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.
Thanks everybody, for your patience with me while I took a week off to finish up the Radish Original I was working on. I hope your saint-like demeanor will extend to the material we’re recapping, so you don’t give up. ed.—That Radish Original I refer to is Taken By The Alpha King, a werewolf Urban Fantasy which last time I checked had seven million views on the platform. And good news! The first three seasons are available as a paperback or e-book wherever paperbacks and ebooks are sold, so you might wanna go and check that out if you like werewolves and books that harken back to the ’00s Urban Fantasy boom.
Don’t leave me here in the dark. Alone. With this book.
As per the end of the last chapter, Feyre is being dragged off to the first task.
My armed escort didn’t bother with drawn weapons as they tugged me forward. I wasn’t even shackled. Someone or something would catch me before I moved three feet and gut me where I stood.
In the last chapter, Feyre was memorizing all the cracks in the walls so she could make a clever escape somehow. This chapter, she’s unbound and the guards dragging her haven’t bothered with weapons. Seems like a good time to make a break for it, right? To just run off and save your life, since that’s what Tamlin wanted you to do in the first place?
But no, it’s hopeless, she would be killed the moment she tried!
It’s this back and forth that has consistently ruined any sense of drama or suspense throughout the story. In her first days at the manor, we were told that she had no chance of surviving a matter of minutes in the woods. But then she needed to go to the woods, where the creatures that we were told she had absolutely no chance of surviving an encounter with lived, and she ran into those creatures, and she survived. Then, she would be in grave danger at the festival. She went, survived, and was invited to the next festival (which makes zero sense in hindsight; why wouldn’t Tamlin have kept her presence totally secret so Amarantha wouldn’t have known Feyre was there in the first place?). She was for sure going to die making her way Under the Mountain. She didn’t. Everything in this book that is potentially deadly isn’t deadly. Feyre will always be conveniently rescued from danger or the danger will simply decide not to be dangerous.
So, I don’t buy for a moment that she can’t try an escape here without getting killed. I just don’t believe it. At this point, there are zero stakes and no reason whatsoever for me to believe that she’s in any danger at all.
Which is the space you really want your reader to be in when they’re coming into what should be one of the most exciting scenes in the book.
They take Feyre to a big cave that’s coated with mud like this is Woodstock ’99, and it’s full of about the same kind of crowd. They’re spooky, shouting, and “feral.”
I was hauled toward a wooden platform erected above the crowd. Atop it sat Amarantha and Tamlin, and before it …
I want an audiobook version of this where every ellipse are read out loud as “dun dun duuuuhn!”
I did my best to keep my chin high as I beheld the exposed labyrinth of tunnels and trenches running along the floor. The crowd stood along the banks, blocking my view of what lay within as I was thrown to my knees before Amarantha’s platform.
Love the neat trick of Feyre being able to see something that’s blocked from her view.
Around the platform stood a group of six males, secluded from the main crowd. From their cold, beautiful faces, from that echo of power still about them, I knew they were the other High Lords of Prythian. I ignored Rhysand as soon as I noticed his feline smile, the corona of darkness around him.
Since coronas, astronomically speaking, are fields of gaseous plasma, I’m going to imagine Rhysand walking around in a fart cloud at all times.
I can’t possibly be the only person who keeps forgetting the difference between High Lord and High Fae, can I? I know we’ve been reading this book for a long time but I just feel like I should be able to keep them straight.
“Well, Feyre,” the Faerie Queen said. I tried not to look at the hand she rested on Tamlin’s knee, that ring as vulgar as the gesture itself. “Your first task is here. Let us see how deep that human affection of yours runs.”
Putting your hand on Feyre’s boyfriend’s knee is just as bad as killing someone and trapping their soul in their eyeball and putting it in a ring you wear around so you can enjoy their eternal suffering.
You know what’s funny? If Feyre doesn’t guess the answer to the riddle (it’s love, the answer is love), then it won’t matter if she does all these tasks. Amarantha can just say sorry, you’re not worthy because you did these three heroic things and you still couldn’t figure out what love is, or something like that.
Amarantha tells Feyre that she’d learned some stuff about her (she can do the research on Feyre but not figure out her name?) and says Feyre will like the first task and tells her to look into the labyrinth.
The trenches, probably twenty feet deep, were slick with mud—in fact, they seemed to have been dug from mud.
Why, Sarah? Why must you continue with the em-dashes?
The trenches ran in a maze along the entire floor of the chamber, and their path made little sense.
