Viviane awoke to a shout from Rose, who’d sat up so quickly from her sleep that she’d forgotten the height of the bunk and banged her head on the wood. Cursing, Rose rubbed her head vigorously and glanced at Viviane before falling back to the bed in relief.
The vision, Viviane remembered. She’d seen her in some trouble on deck at night. Viviane had tossed and turned, sweating in the stale cabin air, stomach heaving with the contents of the small chunks of bread she’d eaten for dinner. She’s wanted fresh air so badly, could taste the salt air that leaked in so excruciatingly slightly from the small porthole above their heads. She could imagine the relief she’d feel gulping air, driving away the stink of the old wood boards, the damp wool blanket, and her own bile that seemed to sit at the back of her throat.
But she’d stayed. Even when she wanted to unbolt the door and jump into the sea from the misery of it. The fear she’d seen in Rose’s eyes only rivaled the fear she’d seen in them when she described her visions to the Shepherdess. It wasn’t a suggestion. Rose knew it to be her fate if she crossed that threshold in the dark of the night. Viviane wanted to prove that her visions weren’t set in stone, that she had free will and she would save herself by heeding the warning. Nothing would drag Viviane outside, no matter how ill she felt. At least not until the sun rose and she could find relief safely.
They made themselves as presentable as possible, no mirror available in the small space. Viviane dressed Rose’s hair and refused Rose’s offer to do that same for her. She opted to braid her hair in a long braid that she kept draped over her shoulder, partially obscuring the mask that was sure to draw attention and superstitious interest.
Smoothing their ruffled gowns, they unlocked the door and stepped out. The hallway was dim. A ladder led them up into the bright sunshine on the deck. They squinted into the light, covering their eyes with their hands as they sought out Christian among the men scurrying over the ship’s deck, engaged with predetermined chores. One short man with a frazzled beard streaked with gray-barked at them to move as he stomped past with a thick rope slung over his shoulder. He ran towards the mast, jumping up and clinging to it before scurrying up as deftly as a squirrel.
“Wow,” Rose breathed. “I did not think a creature like that could move in such a way.” Viviane covered her mouth, stifling a giggle. They moved to the railing and Viviane raised her head to the wind, breathing in deeply and exhaling all the stale air from below deck from her lungs. It felt like magic, the effect of the crisp, damp breeze blowing over her face and filling her chest.
The sea, a slim channel of water compared to the stories of seemingly unending water of the oceans, seemed like it could stretch on to eternity. It was dark blue in the bright light of day, capped with white waves that made the ship vibrate when they collided. But watching the static horizon in the distance, Viviane did not feel sick at the jolting movements. She felt a little like she was flying, standing there with only the wood banister pressed into her stomach, no obstructions in her line of sight. They crested a wave, and the ship sailed up and then dipped, and she allowed herself a laugh at the thrill it gave her.
Rose, by contrast, had turned a little green at the sight and clung to the rail. She obviously would prefer to return to their cabin below, safe in the hollows of their bunks. But Viviane could not imagine returning to the interior of the ship with the view spread before her.
Viviane thought, if she could never return home, perhaps she could turn pirate and explore the sea, maybe even take to the open ocean. Pirates were allowed eye patches and such, so maybe her mask wouldn’t seem so out of place among them.
Remembering the thin wooden shell belatedly, she grasped it, ensuring it was firmly tied in place despite the gusting winds and jolting deck. As she felt it, she noticed the attention they were getting. The sailors moved slower as they passed, sizing the girls up. Their cloudy red eyes lingered on Viviane though, on the mask and they frowned. Some made signs to ward against evil. Viviane felt her joy dissipate and her shoulders curled in again, trying to make herself smaller.
“Good morning, Mademoiselles!” Christian greeted them cheerfully as he raced to meet them on deck. He was panting, covered in a sheen of sweat already from the morning’s labors. But he was grinning broadly and seemed unperturbed by his promised assistance.
Viviane thought it was odd, that a nobleman’s son would so willingly commit to physical labor. He had trained with the King and his soldiers, she knew. But that was different. That was considered honorable by others in their circle, almost a sport. This kind of labor was backbreaking and grueling and humbling. The established hierarchy placing him firmly at the bottom, a grunt to be bossed around by men who couldn’t even read.
But he seemed so alive in spite of it. Happy even, to be working with the sailors. For the sailors. Viviane corrected as one barked an order at him and he scurried away to complete the task, throwing a grin and promise to meet them for breakfast back over his shoulder.
“It isn’t normal, no,” Rose answered her unspoken question. “Eden would never allow sailors to boss him so. But he is a little more petted it would seem. That’s probably my fault, and Father’s.” Rose laughed.
