If you’re a fan of Sarah J. Mass’ “ACOTAR,” I am so sorry

By: Lindsey Pfeffer, Columnist

Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

2/5 ⭑⭑⭒⭒⭒

Nesta Acheron is the badass, mean and surly girlboss of our nightmares. She will not adjust to the world as it is, will not admit that her littlest sister could have done something she could not, and will not ever say “I love you.” A Court of Silver Flames is one of the worst written books I have ever read, and Nesta Acheron is one of the least likeable protagonists I have ever had the joy of knowing.    

Her romantic interest, Cassian, is almost as badly written as she is. Sarah J. Maas has been writing strong female protagonists for years, and it seems she’s finally run out of tropes to give them that will make them shine, in her newest installment of A Court of Thorn and Roses (ACOTAR).  A Court of Silver Flames is a standalone continuation of ACOTAR, and as it stands alone, it certainly falls alone. 

In the world of ACOTAR, we are first introduced to Nesta as Feyre’s mean older sister, who was favored by both of their parents before they fell into poverty. Nesta refused to go out and work for money for their family to live, leaving her youngest sister to provide for them. 

Over the course of the last three books, we have seen their family interactions and dynamics, and Nesta has never been grateful for the sacrifices anyone around her has made. Her sister brought them to a new world in a position of comfort and security, and Nesta will never forgive her for that.

This all adds up to why A Court of Silver Flames was set up to fail. If Maas was setting Nesta up for a redemption arc, she should have started laying the breadcrumbs a very long time ago. As it is now, readers go into this book knowing who Nesta is, and Maas does not do a good job at convincing readers why we should forgive her.

The entire basis for the plot is that Nesta has a power that could potentially help them make their world safe. Before they find this out, they have left Nesta to drink away her issues without any real concern for her. But suddenly, as there is a slight threat to their happy lives, they must teach Nesta how to live in the world they dragged her into, they have to help her quit drinking, and they do this all while pretending it is for her own sake.

This brings us to one of the worst crimes this book has committed: it’s treatment of addiction and mental illness. Feyre is allowed to be depressed because she is good, and kind, and does not let her sadness affect other people. Nesta, despite living in her own corner of the world, and not interacting with any of her sister’s family and friends, is not allowed to be depressed because people need her and her abilities, because her attitude rubs them the wrong way.

The second offense? Maas uses so many tropes that the plot feels both oversaturated and yet also lacking anything that would bring interest. Maas tells us, “the men are feminists!” But they also always know better than women. They know how to fix Nesta, even if she doesn’t want anything they’re offering at all. They force Nesta to acquiesce to their methods without her input, despite the fact that Feyre, her sister, thinks it is not a good idea.

Finally, the third offense: a subplot of smut that overpowers both the romantic plot, and the actual redemption arc we’re supposed to be reading. I could not read a single chapter without some kind of sexual act happening, even to the detriment of the story that Maas is trying to tell. 

In short, this book has no interest in making you interested in the plot. It forgets what it is supposed to be, and uses sex to distract you from how bad the characters actually are. 
Over the course of 750 pages, we are gifted a weak plot, what I would guess to be 300 pages of sex scenes that do nothing but contradict the plot, and an attempt at feminism that screams performative activism. I give this book a 2/10 for reader loyalty. This was a truly disappointing continuation for a great series, and I hope the next book has more meat in the way of plot.

25 thoughts on “If you’re a fan of Sarah J. Mass’ “ACOTAR,” I am so sorry

  1. This book has the deepest plot out of all the ACOTAR series, I’m surprised/feel kinda bad for you that you couldn’t see the depth of it.

    1. ^^^ THIS. As someone with BPD and C-PTSD, reading ACOSF made me feel so happy that someone like me was included. She wrote my mental illnesses very well and accurately. And to the writer of this article: no, people with certain illnesses are not always likable. You sound very neurotypical since you can’t see the depth of the book.

      1. Sounds like you may also have a reading comprehension problem as well? She never claimed that people with “your illness” are “always likable”. What she said was that one character was allowed to deal with her depression in a way she saw fit because she had a easy-going likable personality so best to be gentle and understanding with her, whereas the other character Nesta was not allowed to deal with her issue on her own because she was needed and due to her abrasive personality it was ok to be rough with her.
        And don’t attack someone for voicing their opinion on THEIR BLOG, based a book that they read that was seriously not that deep lol none of the ACOTAR books are deep.

        You sound like someone who didn’t actually attend college because if you had you would’ve learned that that’s not how to express an opinion in a respectful manner. What you should’ve done was understand their point and then offer an alternative without insulting them. Instead you come off like a close minded insecure self-centered bully but that’s OK because according to you you’ve got an illness. And do you think calling somebody Neuro typical is an effing insult? Yeah you sound white and under the age of 25. Well I for one am proud to be someone who doesn’t try to find glory and every made up psychological illness I pay a psychologist to diagnose me with.

        Get over yourself.

      2. I also have C-PTSD and BPD. And I’m an abuse survivor and trained psychological advocate. I truly couldn’t stand acosf because the entire IC were emotionally and and verbally abusive to Nesta despite how she was an abuse survivor as well as a child survivor of sexual exploitation. They also pulled a Tamlin by locking her up in the House of Wind. The only decent part of this book was her interaction with Gwyn and Emerie.

        The healing arc was crap overall because it revolves around how Nesta had to muscle up and learn how to fight with a sword and being sexually available to her mate even though she was slut shamed earlier for being sexually available to other men of her choosing. Meanwhile the men are free to act and sleep with whoever they want.

        Cassian always sexually harassing Nesta and making fun of her ptsd and using sex as a weapon and manipulating her and pressuring her is the epitome of toxic masculinity.

