***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers including from the previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***
To see my review of book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE
To see my review of book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE
To see my review of book #3 – A Court of Wings and Ruin – Click HERE
To see my review of book #3.5 – A Court of Frost and Starlight – Click HERE
To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE
Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars
It was one hell of a reunion for this book!
After a two year wait, I was extremely excited to get back into this world that SJM created here—there really was no way it was only ever going to be a trilogy with all the potential side-plots popping up left and right—and this latest installment into the Court of Thorns and Roses is the catalyst of this series finally getting the final push into the adult fantasy section that has been such a controversial topic in YA Fantasy.
There is a definite shift in this series as it’s now considered adult, be that in both the newly designed covers that re-released over the summer of 2020, but also just the overall tone of the story. SJM has obviously matured as an author and while her books are still considered some of the best YA Fantasy series in recent memory, it’s obvious that she’s been fighting along the edge of the line of YA meets NA/A with her more mature themes and sexual content later on in her books. I’m personally all for it and think I’ve grown as a reader alongside her books, plus I think the more mature content in her romance storylines only enhances the story and makes it even better. That’s definitely the case her with A Court of Silver Flame.
Upon reading this book literally the day it came out onto shelves, I did notice that the storyline was at a slower pace than what people might expect, but it made sense in multiple ways: it’s the first book of the second phase of this series, a new big boss villain needs time to become established, and this story in particular is much more character driven than plot due to one of the biggest conflicts is Nesta and her inner turmoil.
Oh man is Nesta an interesting character in these books…She is such a controversial character and it’s something else to see how truly torn the fandom feels about her. There’s the side that writes her off as just a cold, nasty bitch who doesn’t deserve anything, that she ruins all the relationships of those who are closest to her, she’s toxic, and that someone like the Illyrian War General, Cassian, deserves someone WAY better than her! I will admit, I’ve had moments reading this series where I’ve had similar thoughts, but as someone who has been through the mental wringer and has dealt with issues with anxiety and depression over the years, it’s safe to say I take the topic of mental health incredibly seriously. I’m on the side of the fandom that totally understands where she comes from as a character, and remembers that there is no right way to grieve, and that her behaviors are actually quite valid. Not everyone deals with grief and pain the same way, and while her behavior like getting blackout drunk, sleeping with strangers, and lashing out at her loved ones is seen as less than stellar in some people’s eyes, it’s still a rather realistic take on how some people try to deal with low points in their life. I think a lot of people forget all that when they simply write Nesta off as a bitch, and it really shows a lack in maturity to those who said they’re skipping this book simply because they don’t like her.
Plain and simple: Nesta has been through a lot. I don’t need to go into really specific detail, but her anger and self loathing is such an incredible realistic take on someone who suffers from mental health issues. Her relationship with her mentally absent father growing up was incredibly strained, her and Feyre didn’t get along, she was kidnapped and forced into the cauldron to transform into god knows what, and she blames herself for her father’s death after he finally stands up and expresses his love only to witness the King of Hybern snap his neck right in front of her. Plus, obviously with this book and the blurb already hinting at this, she has conflicting feelings for Cassian that she doesn’t exactly know how to deal with it, plus there’s probably more than what I’ve mentioned. I guess I should say that those other readers that write her off and express their strong dislike for her is valid in their own right, but I really do shake my head at when they say they refuse to read this book and not see the complexity of her character finally written on page. I probably have more to say on the matter, but for now I’m good with all that has already been said (feel free to message me and I’ll gladly talk to anyone interested in discussing further!) I sincerely hope this book changes the minds of a lot of those specific readers.
It was also great to see all the other characters make a return after the time spent away from this story: Rhys and Feyre are still in love as ever as what some would call one of the greatest loves in modern day literature; if you’ve read Kingdom of Ash and caught the easter egg SJM threw in with Aelin jumping between worlds, you’ll already know a big reveal they have in store for the inner circle and soon everyone else! Azriel and Mor are more or less the same as the last time we saw them: Az is moody and broody while Mor is still figuring out how to come out to her found family.
Cassian I guess is similar too, he’s still in a mood with everything going on with Nesta and her downward spiral, which is totally fair. He’s also dealing with his own issues of self worth and that gets explored much more heavily in this book.
