NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ A COURT OF WINGS AND RUIN YET, PLEASE CHECK OUT MY SPOILER FREE REVIEW HERE!
A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third installment in Sarah J Maas’ wildly popular series, which began with A Court of Thorns and Roses, followed by A Court of Mist and Fury. Released on May 2nd, 2017, A Court of Wings and Ruin is easily among the list of most anticipated Young Adult releases this year, and for good reason!
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places. In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.
A Court of Wings and Ruin certainly had a lot to live up to – its predecessor, A Court of Mist and Fury, was easily my favourite book of 2016, if not my favourite book in recent memory. Generally speaking, A Court of Mist and Fury was very well-received, earning it a 4.7/5 star rating on Goodreads. And while A Court of Mist and Fury remains my favourite book in this series, Sarah J Maas delivered yet again, giving readers a beautifully written and wonderfully executed third installment to a beloved story.
There’s something for everyone in this book – romance, action, intrigue, betrayal and deception. Maas really put the time into developing not only the plot and her main characters, but also into continuing to develop the world and supporting characters as well. Many readers wanted some big things from this book, including, but not limited to: the revelation of Amren’s true form, the inclusion of some popular fan suspected relationships (including Cassian/Nesta, Elain/Lucien and Mor/Azriel), the inclusion of the other courts of Prythian, and maybe even some justice against those who wrongs the Inner Circle (well, mostly against Tamlin and Ianthe). And I think it’s safe to say that Maas delivered a lot in this book.
To be honest, I never really doubted that Sarah J Maas would deliver on the romance – she’s never failed in that regard in the past – but she also succeeded in developing intricate friendships, and examined complex bonds within the Inner Court and within Feyre’s family. Some of the more platonic relationships in this story actually wound up being my favourite, and they added a whole new layer of complexity and emotions to the story that made this book even better. For example, Cassian and Feyre’s friendship, and Cassian’s devotion to her as his best friend’s mate and High Lady, was really rewarding to see on paper, and greatly built the camaraderie between the Inner Court. I won’t lie – the scene when Cassian swooped down from the sky, wings intact, to save Feyre from Lucien’s brothers, was arguably one of my favourites in this story. As was the scene where Cassian and Feyre have a heart to heart about what their friendship means to them. Other friendships – between the members of the Inner Court, between the Inner Court and Feyre’s sisters, and between the Night Court and other Courts – were also integral to the plot, and went a long way towards building human, heart-breaking characters.
Focusing on the romance bit, there was less of the intense romance (like what was seen in A Court of Mist and Fury), which was slightly disappointing, but not unwarranted considering the nature of the plot. Instead, the romance was sprinkled throughout the story, with no one chapter or portion of the story being more loaded than the others. Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship grows even deeper, and more intense, and the interactions between the two of them are (still) quite charged and fun! And yes, for those of you wondering – there’s still plenty of sex, seduction and sin in A Court of Wings and Ruin!
And what about those “ships”? Cassian/Nesta is pretty much confirmed, though the two didn’t act on their feelings towards one another – despite being quite territorial when it came to other Fae interacting with the other, and nearly going out of their minds when the other was injured and/or in danger. Elain/Lucien doesn’t seem to be happening – though I wouldn’t rule it out quite yet – since Maas seems to be building a relationship between Elain and a different member of the Inner Circle – everyone’s favourite Shadowsinger, Azriel. That being said, Maas made it quite clear Mor/Azriel won’t be happening, and its the reason for this lack of a pairing that has many fans in uproar – because as More reveals to Feyre, she’s a lesbian. Now, I understand that many fans of the series were very emotionally invested in the Mor/Azriel relationship, but as readers, it is important to recognize that at the end of the day, Maas has the final say on her character’s decisions – including their sexuality – and the reader must respect that. Mor being a lesbian opens up a whole realm of possibilities, giving Maas the opportunity to explore the lived experiences of the LGBTQ2+ community within a fantasy setting, if she so chooses. And as a reader, I’m really excited to see Maas finally including some more diversity in her books. Now, moving on, there is one relationship that no one was talking about that I am very excited about – Amren and Varian. I think their relationship is interesting, because it highlights the possibility of cross-court relationships, and also made me happy, because it’s such an innocent, true connection, at the heart of a war.
So, what about the action, betrayal, intrigue and deception? Since this book’s acronym is (quite ominously) ACOWAR, and readers were promised that the earth would be painted red in the certain conflict, readers certainly expected action – and Sarah J Maas delivered on her promise by providing plenty of action through skirmishes, battles, and yes, full blown war. It begins with small skirmishes – such as Lucian and Feyre’s rescue from Autumn by Cassian and Azriel. However, the action quickly increases, to a fierce battle in Adriata (the Summer Court), and eventually full-blown war as the Night Court and their allies march against Hybern’s invasion. The final battle of the war, involving not only Hybern and the Courts of Prythian, but also ancient beings, humans and some long-lost friends, is a battle of epic proportions. Maas may have even one-upped the battle at the end of Empire of Storms, which was quite impressive.
Turning the attention to the betrayal, intrigue and deception portion of the story, it was evident right from the beginning that Maas had plenty of plans involving back-stabbing and secrets. With Feyre acting as a spy to gather what information she can from the Spring Court (hopefully bringing the court to its knees along the way), readers were right to expect a fair amount of clandestine behaviour and back-stabbing. Maas made sure to include plenty of deception, including some shady daemati mind tricks, out right betrayal, and some heart-breaking treachery that will leave readers reeling. Feyre quickly puts her powers to use to not only hide her intentions, but also to shield Tamlin and Lucien from Hybern’s prying minions. As she works to unravel their plots and prepare her allies for the upcoming war, Feyre finds herself trapped by Hybern’s twins, having fallen into a trap of deception. But the deception and betrayal hardly ends there – as Rhys puts it, in war “we don’t have the luxury of good ideas – only picking between bad ones”. This is proven to be true as Rhys and Feyre are continually forced to pick between bad choices, hoping against all odds that they will, somehow, work out in their favour.
Now, one thing that I really loved about A Court of Wings and Ruin were Feyre’s unlikely allies – they’re not a sudden solution to the problems facing Prythian (in fact, they may be a whole new problem), but their participation in the impending war and other conflicts was very rewarding and entertaining. I also liked how these unlikely allies weren’t brand new, great powers invented out of thin air – Maas had made sure to introduce the majority of them earlier on in the series (like Amren’s true form the Weaver, the Bone Carve and the sixth queen who wasn’t ill), and this counteracted those that she didn’t (the beast in the library), making these ancient powers feel less like a cop-out and more like a plausible, natural solution to being out-powered in the war. The revelation of Amren’s true form was also highly rewarding!
Overall, A Court of Wings and Ruin is the type of book you’ll want to read slowly, to savor it and draw it out, but it’s also the type of book you won’t want to put down. The story is well-paced and delivers everything dedicated readers of the series were hoping for, and then some. Sarah J Maas lived up to the hype, delivering a story that is both engaging and heartbreaking – readers will find themselves crying, cheering, and maybe even throwing their book as they progress through the story, because Maas has once again crafted a masterpiece sure to invoke a plethora of emotions. (5/5).