This is my first Sarah J Maas book that I’ve given less than 5 stars to and honestly I am just completely devastated right now. I tried to drag ACOWAR out as long as I could– I didn’t start it for weeks after it came out, I avoided spoilers as much as humanly possible and I didn’t read a single early released quote. I was so freaking excited for this book to come out. I have no words to describe the emotions and heartache I felt after A Court of Mist and Fury, and I had waited over a year for A Court of Wings and Ruin. I didn’t want to start it because I didn’t want my favorite book series of all time to end. I was scared for the characters I had grown to love, scared to face a world where I wouldn’t have another Prynthian adventure to look forward to year after year. The one thing I wasn’t scared of was being disappointed.
But I was. I was horribly, immensely disappointed.
As the last “official” book in the series (yes there will be novellas, but no more novels) it fell short. There are cliffhangers and questions left unattended at the end despite it being over 700 pages long. Obviously the novellas will fill in the gaps, but I thought it was horribly unfair to just leave the plot severely lacking and just “make up for it” with novellas later on. No. As the last book in the series, readers deserve a concrete ending. Especially after the emotional trauma Maas put us through in all three books. Don’t get me wrong– I am so, so excited for the novellas. But I wanted them to add to the series and let us see other characters and places in Prynthian– not just continue this storyline. I adore the characters in this arc, but I was ready for their story to come to a close. After all, that’s what I had been preparing for over the past year and what SJM promised. But the ending made me feel like there is a gaping hole in my chest not from my favorite series coming to an end, but because I have so many questions left.
Maas should have ended this series the way it deserved, and written novellas as a continuation of the universe, not the story.
I really didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had thought I would. As much as I had hoped I would. I actually feel sick by how much this book failed me. I loved ACOTAR with my whole heart, and I loved ACOMAF even more. I was so ready to read the finale that would leave me devastated, but whole. Instead I was ripped to shreds because I was so upset by what was happening and that I had no control over it. I literally love this series to bits. I think about it every day, all the time. It genuinely makes me depressed that I will never set foot in Prynthian, never be a High Lady or find my Rhysand. But I still invested so much of my heart and soul into these books and ACOWAR just completely failed me. I didn’t even recognize the characters I loved anymore. I couldn’t connect with them, sometimes didn’t even love them and I’m completely and utterly devastated.
Let’s start with Mor. I’m going to begin by saying that Mor is my favorite female character of all time. I’m going to pretend that ACOWAR Mor does not exist because I hated her actions so much. The way Maas treated her in this book is absolutely unacceptable. I felt like it was a whole new character. Mor is supposed to be this strong, compassionate, uplifting SURVIVOR who is a light in other’s lives. But in ACOWAR, Mor acts completely out of character in a way that just did not make sense to me at all. Almost right off the bat she gets in a spat with Amren (which Rhys said they did fight before but this just seemed so random and uncalled for? Like yes Mor was defending Feyre but there were other instances where she snapped at Amren and it just seemed like a stereotypical “catfight” and it just made me so angry). Not to mention Mor is weirdly possessive of Cassian around Nesta which I get because Nesta is a bitch and can be cruel to others, but Mor wasn’t protecting Cassian she was just calling dibs on him and causing more stereotypical female “catfight” drama. Ugh.) Mor and Feyre had such a beautiful friendship in ACOMAF and it was set up so perfectly for development in this book, but it just didn’t happen. Mor and Feyre literally had two scenes together, both which I felt were severely lacking. The one where Mor just accepts that Rhys and Az were working with her abusers and Feyre was just like “K” and then the one where she admits to being bisexual which I just felt like was so forced? Like I’m all about diverse characters and if she had shown any signs of being bisexual in previous books I would have been all for it but it frustrated me so much that BAM it just happened in one chapter and Mor talked about it with Feyre and no one else. I don’t think I can express how much it pisses me off that Mor refused to talk to Azriel and continued to hurt him even though she knew she was hurting him just because SHE was being selfish and didn’t want their dynamic to change. I just– no words. Also, the only people Mor cares about or has any positive interactions with are Azriel (yes they have positive interactions but the fact that she’s using him just makes me so livid) and Cassian even though she’s using them as a cover because she’s afraid to come out about being bisexual. But back to Moreil. There’s this huge build up for them to finally talk in this book and then it just never happened. I ship Moriel SO hard. I’ve shipped it from the beginning and they had so many moments in ACOMAF and then Maas just throws in that Mor is bisexual and honestly it just pissed me off. Don’t set up a ship and leave little teases and cute ship moments if the ship is never going to happen.