Amren continues to be underutilized and lovey dovey with her loverboy, Varian from the Summer Court. I wish there was more to report on her, but sadly this is mostly the extent of her existence in this book besides a small handful of scenes as she explains history/lore when needed (like usual).
Elain seems to be getting more back to normal, but I’m so over how much of a bitch she is to Lucien, who is one of the least deserving characters in this whole series. I really think Lucien is someone who deserves better; at least he tries to be cordial and polite and patient with her and even gets her a gift every year for their version of Christmas, all while she wants nothing to do with him, hardly looks his way, and never gets him anything in return. I feel like I’m missing something here with it, because at least in my memory, Lucien has done nothing to deserve to be treated this way, and I really want him to be happy after everything he’s endured with his family, Tamlin, Ianthe, and even the inner circle to a degree.
I was somewhat disappointed we didn’t really get much of a journey with Tamlin in this book. It’s obvious he’s getting some sort of redemption arc based off what happens with him in Wings and Ruin and Frost and Starlight, but that was not apparent in this book at all. We’ll probably get it in later books, but that’s still a big maybe, and while I’m not high on him as a character at all, I’m still curious to see whether SJM would be successful in giving him a redemption arc of some sort.
Eris has become a much more interesting character in this book with the unknown behind where his loyalties truly lie. He gives me some heavy Littlefinger vibes from Game of Thrones; he’s loving all the courtly intrigue he’s a part of, he obviously views it as one big game of chess, and you as the reader are constantly questioning what side he’s on. Plus, there’s hints that there’s more than what we know with the history between him and Mor, and I can’t wait to see what gets revealed later on!
What It’s About:
A Court of Silver Flames is about Nesta Archeron, and that alone has caused quite a stir within the SJM fandom since its initial announcement. It seems it’s the hottest debate amongst all her fans; whether one likes Nesta and if they deem it worth their time to even give a whole book about her a chance, BUT I’ve already done enough on that topic! This book is more about her inner journey past all her past traumas, like with witnessing her father killed by the King of Hybern right before her eyes among other things.
There’s also Cassian, the Illyrian war general who invokes so many emotions within her that she doesn’t know how to handle, so maybe it’s easier to just keep him at arms length or even further than that, save him the misery of her and her life. Too bad he’s not on the same page; it’s obvious he hasn’t given up on her, and when Nesta goes too far in her downward spiral, both Feyre and Rhysand agree to have him put her back on the straight and narrow. Soon, neither can deny the passion that still burns between them as they’re forced into close quarters with each other while they both work through both their inner turmoil.
Besides the sexual tension that’s about the same size as a forest fire, it seems like there’s more evil at work past the King of Hybern’s death: the human queens have risen again and have found a new alliance with an ancient evil force, once again putting the peace and safety of the realm at high risk. A dark shadow of myth that even Amren can’t fully remember, this danger is more prominent, much more diabolical, and the fragile world that they all care about is at much bigger risk.
What I Liked:
- The Handling of Mental Health/Recovery! There are many opinions of SJM and her writing, but one thing she absolutely excels at everytime is her handling of such heavy topics. She’s done with all her main female characters, and everytime it’s such a joy to see all the inner workings of her character’s minds and how they’ve faced the traumas they’ve experienced. It makes them so personable and so relatable, I hope it’s helped other readers feel like they’re understood and not so alone, because those are some of the biggest things with people with mental health issues. Nesta is an extremely controversial character in this series, and not everyone has been able to pick up on her particular way of handling all that she’s endured, so now that this book revolves around her will help those relate more to her.
- Romance Between Cassian and Nesta! Scorching, absolutely scorching!! I was always a fan of Cassian and his swagger leading up to this book, but now with SJM’s more mature handling with sexual content only makes Cassian a better character! The tension that rose between him and Nesta continues to be so much fun to read, and finally we get more than just a kiss on the battlefield, a WHOLE lot more. The descriptive sex scenes is another controversial topic amongst readers, but even though I’m asexual (aegosexual to be exact), I say bring on the smut! If it enhances the story, I’m all for it and almost always get more excited if a story has it even if I hardly have those feelings in my actual life.
