By: Lindsey Pfeffer, Columnist
Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
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.