself tumble into the dread and rage and despair. 

Uh. That has literally been the whole chapter thus far. Were you here for that?

As we rode on—the only sounds snow crunching beneath paws and hooves—I alternated between a wretched smugness at the thought of my family starving and thus realizing how important I was, […]

What. The fuck. Like, let’s not diagnose characters, but I definitely feel like there is cold self-centeredness akin to several psychological disorders here. 

[…] and a blinding agony at the thought of my father begging in the streets, his ruined leg giving out on him as he stumbled from person to person. Every time I looked at the beast, I could see my father limping through town, pleading for coppers to keep my sisters alive.

Did yous all see the tweet that was like, “What’s something that’s not racist but feels racist to you?” that was going around? I feel like this is the ableist version of this. This feels ableist but maybe isn’t. I don’t know, but I’m mad at it, anyway.

Worse—what Nesta might resort to in order to keep Elain alive. She wouldn’t mind my father’s death. But she would lie and steal and sell anything for Elain’s sake—and her own as well.

You wouldn’t mind your father’s death either. You said so IN THIS CHAPTER. You were like, small price to pay to get to murder a faerie, amiright? just a few pages ago.

But let’s not gloss over the part where suddenly Nesta will do anything to survive. That directly contradicts basically everything we’ve been told about her up until this point. Yes, we know she loves Elain and wants to protect her, but they were both starving and suffering before Feyre left and Nesta wasn’t willing to do anything to survive then.

Feyre asks what kind of faerie the beast is but he ignores her.

I tried again. “Do you have a name?” Or anything to curse him by. 

Yo, the name thing is faeries 101. I don’t even live wherever the hell this is and I know that names are not something to idly toss around with fae.

Anyway, he asks her if she even cares and she decides to stop talking before he changes his mind about killing her. Once again, she imagines escape. At least this time, she remembers she should take her family.

She’s about to ask the beast something else when:

I didn’t have a chance to struggle, to fight back, when a charged, metallic tang stung my nose. Exhaustion slammed down upon me and blackness swallowed me whole.

The “struggle, fight back” part here tripped me up because at first, I thought he hit her or something. But then there’s a section break and Feyre wakes up on the back of the horse and realizes that the beast had used magic to keep her unconscious for the journey.

So, I assume he’s telepathic, then, and just got tired of her internal monologue.

Gritting my teeth, I might have demanded answers from him—might have shouted to where he still lumbered ahead, heedless of me. But then chirping birds flitted past me, and a mild breeze kissed my face. I spied a hedge-bordered metal gate ahead.

I am…confused. Are they already in Prythian? I can’t imagine that a metal gate and a hedge are the only things keeping the faeries out. It sounded like there was some huge barrier that could only be crossed through specific spots that were like, more difficult to get to? I guess? Like holes in the wall or something?

Because again, we’re completely incapable of retaining any memory, apparently, Feyre reminds us that Prythian is two days from her home. She realizes she must have been asleep that entire time.

Here’s the chapter hook:

The gate swung open without porter or sentry, and the beast continued through. Whether I wanted to or not, my horse followed after him.

We never find out if this is the gate to Prythian or not in this chapter. I went ahead to chapter six and yes, they’ve just arrived at the beast’s lands, so they are in Prythian. This means that our heroine has become conscious in the hell-world she’s heard dread tales about her entire childhood and she has absolutely zero reaction to or reflection upon that fact.

Yet, somehow, I still want to see where the story is going. A part of me understands why this series is so popular, while another part of me can’t understand why it’s so mediocre. I feel like maybe it tricks you into seeing its potential and not what’s actually on the page.

What do yous all think?

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17 Comments

  1. Akri
    Akri

    ” I feel like maybe it tricks you into seeing its potential and not what’s actually on the page.” That is exactly the conclusion I came to reading Throne of Glass. It’s a draft of a story with potential, but in no way was it ready for publication yet.

    As for the “elk-like horns” I think maybe the animal she wanted was an antelope? A lot of them have horns that spiral upward.

