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.
Welcome to chapter thirty-eight.
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Feyre is in a hallway, scrubbing the floors and trying to keep her mind off her new tattoo:
The ink—which, in the light, was actually a blue so dark it appeared black—was a cloud upon my thoughts, and those were bleak enough even without knowing I’d sold myself to Rhysand. I couldn’t look at the eye on my palm. I had an absurd, creeping feeling that it watched me.
Perhaps you’re wondering why she’s scrubbing the floor or how she got there. Don’t worry. That part of the story (you know, the part that contains all the stakes and stuff) gets told kinda in past-perfect?
I dunked the large brush into the bucket the red-skinned guards had thrown into my arms. I could barely comprehend them through their mouths full of long yellow teeth, but when they gave me the brush and bucket and shoved me into a long hallway of white marble, I understood.
“If it’s not washed and shining by supper,’ one of them had said, its teeth clicking as it grinned, “we’re to tie you to the spit and give you a few good turns over the fire.”
Then a few lines down:
My back already ached like fire, and I hadn’t been scrubbing the marble hall for more than thirty minutes.
Being grabbed by demons and threatened with roasting seems like an exciting enough part of the story to put on the page as it happens, but I’m not commercially popular on an astronomic level, so how do I know what makes an enjoyable read?
Here’s the thing, though:
But the water they’d given me was filthy, and the more I scrubbed the floor, the dirtier it became.
Why not just… stop scrubbing the floor?
Feyre recognizes that she’s been given this impossible task specifically so she’ll fail, and all she can think about are the screams in the dungeon and how the fairies are going to cook her alive, but like:
I cursed as I scrubbed harder, the coarse bristles of the brush crinkling and whispering against the tiles. A rainbow of brown was left in their wake, and I growled as I dunked the brush again. Filthy water came out with it, dripping all over the floor.
A trail of brown much grew with each sweep.
MAYBE STOP SCRUBBING THE FLOOR?!
And Feyre keeps mentioning how she will be roasted on a spit, etc, but frankly? It doesn’t sound scary to me. I mean, obviously, the concept of being roasted alive is scary, but we know that Feyre isn’t in any danger, and we only heard about this terrifying threat second hand, so like… I don’t feel any urgency from the narrative at all.
It almost feels like Maas begrudgingly wrote this chapter. Like, it’s a part of the story she knew she had to write, but she just wasn’t interested? Because up until now, every important (and unimportant) event in the book has gotten at least a full chapter on its own, and in this short chapter, Feyre is going to solve—sorry, be rescued from—two impossible tasks.
The dirt was actually turning into mud the harder I scrubbed it.
I would recommend stopping actually scrubbing the floors.
The thing is, this is the fairy court, right? Did they say she had to use the water? They basically just wanted it clean, and the hallway is described as white marble, but not as being dirty. If the water makes the hall dirtier… maybe the point was not to use it at all? I feel like you have to approach some of this shit like an episode of Taskmaster, Feyre.
I mean, she even considers that it’s probably some kind of trick, but she doesn’t try anything new. She just keeps scrubbing the floor and heaping more and more dirt onto it, despite thinking there must be a catch.
But then someone comes in.
She looked perhaps a bit older than Amarantha, but her porcelain skin was exquisitely colored, graced with the faintest blush of rose along her cheeks. Had the red hair not been indication enough, when her russet eyes met mine, I knew who she was.
Feyre realizes it’s Lucien’s mother, the Lady of the Autumn Court. ed.—When Maas went back and retconned Lucien and the entire Autumn Court as being Black, that leaves us with this sentence about a Black woman being, and I cannot stress this enough, “colored.”
“For giving her your name in place of my son’s life,” she said, her voice as sweet as sun-warmed apples. She must have been in the crowd that day. She pointed at the bucket with a long, slender hand. “My debt is paid.”
If you’re wondering what that means, it means the bucket of water is clean, but we’ll get to that in the minute. Right now, let’s talk about the fact that, yet again, Feyre is rescued.
We just need to come to terms with the fact that no matter how much work Feyre puts into saving herself (the worm pit) or how little she tries to fix things (spreading mud all over the floor like it’s somehow gonna stop being mud), someone rescues her.
Let’s refresh our memories:
- Feyre could have been tricked by the Bogge and doesn’t notice it’s a trick until Tamlin appears out of nowhere and warns her.
