Sarah J. Mass’ thrill-ogy continues

By: McKenna Graham, Assistant Arts & Life Editor 

Title: A Court of Wings and Ruin
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: New Adult, Fantasy
Rating: Five Stars
Warnings for book: Violence, sex

I know it’s unsurprising that I’m reviewing (yet another) Young Adult book, and I can assure you that next week’s review will be on a very different genre, but this is the final installment in Maas’s trilogy, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I had to pick it up.

I’m not a die-hard fan of hers by any means – I personally find her other series, the Throne of Glass series, to be unbearable. I gave it a shot and got no further than about a hundred pages into the third book, at which point I had to put it down and text my friend, “Thanks for letting me borrow this, I’m glad I didn’t spend money on it.”

A lot of elements are the same in this book – high fantasy, dueling royalty, intense romance, and a fiercely strong female character with equally strong female friends are common themes that traverse the two series. Maas knows her audience, and delivers to them almost everything they want: growth and independence in a female lead, more mature scenes, respect and support from the love interest, queer relationships, diversity between race and ability, characters overcoming relatable and modern hardship – she gets it all in.

The ending is happy but not perfect, the relationships are all so wholesome, the themes of optimism, strength and courage in the face of threatening adversity and opposition are so prevalent throughout.

This book deserves five stars not because it is particularly original in plot – we’ve heard the story of a girl plucked from anonymity who discovers unique powers and a hot guy who wants to protect her a thousand times – but because of what she does with this trope. It feels either like Maas ticking off a checklist of everything readers want in modern stories, or else turning the conventions on their head, but I’ll let you decide for yourself which one it is.

As the third installment, the story continues to follow Feyre Archeron, facing trial after trial in the fight to overcome an oppressive and frankly Hitler-esque ruler (can you see how certain sentiments may resonate in today’s climate?). I can’t get into too much, because as is the case with many fantasy series, the plot is so lucratively woven that any detail may be considered a spoiler, but I can tell you that if you want something that drags you into a crafted world, introduces you to a host of appropriately endearing characters, keeps your attention, and makes you tear up even if you don’t feel you care that much, I have a book for you.

A Court of Wings and Ruin deserves five stars not because it’s perfect, not because it has great sex scenes, not because it’s particularly beautifully written or life-changing, but because it sets an example for other writers of YA. This book addresses almost everything – maybe not religion, and maybe not how to talk to those who oppose you, but pretty much everything else.

I hope this book sells well. I hope other novelists pick up on the themes presented in here – a guy who respects you and sees you as his best friend before anything else is the best love interest; women can burn the world and are capable of anything they set their minds to and don’t need any protection from anyone; you can love who you damn well please and you have no control over who makes you happy; you don’t have to hide your identity, but you can if you want to; people of color and differing degrees of ability deserve respectable places in literary fiction; the worst “bad guy” your story can have is not necessarily someone who is malicious or demonic. Sometimes the best antagonist to write about is someone who is ignorant and intolerant, but who genuinely believes they’re doing the right thing.

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