Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. MaasA ​Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
Amazon|The Book Depository
Pages: 768
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #4
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on February 16, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Romance

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.

I’m a fan of this series (you can find reviews for books one, two, three and the novella linked). I have been waiting for this book since I finished the low-rated novella in 2018. I’ve read reviews that loved A Court of Silver Flames and reviews where this story failed them. It’s a sharp turn from the format and (somewhat of) the message of the first three books. 

Despite all my expectations for plot, character development, and overall emotional development of this world and its characters – I’m not disappointed with Maas’ end result. It’s a story that kept me hooked. If not for some intense self restraint I probably could have finished this in one day but managed to make it the highlight of my mid-February week. 

SPOILER WARNING: If you have not read ACOSF and are trying to avoid spoilers – do not read any further!

Plot | I think this is where the book failed to meet the expectations of most readers. There is a definite problem with the balance between romance, political/cultural story, and personal journey that I think left many unhappy one way or another. Honestly, I don’t think anything will compare to A Court of Mist and Fury in terms of balance of these elements.

In order to enjoy this, I think you need to separate out the story and look at the areas individually rather than intertwined. In other words almost view this as a series of short stories that happen to be in the same book (and in some cases the same chapter). Approximately 85% of the story is focused on Nesta’s healing journey and her relationship with her family, Cassian, and friends (Gwen and Emerie). I’m a fan of the slow burn, and it didn’t bother me one bit that pages and chapters were dedicated to this story. It needed to unravel at a slower pace. Healing from trauma does not happen overnight and Maas paid dues to this.

The remaining 15% is a mix of action plot and set up for the Vassa/Koscheci plot. Though, it’s not quite enough of a set up. No new information is really shared and things happen too quickly. I wonder if instead of third person, Maas has written from Nesta’s perspective we would have more time for this part of the series to develop. 

Writing | Maas is a talented author – no question about that. I’ve praised her world building in the first two books and that still very much stands.

Let’s address the point of view switch. The first three books in the series are written in the first perspective. Silver Flames is written in third person which allows for some distance between the reader and Nesta. I read (somewhere) that Maas, though this is the “fourth” book in the series, it’s meant to be its own story. Agreed – no argument here. I talked a little bit above, that the emotional/romantic plot and moving the larger story forward could have been a more even split.

Overall, the switch didn’t upset me. The writing and storytelling was excellent, even though I wanted more of the larger story/political/action plot rather than the romance.

Characters & Relationships| I have a lot of feelings about characters I’ve known for three books. I’m in the somewhat rare category that I liked Nesta early on in the series. There always felt like a larger story with the snippets we got. I probably identified with her because I’m also the oldest sibling and I know what its like to go through a difficult time with your family and remain stubborn and attempt to hold them accountable.

Nesta’s journey and development was really well thought out. I appreciate the pace, the set backs, and how Nesta learned to forgive herself in the end. I like that Nesta is still aware that there is work to be done, but she’s beginning to forgive herself and learn how to move forward in this life.

The smut was, well, smut! The romance/attraction between Nesta and Cassian didn’t feel out of place. I know a lot of fans were upset about the sex-first, emotions-second relationship but it felt right on par for Nesta and Cassian. And why those scenes were steamy and well written, I still find the other relationships to be my favorite. Nesta and the House of Wind, Gwen and Emerie was such a welcome surprise! This female (and inanimate object) friendship was so great I don’t even have words to describe it!

Mor | I was really upset to see Mor turn out as a selfish piece of shit. She’s experience trauma and abuse early in her life, and she’s been incredibly sympathetic to Feyre and Rhysand about what they’ve experienced. But she has nothing left to impart on Nesta?? The comment about the Court of Nightmares made me angry (so angry I had to put the book down and angrily huff on my couch for five minutes while my husband was super confused – such is the life of a book nerd!). She somewhat redeems herself later in the book, but I’m still upset at her lack of compassion and understanding.

Elain | Anyone else getting evil vibes from the middle Archeron sister? Maybe I’ve read too many Instagram theories about this, but something is definitely up. We really don’t know anything significant about Elain other than her seemingly innocent and naive descriptions in the first few novels. Her reluctance to acknowledge Lucien (or even just outright reject the bond) is confusing. The Azriel chapter was slightly more illuminating on her character but she’s definitely not whom she seems to be.

Azriel | I loved what we saw of Azriel in the book. I did not love the entitlement that came in the chapter afterwards. It felt out of character for him to view Elain that way. I’m not saying he can’t have a dark side (or be kinky, according to Maas), but everything we’ve seen and learned about him thus far just doesn’t match up with his attitude towards Elain. Also, zero out of five stars for Azriel’s chaperoning services! And yes I’ll be shipping Gwen/Azriel from this point forward.

Rhysand & Feyre | The baby plot was meh. I think Maas could have found other ways to repair Nesta’s relationship with Rhys than saving Feyre and Nyx. I forgot about their (stupid romantic) pact and that really would have fucked over the Night Court if they all died. I was a fan of Rhys through Wings and Ruin but the novella and Silver Flames, I’m no longer interested in his story. His treatment of Nesta (especially as someone who experienced abuse) is pretty unforgivable.

Amren | I’ve never really liked Amren. She’s some kind of imprisoned immortal turned Fae. She doesn’t have any sympathetic qualities that draw me in and allow me to connect. Perhaps I wasn’t reading as closely when the Nesta/Amren bits were happening but I still don’t understand the disagreement between the two.

Cassian | I was a little bummed for no development on Cassian’s character. Though he is someone who wears his heart on his sleeve and so I did feel like I knew him pretty well. Just could have used more!

Wishing for more Lucien in the next book (possibly about Elain?) as I really like his character arc, and he plays an interesting role (regarding his parentage) in Court politics. Eris was a welcome surprise in this book, and honestly I’m all for an Eris redemption arc, and/or just getting more information about him and Mor. Helion, what a flashy mother-fucker.

What I Did Not Love| There were a few things I was disappointed that did not happen or not enough time was given to topics/subjects.

Ummm. . . .Kallon? Perhaps I read too many fanfics where he’s a main antagonist. Then again I also envisioned this story taking place in the Illyrian camps than at the House of Wind. I thought we’d get to see the internal workings of the Night Court and Illyria. Seemed very anticlimactic between the novella and this book.

I appreciated Feyre’s comment in the second book about wanting to live first before they started a family. Maybe that’s because it’s how I felt after I got married and people started asking us when. It just felt rushed and Nesta losing her powers to save them was a little disheartening.

Mortal Queen plot was dull and happened too quickly, and in the end extremely pointless. Briallyn was barely a villain. The story here felt a little trite and was only something for Nesta “to do”.

I’ll probably face some opposition for this, but I also take issue with the use of mythology names in House of Earth and Blood series. I think she could have created a name rather than borrowing something with a deep history. It felt like a cop out creatively to me. I like that Nesta, Gwen, and Emerie had friendship/bond and that they all experienced something terrible and were learning to be strong (not just physically). The Valkyrie name was just too familiar in the end.

Overall | 4.5 stars

I loved it. It is worthy of a re-read in the future and I’m still interested in seeing where the next book takes me!

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