- Feyre battles the Naga but ultimately needs Tamlin to finish the job.
- Feyre is attacked at Calanmai and rescued by Rhysand.
- Feyre is attacked by Rhysand in the dining room and is saved when Tamlin and Lucien grovel for her life.
- Feyre returns to the manor and receives all the information she needs directly from one person, who leads her exactly where she needs to go.
- Despite all the work Feyre put into tricking and killing the worm, Lucien’s shouted warning saved her life.
- Both times that Feyre nearly died in her cell from injuries, someone showed up to magically heal her.
- Now this clean water bullshit.
Now here’s the thing. There is something I genuinely enjoy in this next bit, but we’ve reached the portion of our program where finding otherwise good writing in this mess is like receiving extra bathroom privileges from your hostage-taker. So I can’t even properly enjoy it.
She disappeared through the door she’d opened, and I could have sworn I smelled roasting chestnuts and crackling fires in her wake.
That, coupled with the “sun-warmed apples” voice described above? So good! Why not write like that the whole time?
I knelt beside the bucket and dipped my fingers into the water. They came out clean.
I shuddered, allowing myself a moment to slump over my knees before I dumped some of the water onto the floor and watched it wash away the muck.
Am I the only one who thinks that, idk, magically cleaning the floors would have been a better way of repaying someone who saved your son’s life?
There’s a section break, and we arrive at impossible task number two:
“Servant spilled lentils in the ash,” one of the guards grunted, tossing me a wooden bucket. “Clean it up before the occupant returns, or he’ll peel off your skin in strips.”
Fairy tale aficionados will recognize that classic. Actually, the muddy hallway, too. I would say that Maas really did her homework with classic fairy tales, but, to be honest? I think she just has the DVDs of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller.
Sorting lentils from ash and embers—ridiculous, wasteful, and—
I approached the darkened fireplace and cringed.
Also, weird that anybody had lentils in there in the first place. I mean, clearly, the guards put them there, right? Because this is a bedroom. I know people like to involve food in sex sometimes, but I doubt the erotic possibilities of lentils.
The bed was enormous and neatly made, its black sheets of—of silk.
I’m sorry, is Feyre’s personal narrative developing a stutter? WTF is “of—of silk.” Does Maas somehow own stock in em-dashes?
There was nothing else in the room beyond basic furniture; not even discarded clothes or books or weapons As if its occupant never slept here.
WOW I WONDER WHO THE EMPTY BEDROOM WITH THE BIG BED WITH BLACK SILK SHEETS BELONGS TO WOW, SUCH SUSPENSE.
Feyre gets to work, and there’s a section break, after which Feyre has been sorting through ashes for two hours, and she still keeps finding more lentils she missed. She notes that she once again doesn’t have a firm time limit, so she arms herself with a poker every time she hears someone approaching the door.
Amarantha had never said anything about not fighting back—never specified that I wasn’t allowed to defend myself. At least I’d go down swinging.
I’m so tired of hearing about how Feyre is going to “go down” fighting, especially now that Tamlin damned his entire court to save her life.
Finally, the mysterious occupant, who we totally could not predict would be Rhysand, comes back.
Darkness entered the room, guttering the andles with a snow-kissed breeze. I gripped the poker harder, pressing against the stone of the fireplace, even as that darkness settled on the bed and took a familiar form.
WHAT FORM?! THE SUSPENSE!
Rhysand asks Feyre what she’s doing in the fireplace and Feyre is like, trying not to get skinned.
“Do I have you to thank for this idea?” I hissed. He wasn’t allowed to kill me, not with my bargain with Amarantha, but … there were other ways to hurt me.
You know how much I love it when characters “hiss” words or phrases that don’t hiss when you say them. Now, all I’m hearing is, “Do I have you to tttttthhhhank for ttthhhhhissssssss idea?” like the snake in Disney’s Robin Hood.
Also, looking back over her bargain with Amarantha, there wasn’t a stipulation that Feyre couldn’t be harmed. The very first thing that happened after Feyre made a deal with Amarantha was that Feyre got her ass-kicked in front of and at the request of Amarantha.
But at this point, I think we’re all pretty used to the rules of the world changing like… just whenever.
