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.
Okay. We gotta do this. We gotta rehash the last line of chapter twelve before we move forward because I read both chapters back-to-back in the same night and I laughed. Like, out loud. At a book.
That hardly ever happens.
The chapter hook was:
I saw what lay beyond him and my stomach twisted.
Now, refresher: Feyre specifically requested to see the study. And it has been revealed. And that was her reaction.
My palms began sweating as I took in the enormous, opulent study. Tomes lined each wall like the soldiers of a silent army, and couches, desks, and rich rugs were scattered throughout the room. But … it had been over a week since I left my family. Though my father had said never to return, though my vow to my mother was fulfilled, I could at least let them know I was safe—relatively safe.
There are BOOKS! In the STUDY!
Oh, and also, this isn’t at all Disney.
And let’s talk about that “But…” and how it has absolutely nothing to do with the sentence before it. Rich rugs were scattered through the room, but it had been over a week since Feyre saw her family? Does the existence of rugs in the known universe depend on whether or not Feyre’s family spends quality time together? Is that what the “but” is about?
Now, lest I am accused of misrepresenting the text (not by any of yous all, yous all knew what you were getting into when you entered your credit card info), there is a paragraph just above the one I started with, but I didn’t excerpt it because it’s just Tamlin lighting candles with a wave of his hand and Feyre realizing for approximately the forty-ninth time in the book so far that wow, Tamlin is powerful. I haven’t read past chapter thirteen, but I’m sure we’ll get another explanation of how powerful he is before too long.
Anyway, back to Feyre wanting to let her family know she’s okay. The family that she has spent most of the book insisting doesn’t care about her at all and is probably happier without her.
There was only one method to convey it.
Writing, right? The thing that we’ve just heard you can’t do? So, yeah, you’d assume the fact that Tamlin already knows she’s illiterate would mean that she asked him to write this letter for her?
Nope! She wants him to leave her alone. She’s a strong, independent girl who doesn’t need anybody!
Also, she’s still like, whoa, mind blown about the candle thing:
I couldn’t think about the casual power he’d just shown—the graceful carelessness with which he’d brought so many flames to life.
After seeing him
- turn from a giant beast into a dude
- fight a monster
- make her sleep for several days
- make a whole damn feast vanish
- randomly have claws
the candle thing is a shock.
Look, just trust your readers to remember stuff about your characters. Stuff like, you know…who the main character is afraid of and why.
It wasn’t entirely my fault that I was scarcely able to read. Before our downfall, my mother had sorely neglected our education, not bothering to hire a governess. And after poverty struck and my elder sisters, who could read and write, deemed the village school beneath us, they didn’t bother to teach me. I could read enough to function—enough to form my letters, but so poorly that even signing my name was mortifying.
Honestly, Feyre, I wasn’t going to blame you for not being able to read until you started blaming everyone else. Now, I’m suspicious.
Now, we’ve gone from “must write notes to self in symbols” to “reads and writes enough to function,” so at least the inconsistency is consistent.
It was bad enough that Tamlin knew. I would think about how to get the letter to them once it was finished; perhaps I could beg a favor of him, or Lucien.
So glad that this book is going in so hard on “illiteracy is shameful, even if you didn’t have good educational resources” implications. ed.—especially after learning that Maas herself had an incredibly privileged upbringing that included expensive private schools and an elite university.
Asking them to write it would be too humiliating. I could hear their words: typical ignorant human. And since Lucien seemed convinced that I would turn spy the moment I could, he would no doubt burn the letter, and any I tried to write after. So I’d have to learn myself.
Sometimes I just get up and walk away and go into another room while I’m working on these. I just…drift off. In the last paragraph, Feyre is gonna ask them for help delivering the letter. Now, they’ll probably just burn it.
Drifting…drifting away. To the kitchen, to stare at my agave plant, which has speared itself upon its own leaves as a metaphor for how I feel when I read bad books.
Tamlin leaves and there’s a section break, after which we learn that Feyre worked until dinner time, slept, then went back to the library at dawn, where she’s using her ability to read to teach herself to read and write. She sounds out the words and writes some down. This is kinda how I remember learning to read and write in school so I guess not a bad plan, but I’m not sure how she’s choosing the words she’s writing down. If I cared, it would be an important detail.
I would look up their pronunciations later.
She can’t read very well or write very well but she can somehow use a phonetic alphabet just fine.
SO ANYHOO, Feyre gets up to wander around the library, sorry, study.
I suppose the study was more of a library, as I couldn’t see any of the walls thanks to the small labyrinths of stacks flanking the main area and a mezzanine dangling above, covered wall to wall in books.