    September 4, 2023
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    • Al
      Al

      God I was so disappointed in Throne of Glass. “Cinderella but Cinderella showed up at the ball to assassinate the Prince and accidentally fell in love” is one hell of a premise. Literally none of that happened at all in the book, though. The Prince is a whiny rich tool who complains about his #FirstWorldProblems and expects to be taken seriously; the protagonist never has any intention of killing the prince, and is weirdly complicit in her own oppression; the Masked Ball scene removes everything about the Cinderella ball that makes it wonderful to audiences who like that sort of thing (except for the pretty dress and the fact that she dances with the Prince ig); and it isn’t even a rags-to-riches story given Celaena’s background as a wealthy assassin (??) who had all kinds of jewels and fine clothes and lived in a manor. Also the whole white slavery thing was deeply uncomfortable, and ended up trivialized by her quick transformation from “brutalized slave” to “shallow and jealous bootlicker”.

      September 5, 2023
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    • Dove
      Dove

      I think you’re right about the antelope although maybe she thought that was too distant for Europe-Lite so she should’ve chosen some kind of long, twisting goat horns… except maybe that sounded too demonic lol. Maybe say tall, spiraling, elegantly curved horns and leave it at that? It gets the image across anyway.

      September 7, 2023
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  2. Tina
    Tina

    Perhaps it’s because I’m European, but the world’s description immediately made me think of Great Britain. I looked it up on Amazon. There’s a map in the Look Inside feature. Yup, Great Britain 😀 Just more diverse landscapes.

    Feyre is a horrible, horrible person! Please tell me she gets eaten in the next chapter and the book is really about her family.

    September 4, 2023
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    • Mk
      Mk

      I thought the same thing. But also Westeros is not so subtly based on GB. So we’re all right

      September 4, 2023
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    • Ilex
      Ilex

      I keep reading “Prythian” as Prydain, the land in Lloyd Alexander’s retellings of Welsh myths, and “Prydain” is an actual Welsh word for Great Britain. I’m wondering if the author just used that and changed it a little. I suppose she could have found the word Prydain independently, as well.

      I apologize for coming in late. I’ve been moving and fell woefully behind on these recaps and am now playing catch-up.

      September 27, 2023
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  3. Mk
    Mk

    It really feels like this chapter could’ve been cut. Feyre’s constant inner monologue about escaping and oops her family feels so unnecessary, it doesn’t build tension.

    But otoh I am just not a fan of first person narration. I can only stand it if it’s very efficient in its storytelling, something Maas I think is not capable of. She uses too many words to say little, and I think repetition of phrases is going to be a thorn in our side soon.

    September 4, 2023
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  4. I don’t understand why this chapter wasn’t focused on the transition between the two worlds and her terror/fascination with this new place she was going to. Instead it’s just the same stuff over and over again. She hates her family, she’s glad she killed the faerie, she should escape, she hates her family some more. It’s very boring.

    September 5, 2023
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    • Dove
      Dove

      I agree it would’ve been far more interesting seeing the shift between their “worlds” but I’m guessing the author realized too late travelogues are typically boring if it’s just “same shit, different day.”

      September 9, 2023
      |Reply
  5. Britney
    Britney

    I had the misfortune of reading this series this year and hoo boy, I do not understand why people love it. I was intrigued by book 1, put off by book 2 but willing to see it out to the end, and absolutely enraged by book 3. To the point I couldn’t finish it.

    One thing you will notice about Maas and her work is she is in desperate need of an editor, but clearly whoever she has working on these books is only on the lookout for typos, because every single thing that crosses her mind winds up on the finished page. I look forward to the evisceration. This takes me back to the 50 shades and buffy days

    September 6, 2023
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    • bewalsh7
      bewalsh7

      Buffy! Oh I miss those recaps!

      September 7, 2023
      |Reply
  6. Dove
    Dove

    Also, if Nesta is willing to do anything, why the fuck wouldn’t she be begging already instead of dad? Because they’d have more sympathy for a disabled man? I… yeah it feels ableist but IDK if it definitely is. Had to come down here and say that.