Let’s also discuss the fact that Rhysand and Azriel went behind Mor’s back and put her in the position where she had to negotiate with her rapists and abusers in order to further their alliance in the war. She had to interact with them not just once but repeatedly and honestly that just broke my heart. I literally couldn’t believe what I was reading when I saw that. What’s more, I just can’t believe that Az would do that to Mor. After everything, I just refuse to believe he would hurt her like that because that is just so un-Azriel like. He basically throws himself at her and hurts himself instead of hurting her and always tries to protect her, so it makes no sense that he would blatantly abuse her like that. And I expected more from Rhys. Yes, I believe they had good intentions and the right reasons, but I just don’t think Rhys would have done that without discussing it with Mor. It just made no sense that he and Az would go behind her back and GOD IT JUST MAKES NO SENSE WHY DO THE CHARACTERS NOT ACT LIKE THEMSELVES. That whole situation was just so messed up and it wasn’t even discussed. Yes Mor and Rhys have that big fight when they get back to Velaris (which was so justified) but then it just fizzled out and Mor and Rhys never even talk. (Or they did, according to Feyre, but Maas never showed us the actual scene which is such a cop out.) Not to mention none of her rapists or abusers faced a bad end?? And Rhysand says that people from the Hewn City get to come into Velaris, Mor’s home, so now she can’t even feel safe. My hands are actually shaking as I’m writing this. Mor was betrayed by her own family, first by her father then by her inner circle, and now she can’t even find safety in her own home. Again, no words.
The book felt super slow and then rushed at the end. Everything is crammed into the last 200 pages and honestly I couldn’t even keep up. So much was happening with the Bone Carver then Feyre and Nesta and then Amren and then the Cauldron and I just wish it could have been a little more spaced out. Like it was hard to keep up when all that was happening in the span of 20 page battle scene, and it reduced its dramatic impact. I loved the political side and the battle tactics/war scenes, but I wanted more character developments and more relationship build up.
There was almost no development with Feyre and Rhy’s relationship. After the stunning ACOMAF, I had high expectations and they were basically run over by a bus. Every Feysand scene was either a smutty sex scene (which believe me, I enjoyed but it still got a little old when all of their scenes were just smut) or just the two of them talking about war stuff. The battle politics did not need to be described in such detail when there was so much lacking in the relationships that needed to be added. I didn’t even cry during Rhy’s death scene because I knew without a doubt that he wasn’t actually dead and that he would come back. And it was super frustrating for me that the high lords healed him the exact same way they did Feyre. Why was that necessary? We already saw that. We already saw the high lords working together by making Feyre and then by working together in the war so why did they need to work together to save Rhys? Tamlin could have redeemed himself in other ways (and he already had redeemed himself) so it just ended up feeling really unneeded. So many scenes in this book were just added for shock value and it just ended up pissing me off. Also, why didn’t all the high lords work together to mend the cauldron? It made no sense that Feyre and Rhys had to fix it all by themselves. We get it– Rhys and Feyre are super powerful. I would have liked to see them face something that they couldn’t just use their amazing superpowers to fix. Sometimes you need help from others. Not just your significant other, but other people in your life.
Guess who else was completely abused in this book? Lucien! I finally began to like Lucien when I reread ACOTAR a few months ago, and was so looking forward to reading ACOWAR. But Lucien wasn’t even in this book lol!!!! Again, said best by @seelieknight “I love that he escaped Spring and is now going to pursue a life in Velaris, but I hate that it seems as though he still wants forgiveness from Tamlin when it should be the other way around.” And just the whole thing that was thrown in about Helion being his father and all the unanswered questions about the Helion/High Lady of Autumn dynamic and it just pissed me off so much that answers that should rightfully be answered in a book are being dumped on a novella. (And don’t even talk to me about Mor banging Helion just to “remind” Azriel that he can never have her I literally almost put my fist through a wall. Yeah, that definitely sounds like sweet, caring Mor who always tries to uplift people). And let me talk about Elucien for a minute. First of all, I do NOT ship Elucien (mainly because the ship does not exist. There is literally no relationship there whatsoever). So Elucien was completely dumped on us in ACOMAF and then in ACOWAR it literally wasn’t resolved at all. Why the actual fuck would SJM make them mates if they literally don’t even interact in ACOWAR. They have absolutely no chemistry and next to no scenes. I’m glad Lucien saved the day, but I would lave liked to see him do it.
Overall I thought the plot was really good. The stakes were high and made evident through physical and emotional traumas. I liked how the high lords didn’t just immediately work together and I absolutely loved all the tension when they were arguing at the Dawn Court. I loved how the inner circle defended Feyre against Tamlin and how Feyre defended Rhys against Beron and I almost lost my shit when Feyre asked Az to come sit with her after he freaked out. Literally just the best scene ever. It was a little “meh” for me when Miryam and Drakon and everyone Lucien brought over just kinda popped in from nowhere, but overall I thought the plot of the actual war was good. At first I was upset that really no one died (not that I wanted them to but again, when the stakes are that high it just doesn’t make sense that everyone comes back fine) but in the end I figured they had all suffered enough. However, the wings getting ruined repeatedly did get get old. Cassian had like three miraculous healing moments and I just found it a little unrealistic. And I was a little more than upset when Amren miraculously appears back in the cauldron. It would have been the PERFECT ending to a high stakes war if they lost one of the inner circle. Just the fact that she came back made the ending a little anticlimactic for me. I was ready for that bittersweet ending.