We know. We saw the cartoon.
I found myself overlooking a rose garden, filled with dozens of hues of crimson and pink and white and yellow.
I might have allowed myself a moment to take in the colors, gleaming with dew under the morning sun, had I not glimpsed the painting that stretched along the wall beside the windows.
I almost looked at the very thing I am describing.
Doesn’t work, my friend.
Also not working for me is what the painting is for. Because it’s a full-on exposition of the type that would work just fine in a movie but which is excruciating in a book.
It told a story with the way colors and shapes and light flowed, the way the tone shifted across the mural. The story of … of Prythian.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt the depths of love that Maas has for ellipses. Not for anyone or anything.
This section is something else. I’m skimming it because it’s just huge block paragraphs telling us everything we need to know about Prythian, accompanied by an in-depth explanation of Prythian and the war with the humans, but here are some of the points we do need to visit:
I scanned the various lands and territories now given to the High Fae. Still so much territory—such monstrous power spread across the entire northern part of our world. I knew they were ruled by kings or queens or councils or empresses, but I’d never seen a representation of it, of how much they’d been forced to concede to the South, and how crammed their lands now were in comparison.
Prediction: Feyre will at some point end up sympathizing with the Fae because of all they lost or whatever.
At the moment, though, she thinks the painter is “spiteful” for not mapping out the human realm on this map of Prythian made in Prythian by people from Prythian, and tries to Brightside Barbie the situation by going, hey, at least I’m imprisoned in a place with good weather.
I looked northward and stepped back again. The six other courts of Prythian occupied a patchwork of territories. Autumn, Summer, and Winter were easy enough to pick out. Then above them, two glowing courts: the southernmost one a softer, redder palate, the Dawn Court; above, in bright gold and yellow and blue, the Day Court. And above that, perched in a frozen mountainous spread of darkness and stars, the sprawling, massive territory of the Night Court.
There are two types of people: the ones who immediately heard the Night Court theme, or the ones who began singing “Day Court/AAAHHHHAAAAHHHHHH/fighter of the Night Court/AAAAAAHHHHHHAAAAA/champion of the sun!”
Okay, technically, three types of people, since at least one of us here did both and then wrote it down.
I might have examined the other kingdoms across the seas that flanked our land, like the isolated faerie kingdom to the west that seemed to have gotten away with no territory loss and was still law unto itself, had I not looked to the heart of that beautiful, living map.
What did I say? What did I just say? You can’t describe in-depth the thing that you didn’t look at.
More stuff to be aware of: the map shows a cauldron pouring symbols out over Prythian and in the center of everything is a big old mountain.
With that thought, I went back to my little table. At least I’d learned the layout of their lands—and I knew to never, ever go north.
Why the fuck would you?! Your home is SOUTH. THIS WAS NEVER A QUESTION FOR ANY OF US.
Maybe it was a question for the editor? And that’s bandaid Maas slapped over it? Because that is 100% what happens further down the page, when it’s revealed that Feyre is reading a children’s book:
Why did Tamlin have children’s books in his library? Were they from his own childhood, or in anticipation of children to come? It didn’t matter. I couldn’t even read them.
It takes zero imagination for me to see this conversation happening in the review panel of MS Word:
Editor: Why does Tamlin have children’s books in his library? Are they from his own childhood? Does he plan to have children?
Maas: It doesn’t matter. She can’t read them.
And let’s go back to the part where Feyre says she can’t read the books, anyway. I’m starting to feel like her inability to read is kinda like the weather.
Feyre gets frustrated and throws away her list of words, and Tamlin startles her by showing up and offering to help her write to her family. He straight up says, “I could help you write to them,” emphasis mine.
I pushed back against the heat rising in my cheeks and ears, the panic at the information he might be guessing I’d been trying to send. “Help? You mean a faerie is passing up the opportunity to mock an ignorant mortal?”
I honestly don’t understand what the consequences of anything are, at this point. She said before that she’d considered asking them for help delivering the letter, then she was afraid they would burn the letter, she didn’t ask for help in writing the letter because she’s embarrassed and because she knows they’ll make fun of her, he rocks up like let me write this letter to your family, for you, and she’s like, oh no, he’ll find out what I’m sending.
I don’t understand. I do not understand. Can Feyre read or not? Does she trust the fairies to deliver her message or is she sure they’re going to destroy the letter? And now Tamlin has offered to write it but she’s still pretty sure it’s so he can make fun of her?
I’m astounded. I’m flabbergasted. I have no idea how so many people have read this book and enjoyed it. Did they not question any of this stuff?