    And yeah, maybe she could ummm cut wood for dad to carve? If that business model wasn’t working without Feyre there to pick up ALL of the slack, why didn’t he pick something else like IDK copying books for rich people? There must be more jobs that will allow the man to sit instead of having to walk.

    Gonna add here too before I go back up, I’m so annoyed with these books deciding the “traditional” methods of warding off their supernatural flavor of choice are wrong but then there’s maybe one thing that does work and then that also doesn’t matter because the author doesn’t really wanna deal with it. BUT ALSO you’d think they’d just… have some piece of ash wood as a talisman. Does it have to pierce anything? And if so, does that mean the arrow head was made of wood? I’m so confused and I still hate it here.

    I hate this book, I hate this character… I get the author trying to show Feyre is conflicted because her family was low-key abusive but it doesn’t work well since she didn’t really know how to write about that kind of thing, I think??? It’s just a big mess!

    And yeah, I suspect a horse would normally fear the dark. They get spooked by anything they don’t understand unless they’ve been trained really well so the mare is fearless AF when it comes to a horse. I kinda wish she was a white deer instead for extra flavor (although describing her as snow instead of say milk my thoughts were simply “bitch you can’t see shit because she’s blending into her snowy environment until she moves” lol) but it’s not uncommon to have faeries riding normal horses too so whatever.

    OH and I guess the true name thing is here in this world but then… ummm please tell me why the fuck the humans don’t practice guarding their names?!?! BECAUSE in such a world it should be ANY name… I think??!?!

    September 7, 2023
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  7. Dove
    Dove

    “Yet, somehow, I still want to see where the story is going. A part of me understands why this series is so popular, while another part of me can’t understand why it’s so mediocre. I feel like maybe it tricks you into seeing its potential and not what’s actually on the page.”

    This actually happens a lot with books, anime, manga, comics, and tv series. The thing is, the audience can see the POTENTIAL from the premise and so even though there might be a sprinkling of red flags, they decide to set aside their criticisms and put their faith in the author/artist to see where it’s going, thinking that this story must pay-off at some point because the ideas themselves are exciting or cool or really interesting. This can happen because the beginning is inherently always going to be a little shaky, it has to get through the set-up first before any sort of extended plot can really take off, and that’s forever a little more boring than the mid-point or the ending (if it’s satisfying) even if the beginning is frankly amazing and gripping. So, most people understand that and try to be accepting if they like the concept enough.

    But the problem is, if there isn’t any real pay off by the first few chapters or episodes, then it’s doomed to never get any better and this is what angers people so much when they get to the end only to find out that all of those unspoken promises were never met. They SAW what they hoped to see up until their optimism couldn’t be maintained anymore and they had to admit to themselves that… THIS SUCKS.

    And it does. It hurts so bad too because as the viewer/reader you feel betrayed.

    Disappointment is literally the best way to enrage anyone.

    And this result doesn’t hit everyone at exactly the same point (usually, there are exceptions of course) so you’ll have fans congregate and wonder what happened.

    Ironically, that one Sherlock series still had people buying into the lie until the bitter end because certain fans just refused to face reality. I get it though… I saw warning signs from episode one but I liked the cute dynamic Sherlock and Watson had (well at first I guess. I really like Watson’s actor who’s name I forget lol I know he played Bilbo and it’s a shame those movies got wrecked too; he was an excellent Bilbo.) ER sorry I lost the tangent… I was stumped by how inane the shift was to “modernize” and change the “truth” of the mystery in that first episode. I was irked but I like Sherlock adaptations, I was a sucker for the queer-baiting, and so I gave it the benefit of the doubt for far longer than I should have… I was less forgiving as things went on but kept hoping but I knew by the beginning of the last season it was pure shit and sat through the whole thing anyway because I was watching it rather gobsmacked with equally gobsmacked friends and auto-play lol.

    THAT SAID there are some series I watched the opening and was like “meh” but then saw something online that made me give it another chance and I was promptly hooked by the whole series once I got past that. So, it’s possible but there’s just SO MUCH content in this world that even with streaming murdering our options on a daily basis, if something doesn’t grab you and you gave it a chance, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with DNF. HECK even if you just prioritize other things and never start something you’ve been a bit lukewarm about, if you don’t have a close friend going “THIS WAS MADE WITH YOU IN MIND, you’ll love it” there’s no reason to be worried if you never get around to it. Heck, sometimes all you needed was already in the beginning, you got what you needed, and that’s it. Done.

