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.
Is anyone else here old? Does anyone else remember the “Reading is FUNdamental” posters in our classrooms?
I remember the AP English teacher had one of David Bowie. I always felt like I belonged in that class because I loved books and I loved Bowie, but alas. I was a special ed kid.
Anyway, it’s time for Feyre’s second task.
I’m going to gloss over a lot of repetition in this part. Please don’t hate me. It’s just that it’s what should be a quick, tight, tense scene, but the author stretched it out for nearly an entire chapter.
And if you think that means the pacing of this chapter sucks all the excitement out of it… you’re in exactly the right place. Welcome, friend.
The scene opens in a room that’s not the throne room, it’s smaller than the throne room.
It had no decorations, save for its gilded walls, and no furniture; the queen herself only sat on a carved wooden chair, Tamlin standing behind her.
It had no decorations, except for the fact that the walls are COVERED IN GOLD and there was no furniture EXCEPT FOR THIS FURNITURE.
Didn’t Fifty Shades of Grey have a lot of that going on, too? Something would be “opulent” but then described as being like, super sleek and modern and stark? I feel like that happened, and frankly, I’m starting to understand why people called this Fifty Shades with faeries. The stories aren’t alike at all, but the heroines are obnoxious, everyone thinks they’re smart and amazing when they’re annoying and as bland as unsalted chicken bone broth, plus we get stuff like, “down there” and “this thing was this way, except for that it wasn’t.”
Amarantha announces that Feyre’s second trial is here.
Within the ring, Jurian’s eye turned—turned to face me, its pupil dilating in the dim light.
I feel like I’m being subjected to some A Clockwork Orange-style aversion torture because my stomach roiled—roiled when I saw that em-dash.
Amarantha asks Feyre if she’s solved the riddle yet, and everyone laughs at Feyre because she hasn’t solved the riddle yet and frankly, Feyre, you deserve to be laughed at.
There’s more of the standard Feyre-stares-down-Amarantha-because-Strong-Female-Character, followed by:
But I dared a glance at my High Lord, and found his eyes hard upon me. If I could just hold him, feel his skin for just a moment—smell him, hear him say my name …
WHY THE EM-DASH?!
Amarantha gets jealous that Feyre and Tamlin made eye contact, so she starts the task. The floor sinks into a big pit. Under the Mountain is just riddled with pits. Is it because of the worms?
Some faeries cackled, but I found Tamlin’s stare again and held it until I was lowered so far down that his face disappeared beyond the edge.
And then Rose jumped back on the Titanic.
This pit is all polished and tidy, and there’s a big iron grate bisecting it. On the other side of the grate, Lucien is chained down to the floor for… reasons. I don’t get it, but maybe you will understand as we go on.
The faeries all start betting on whether or not she’ll win, and Amarantha explains that all Feyre has to do is pick the right lever for this puzzle and she wins. And the other two levers will lead to instant doom, via a set of red hot grates in the ceiling that are slowly descending toward her.
I whirled to Lucien. That was the reason for the gate cleaving the chamber in two—so I would have to watch as he splattered beneath, just as I myself was squashed.
I’m not sure that does explain the grate, Feyre. It just seems like an unnecessary step, if you’re both going to get squashed. Why not just, you know. Throw you both in there. Why the chains and metal bars? ed.—In hindsight, it’s because he could help her with the trial. But like…just one of those would do. Both is still overkill.
The spikes, which had been supporting candles and torches, glowed red—and even from a distance, I could see the heat rippling off them.
So, there are people crowded around this hole, and this giant, near-molten set of spikes is slowly descending in front of them? And let’s go back to the gilded walls. Gold melts at like two-thousand degrees and it takes at least a thousand to make iron glow, right? I think? So this is a huge slab of super-heated iron that somehow had candles on it? Is that right? In a room with gold walls? Just a giant, one thousand degrees heating element hanging in there, not melting anything?