A character that really fell short for me was The King of Hybern. I love how SJM portrayed Amarantha. Amarantha literally scared me shitless and was so terrifying, both through the stories told about her by other characters and experiences Feyre had with her herself. I was looking forward to The King of Hybern being similar, but we barely saw him. He was kind of like a myth who wasn’t even seen that often. I really wanted to see some emotional struggled and just more villain time. Hybern is so unique and I really just wanted to see more of him tormenting others during the war just to show how high the stakes are and what will happen if he wins. Honestly, he didn’t seem that bad to me in ACOWAR. At the end of ACOMAF he was terrifying and then in this book we only got glimpses of him. He’s built up and built up and then turns out to be so boring. He serves no purpose in the book except to be the bad guy and doesn’t have any dimension whatsoever. Also the whole thing of him having the hots for Mor never came through and that just really disappointed me. Why set things up if they aren’t going to happen SJM? Sigh. (Sidenote: I actually did end up liking Jurian. His character had backstory and motives and I totally didn’t see his switching sides coming!)
Let’s talk about the other Archeron sisters. Honestly, I hate Nesta. I still do. Her character is so annoying to me and her constant hate/snipping at others just got really old in this book. No one has any right to be that hateful, especially when Nesta really hasn’t been through that much emotional trauma in the grand scheme of things. I hated her relationship with Cassian (Cassian, the love of my life, deserved better) and her constant need to drag others down just made me pissed off. The only redemption moment she had was when she refused to leave Cassian to the King of Hybern, but other than that her character did nothing for me. In fact, during the whole Hybern/Cassian/Nesta scene I was actually chanting for Nesta to die instead of Cassian lol. Nesta had zero character development and I really don’t see a difference between the Nesta in the cottage who was a total bitch and the Nesta we got in ACOWAR. She grows up a little bit, but I would have liked to see so much more from her. I’m just never going to forget how she treated Feyre in the first book and how mean she is to others. Elain fell pretty flat for me too. I’ve always wanted to like Elain, but just couldn’t seem to do it. Again, I couldn’t forget how useless she was at the cottage and how she refused to help Feyre at the beginning. Her depression in ACOWAR, though plausible, seemed a little to dragged out. However, I appreciate that SJM made sure that transitioning from human to high fae isn’t easy. All the sisters struggled with it in their own way and I loved that. Elain did have her moments and I LOVED how she stabbed the king of hybern at the end. Still am not a fan of her and Lucien though and am still upset about their random mating bond. I loved Elain’s interactions with Azriel and they’re definitely my new ship (but since I doubt we’ll see them in the novellas guess I’ll just have to live with fanfiction #bitter). Overall, Elain’s character grew on me more than I expected given how much I hated her at first. It makes sense that not everyone has to be a fighter or a total badass. It’s ok to be kind and loving and scared at times, and Elain proved that. I wish we could have seen more from her.
Another character that deserved more was Tamlin. I loved Tamlin in ACOTAR and was just so devastated by his actions in ACOMAF and was very confused and hurt by his 180 in character. It just made no sense to me that he was suddenly the villain. I’m so glad we got his redemption in ACOWAR and I just want him to find love and be happy. Obviously I don’t ship him and Feyre because they were super toxic for each other but I hope he finds love and heals himself like Feyre and Rhys did. Honestly, this fandom is way too hard on him. Honestly I didn’t even hate him in ACOMAF or ACOWAR even when he was supposed to be the bad guy. I know he locks Feyre in the house and schemes with Hybern to get her back, but Feyre literally goes in with the intention to destroy his entire court which makes NO SENSE because his court is innocent?? That part made zero sense to me because Feyre is constantly fighting for the lives of the innocent and yet she’s totally willing to fuck over everyone in the spring court just to get back at Tamlin. I feel like that might be a little more extreme than what he did to her, but whatever. I just think the fandom is way too hard on him. Tamlin made mistakes, but so did literally every other character in the series. He had such cute moments in ACOTAR and then it just all went to shit and SJM completely butchered his character (just like Mor) and everyone just jumps on the bandwagon to hate him. Are we going to forget what Rhys did in ACOTAR? Rhys becomes a hero who makes mistakes and that somehow makes him a more lovable character, but Tamlin just becomes this monster that everyone loves to hate. Honestly I just find that so devestating. Tamlin thought Feyre had been abducted and was being tortured and probably raped, because that’s what the Night Court lead others to believe. I understand Feyre’s actions, and Rhys’, I really do. But I think Tamlin deserves more credit and deserves to find happiness. Again, I’m glad he got some redemption, but I wanted more. He deserved more.