You just explained what a maze is. You sat there at your computer, writing a book allegedly meant for adults and explained what a maze is. That’s a choice that you made, Sarah. That’s a choice that you made after describing it once already and using the word “labyrinth” to do so.
I don’t know Sarah J. Maas. I will very likely never, ever meet her. ed.—I will do everything humanly possible to avoid ever being within three miles of her. But I guarantee that this is the work of someone who is always the smartest person in the room, no matter where she goes.
In the maze, there are pitfalls and such, and Feyre thinks there might be underground tunnels. But as Sarah is describing all of this to us, the Attor scoops Feyre up and flies her down into the maze and drops her there. From her floating platform, Amarantha says:
“Rhysand tells me you’re a huntress,” she said, and my heartbeat faltered.
He must have read my thoughts again, or … or maybe he’d found my family, and—
Amarantha flicked her fingers in my direction. “Hunt this.”
Something is going to attack Feyre, but let’s stop a minute. Feyre. You know how they got that information. They have Tamlin and Lucien and a mind reader. That is how they got the information. Why is this even a question? Not a single damn reader questioned how she knew this stuff. ed.—Then again, this morning my FB memories reminded me of a reader who complained to me that I “used a bigger font” to make one of my books seem longer, and she was reading the ebook version and was in total control of the font size, so I assume that’s who we’re talking about when discussing an audience for Maas’s work.
There are some faeries placing bets around the edge of the pit and Feyre takes a last look at Tamlin with painting terms, and Amarantha orders some kind of creature to be released. Feyre hears something scraping open, then a slithering noise, then she feels the vibrations of something rushing at her, but she’s smart enough to know that this won’t look as good on Hulu if she’s proactive. She stays stock still until:
Amarantha clicked her tongue, and I whipped my head to her. Her brows rose. “Run,” she whispered.
Then it appeared.
You know SJM was writing that part and thinking, “This will be in the trailer.”
It was a giant worm, or what might have once been a worm had its front end not become an enormous mouth filled with ring after ring of razor-sharp teeth. It barreled toward me, its pinkish brown body surging and twisting with horrific ease. These trenches were its lair.
This chapter was clearly directed by Joss Whedon. Holy penis monster. ed.—Be sure to check out my ongoing rewatch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer over on YouTube.
It’s weird that having teeth somehow makes it an ex-worm, though.
There’s a lot of description of sliding in the mud and how bad the mud stinks that I’ll be skipping as we go through. The thing is, this is a chapter in which the heroine is being chased by a giant worm and somehow, SJM has managed to make it painfully slow. Just be aware that Feyre is running and there’s mud and it stinks.
I had to get as much distance between us as possible; I had to find a spot where I could make a plan, a spot where I could find an advantage.
Oh, you and your plans. You always need to make plans, and then the plans you make aren’t revealed to us even as you’re enacting those plans. I love your stupid, useless plans.
The worm is like, right on her ass no matter how many turns she takes or how fast she runs, and the fairies are cheering on the worm while they all watch her from above. She makes the mistake of looking over her shoulder as she runs:
I almost missed a slender opening in the side of the trench thanks to that look, and I gave up valuable steps as I skidded to a halt to squeeze myself through the gap. It was too small for the worm, but the creature could probably shatter through the mud If not, its teeth could do the trick. But it was worth the risk.
Of course, it can get through the mud. This is its lair. How did it get a lair if it couldn’t get through the mud to make the lair?
The crack was too small, and I’d so frantically thrown myself through it that I’d become wedged between it. My back to the worm, and too far between the walls to be able to turn, I couldn’t see it as it approached. The smell though—the smell was growing worse.
Here’s the part of the chapter I had the most difficult time visualizing and understanding. When I read the excerpt before this last one, I assumed she had been upright when she went into the crack, and her shoulders are pinned. But then:
The trenches reverberated with the thunderous movements of the worm. I could almost feel its reeking breath upon my half-exposed body, could hear those teeth slashing through the air, closer and closer.
Is she on her stomach? Is that why she’s half-exposed? Otherwise, I can’t picture what’s being described here. Is she upright, facing straight forward, somehow deep enough that she’s pinned but shallow enough that her back is exposed? Or is she on her stomach and doing a half-Shawshank here?
That doesn’t matter. They’ll figure it out when this is adapted for the screen.
But put your vote in the comments.
Not like this. It couldn’t end like this.
