A Court of Silver Flames (ACOTAR #4) by Sarah J. Maas Book Review - SPOILERS

Monday, 22 March 2021




Title: A Court of Silver Flames
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Pages: 757
Publication date: 16th February 2021
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: fiction, fantasy

Trigger warnings; PTSD, blood, violence, murder, death, grief, abuse, sexual assault (mentioned), rape (mentioned), alcohol consumption, slut shaming, childbirth complications, depression, suicidal thoughts

About the book
Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she's struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can't seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre's Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta's orbit. But her temper isn't the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other's arms.

Review - SPOILERS
If you're reading this review then I am 100% assuming that you have already read ACOSF and are just looking up other people's opinions. If you haven't read it yet but are wanting or planning too, please be aware that this review contains major spoilers. I really don't like writing reviews that contain spoilers, but talking about and reviewing this book in detail is near impossible without mentioning major plot twists so I'M SORRY - read this at your own risk but I needed to make it known that this review will talk about major plot points.

It's fair to say that I've absolutely devoured this series and have even downloaded the audiobooks for when I'm off out on a little walk and that's saying something because I really, really struggle to get on with audiobooks but I just need to hear this story again from beginning to end. I was so ready for ACOSF despite the fact that Nesta was never my favourite character. In fact, I mentioned in my previous reviews for this series that she annoyed me and grated on me and only at the end of ACOWAR did she slightly redeem herself, but then I really disliked her again in ACOFAS.

SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US NOW?

Right, well, I've actually come to really love Nesta and I'm going to make a really bold statement here, but I think I like her even more than Feyre (and I bloody love Feyre) but Nesta just has that edge and a bit more depth to her character that makes me really, really root for her. At the beginning of the book, we see Nesta at her absolute rock bottom - she's drinking herself into oblivion and puts the bill on the Night Court's tab, refuses to spend any time with her sisters, she takes strange men back to her grotty apartment on a nightly basis and she's also fallen out with Amren - the one and only person she was close enough with to classify as a friend. But, and this is a big but, we get to see inside Netsa's head and we come to see that she isn't doing this to be spiteful, but to punish herself because she thinks she doesn't deserve better. She's suffering quite severe PTSD from the war and hasn't yet come to terms with (or even tried to come to terms with - or even KNOWS how to come to terms with) everything that went down in the first three ACOTAR books; she was forced into the Cauldron and made High Fae against her will and had to watch her beloved sister Elain suffer the same thing. Then there was the war, in which Nesta, Feyre & Elain's father was killed by the King of Hybern. Not to mention that she took something from the Cauldron when she was forced into it - nor she, or anyone else, knows the full extent of her powers and she has no interest in learning to master them, either.

What a shit show.

You have to give credit where credit is due - Maas wrote these scenes so phenomenally. Nesta's struggles and the way she behaves is so hateful but yet so powerful that it's hard to imagine that people won't relate to Nesta in one way or another. Her trauma is extremely realistic and thought-provoking and I think Maas did an incredible job at capturing Nesta's suffering and anguish in a way that we go from disliking her, to actually feeling empathy for her, which is something I didn't think I'd be saying anytime soon after the way she behaved in ACOFAS.

So we go from seeing Nesta at absolute rock bottom, to then being given an ultimatum from Feyre; train with Cassian each morning at the House of Wind and work in the library on the afternoons, or be dumped back in the human lands where she will be unwelcome and alone. She of course takes the first option and from there we see Nesta and Cassian's combat training that they practice everyday. Again, this is something that Maas wrote incredibly well. The whole book is basically Nesta going from a raging bitch to someone who is content with where her life has taken her. I loved seeing Nesta's growth because it was beautiful and ugly at the same time and you can easily notice the shifting points in her healing. Mental health recovery is far from a straight line and Maas managed to convey that message loud and strong. We see Nesta start to train and slowly get better, then she'll spiral downwards, then she'll get better again, then something else will happen that will set her off again. It's a very rocky, up and down journey that we see Nesta go on, but one that is hugely important and I think a lot of people will resonate with that.

Talking of Cassian, let's just dive right into discussing this Jason-Mamoa-hunk-of-muscle, shall we? I loved Cassian in this book, but then again, I loved him in all of the books. Is he Rhysand? No. It's impossible to compare the two because they're two completely different characters with two completely different personalities. Cassian is more rugged and rough whereas Rhysand is a bit of a pretty boy in comparison. Rhysand is grounded and composed whereas Cassian has a bit more of an edge to him. He's funny and witty and his voice comes through loud and clear. He's full of character and sass which works really well against Nesta's own brutal personality. I love Nesta's sharp tongue and how harsh she can be with her words. She knows her biggest weapon is her own mouth and she uses it to offend and push people away, which I strangely like about her. She's not doing it unaware, she knows exactly what she's saying and uses it to her advantage. Cassian though, despite his tougher exterior, is actually a very thoughtful person and we come to see throughout the book how far he will go in order to protect those he loves from hurt and suffering.

I also absolutely loved the female friendships between Nesta, Gwyn and Emerie, who Nesta befriends and eventually begins to train with. Female friendships seem to be a running theme throughout this series (Feyre with Mor and Amren, for example). I haven't read any other books from Maas so I'm not sure if this is an occurring theme in all of her books, but I'm here for it nonetheless. Gwyn and Emerie were essential to Nesta's recovery and I love the fact the Maas put emphasis on this. Okay, yes, Cassian was there for a lot of it too, but I loved that the emphasis wasn't SOLELY on a woman needing a man to fix her.

