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…
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?