Viviane laughed too. She couldn’t picture Eden in the same situation, sleeves rolled up and sweat dripping from his temples. He was a royal, half-child as he was. He was a full-blooded dandy.
“I miss him,” Rose continued. “I wonder if he made it back to the castle safely. And if anyone noticed his disappearance so close to ours.”
“I wonder what they will do when they notice ours,” Viviane added. Would they question her mother? No doubt they would. And the miller, perhaps. Others knew of the escape route, they would know where it led. Could he deceive them into thinking he knew nothing of them?
Perhaps not. Viviane sent up a prayer that the miller would avoid imprisonment and punishment for their flight. The Princess didn’t need another’s fate lying heavy on her conscious.
“Hopefully we will hear something when we reach land and find asylum,” Rose answered. If Eden was able to return unnoticed. If he could get a letter out. If that letter found its way to wherever they were headed.
There were so many ifs. Viviane felt a little hopeless as the questions and conditions piled up.
Christian returned, noting their concerned expressions. He reached for their hands, taking one of their in each of his. “We will make it,” he promised, his face set with determination. “We will change this vision, save your family,” he nodded at Rose. “And you will return home to your mother,” he nodded at Viviane, squeezing her fingers gently, allowing his thumb to stroke her palm in secret.
Viviane flushed but met his gaze. She nodded back, gulping to keep the tears from escaping.
Christian, Viviane, and Rose ate breakfast with Captain Ashe who, despite his grizzled appearance, was educated and soft-spoken. He could tell they were not telling the truth of their identities, could see the excellent breeding in Rose and Christian, their expensive educations, their health that marked a lifetime of always having enough to eat and a warm bed.
He noted Viviane’s mask with the same suspicious glances as the sailors but said nothing, directing most of his conversation to Rose and Christian who were trained diplomats in any case, Viviane was relieved by his inattention and ate her breakfast heartily, empty from the scant dinner and her nighttime seasickness. Breakfast consisted of thick porridge and cured ham. Viviane was not complaining as she gulped down the steaming spoonful, feeling her belly fill pleasantly. The meat was precious, in short supply for the servants of their castle and usually disguised with gravy in stews that could be stretched to accommodate them for more extended periods of time.
It was well-preserved and flavorful. Viviane savored the salty taste on her tongue, before swallowing. She was enjoying the food so much she did not hear herself addressed until Rose nudged her foot beneath the table.
“Captain Ashe wanted to know if you were enjoying your breakfast?” Rose repeated, smothering a laugh with a cloth napkin.
Viviane flushed and nodded vigorously trying not to choke as she swallowed the mouthful she’d been appreciating.
“I can see you get a pretty simple fare where you are from as well,” he said to her directly. His tone was not accusing, and she relaxed as she swallowed finally and could speak.
“Yes, our chef does his best but the winter seasons are always a little difficult,” Viviane replied.
“The Lady has a chef?” The captain asked, eyebrows raised at Rose. She’d explained their positions in no great detail to the captain while Viviane had been devouring her meal.
“My family does, yes.” She replied.
“But you choose to travel quite simply.” He pressed, gesturing to the cargo ship’s hold. Even the captain’s quarters where they ate was a plain room, the wood rough-hewn and pieced together without thought for ornamentation or polish. “Your family could not afford to place you on one of the passenger ships?” His eyes jumped to Christian who had worked out the details of their passage, fully aware of his bargain to pay their way through his own labor.
“Honestly,” Rose began.
Viviane felt her spine tingle, and her blood ran cold. Would she tell him the truth so quickly?
“My family doesn’t approve of my journey.” Rose lied, but not quite lied, smoothly. “They would prefer I stayed home but told me if I could find some way to procure my own passage I would travel to the continent. I seek training from a master, you see.”
“What sort of master?” The captain asked, his tone switching from wary to conversational.
“A master of magic,” Rose replied.
Viviane started at that. That was the truth. And a dangerous fact.
The captain only stared at her, swirling a glass of brandy in one hand. The liquid was thick and clung to the sides of the glass.
“Magic,” he did not sound surprised. Or confused. Captain Ashe merely studied her, tasting the word on his lips.
“Why do you seek a Master of Magic?” he asked finally.
Rose grinned back at him, charming and pretty. Poised as a Queen and very nearly one.
“To learn it.” She admitted.
Still, the captain was not shocked. He did stand though, moving slowly, almost lazy.
He closed the door to his cabin which had been left open to catch the fresh ocean air, barking an order at an errant sailor before closing it slowly. Intentionally.
He turned to face the small band, studying them. They were young and inexperienced travelers. It was apparent how vulnerable they were, especially shut in Captain Ashe’s quarters, surrounded by men loyal to him, surrounded beyond that by miles of sea.