        And a woman again having to give up her power because a powerful man messed up with not using a condom and bothering to tell his wife of .2 years in fae that oh yes your birth canal is too tiny for a boy child so we may want to wait till after we figured out a solution and the body mortification of a woman’s hips needing to be inflated to bear the result of a mans sperm is NOT feminist. Or a MAN taking his pride in other men sniffing out the fact that his wife is with child. This made my feminist ally husband do the puke gesture.

        Nesta was a badass when she kicked Cassian in the balls. And when she embraced her Death power and bonded with her fellow survivor women. But everyone around her was abusive.

        You don’t support and empower someone by locking them up and telling them they can only be accepted if they behave the way you want them to. Take away their keys so they can’t drive while drunk. Freaking crap, put a blanket on them, hold their hair while they puke, hug them and watch over them while they sleep and be their while they need to dry out.

        Don’t tell them they are as bad as rapists and murderers (Mor) don’t slut shame them and expect them to kneel before you when you do literally nothing but shame black skinned people and drink a little blood (Amren). And don’t make fun of your mates ptsd and don’t bother to defend them when your high lord threatens to kill them (Cassian).

        And a woman only healing bc she muscles up from training with a guy and having sex with a guy and having to act beautiful and know how to dance after wearing armor all day and being locked away and forced to climb a ton of steps is not how you heal from ptsd and bpd. And considering she still degraded herself at the end and said she “didn’t deserve Cassian, who was good and kind” even though he’d done nothing good and kind for her and didn’t have the decency to even say “hey I love you back”, shows she never truly healed from that self loathing mindset.

        Healed and powerful women don’t apologize for their trauma responses and don’t degrade themselves to prop up a male ego. And notice how men always have to be the higher ones while women can only have power from them and can never be more powerful than them either.

        Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

        1. Thank you for this review, Emily. My sister was really upset with this book and I couldn’t understand why but now I see. All of that totally is problematic.

    2. It really doesn’t. Nesta is abused by Cassian and the ic. She is constantly portrayed to be the only one in the wrong when that is far from the truth.

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  15. From your review, your main issues are the establishment of the characters pre-ACOSF, the “tropes” included in the book, and the smut.

    This feels like a good moment to point out that you both criticize SJM for not giving Nesta enough “tropes” to shine as a SFP but the book is too laden with “tropes” to be successful at telling the story? So which is it? Do you need to author to hold your hand or do you want all ingenuity all the time? It’s almost like good writing is about finding a balance between the two.

    As far as how Nesta is set up for a redemption arc: I’m surprised you made no mention of where Nesta is at mentally in the previous book/novella (A Court of Frost and Starlight). She is not just self-isolating, but actively putting herself in harms way and showing signs of severe battle shock. We also get full chapters (in ACOFAS) from Cassian’s perspective setting up his backstory/future role as well. So really if I have any point to make it’s read all the books before you publish a review, kids! I don’t love that SJM does novellas but it’s her prerogative I guess 🤷🏼‍♀️

    Now as far as how Nesta is treated by the IC: I can get behind some of your complaints. I especially don’t like the hypocritical nature of the IC when it comes to things like alcoholism. Silver Flames Feysand is an especially tough pill to swallow, but it’s also established IN FROST AND STARLIGHT, that they’ve been making some less than stellar choices and their judgement is not going to get better after having a baby.** Their “throw every dart at the board” mentality when it comes to “helping” Nesta is one I’ve personally seen a lot as a recovering addict: people care enough to say something, but not enough to actually try to help.

    Realism aside, what I think SJM instead does correct is we see Nesta begin to find peace in things that aren’t as harmful to her, aka reading, training, friends, etc. Cassian, while an ass at times, is genuinely concerned with putting that light back in her eyes. I couldn’t find your ACOMAF (book #2) review, but isn’t that why we all fell in love with Rhys in the first place? The way he recognized that Feyre was hurting and helped her heal and become who she is today? Did SJM not subvert that trope by not only having Cassian encourage Nesta to get stronger, but also by having Nesta become her own champion by helping her friends complete the blood rite, defeating the queen, and saving Feyre and Nyx?

    We’re back to the trope conversation. I think many readers wanted this book to follow a direct “enemies to lovers”/“idiots to lovers” plot line. Instead we get this raging push and pull from both Nesta and Cassian. Whereas Feyre and Rhys are partners in the sense that they can see past each other’s flaws for the greater good, Cassian and Nesta can’t be together until they’ve figured their shit out. There is a one-step-forward-two-steps-back dance to their relationship that both defies convention and is entirely realistic. All of the books have smut but instead of bringing Nesta and Cassian closer, sex seems to set them back at square one because realistically they jumped into a physical relationship before learning how to communicate with one another. To me, this is the demarcation point between YA and adult novels.

    To address the smut…it’s an SJM book. I really don’t have a strong argument for the smut because honestly to each their own. I think the way that Bloomsbury has let SJM roll her transition from YA into Adult into both ACOTAR and TOG is a little messed up considering not everyone is going to start these series as 18+. However, her characters are adults, its realistic for the story/plotting, and honestly the “smut” is very low key. Think flowery language and fade to blacks.

    Overall, Silver Flames in the context of the ACOTAR series doesn’t have to be your favorite book, but it is not a departure from the things you may have loved about the first 3.5 books. ACOSF is 700+ pages long, encompasses 3 different full plots, and ultimately leaves Nesta feeling hopefully about life and her future. I wrote all this to say I feel like I deserves more than 2.5 stars! 🥹

    **my theory after Frost and Starlight is that Rhys and Feyre are going to STRUGGLE because being a parent is hard and they were too horny to care 😅😅

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