Okay, but wouldn’t it be awesome if it did, though? If we all just went home right now and the book was over and Feyre was dead and we could all sleep peacefully knowing that the rest of the series just doesn’t exist?
Now, in case you’ve forgotten, there is mud around and it is smelly and the worm is smelly. I’m just letting you know because that’s what’s happening in the book. It’s the motif, if you will.
Feyre manages to dig her way through the crack and falls into a different corridor of the labyrinth.
I didn’t have time for tears of relief as I found myself in another passageway and I launched farther into the labyrinth. From the continuing quieted roars, I knew the worm had overshot me.
I have been able to make zero sense of this entire action sequence. It’s written like it was the last bit of the book that was worked on, like the author hurried back and quickly added it to make the deadline. It’s written like someone describing what happened in a movie they saw but only once and they were a very small child at the time. Scratch that. It reads like a very small child describing something they didn’t see in a movie, but they had a dream about it after they saw a little bit of a scary movie on TV.
Is the worm behind her, or did it go over her head? How did the worm “overshoot” her?
But that made no sense—the passage offered no place to hide. It would have seen me stuck there. Unless it couldn’t break through and was now taking some alternate route, and would spring upon me.
That’s what I’m saying! It makes no sense! But in fairness, that’s only because the author hasn’t accurately described shit like, idk, body position or generally where the worm was while Feyre was trying to dig her way through the crack. Because it sounded like it was right on her ass and now apparently it went right by her? But she’s somehow unaware that it went past her?
This is possibly the worst action sequence I have ever read in a book.
And I read Apolonia by Jamie McGuire.
Feyre’s still running, still taking turns fast and bouncing off the wall like she’s playing 200cc Mario Kart and she just got the starman power-up. The fairies who are watching are pretty disappointed that she hasn’t been eaten yet, and they’re also watching a totally different part of the maze, so Feyre knows that’s where the worm has gone. And then she’s like:
It was blind.
No shit?! NO SHIT?!
Feyre is so stunned by her awesome powers of deduction that she falls into a pit.
Gasping for breath, I fumbled a few steps into the blackness of the tunnel. I bit down my shriek as something beneath my foot crunched hard. I staggered back, and my tailbone wailed in pain. I kept scrambling away, but my hand connected with something smooth and hard, and I lifted it to see a gleam of white.
Guess what it is!
That’s right, she’s in a cave full of bones.
“Feyre,” I heard Amarantha’s distant call. “You’re ruining everyone’s fun!” She said it as if I were a lousy shuttlecock partner.
There is shuttlecock in this fantasy world.
Imagine having no limit on your imagination and still creating a world in which there is shuttlecock.
The worm didn’t know where I was; it couldn’t smell me.
How can she possibly know this?
As my sight adjusted to the darkness of the worm’s den, mounds and mounds of bones gleamed, piles rolling away into the gloom.
This is obviously where Feyre grabs some bones to fashion weapons for hunting the worm.
No, she just tries and fails several times to climb up the muddy wall. Then one of the fairies makes a joke about her needing a stepping stool.
A stepping stool.
I whirled toward the piles of bones, then pushed my hand hard against the wall. It felt firm. The entire place was made of packed mud, […]
Oh was it? You hadn’t mentioned that before, Sarah.
[…] and if this creature was anything like its smaller, harmless brethren, I could assume the stench—and therefore the mud itself—was the remnant of whatever had passed through its system after it sucked the bones clean.
There’s no reason we’re getting this lecture on how worms shit. It doesn’t come into play at all. But aren’t you glad that you know?
Disregarding that wretched fact, I seized the spark of hope and grabbed the two biggest, strongest bones I could quickly find.
Okay, Worm Biology 101 is over. Time to make weapons.
Both were longer than my leg and heavy—so heavy as I jammed them into the wall.
Oh, you’re making a ladder, then? All right, that’s fair—fair, as long as you also make something to defend yourself.
She keeps putting bones in the pit wall to climb up, but then she gets an even better idea!
It’s to make bones into weapons, right?
I drew the bone from my belt, and with a sharp intake of breath, I snapped it across my knee.
My own bones burned with pain, but the shaft broke, leaving me with two sharp-ended spikes. It was going to work.
If Amarantha wanted me to hunt, I would hunt.
Heck yeah! Armed with her sharp-ass bone knives, she climbs up from the pit and—
I walked to the middle of the pit opening, calculated the distance, and plunged the two bones into the ground. I returned back to the mound of bones and made quick work of whatever I could find that was sturdy and sharp.