- New Friendships! Before this book, Amren was Nesta’s only friend in the books. Sure, she had Feyre and Elain, but Amren was the only one whom Nesta ever felt the need to open up to. With her downward spiral in the beginning, Nesta definitely took advantage of her friendship, and it caused some major backlash for it. In her journey towards self-acceptance, she meets two new characters: An Illyrian female shopkeeper named Emerie and Gwyn, a Priestess who works at the Ancient Library. As the three of them grow closer, they all help each other overcome their inner traumas and help each other learn that our past mistakes don’t define us as people.
- Shifting Alliances and Unknown Enemies! This is more apparent with Eric, Lucien’s older brother and heir to the Autumn Court’s throne. While I still don’t like him as a person, there’s no doubt I like characters like him who keep you guessing until the very end. Who’s side is he on? How true is the information he shares? Is he going to betray them all? He’s a very morally grey character, but those make for very interesting stories.
- What Is Nesta’s Power? What exactly did she take from the Cauldron when she was dumped into it? I loved the exploration of her abilities and what they truly were through a slow-burn of a reveal. I mean, if even people like Amren and Rhys are somewhat nervous around her and her abilities, that certainly makes her a game changer and absolute enigma.
What I Didn’t Like:
- Amren and Rhys are Antagonists…While it makes sense that they’d be against her with everything that’s happened, I wasn’t liking seeing Rhys and Amren cast into the roles of the antagonists for a large chunk of the book. Now remember that antagonist doesn’t mean they’re the villains, it simply refers to them as characters who oppose the protagonist of the story, who is obviously Nesta. Sure, Nesta brought it on herself with her past behavior and actions, but these are immortal fae who are 500+ years old! I almost expect them to be better than they are.
- The Inner Circle’s Lack of Understanding…This kind of tags off my #1, but for a group of fae who have all had their own tragedies and traumatic pasts, it irks me to see how they so easily shun Nesta, who’s not nearly as old as any of them and how she handles everything that’s put her in a low point in her life. I just found it really hypocritical of them, and thought they’d be much more understanding about her. Like, I’d even go as far as to say some of them (Rhys and Mor mostly) maybe even should’ve apologized to her at some point. Rhys was definitely the worst with it, but I get where he was coming from too, especially with the situation him and Feyre are in with this story. There’s many layers to it all, and no one is entirely innocent, but that also adds into how it’s a much more complex story when it’s not all black and white like some of us want to believe.
- Where’s Mor?…I was disappointed in how little we see of Mor. For so much of the book, she’s off to Vallahan in order to negotiate peace treaties with other clans, but that also means she doesn’t appear as much as I’d have liked. I’m still waiting for her to come out to everyone, because only Feyre still knows she’s gay. I feel like SJM is waiting for this because she wants to do it the right way, and it’s a tricky subject that she needs to handle with much care in a very fragile way so that it doesn’t backfire on her unintentionally. I don’t want that for her, but with the argument of her writing and diversity already on rocky grounds, she’s got a big mountain to climb with this storyline. Also side note, I caught a one-line possible potential female love interest for her in her future book that I’d be happy to see!
A Court of Silver Flames was an incredibly ambitious and deeply moving character driven storyline about self-acceptance and self-love starring two characters like Nesta and Cassian who absolutely shined in having the spotlight on them! Their eventual confrontations and confessions of their true feelings was something many have been aching for for such a long time now, and the added sexiness of this book makes it all the more fun to read! The higher than average amount of smut was a major plus, but SJM’s handling of mental health and self recovery is what truly shined in this book as two characters who’ve both dealt with so much inner trauma are finally able to face it all with the help of each other.
Christina Lauren says it best on their Goodreads review of this book: Sarah J. Maas transcends her particular genre of fiction, much like other authors like Nora Roberts, Rick Riordan, and Stephen King; making her an absolute fan favorite and a foundation for many reader’s bookshelves.
Despite the slower paced plot that might bore some readers by the midpoint, this book has just about every factor that makes readers love her stories, and once again I hope that some of the more cynical readers who don’t believe that Nesta is worth giving a chance to know on a much deeper and meaningful level to PLEASE reconsider and give this book a chance. She may not still be your favorite character, but with how deep into her psych that SJM gets, you certainly understand her more and realize that the road to self-acceptance and self-love is so different for each and every one of us.
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell