A Court of Wings and Ruin is the third installment of the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas. So if you haven't read the previous books in the series I would suggest you stop reading this summary because it can spoil things for you for the first two books in the series. Other than that, there will be a non-spoiler section of my review and then a spoiler section, because although I try to stay as spoiler free as I can, when discussing a sequel in a crazy anticipated series like this one, I have some spoiler-y things to say.
Feyre is back at the Spring Court trying to get information on Tamlin and the Hybern king. She has to pretend that she is happy she is back with him, and not with Rhysand, the king of the Night Court, any longer. War is coming and Feyre has to figure out which High Lords she can trust, and which ones are out to get her.
For the non-spoiler section, I'll have to say I enjoyed this book as a whole. There are some things I am unhappy with and I wish could have been handled differently. Without going into detail, those things include Maas trying to have a more diverse story by bringing in some LGBTQ+ characters and a person of color. However, I felt like the instances where those characters were revealed it felt too forced. Like Maas was doing it just to check off a box so the criticism about her lack of diversity would go away. I appreciate the effort, but for me it fell a bit flat. I think that some characters changed, and not for the better, especially one I really love. I think that being only in Feyre's POV hindered the reading experience. I think it worked well for the first two books, but with the fighting and side characters growing behind the scenes because Feyre isn't there to witness it, it felt like the readers weren't getting the full picture.
However, there is a lot of good that came out of this story. I laughed a lot, Maas writes characters and dialogue really well. I fully believe that the Night Court gang are a family, and I love them all so much. I couldn't get enough of their scenes together and how they build each other up. I like that although you think you know how you feel about a character, a few chapters later you can feel something entirely different from them. I think Maas' way of writing complex characters should be applauded. I am a reader who prefers character driven stories and I really enjoyed the characters in this book. The action scenes were also well done. They could definitely be even better if the POV changed from Feyre, but I still enjoyed them for the most part. Especially any fighting scene with Cassian.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I made sure to take my time (which wasn't too hard, considering it's massive size and thin pages) and I am really happy I was able to have enough self control not to race to the end like I normally would. I do wish some of the things in the book were done differently, but I also may have had my expectations too high considering how much I loved A Court of Mist and Fury, which by far is one of my favorite sequels, or even just books.
Okay, now for the more spoiler-y section, so if you haven't read the book, go away, an come back when you've read it! So we can discuss, or at least so I don't spoil you. So please, if you don't want to be spoiled for A Court of Wings and Ruin, and the books before it, please do not continue.
I'll start with the things I didn't like, so we leave on a high note. But honestly, the more I am writing down my problems with this book the more I am feeling like it wasn't as good as I thought. I left the book on a high but when I started really thinking of the book critically I and coming to the conclusion that although I really enjoyed parts of this story, it's not perfect. So strap in.
Starting with the LGBTQ+ representation, which honestly just felt like it was added so the story was more diverse. I couldn't help but think how having Mor's bisexuality being shoehorned into the story. Why keep her closeted for almost three full books when she could have been amazing representation. I would have liked to see her explore her sexuality more throughout the story instead of it being an afterthought to meet a diversity requirement. Her whole chapter talking about her sexuality felt like a complete info dump afterthought. I also didn't like the idea of her stringing Azriel along for years because she didn't want to tell him she's more into women when she could have just told him she wasn't interested in him romantically. I also didn't like her attitude towards Nesta about Cassian. Was she jealous in a protective friend way or in a romantic way? And Helion's bisexuality would have been fine if it wasn't revealed that he wanted a threesome right after we found out he was bisexual. It felt like, so out of nowhere and stereotypical. Also, Rhysand mentioning to Feyre he would be up for a threesome seemed so out of character, isn't he the same character that got upset with Cassian for making a sex joke to Feyre in the last book?
I do not mind sex scenes in books and I think Maas writes good sex scenes, a bit repetitive but overall good. I think she's even better at writing sexual tension than she is at writing sex scenes, because scenes in this book (and the others) that are the most steamy and romantic (for me at least) are the ones where it's the build up before the actual sex scene. However on the topic of the sex scenes, I think that they got to be too much at times. They had sex or heavily flirted at the most random of moments where I couldn't help but think But is this the time? Rhysand went from this sexy, charming, witty High Lord to a horny frat boy who could not keep it in his pants. Rhysand in general felt different for me. Instead of the naturally charming guy that he was in ACOMAF his need to be all "I heart feminism", Feyre you're always right, etc also got to be a bit much for me. He was so passive, and times where she royally screwed up, put people or herself in danger, or went on her own without telling anyone, he would just be like "it's chill, next time leave a note or give someone a heads up" instead of being furious at her. Even if her intentions were good, she did some stupid things in this book and Rhysand just lets it go. I liked that in ACOMAF he could be this sexy, charming, dominating character, but not be abusive. A lot of authors who try writing that kind of character ends up with a abusive and/or misogynistic character. But Rhys was a good balance, until this book. Also, this is a small pet peeve, but if I read them referring to each other as "my mate" one more time, I swear I was going to lose it.
I think the book being in Feyre's POV impacted the reading experience negatively. In the last two books I think it made sense and it worked well for the story and what the reader needed to know. Because we are only in Feyre's head, we are limited and missing out on all the other things happening when she isn't around. I would have loved to have more Cassian/Nesta scenes, Lucien/Elain scenes, even Azriel/Elain scenes. I also didn't understand why Feyre and Mor were watching the fights from afar instead of fighting themselves. I would have loved to see Feyre kick some ass, especially since we don't really get to see her powers almost at all. The fight scenes we got to see were really good, but there could have been even better ones if we weren't only in Feyre's mind. I don't understand why for a character who is constantly being told by Rhysand that she is this badass powerful High Lady is on the sidelines watching the fights. You say she has all this power, but then she doesn't fight? I don't understand the logic.
I don't understand the point of bringing Lucien in, giving him a redeeming character arc, and then dropping him for so many pages just to bring him back in the end. I feel like Elain has almost no personality, which could have been different if we saw more scenes with her with Azriel or Lucien. I wanted to see more from him especially because I have always had a soft spot for him throughout the series. I don't understand how anyone could really "ship" him and Elain, since they've had almost no time together. But I also don't understand the "shippers" who put Elain with Azriel, because once again, we didn't get to zoom in on their moments together because we only saw it from afar in Feyre's eyes.
Even with what he does at the end of the book, I still really don't like Tamlin. I hate the way he was with Feyre in book one. He was manipulative, rapey, and overall a sleezeball. I do think his character arc made him a better character, but I cannot go right into loving him like many have after reading ACOWAR. I just wasn't sold that he was a proper good guy now, and although he did something good in the end, it doesn't erase his bad behavior in the beginning (wow, this is sounding a lot like my I hate Severus Snape argument).
Here are some things I am left wondering, what happens between Lucien and Elain? Is there a new king of Hybern? What is it going to be like for Amren now that she is Fae? Does Lucien find out that Helion is his father? Does Mor come out publicly? What is going to happen with Azriel? I hope we get some answers to these questions in the next batch of books in this world.
Now, for the good. There are so many scenes where I laughed, a lot. Like I said, the whole gang feels like a real family and I loved the bickering and banter. Maas is really good at writing dialogue between characters, and building up friendships. I liked Azriel teaching Feyre how to fly, and Cassian teaching her how to fight. Amren training Nesta, a character I disliked a lot for a long time grew on me (even if, I do not think I could deal with her in real life), was also a really good pairing. However, back to the unfortunate decision to be in only Feyre's POV, I would have liked to see more of that, since I do not think we know Amren as well as I'd like. I had little note tabs, and I would use the yellow for laughter/happiness, and I have so many yellow tabs in my copy. For a book about war, there are a lot of great light scenes which I think worked really well.
Although I said Feyre and Rhysand's sex scenes got to be too much, I do think they were well written. I also really love their scenes where we see them just be in love, her washing his bloody hands, him holding her throughout the night or helping her out of a nightmare. Them talking to each other telepathically. I totally believe that they loved each other and I rooted for their relationships.
Despite being annoyed with Rhysand's character change, I am proud of Feyre. I think her character development between the first book and this book is astounding, and I really like that she grew as a strong confident woman. She may have really peeved me off at times, but I respect her as a character, and I think she holds her own very well without it coming off like she's trying to be something she isn't.
I know it seems like I have more cons than pros, and it's true. But I am not sure how to fully put into words that even if I had issues with the book, I enjoyed it. The journey itself and Maas' writing style really builds and its suspenseful. Even if I was taking notes of the bad stuff, I was still frantically flipping the pages needing to know what was going to happen next. So I can't see myself giving this book lower than a 3.5 because I enjoyed it, even with all the problems.
Overall, I am happy I read this book. I liked it more than ACOTAR but less than ACOMAF. I would easily go back and re-read some of the parts I tabbed because like I said, there is some great family moments between the gang in this book, but I don't see myself re-reading passages like I do with ACOMAF. I do plan on reading the next book coming out in the same world, and I am excited to get some information on what they'll be about. From what I hear, it will be focused on another one of the couples, but that could be a rumor. Either way I am excited.