    Just don’t let anyone else shame you into giving something a chance or trying to make you finish it if you decided that you hated it. That’s bullshit 90% of the time.

    September 7, 2023
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    • Dove
      Dove

      god I wish there was an edit feature here. I meant after watching the first episode, not just the opening lol.

      September 7, 2023
      |Reply
  8. Dove
    Dove

    WARNING: TMI TMI TMI

    Although, sorry for replying so much, I just uhhh wanna get a lotta stuff out sorry. Anyway, I did have an extremely weird reversal of what I just described. I once watched the SECOND HALF of an anime because Pluto TV will do that… they show like 6 episodes at a time so you have no idea where it’ll start. In this case it was the mid-point to the very last episode, I think.

    Well, this was No Game, No Life and the episode it started on is this mystery where this little girl has this weird feeling that something is wrong, something is missing… so she tries to figure out what it is. I was DOWN… I was instantly under the mistaken assumption that she was the main/only protagonist and she had these hot fantasy adult women as her friends because why not? She’s alone in a fantasy world; of course some older ladies found her and are looking after her. She’s a literal child. That made perfect sense to me.

    Turns out, her older brother got his ass reality snapped with a stupid magic bargain that he struck and he knew it’d be fine because of course his sister would remember him and bring him back. I then realized they were co-protagonists and moved on, enjoying this weird, wacky, vaguely established fantasy world centered around vague game mechanics. It of course had the ladies all vying for the dude but that’s typical in anime. I thought nothing of it, especially since he wasn’t super annoying and I didn’t assume he was more important than his sister.

    I finished those six episodes and I was pumped. So I went “huh maybe I should watch the beginning?”

    GIGANTIC MISTAKE.

    The first episode in the first five minutes there were creepy loli vibes directed at the little sister FROM the big brother of all things. I stopped and to this day I’ve only seen the second half and that’s all I need. I don’t think there were those vibes later on or if they were it was the weird low-key crap anime seems to do a lot of these days… meh. So, I just didn’t think much about it. (I’m AFAB btw lol.)

    Prolly one reason I don’t watch much anime now… I’ve started a few good series here and there, some I just never got back to or finished. Some I did finish but then it got worse later, RIP that last season of Aggretsuko. Overall, I haven’t seen much beyond some really good anime movies here and there (Promare is awesome.) I started Hero Academia and loved the mom and when she effectively disappeared I kinda unintentionally DNFed lol. Apparently I dodged a bullet cause I liked Ochaco too but then she got basically side-lined as a love interest from what I’ve heard. Seems like there’s plenty of cool characters but perhaps too damn many so no one gets enough attention. It’s one of those I binged a string of episodes, stopped because I had to, and then never felt an urge to truly go back. (Lucky thing I also missed creepy grape-head boy lol.)

    And then there’s guilty pleasures like the Hyper Police manga which has some problems here and there but I gladly overlook them because I eat that shit up and I can’t help loving it any way. I love all the ladies (even the rapist, titty-devouring kitsune lol) and I love the stupid simple concept of the world which I feel like it succeeds at. It’s not that deep, it was never meant to be, and I’ll never sell those books. ACAB except for my sweet Hyper Police honeys. That said, I still haven’t watched the anime because IDK if the magic will translate for me lol.

    Ahahaha yeah I ramble a lot.

    September 7, 2023
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  9. Crystal M
    Crystal M

    “But then there’s a section break and Feyre wakes up on the back of the horse and realizes that the beast had used magic to keep her unconscious for the journey.

    So, I assume he’s telepathic, then, and just got tired of her internal monologue.”

    I assumed he knocked her out so she wouldn’t see how they got to the fairy kingdom and thus wouldn’t be able to find her way back home.

    September 7, 2023
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    • Al
      Al

      No, it was definitely because she was annoying.

      September 9, 2023
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