Nevermind then. She cleverly makes the pit into a trap instead. Still acceptable, right?
One by one, I stuck them into the muddy floor beneath the pit opening until the whole area, save for one small spot, was filled with white lances.
Okay… if you’re getting a bad feeling about the one small spot, don’t worry. I had those feelings, as well.
And just like that, I heaved myself out of the pit mouth, and almost wept to be exposed to the open air once more.
But she’s not in the open air. She’s still in the labyrinth.
This book was NOT edited. I do not care what the author, publisher, fans might say. Not a damn person put their eyes on this book in a critical way before they shipped it off to the printer and bought up a place for it on the NYT list.
Then, for some reason, Feyre covers her entire body with mud.
If the creature was blind, then it relied on smell—and my smell would be my greatest weakness.
*wavy sitcom flashback transition*
The worm didn’t know where I was; it couldn’t smell me.
*wavy sitcom flash-forward transition*
Maybe it’s not smell, Feyre. Maybe it’s vibrations, and you need to walk without rhythm. Or maybe it senses body heat, like in Predator, the movie that was on in the background when Maas wrote this scene. But one thing we know for sure: this is a first draft, no one ever edited it, and anyone who genuinely enjoys this book needs to get their home tested for low-level carbon monoxide leaks.
BTW, this whole time? Where’s the fucking worm? She’s had time to build a bone ladder and a bone tiger pit, then do a full Schwarzenegger in the worm shit, and the worm is just off, idk, doing worm stuff?
“What’s it doing?” the green-faced faerie whined again.
A deep, elegant voice replied this time. “She’s building a trap.” Rhysand.
“But the Middengard—”
“Relies on its scent to see,” Rhysand answered, and I gave a special glower for him as I glanced at the rim of the trench and found him smiling at me. “And Feyre just became invisible.
*wavy sitcom flashback transition*
The worm didn’t know where I was; it couldn’t smell me.
*wavy sitcom flash-forward transition*
Also, the Middengard? Surely you don’t mean the Midgard, or Jörmungandr, the serpent who girdles the world, Sarah? I’m going to give the author the benefit of the doubt here and assume she’s literally named the worm “shitgardener” because I choose to believe that one thing, just one damn thing, in this book could bring me joy.
For reasons I cannot fathom, there is a full-on section break between this part and a direct continuation of the scene. It goes:
I made an obscene gesture before I broke into a run, heading straight for the worm.
Then a section break followed by:
I placed the remaining bones at especially tight corners, knowing well enough that I couldn’t turn at the speed I hoped I would be running.
Like, at what point do I stop saying “this book is bad” because I’m starting to feel like I’m repeating myself more than Feyre does.
And by the way, why did she run “straight for the worm” if she wasn’t done setting up this elaborate trap? And if she put the last of the bones she’d broken into the walls… does she not have any kind of rudimentary weapon or something?
The faeries watching the worm—ten of them, with frosty blue skin and almond-shaped black eyes—giggled. I could only assume they’d grown bored of me and decided to watch something else die.
Cool, more non-Aryan beings (with almond-shaped eyes, no less!) being savages. That’s rad.
Look, I’m not suggesting that it’s racist against blue people. It just suggests fucking racism to put every skin color except literally any tone of brown human skin, into your book and then make a rainbow of mindless brutality out of the beings who don’t look like elegant and beautiful white people.
So, the worm is eating something else while these fairies watch and… feed it.
Too covered in its scent to smell me, the worm continued feasting, stretching its bulbous form upward as one of the faeries dangled what looked like a hairy arm. The worm gnashed its teeth, and the blue faeries cackled as they dropped the arm into its waiting mouth.
Quick quesh: why is Amarantha letting her court feed and distract the worm that’s supposed to be killing Feyre? Isn’t the whole point of this that Feyre will almost certainly be eaten by the worm?
I recoiled around the bend and raised the bone-sword I’d made.
She just said she put “the remaining bones” in the walls. There has been no mention of a bone sword whatsoever.
The lack of continuity in this fucker is astounding.
Still, my heart lodged in my throat as I drew the jagged edge of the bone across my palm, splitting open my flesh. Blood welled, bright and shining as rubies. I let it build before clenching my hand into a fist. The worm would smell that soon enough.
Here’s another spot where the author was more concerned about how cool this will look in the inevitable film adaptation than whether or not it makes sense to the story. Feyre is a hunter and a painter, and she knows she has more tasks coming up.