Lucien wrenched at his chains. This would not be a clean death.
I don’t know why that line made me laugh, but it did.
A lengthy inscription was carved into its smooth surface, and beneath it were three stone levers with the numbers I, II, and III engraved above them.
The Roman numerals got me, too. I can’t figure out what it is that tickles me so much about them. Like, it’s fantasy, right? It’s not like every fantasy novel has to have entirely different number systems and shit. But somehow, the idea that Feyre is illiterate but still can read Roman numerals as numbers tickles me. As does imagining that maybe this whole fantasy world is here but also there’s Italy. Not fantasy-equivalent Italy. I want to believe that Italy just happened in the ACOTAR cinematic universe. No faeries, no magic powers, just pasta and Catholics as far as the eye can see.
I recognized only basic words—useless ones like the and but and went.
Well, that explains the em-dashes, doesn’t it?
The spiked grate was still descending, now level with Amarantha’s head, and would soon shut off any chance I stood of getting out of this pit.
…what about Lucien? Like, is the plan to get out of the pit and leave him to get smashed?
The heat from the glowing iron already smothered me, sweat starting to bead at my temples.
Keep this sentence in the back of your mind, please.
Feyre is like, who told Amarantha I couldn’t read and I’m thinking…maybe the guy who steals your thoughts?
“Something wrong?” She raised an eyebrow. I snapped my attention to the inscription, keeping my breathing as steady as I could. She hadn’t mentioned reading as an issue—she would have mocked me more if she’d known about my illiteracy. Fate—a cruel, vicious twist of fate.
I mean, I suppose it’s possible that Amarantha doesn’t know about the reading thing. She does, however, know that riddles aren’t Feyre’s strong suit because Feyre didn’t immediately get the answer to that painfully easy riddle earlier. She’s probably assuming Feyre will pull the wrong lever, release the grates, and the whole thing will be over.
Lucien is too far away to read the puzzle on the wall, which I guess explains the grates but not the chains and vice versa. One of them is just overkill. ed.—Oh, I see I did eventually get there. Good for me.
Feyre does point out that Lucien has an “enhanced metal eye,” which answers a question I didn’t really have. I don’t remember Lucien’s eye ever having enhanced capabilities. And if it did, he doesn’t seem to have used them in any part of the plot that was memorable. It makes more sense for him to not have a super-enhanced eye because Amarantha was the one who gave it to him. Why give your enemies more power? That doesn’t make sense.
Feyre alternates thoughts of how she’s going to be smashed with despair over not being able to read the puzzle.
The air became thick and stank of metal—not magic but burning, unforgiving steel creeping toward me, inch by inch.
Is it steel or is it iron? ed.—This is an even more important question because since writing these recaps, I’ve learned that it takes around 1500 degrees to cause steel to glow. Yet, again, candles are on this thing. And the walls aren’t affected.
Lucien decides to be helpful by shouting at the person who can’t read and is panicking.
Through the holes in the grate, I thought I saw Lucien’s eldest brother chuckle. Hot—so unbearably hot.
Weird time to get horny, Feyre.
She tries to sound out the words of the riddle. Words like “grasshopper” and “bouncing,” give her enormous trouble despite the fact that she was reading and writing words like “conflagration” earlier in this book. But as you already know, what happened before doesn’t matter. That was the then times.
Feyre decides to leave it up to a mix of chance and fate. Instead of reading what sounds like a story problem, she decides to assign moral values to the numbers? I guess?
Two. Two was a lucky number, because that was like Tamlin and me—just two people. One had to be bad, because one was like Amarantha, or the Attor—solitary beings. One was a nasty number, and three was too much—it was three sisters crammed into a tiny cottage, hating each other until they choked on it, until it poisoned them.
What in the Doreen Virtue did I just read?
