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.
MAJOR SPOILERS THROUGHOUT
Okay… So I would like to preface this review by saying that I am not jumping on the Sarah J. Maas or ACOSF hate train. This review is coming from someone who has been a SJM fan for five years and has been dying for Nessian’s book for four of those. This review comes from a place of genuine disappointment. All of my opinions were formed from reading the book itself and I didn’t have any outside influences affecting that.
Now that that is out of the way… this book was disappointing. Very disappointing. The plot lacked Sarah’s usual twists and flair, the romance felt rushed and lacked development, but probably the most disappointing of all… The characters were utter shells of themselves. Some of their actions were completely out of character and some of the things that endeared them to me were missing from this book entirely. This book felt like a fan fiction of ACOTAR. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that none of this book felt like Sarah’s writing at all.
Maybe my feelings of this book are all tied to waiting so long for it. Maybe it’s because I went in expecting this to be as great as ACOMAF… The bottom line is that it didn’t cut it. And it’s not like Sarah hasn’t made a masterpiece in the past. The elements were all there for the making of a great book… A hate-to-love romance, characters with traumas and dark pasts, a complex world filled with different creatures and politics, an interesting villain… Yet somehow, this book turned all of those things into the worst forms of themselves.
Cassian and Nesta’s development, separately and together, was an utter disaster. And I’m sorry, after witnessing what Sarah did in ACOMAF, I know she can write a damn good romance with two characters healing from their past traumas. Nesta’s trauma, we barely scratched the surface on. Yeah she addressed her feelings on her dad… But what about those thousand Illyrians whose deaths she blames herself for? It was mentioned but she didn’t come to terms with it. What about her mother’s clearly abusive behavior? Never acknowledged. What about the fact that she was sexually assaulted? Brushed over and used when it was convenient. And Cassian’s traumas? Not in the picture at all. He spoke about them a couple times to make Nesta feel better, sure, but did he work on them or grow from them at all? Absolutely not.
The Nessian relationship itself was so utterly disappointing, that I honestly think I preferred them hating each other and the insults they threw at each other in ACOMAF, ACOWAR, and ACOFAS. Where was the pining? The accidental touches? The stolen glances? The pushing and pulling each other away? The slowly coming to terms with the fact that they have feelings for each other? They were practically non-existent. These two went from hurling insults and not standing to be near each other to jumping each other’s bones in practically 6.9 seconds (yes pun intended there). Instead of talking to each other and developing, they had sex instead. I love me some smut, don’t get me wrong. But there is a level of being there to grow the characters, and then there is just plain unnecessary. It’s a balancing act and Sarah didn’t even seem to try to balance the scales.
Well, what about the world? What about Nesta’s powers and the Cauldron? Yeah we barely got to see any of it. The things we did felt thrown together with no evidence from the past books. Like, I’m sorry, but the Trove felt cheap and completely out of left field. Yeah, Sarah tried to explain it away… But it’s not like she hasn’t set plot points up many books ahead before? Uhhh does anyone recall the plot twist of Crown of Midnight linking to Empire of Storms’s major point at the end? I sure do. So Sarah could have planted seeds if she had wanted to.
Now Nesta’s powers? Those were incredibly interesting. I loved how she Made things and was something we had never seen before! Yet, somehow, those were taken away in the end too… And I honestly don’t get why. It’s not like Sarah wanted to take away her powers to make her normal like the other characters. No, Rhys and Feyre are practically Gods with their powers so there is no reason why Nesta has to be normal. Is three all powerful characters too much now? Well it’s not like they would have been put to use anyway when that villain was dealt with in such a convenient way with a sweet bow on top! Yeah because that had to be a major let down too. Bryallin was dealt with so quickly I had to stop and reread the scene to make sure I was understanding correctly. You’re telling me that with all the power of the Crown she somehow lasted two books less than the wimpy Fae King of Hybern? REEALLLY?
All of that aside… I thought I’d at minimum be able to comfort myself with my love of the other characters. And while I enjoyed Rhys and Feyre having a baby, let’s be frank… That felt convenient too. Fae pregnancies are supposed to be rare, yet Feyre AND Vivian are pregnant by this book? Yeah Sarah I think you need to re-examine your own rules for your worlds. That aside, Feyre felt like a patronizing hypocrite this entire book and Rhys… *Sighs* Rhys is (Was?) my favorite male character of all time. I loved him from the moment he stepped on the page on ACOTAR… Yet he came off like an utter asshole during this book. It breaks my heart. It truly does, to say that. At one point in my life, I worshipped the ground he walked on. Yet this book didn’t have my Rhys. The things I loved and aspired to see in my own choice of partner were gone in this book. He was unrecognizable. I honestly don’t have the words to convey how much that hurts to say. It makes me wish I hadn’t read this book, if I’m being honest. Just so that my memories wouldn’t be tainted.
Despite all of that, there were some things I enjoyed… Nesta’s relationships with Gwen and Emerie were a high point for me. Female friendships are something that I would consider Sarah really got at, which we got in this book. The House was also a great part. It reminded me of feelings I had for Abraxos. The House was a friend who wanted nothing but to help Nesta, which I loved. Helion, for the brief moments he was in this book, was a shining star. He consistently made me smile. Eris and his mysteries were intriguing and I have been dying to learn more about him since ACOWAR so I loved seeing him in this book. I also highly enjoyed the ballroom scene and the Winter Solstice. Those were some bright moments where I felt my old friend ACOMAF shine through. And finally, Nesta herself. Her trauma and growth weren’t there, but I saw the core of her shine through. When she ripped into Tamlin, I felt so much joy and vindication of three books in the making. I don’t care what people say, he deserved that and Nesta gave it to him better than anyone else.
In conclusion, I had a lot of problems with this book. I honestly can’t even begin to say how much that hurts. I never thought in a million years I would feel this way. I’m being as open and raw as I can be when I say that it will take time for me to get over this. I’d love to say I will be continuing the series, but I think I need to step away for a while. Luckily, Sarah has been writing slower so I will probably get that time. To all of you out there that are disappointed, I am so sorry and I hope this didn’t taint your love for the series. For those that enjoyed this book, I am so glad for you! I wish I could share your joy. Thank you to everyone who made it to the end and for reading my little corner of feelings. It’s appreciated more than you know ❤