Why would she cut a part of her body that she will need to complete her next task. A part that is difficult to heal and easy to get infected (like, idk, when it’s slathered in worm shit, for example). Note the lack of question marks there; I want you to read it in the flat affect with which I thought it.
But while Feyre is doing this whole super tough and clever thing that for sure demonstrates she’s a practical, intelligent person who has a lot of experience thinking of ways to survive, she loses track of the fucking worm.
Then, shattering the silence like a shooting star, a voice—Lucien’s—bellowed across the chamber, “TO YOUR LEFT!”
Is that… is that ALL CAPS? Is that something we’re allowed to do?!
The worm bursts through the wall right next to her, then we have a page of her running and describing herself running, the word “turn” is used approximately forty-eight thousand times, and then she gets back to the hole.
Now, remember when she made the tiger pit? And she left a tiny area clear?
I swung my arms as I careened down, aiming for the spot I’d planned.
That’s right. The plan was to run and leap into the pit of jagged bone spikes and somehow land perfectly in the tiny spot she left open.
That’s the brilliant plan.
Let’s see how it goes:
Pain barked through my bones, my head, as I collided with the muddle ground and rolled. I flipped over myself and screamed as something hit my arm, biting through flesh.
I did not see this coming.
The worm falls into the pit and dies, Feyre climbs up out of the hole, and she’s still got her bone sword of badassness that just appeared out of fucking nowhere.
I tightened my grip on the long bone in my hand. I was shaking—shaking all over. But not with fear. Oh, no. It wasn’t fear at all. I’d proved my love—and then some.
When Amarantha makes a remark about how anyone could have done what Feyre did, Feyre fucking snaps.
I took a few running steps and hurled the bone at her with all my remaining strength.
It embedded itself in the mud at her feet, splattering filth onto her white gown, and remained there, quivering.
And everybody on the bus clapped.
She smiled slowly. “Naughty,” she asked.
Did she ask? Doesn’t sound like an ask. Doesn’t even sound like the full stop you put at the end of a sentence when you want someone to read it in the pissed-off voice with which they wrote it.
Had there not been an insurmountable trench between us, I would have ripped her throat out. Someday—if I lived through this—I would skin her alive.
LOL isn’t that like, the EXACT SAME THING AMARANTHA DID THAT’S UNFORGIVABLE? I could have sworn she skinned somebody. Who cares, honestly. Who really the fuck cares.
Read those full stops. Feel them in your bones.
Amarantha tells Feyre that a lot of people in the court lost money betting that she would be killed, and Feyre looks at Tamlin.
His green eyes were bright, and though his face was deathly pale, I could have sworn there was a ghost of triumph on his face.
Could have said “it” instead of using “face” twice in the same sentence, but nothing matters anymore.
Still, I’m so happy that we’ve arrived at, “but when he said it, his face looked this way. What do you think that meeeeeaaans?” as the core of the romance here.
“Let’s see,” Amarantha went on, reading the paper as she toyed with Jurian’s finger bone at the end of her necklace. “Yes, I’d say almost my entire court bet on you dying within the first minute; some said you’d last five, and”—she turned over the paper—”and just one person said you would win.”
Oh wow, gosh, I bet it was Tamlin or Lucien wow gosh, I’m sure it’s one of them I’m going to be totally surprised when we find out it was Rhysand.
Especially after Amarantha says:
“Rhysand, come here.”
Feyre is dragged back to her cell and checks out the arm she fucking ruined like a god damn McArthur Genius Grant recipient.
I looked at my left forearm then, and my stomach rose at the trickling blood and ripped tendons, at the lips of my skin pulled back to accommodate the shaft of a bone shard protruding clean through it.
Well, that’s fucking disgusting, isn’t it? The only time I want to hear about lips pulling back to accommodate shafts is…
Look, the point is, with the medical care available to her and the hygiene situation… this should be a fatal injury. You’re looking at infection, you’re looking at shock, possibly an embolism, the movement of the bone could sever a blood vessel, this is not the injury you want to give your main character in the very first physical challenge you’re giving her. How is she going to do the rest of the stuff?
Okay, we all know someone is probably going to come to heal her.
But still, it’s an injury that could have been avoided… if Feyre hadn’t made the frankly bananas decision to jump straight down into a pit of giant bone spikes.
This book sucks, yous all. It just.
It just sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It massively sucks.