Also, Feyre, I hate to poke holes in your numerology here, but Amarantha lives in a mountain fortress with hundreds of people who are not allowed to leave and who have to party with her every single night for idk, eternity? How long do these people live? Anyway, she’s not a solitary being. Not in the very least.
Feyre decides that this near-incoherent ramble has something to do with being desperate enough to believe in the Cauldron, so she’s going with lever two:
I reached for the second lever, but a blinding pain racked my hand before I could touch the stone. I hissed, withdrawing. I opened my palm to reveal the slitted eye tattooed there. It narrowed. I had to be hallucinating.
By the way, the grate is still descending, it’s still hot, and it’s only six feet away.
I again reached for the middle lever, but the pain paralyzed my fingers.
The eye had returned to its usual state. I extended my hand toward the first lever. Again, pain.
So, it’s not the first lever, then, huh? We’re all on the same page with that?
I reached for the third lever. No pain. My fingers met with stone, and I looked up to find the grate not four feet from my head. Through it, I found a star-flecked violet gaze.
Through your head?
Obviously, the third lever is the right one. Feyre can just pull the lever.
I reached for the first lever. Pain. But when I reached for the third lever …
FEYRE. Pull the fucking lever. It’s so obvious that Rhysand is giving you the answer.
The spikes were so enormous up close. All I had to do was lift my arm above my head and I’d burn the flesh off my hands.
Then perhaps you should PULL THE FUCKING LEVER.
I shook so badly I could scarcely stand. The heat of the spikes bore down on me.
The stone lever was cool in my hand.
Then may I humbly suggest you PULL THE FUCKING LEVER.
I shut my eyes, unable to look at Tamlin, bracing myself for the impact and the agony, and pulled the third lever.
Good job, Feyre, but I’m curious to know how you could see Tamlin, anyway, when you already told us that you locked eyes with him or whatever while you descended until you couldn’t see him anymore.
Silly Jenny, it doesn’t matter if it makes sense. It only matters that it’s dramatic.
But yeah, the grate stops moving because Feyre beat the task. It goes back up to the ceiling and the floor of the pit brings them back up.
Tears burned just before pain seared through my left arm. I would never beat the third task. I would never free Tamlin, or his people. The pain shot through my bones again, and through my increasing hysteria, I heard words inside my head that stopped me short.
Were the words, “Bitch, nothing hurt you?” Because those are the words I’m thinking. There wasn’t any injury or anything, she doesn’t talk about getting burned at any time, and now she’s in such horrible physical shape for apparently no reason?
And what’s this bullshit about how she’s not going to win the next task? She knows now that Rhysand is going to help her.
Oh, and if you’re keeping track, Feyre has yet to beat any of the challenges without help from someone else.
Strong. Capable. Constantly rescued. Feyre is… KICK-ASS HEROINE.
Wouldn’t that be the most boring movie ever?
Feyre is so strong and independent, in fact, that she relies totally on Rhysand communicating with her telepathically to instruct her on what to do next. He has to tell her to stand up and even forces her body to stand “not entirely of my own will,” because she’s just so broken and sad about not being able to read. Rhysand coaches Feyre through an epic staredown and on how to walk away until she’s taken back to her cell.
After a section break, we arrive at Unearned Pity Junction.
I wept for hours. For myself, for Tamlin, for the fact that I should be dead and had somehow survived. I cried for everything I’d lost, every injury I’d ever received, every wound—physical or otherwise. I cried for that trivial part of me, once so full of color and light—now hollow and dark and empty.
…what part are you talking about? I know you said “that trivial part” but like… which part is that? There are so many parts about you that I find useless.
She’d won; it was only by cheating that I’d survived.
Is this the first time you’re realizing that? You didn’t have this crisis when Lucien warned you about the worm, saving your life in the first challenge. You didn’t mind when Rhysand sorted those lentils and Lucien’s mom made the water bucket clean. Now you’re concerned about cheating?
The walls closed in—the ceiling dropped. I wanted to be crushed; I wanted to be snuffed out.
I would love that for you, Feyre.
Rhysand shows up in the middle of Feyre’s panic attack and is like, uh, you’re not dead, why are you crying?
I wept harder, and he laughed. The stones reverberated as he knelt before me, and though I tried to fight him, his grip was firm as he grasped my wrists and pried my hands from my face.
Why did the stones reverberate? How heavy and/or metal is Rhysand?
While Feyre struggles to escape him, Rhysand does this:
I pulled away, but his hands were like shackles. I could do nothing as his mouth met with my cheek, and he licked away a tear. His tongue was hot against my skin, so startling that I couldn’t move as he licked away another path of salt water, and then another. My body went taut and loose all at once and I burned, even as chills shuddered along my limbs. It was only when his tongue danced along the damp edges of my lashes that I jerked back.
This dude is literally just licking her fucking face and she’s like, oh no, no, no, YES YES YES.
Oh, and he’s super pleased with how uncomfortable she is:
He chuckled as I scrambled for the corner of the cell. I wiped my face as I glared at him.
He smirked, sitting down against a wall. “I figured that would get you to stop crying.”
Well, as long as you have a reason, I guess it’s not GROSS AS FUCK TO LICK ON SOMEONE’S FACE.
Feyre tells him that was disgusting. Because licking someone’s face and eyes while they struggle to get away from you is, you know. Disgusting.
“Was it?” He quirked an eyebrow and pointed to his palm—to the place where my tattoo would be. “Beneath all your pride and stubbornness, I could have sworn I detected something that felt differently. Interesting.”
Mystical sexy bonds are 100% my trope. I love it so much. If I’m writing a book with any kind of fantasy in it at all, you’re gonna find telepathic links and soul bonds and destiny and all that shit. I eat it up. And if I’m reading a book and there are fated mates and shit in it? I am THERE.
Except in this book, because Feyre is basically enslaved to him at this point. She’s tattooed to show that she’s his property, he’s free to drug her and force her to sexually humiliate herself in front of an audience every night, he literally owns one week per month of her life. Now, he’s able to tell her that her “no” really means “yes.” There is zero way Feyre is ever going to be able to have a consensual relationship with this, the character she will end up with in book three, I think.
It was bad enough that my life was forfeited to this Fae lord—but to have a bond where he could now freely read my thoughts and feelings and communicate …
I’m just saying, this trope gets done a lot better by a lot more authors who never once stop and go, you know what would make this even better? If the heroine experiencing it was enslaved and had no recourse to consent in any situation.
Rhysand makes fun of Feyre for not being able to read and when she calls him a bastard he’s like:
“I’ll have to ask Tamlin if this kind of flattery won his heart.” He groaned as he stood, a soft, deep-throated noise that traveled along my bones. His eyes met with mine, and he smiled slowly. I exposed my teeth, almost hissing.
First of all, he makes a middle-aged person noise when standing and it’s supposed to be sexy? I am a middle-aged person and I don’t find making noise when you stand sexy. It’s just a reminder of my mortality. But I wanna zoom in here on the whole exposed teeth thing. Imagine what that looks like. Imagine what it would look like if someone bared their teeth at you and almost hissed. Go do it in a mirror.
It looks ridiculous, right?
He paused by the door, but didn’t dissolve into darkness. “I’ve been thinking of ways to torment you when you come to my court. I’m wondering: Will assigning you to learn to read be as painful as it looked today?”
This is the endgame love interest mocking the heroine for being illiterate.
Maybe Maas thought that nobody would care about how fucking terrible that is because people who can’t read wouldn’t see this and get offended?
It doesn’t matter, though, because Feyre realizes that all she really needs to get by is to be demeaned by a man:
It took me a while to realize that Rhysand, whether he knew it or not, had effectively kept me from shattering completely.
Yay. It’s a bully “romance”.
We’ve got a bully romance, everyone.