“Why should I mock you for a shortcoming that isn’t your fault? Let me help you. I owe you for the hand.”
Shortcoming. It was a shortcoming.
I guess saying wildly ableist things about illiteracy in a book is the equivalent of mocking the Amish on TV. It’s not like either demographic is gonna see it but that probably doesn’t make it right.
Yet it was one thing to bandage his hand, to talk to him as if he wasn’t a predator built to kill and destroy, but to reveal how little I truly knew, to let him see that part of me that was still a child, unfinished and raw …
Well, I’m for sure not going to be creeped out by that line when they inevitably bone down.
“You think I’ve got nothing better to do with my time than come up with elaborate ways to humiliate you?”
Fucking thank you. Thank you, SJM, for finally including something, anything, to contradict Feyre’s insistence that the universe and everything that happens in it happens specifically for and because of her.
Although, she does, of course, figure this remark is some kind of slight against all humans but like…maybe it’s not all humans, Feyre. Maybe it’s you who sucks.
Tamlin is like, you’ll let Lucien take you hunting but you won’t let me help you with this, and Feyre is like, Lucien doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. Raise your hand if you remember an instance in this book where Tamlin pretends to be something he’s not. Don’t worry, it didn’t really happen. About 80% of what we know about Tamlin has come from the disaster scenarios Feyre constantly runs in her head, instead of his own actions.
“How can I trust a faerie? Don’t you delight in killing and tricking us?”
His snarl set the flames of the candles guttering. “You aren’t what I had in mind for a human—believe me.”
Not Like Other Humans.
I could almost feel the wound deep in my chest as it ripped open and all those awful, silent words came pouring out. Illiterate, ignorant, unremarkable, proud, cold—all spoken from Nesta’s mouth, all echoing in my head with her sneering voice.
This juxtaposition suggests that Feyre believes “you aren’t what I had in mind” means that Tamlin, whom she has just accused of monstrous cruelty against humans, actually believed that humans aren’t unremarkable, proud, cold, etc. but Feyre is and that’s not what he expected.
Of course, her pain can be expressed thoroughly in a single line about her pinching her lips together, at which point, Tamlin becomes apologetic and Feyre storms off.
But that afternoon, when I went to retrieve my crumpled list from the wastebasket, it was gone. And my pile of books had been disturbed—the titles out of order. It had probably been a servant, I assured myself, calming the tightness in my chest. Just Alis or some other bird-masked faerie cleaning up. I hadn’t written anything incriminating—there was no way he knew I’d been trying to warn my family. I doubted he would punish me for it, but … our conversation earlier had been bad enough.
She’s worried about incriminating herself if Tamlin reads the letter but…
Maybe I was a fool for not accepting his help, for not swallowing my pride and having him write the letter in a few moments.
I THINK YOU WOULD BE MORE LIKELY TO INCRIMINATE YOURSELF IF YOU DICTATE THE INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE TO HIM DIRECTLY BUT WHAT DO I KNOW?
Not even a letter of warning, but just—just to let them know I was safe. If he had better things to do with his time than come up with ways to embarrass me, then surely he had better things to do than help me write letters to my family. And yet he’d offered.
You were trying to hide the fact that you were writing the letter to your family AT ALL, not just about the blight. If that’s not the case and I’m misunderstanding then, IDK.
A nearby clock chimed the hour.
Shortcoming—another one of my shortcomings.
I should have let his hand bleed that night, should have known better than to think that maybe—maybe there would be someone, human or faerie or whatever, who could understand what my life—what I—had become these past few years.
Is this what we’re supposed to be thinking when Feyre made the “pretending to be someone he’s not” comment earlier? Her whole problem with Tamlin is that he’s somehow deceived her by not becoming her therapist?
Faeries might not be able to lie, but they could certainly withhold information; Tamlin, Lucien, and Alis had done their best not to answer my specific questions. Knowing more about the blight that threatened them—knowing anything about it, where it had come from, what else it could do, and especially what it could do to a human—was worth my time to learn.
I don’t remember anyone ever being vague or cagey about anything. I certainly remember Feyre deciding to not ask various characters various questions, however.
This book is making me doubt reality. Tell me in the comments, am I just imagining all those times Feyre would ask a question and get a long explanation, and then she would think about how she wasn’t going to ask more about it?
Feyre decides to track down Lucien and finds him in his bedroom.
Oh, so, remember earlier
“Come in, human.” He could probably detect me by my breathing patterns alone. Or maybe that eye of his could see through the door.
Didn’t Tamlin establish in the last chapter that absolutely they could hear her trying to eavesdrop? I might as well stop trying to keep shit straight because it’s changing like Michigan weather.