Not only was Mor completely butchered in this story, but Amren was too. I can’t even tell you how much that Amren/Varian bullshit pisses me off. I always pictured Amren as asexual, and loved how her character was set up to be the ultimate female who don’t need to man. But no. Amren and Varian are just randomly forced together and bang and honestly it was just so unnecessary? Amren could’ve easily stayed single but no she had to be paired up just like literally everyone else in the series. It was the Manon/Dorian bullshit all over again.
SJM introduces so many new characters in this book I didn’t even know what to do with myself. I was trying to like a new character and then BAM there was another one, and another one, and another one… It never seemed to end. It was like game of thrones but packed into 100 pages. I wished she could have spaced it out a little more and not introduced so many because it got confusing and definitely reduced the impact of many of the storylines. Like I loved Viviane and Kallais but we barely saw them, and Helion and Thesan were amazing but there was just no way she could flesh out their storylines when so many other characters were coming in. I know it opens up things for the novellas, but again, a book should be able to stand alone without novellas. I also wanted to see more from the other courts. I was expecting to travel to all of them but we only saw a tidbit of the autumn court and the dawn court (which I loved!!) but I wanted to see more of them. There just wasn’t enough description of the different locations. The lovely @seelieknight said it perfectly “Even the setting felt like a grey area— definitely not like the atmosphere from the Spring Court or Velaris. I wasn’t even sure where we were in certain parts of the book because the usual lengthy descriptors that I adored weren’t written into the book at all save for all the battlefield scenes.”
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts I really loved. I loved the slow burning sisterly relationship, the Azriel/Feyre relationship and the dynamic between Rhys, Cassian and Azriel. (And of course, my newfound ship, Elain x Azriel). I loved how Feyre, after everything she’s been through, finally forgives and loves herself and I LOVE THAT SO MUCH. Everyone was broken and healing and came so far: as a family. And I loved how characters could move past their bad decisions and mistakes and still be loved and have a good life. Gah I adore that message. I loved how every character was so different, and showed their strengths and weaknesses in different ways. I also loved how SJM wrote about war– she is so dang good at it. It shows the horrors of intense, brutal battles without glorifying killing. Every single character had to deal with choices and consequences. One of my favorite quotes was “what we think to be our greatest weakness can sometimes be our biggest strength” and the quote about “the most unlikely person can alter the course of history.” Such an important message, and very applicable in our world today.
I loved the Winter Court armored polar bears (Golden Compass reference???!) and the fox messengers with little vests!! Gah so adorable. And I loved that the library was a place of refuge for women who have faced abuse and Mor/Rhys helped them heal. I get emotional every time I think about it. I also loved how Maas stepped up the diversity in this book. It’s about time. Basically, I had severe issues with this book. I’ve cried a lot, punched a few pillows, and am trying to get over it. I don’t think I’m ever going to recover from my favorite female character of all time, Mor, being butchered in this book, the overall treatment of Azriel and the fact that this wasn’t even an ending to my favorite series but a series of hooks to get people to read the novellas. I don’t think I’ll get over how every character had to be paired up, and not with the character Maas set them up with in previous novels. Every single character deserved more. I was exhausted by all the “telling” instead of “showing.” Not to mention there are so many hurtful/triggering parts of this novel.
Even though I loved parts of the book (enough to give it four stars) I can’t look past the issues I had with this novel. Honestly, my rage has simmered down at this point of my review. Now I’m just tired and sad. The amount of hurt and betrayal I feel is just unbelievable, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about a book before. I’ve supported Sarah through everything, and this is what I got. It’s like a slap in the face. I refuse to even accept this as the ending of my favorite series. I honestly don’t even know if an editor looked at this book because there are so many hurtful/unacceptable things and gah I just can’t even put into words what I’m feeling right now. I love my babies, and I love these books, but I think I’m going to have to take a break for awhile and just distance myself from SJM and her books, which saddens me more than I can say. All I can say is I’m terrified for the TOG ending and hope she does it justice. I will always love this series, and these characters, and will look to the stars every night and wish for the novellas to bring peace to the hurt I feel after reading this book.
But despite being angry and hurt about the ending of this book, I’m still so incredibly grateful for everything this series has done for me. For the people it has brought into my life. For the conversations I’ve had, the friends I’ve made, the texts I’ve sent while sobbing at three in the morning after finishing a book… This series has been a gift. A gift in my life. And I can forgive the ending of this book simply because I know all of those things would not be possible without this series.
“I believe everything happens for a reason. Whether it is decided by the Mother, or the Cauldron, or some sort of tapestry of Fate, I don’t know. I don’t really care. But I am grateful for it, whatever it is. Grateful that it brought you all into my life.”