One thing that I think is important to note, is that this book is a very character driven book in the sense that there really isn't much plot. The characters and their personal journeys are very much at the forefront of the book, and the plot is on the back burner. I'm not entirely mad at it because I looooove me a good character led narrative (and Nesta and Cassian certainly give us that), but I CAN see why it might put people off, especially for the genre. If you haven't read this book yet (then what on earth are you reading this review for?!) just go into it knowing that it's 70% character led and 30% plot - at most. The whole Brillyan and Koschei storyline was running in the background, but I feel like Maas could have upped the ante just a little bit as the whole plot ultimately amounted to nothing spectacular.

That's not to say there weren't edge-of-your-seat moments though, because we did get a few action packed scenes. The bog scene with the Kelpie was AMAZING and can we PLEASE talk about Nesta, Gwyn and Emerie talking part in the Blood Rite?! I wish that whole section of the book was padded out more because I freaking loved every single bit of it. After what is a predominantly character driven book, these scenes kept me on edge and I loved every single minute of it.

And the SMUT. Let's just talk about this smut, shall we? So ACOSF is now officially an adult book and trust me when I say it is very, very apparent in the smut. If you think the other books in this series are smut heavy, then you might want to brace yourself for a whole new level of smut-ness. She no longer uses her infamous “velvet wrapped steel” innuendos - nope, we go straight in with “cock” and even the word “cunt” now. There is a LOT. Like every other chapter, or so it feels. I'm not complaining because I'm absolutely here for it, but we really get down and dirty in ACOSF - literally.

Let's just briefly bullet point some other things I loved that I won't bore you to death about:

  • The House of Wind now has a conscience and befriends Nesta (yes, really)
  • I loved Azriel-the-chaperone!
  • THAT scene at the end of the Blood Rite when Briallyn has Cassian captured and under her control and Nesta gets her power back and she just goes to town and lets her power fully unleash itself
  • I loved how chonky this beast of a book is
  • I loved the I Will Slay My Enemies moments
  • I loved learning about Nesta's past, long before Feyre went into the woods and killed a wolf

However, I do hate to point out the negatives but there were some issues with this book that are hard to overlook. The first being the whole reveal about Nesta and Cassian being Mates. I feel like the whole book was kinda a big lead up to the moment when they both admitted it out loud and acknowledged it (and these scenes didn't disappoint), HOWEVER, it kind of just doesn't make sense. There was a scene in which Nesta was dancing with Eris - before the whole 'Mate' situation came up - and Cassian became so insanely jealous that he stormed over and took over dancing with Nesta instead, despite the fact he knew the only reason she was dancing with Eris was to keep him sweet because they needed him as an ally. Now, don't get me wrong, I hate Eris, but Cassian not being able to handle seeing Nesta dance with him - but seemed perfectly content to turn a blind eye to Nesta sleeping with strangers in the beginning of the book - seems so ridiculously unrealistic. In the opening chapters of the book, Cassian enters Nesta's grotty apartment and even makes a sly dig at her that he's picked up the scent of multiple males. But doesn't bat an eyelid at it. And then then later on admits that he's known since he first clapped eyes on her that Nesta was his Mate. IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE. There is a lot of emphasis throughout this whole series that being Mates is the absolute top dog in terms of having an emotional (and physical) connection between two lovers. Fae have gone to war over their Mates. And yet Cassian knew but turned a blind eye to the fact that Nesta was sleeping with goodness knows how many strangers but can't hack seeing her having a little bit of a politic driven dancey-woo with Eris. I really do hate to say it, but it just seems like sloppy writing from Maas and this whole 'jealous Cassian' situ could have been written so much better than what we were given.

Let's talk about how Rhysand pissed me off, shall we? Rhysand kept the news that Feyre going into labour would kill her. Yes, if you haven't read the book yet and are reading this review (again, WHY) then Feyre announces her pregnancy in at the beginning of ACOSF but Rhysand learns that due to the fact that the baby has wings and Feyre isn't a born and bred Illyrian, she and their baby will more than likely die during childbirth. Rhysand not telling Feyre the full extent of the complications of her pregnancy just doesn't sit right with me. It goes against everything Rhysand stands for and everything we have come to know and love about him. Tamlin was the one who kept Feyre out of the loop and Rhysand was the one who gave her a choice in EVERYTHING. The fact that he keeps this from her, and tells the rest of the Inner Circle to keep it from her, really, really does not fit in well with his character whatsoever and I'm kinda mad at it.

I'm also really sad that Nesta gave up her powers in the end. I LOVED powerful Nesta. Why did she have to give her powers up to save Feyre? The ending felt very much like a Feyre and Rhysand book and whilst I'm a big Feysand fan,  I'm here for Nesta and Cassian. I love that Nesta is practically rewriting Pythian history by simply existing with the powers that she took from the Cauldron, yet this book felt *cough cough hijacked cough* by the ending simply not being about Nesta anymore.

Overall, I loved this book despite its issues. The romance is very much at the forefront of the book and I love the fact that Nesta is a completely different character in the end compared to what she was like on page one. We're taken on such a journey with her, both physically, mentally and emotionally and considering this was one of the lesser anticipated books for me in this series (purely because I'm a huge #Feysand fan and my previous lack of interest in Nesta) but actually I really loved it. Yes, sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) it feels like Maas takes the easy route out when it comes to the plot - people and things are always conveniently where they need to be in order for the characters to not have too much of a hard time, but she writes characters so well and the romance at the forefront of these books is like no other I've came across in this genre. I was very much toying with a four or five star rating, and on my scale, it's more of a 4.5, but I've rounded it down to a four, purely because of the issues I've talked about. Five stars for me is OMG THIS BOOK IS PERFECT IN EVERY SINGLE WAY and whilst it was almost there, it wasn't - just.

Verdict: ★★★★

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