Viviane gripped Rose’s hand under the table. She squeezed her fingers back, in reassurance or realization of their predicament, Viviane could not tell.
“I knew you were one of us,” he said, sitting back down in his chair and scooting forward to rest his elbows on the table before him. Again, he was casual, unhurried.
“What?” Viviane was the one stunned.
Captain Ashe turned striking purple eyes on her. “A witch,” he clarified. “Or wizard in my case,” he chuckled, waving away the issue of semantics.
Christian and Viviane were dumbstruck, sitting silently and wondering how they had ended up here, face to face with a ship captain wizard.
Rose leaned forward too, propping her elbows on the table and placing her chin in her hand, observing him coolly. She seemed unfazed by his revelation.
“I know you knew. I felt the same. I felt that you possessed magic. Strong magic, from the scent of it.” Rose’s nose twitched as she noticeably sniffed the air around them. Viviane flushed, trying to surreptitiously sniff the air as well. All she could smell was the ham, the grease all that remained in a golden-brown smear on her plate.
“You can smell it?” Christian asked in amazement.
“Kind of,” Rose said to him. “I can smell something, and I only now realized what it was, thanks to a vision.”
“You had another vision?” Viviane asked. She hadn’t even noticed. It had been nothing like her unusual behavior the night before, the panic, the undiluted fear of what she’d seen.
Rose nodded. “Of Captain Ashe, his powers, and how people with magic identify each other.” With a knowing look at Viviane, she added, “And how he should sleep with a dagger under his pillow tonight to avoid an attempt at mutiny.”
I don’t know where to begin with this review. Sarah J. Maas is everything I aspire to be as a writer. I fell in love with this series when the first book was released in 2015. A Court of Wings and Ruin is an excellent culmination of all the emotions and switchbacks this series has thrust upon me. Not to say the 3rd book wraps up all the storylines neatly, it does not (hence Book #4 or 3.1 according to Goodreads, A Court of Frost and Starlight which I hope will address the fates of a few more of our beloved characters).
Also, the film rights to this book series have been purchased so look for this already incredibly popular series to explode on the mainstream very soon.
I read Book #2, A Court of Mist and Fury when it was first released in 2016, so there were a couple of years between the last time I entered the Court of Thorns and Roses world. A Court of Wings and Ruin picks up where A Court of Mist and Fury ended. Feyre is spirited back to the Spring Court. Tamlin believes she has been bewitched by Rhysand, that she still loves him, and that he can heal what he considers to be broken within her.
However, unbeknownst to him, Feyre is tricking him and his Court. She bides her time, hides her power, waiting to unleash her revenge for ripping her away from what we know to be her mate. And for betraying her sisters to Hybern.
Feyre revenge is succinct and timely, but Lucien becomes entangled just as she unleashes it. Forced to take him along, they flee through the courts, their magic dampened by faebane. They sneak through Lucien’s own home, the Autumn Court and by his murderous family. They must travel on foot until they can reach a place where their magic is restored enough to winnow home.
This part is full of harrowing near misses, including their discovery by Lucien’s older brothers including Eris, who we know to be the Morrigan’s former betrothed.
After a battle on the ice in the Winter Court, Cassian and Azriel swoop in to save the day as per their usual. Feyre’s power as High Lady and her status as a Made creation of the High Lords in which she absorbed their gifts is revealed.
Feyre and Rhys’ reunion is as satisfying as we all hoped it would be, full of lovemaking and tenderness. This part reaffirms their mating bond. They belong together, and this scene leaves no doubt. Especially in such stark contrast to the violence Feyre experiences at Tamlin’s court from the disgruntled High Lord of Spring.
Her reunion with her friends is as satisfying. We are reintroduced to Mor and Amren, and the group’s dynamic is as entertaining as always. New to the Court of Dreams brood are newly Made Nesta and Elain, and the journey roughened Lucien who Cassian and Azriel also rescued.
Though Nesta’s spirit remains unwaveringly defiant, Elain suffers as a Fae. Though her bond with Lucien was revealed in ACOMAF, she still loves her human fiance. The book’s treatment of Elain is the only thing that borders on slightly tedious. The author does give us a few thrilling moments with this character that makes the set up worth the wait.
The majority of the book focuses on their plans to stop Hybern from destroying the wall that divides Fae from humans. The High Lords make another appearance after the Summer Court is attacked by Hybern’s forces, his intent towards their destruction becoming evident.
Unfortunately, that means convening the High Lords of Autumn and Spring as well. Beron, Lucien’s sociopathic father, and Tamlin are the most reluctant High Lords to join an alliance against Hybern. Beron, out of self-interest and spite. Tamlin, for more obvious reasons. His armies are still unrecovered from Feyre’s sabotage.