Rhysand is like, nope, not my thing, and P.S., nobody noticed your arm yet. Feyre asks if the fireplace is clean enough, and he’s like, wtf were there lentils in the fireplace?
I gave him a flat look. “One of your mistress’s household chores, I suppose.”
“Hm,” he said, examining his nails. “Apparently she or her cronies think I’ll find some sport with you.”
My mouth dried up. “Or it’s a test for you,” I managed to get out. “You said you bet on me on my first task. She didn’t seem pleased about it.”
Rhysand is like, yeah, uh, what would the point of testing me be?
I didn’t balk from that violet stare. Amarantha’s whore, Lucien had once called him. “You lied about her. About Clare. You knew very well what I looked like.”
Ope, there were go. She’s found someone else she can definitively blame for Clare’s death. She’s never gonna accept responsibility for it again after this.
Rhysand sat up in a fluid movement and braced his forearms on his thighs. Such grace contained in such a powerful form. I was slaughtering on the battlefield before you were even born, he’d once said to Lucien. I didn’t doubt it.
Feyre has this weird, fetishistic thing where she’s constantly talking about how fairies will murder anything, and they’re so dangerous, then immediately apply that horrible danger and violence to someone as an example of their attractiveness. I’m just saying, for someone who is always so disgusted and appalled by fairy violence, she seems to find it incredibly hot.
“Amarantha plays her games,” he said simply, “and I play mine. It gets rather boring down here, day after day.”
Remember: the plot twist is that he’s the actual love interest in this story. Not Tamlin. Rhysand is endgame, and he just described the torture and murder of one of Feyre’s “friends” as a game.
Feyre points out that he doesn’t always stay Under the Mountain. Rhysand has some vague reason for why he can’t come and go as he pleases:
“She asked me to put that head in the garden. As for Fire Night … ” He looked me up and down. “I had my reasons to be out then. Do not think, Feyre, that it did not cost me.”
Lemme guess, he was out at Fire Night because he had heard about the human Tamlin was keeping, and Rhysand just had to see her for himself, and she turned out to be the most exquisite creature he’d ever seen or something. I won’t ever find out because I will not be continuing with this series.
But I’m digging Rhysand’s “I was just following orders” excuse here.
Rhysand mentions the poker Feyre is still holding and notes that fighting him would be useless. Feyre already knows that, of course, and asks him why Amarantha didn’t take his powers away.
He lifted a groomed, dark brow. “Oh, she took my powers. This … ” A caress of talons against my mind. I jerked back a step, slamming into the fireplace. The pressure on my mind vanished. “This is just the remnant. The scraps I get to play with. Your Tamlin has brute strength and shape-shifting; my arsenal is a far deadlier assortment.”
All right. Here we have a pretty good case for how this book romanticizes intimate partner violence. Like I spoilered this before, Rhysand is Feyre’s true love or whatever. But right now, he’s a guy who seems to relish hurting her just to prove that he can.
She asks if all the High Lords can shape-shift.
“Oh, all the High Lords can. Each of us has a beast roaming beneath our skin, roaring to get out. While your Tamlin prefers fur, I find wings and talons to be more entertaining.”
Inside of you are two wolves. One of them is a wolf and the other is a bat or something.
But the darkness that hovered around him began to writhe and twist and flare as he rose to his feet. I blinked, and it was done.
I lifted the iron poker, just a little bit.
“Not a full shift, you see,” Rhysand said, clicking the black razor-sharp talons that had replaced his fingers.
Interesting choice of adjective order with “black razor-sharp talons.” There’s a general order we accept as “right.” I don’t know if it’s an actual grammatical rule or just a convention of the language that we’ve internalized as sounding the correct way. Anyway, if we’re using the common structure, it should have been “razor-sharp, black talons” because color always comes after physical quality.
Like, you wouldn’t tell a friend that you went to the beach and took your blue, ugly swimsuit. You took your ugly, blue swimsuit. Which isn’t really ugly, you just need to have more confidence in yourself. Every body is a beach body.
Indeed, it was still Rhysand’s face, his powerful male body, but flaring out behind him were massive black membranous wings—like a bat’s, like the Attor’s.
OH MY FUCKING
WHOOOO DEEP BREATHS.
There was finally an appropriate place to use an em-dash. And she fuuuuuuucked it uuuuuuuup whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
“black membranous wings, like a bat’s—like the Attor’s.”