Lucien’s room is done up in autumnal colors.
But while my room was all softness and grace, his was marked with ruggedness.
It’s been like ten years and I still have no idea if describing things like “all [adjectives]” is something I’ve always hated or just something I hate now because of how much it was used in the Fifty Shades of Grey books. Just the other day I tried to write a line about someone being “all arms and legs” and I had a physical reaction.
The thing is, it’s such a common description, I’m pretty sure every single author who has ever written anything, fiction or non-fiction, has probably used it.
Anyway, that wasn’t a critique of the book, just me wondering if I hate the line because of a different book.
In lieu of a pretty breakfast table by the window, a worn worktable dominated the space, covered in various weapons. It was there he sat, wearing only a white shirt and trousers, his red hair unbound and gleaming like liquid fire. Tamlin’s court-trained emissary, but a warrior in his own right.
Because when I see long, silky, shampoo-commercial quality hair and a dude wearing all white, I’m immediately like, “that man is a skilled warrior” and definitely not, “ugh, I bet he reads easily recognizable feminist novels in coffee shops near college campuses.”
Feyre tells him that she hasn’t seen him around and, without her even asking, Lucien is like, oh, I’ve been at the northern border on business.
How inscrutable these fairies are. How closely they guard their secrets. Or…whatever.
He goes on to mention that he heard her fighting with Tamlin and that’s why he decided to just hang out in his room.
“Well,” he went on, shrugging, “it seems that you managed to get under Tam’s fur enough that he sought me out and nearly bit my head off. So I suppose I can thank you for ruining what should have been a peaceful lunch. Thankfully for me, there’s been a disturbance out in the western forest, and my poor friend had to go deal with it in that way only he can. I’m surprised you didn’t run into him on the stairs.”
How will she ever get information out of these wily tricksters? They let nothing pass their lips.
Because Lucien mentioned earlier that Tamlin had gone off to the western lands or something, Feyre asks why he had to leave. Lucien tells her flat out that he went to exterminate some “nasty creatures raising hell” and Feyre immediately follows it with:
“I’m impressed you answered me that much,” I said as casually as I could, thinking through my words. “But it’s too bad you’re not like the Suriel, spouting any information I want if I’m clever enough to snare you.”
Remember earlier, when she asked him what a Suriel was and he told her?
THEY ANSWER ALL OF HER QUESTIONS. ALL OF THEM.
Lucien even asks her to just say what it is she wants him to tell her and she’s all:
“You have your secrets, and I have mine,” I said carefully. I couldn’t tell whether he would try to convince me otherwise if I told him the truth. “But if you were a Suriel,” I added with deliberate slowness, in case he hadn’t caught my meaning, “how, exactly, would I trap you?”
Feyre has her secrets, which she will now communicate through obvious tone and, I assume, wiggling eyebrows and a nudge of her elbow.
Just so you’re aware, her “plan” isn’t something that’s known by the reader at this particular moment. As far as I’m aware, she’s never actually had a “plan” that’s been shared with us. She’s been “planning” to escape but never actually trying to escape until something spooky lures her out. She “plans” to find a loophole in the treaty but then the “plan” suddenly becomes writing to her family. Now, we’re supposed to be held in suspense that her “plan” will work when we don’t have a fucking clue what the plan is. YOU NEVER LET READERS IN ON THE PLAN, SARAH. YOU NEVER BOTHERED TO MAKE THE FUCKING PLAN AT ALL.
I really don’t mean to sound like a fantasy snob here, and I don’t believe that all fantasy fiction needs to be written with the voice and style of a white male author. But this is just terrible writing. The plan, the plan, the plan, don’t worry about what the plan is just know that I have one in my first-person pov that I’m somehow trying to hide from you. I know there must be a plan in fantasy novels, so if I keep mentioning it, people will think it’s in here.
Lucien, one of the fairies who never tells her anything, will let no piece of compromising information dance upon his tongue, tells her exactly
- where to look for them: in birch groves in the western woods
- how to trap them: setting a snare with freshly killed chickens
- how to escape when she sets it free: cross the nearest running water
- what weapons to take: her bow and arrows, and a knife that he gives her.
If only she could get even the slightest hints out of these secretive High Fae.
Lucien warns Feyre that if Tamlin finds out that he told her any of this, there will be evisceration-related consequences. There’s banter about how Lucien will be able to hear her if she screams for help, and how she’s good at keeping secrets, which culminates with:
He snorted as I took the knife from the table and turned to procure the bow from my room. “I think I’m starting to like you—for a murdering human.”
Well, thank Christ somebody does because I am not qualified for the job of liking Feyre.