The alliance discussions go as well as you’d expect from so many strong personalities. Throughout we glimpse more of Nesta’s power. She is connected to the Cauldron, having taken some of its power when she was Made. During the discussions, the Wall is destroyed by Hybern, and the alliance is tenuously agreed upon by the majority of the High Lords. Tamlin is non-responsive. Unbeknownst to Beron, Eris has made a deal with Rhys, Feyre, and Keir of the Court of Nightmares to ensure Beron’s compliance in exchange for their assistance in overthrowing his father to take his throne.
We are also handed some delightful sexual tension between Cassian and Nesta, who stubbornly refuses to acknowledge his interest for most of the book. Of course, that makes me ship them even harder.
At this point, Lucien has departed for the continent in an attempt to find the human queen, Vassa, who is cursed but commands a large army to try to gain her support in the war. Elain still mourns the loss of her fiance and the life she envisioned with him as humans.
A Court of Wings and Ruin continues with Rhys, Feyre, Cassian, Azriel, Mor, and Amren trying to find a way to defeat Hybern. In addition to pledging the support of the other HIgh Lords and their armies, they want to use Nesta’s power to wield the Cauldron against Hybern.
Nesta’s training and lessons from Amren on the Cauldron are tedious and not promising as Hybern continually moves forward, attacking and confusing the High Lords’ forces. The battles are bloody and detailed. Maas, who I am assuming has never been on a battlefield, describes them very well. What she captures even better is the fear in Feyre as she awaits the end, feeling for Rhys to make sure he is alive. As a military spouse, I appreciated that particular recognition of potential loss with each battle.
The final battle begins in the human realm at the coast. Hybern’s forces are enormous, and the High Lords are outnumbered. Even with Feyre and Rhys’ recruitment of the Others, the Weaver, the Bone Carver, and Bryaxis, they lose ground. Hybern pushes into them, and for a very long time, they seem poised to lose it all.
At the final (nearly) moment, the fabled Drakon and Miryam arrive with their army of Seraphim. Also in tow, Queen Vassa’s human army. Elain’s former fiance, Beron, and Tamlin arrived with their armies earlier to aid the Court of Dreams. Even then they seem outmatched.
As I mentioned before, Elain’s general damsel-in-distress act was wearing a little thin, but she more than makes up for that in the end. Hybern locates Nesta who tries to use the Cauldron’s power as a distraction to draw him away. It works, a little too well.
While Feyre and Amren try to disable Hybern’s hold on the Cauldron’s power, Nesta battles the man himself. But Hybern has their father, the human who led an armada of others, to fight against him. She has little control and quickly loses ground, especially when Hybern breaks their father’s neck, killing him instantly. She finally throws herself atop Cassian in the last resort to either save them both or die together (again, shipping so hard).
At the moment before their death Elain comes alive and strikes the first, debilitating blow against King Hybern, taking him down. Nesta finishes the job, delivering the killing strike that she promised him after being Made.
That still isn’t the end though.
Feyre, our main heroine, is the one who has to end this story. Amren had tricked her into grasping the Cauldron alone. She wants her to release her from the Fae body to which she had been bound. In order to save everyone. Feyre does and Amren makes a neat job of wiping Hybern’s now autonomous forces off the battlefield.
The act of releasing her destroys the Cauldron, splitting it into three pieces and leaving its power uncontained. The Cauldron is poised to consume the world they’d just saved.
Rhys arrives and together, they use their power to remake the Cauldron. But Rhys, already drained from fighting, dies from the effort.
So, at this point, I am sobbing. Feyre is sobbing. I am thinking of how cruel Maas is to make us fall in love with Rhys so much, to reunite Feyre with him only to rip him away. But lucky for us, especially me, this author seems to be a sucker for happy endings.
In the same way Feyre was revived and Made, the High Lords give a piece of their power to bring Rhys back. Tamlin is the final one, in his act of redemption. I can, almost, forgive him for everything to this point. Rhys stutters back to life, dragging Amren back with him. Though she is now pure Fae with no Other, she is still the same salty Amren we know and love.
I love this series and the world Maas created. My hope is that she returns to it beyond A Court of Frost and Starlight. I would like to read a prequel about Juriel, Drakon, and Miryam’s origins.
The writing was on point as always, though I’ve seen other reviews that criticized the writing as rushed and in need of further editing. I did not notice that. The book was polished, well-structured, and the characters felt genuine to previous books. I felt like this was an excellent ending to the main storyline, to Hybern’s reign of terror, Feyre’s rift with her siblings and father. The whole love triangle that was actually a love line with a dot outside was wrapped up nicely as well. Tamlin found some redemption and Feyre was able to release any guilt she may have had about leaving him for Rhysand.
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