I would have accepted that. I mean, no, I would have still made fun of it. But still. It could have been one of the least egregious uses of the em dash in this book, and she squandered it.
He tucked them in neatly behind him, but the single claw at the apex of each peeked over his broad shoulders. Horrific, stunning—the face of a thousand nightmares and dreams. That again-useless part of me stirred at the sight, the way the candlelight shone through the wings, illuminating the veins, the way it bounced off his talons.
Okay, I re-read this interaction a few times, and I still can’t tell what her “again-useless” part refers to. I guess the only real meaning it could have is her instinct to fight? But if that’s the case, why is this being described so hornily?
Rhysand shifts back, and there’s some banter about how he has a high opinion of himself, and of course, he laughs at the bravery she displays teasing a High Lord. But my favorite part is that he says:
“I can’t decide whether I should consider you admirable or very stupid for being so bold with a High Lord.”
And then she immediately asks:
“Do you know the answer to the riddle?”
Doesn’t that give Rhysand his answer right there?
Rhysand admonishes Feyre for trying to cheat and offers another “just following orders” explanation.
“Don’t waste your breath,” he said. “I can’t tell you—no one here can. If she ordered us all to stop breathing, we would have to obey that, too.” He frowned at me and snapped his fingers. The soot, the dirt, the ash vanished off my skin, leaving me as clean as if I’d bathed. “There. A gift—for having the balls to even ask.”
I dislike modern phrases in fantasy novels set in alternate past Europe. Have I ever mentioned that?
He also makes the lentils disappear from the fireplace and reappear in the bucket. Then he magically summons the guards and tells them to take Feyre back to her cell.
They grabbed for me, but he bared his teeth in a smile that was anything but friendly—and they halted. “No more household chores, no more tasks,” he said, his voice an erotic caress. Their yellow eyes went glazed and dull, their sharp teeth gleaming as their mouths slackened. “The the others, too. Stay out of her cell, and don’t touch her. If you do, you’re to take your own daggers and gut yourselves. Understood?”
LOL he’s a Bene Gesserit.
Rhysand smiled at me. “You’re welcome,” he purred as I walked out.
And that’s the end of the chapter.
So, I have some feelings about how this is going, but I want to share them with the book club book club, too, so head over there to get those pearls of wisdom, I guess. I feel guilty when that becomes too much of a cut-and-paste of my thoughts I shared here. Because if there’s a way to make myself feel guilty about something, hoo boy, I’ll find it. ed.—Which is why I’m now going to post that particular installment of Jealous Patrons Book Club Book Club here in its entirety.
Sometimes, I wonder if popular books actually are really good and I just suck at reading.
I’m beginning to feel like A Court of Thorns and Roses should have ended with Feyre realizing that she had to go back, finding the manor shit-wrecked, and ending on that cliffhanger of now she has to go rescue him. It feels like the author is beginning to rush through events that need to be fleshed out more to be impactful, but she knows she’s nearing her deadline or something.
The reason I say this is because there are two big things that happen in this chapter. Like, really, really big things. One, Feyre meets Lucien’s mother. We’ve gotten so much of Lucien’s backstory and how his mother was destroyed when he was banished or left or whatever. We heard all about his brothers.
And when Lucien’s mother is finally on the page… it’s for three paragraphs. Not even long ones.
The other big thing is Feyre’s interaction with Rhysand. Now, when you first look at it, it seems like it’s not going to matter and is fully superfluous to the chapter, but spoiler, we needed it so we can get to know Rhysand because he’s the actual love interest/soul mate or whatever of Feyre. He rescues her from an impossible task set by Amarantha’s guards (picking lentils out of a fireplace) and shows her that he can shape shift and is really super dangerous. And then…that’s it. He’s there for a few pages of random power establishment.
I just can’t help but feel like this book truly ended, gosh, even when Feyre went back home. When Tamlin sent her away, that could have easily been the end. But then the closer we get to the actual end, the more stuff Sarah throws onto the pile. Oh, you thought this was over? Nope, now I’m going to rescue Tamlin and it’s going to take THREE MONTHS. And there’s a RIDDLE. And ANOTHER HOT GUY. And IMPOSSIBLE HOUSEWORK.
And we still have two trials to go, and it all wraps up in less than a hundred pages?
This book is a mess.