Review: A Court of Silver Flames

3.5 out of 5 stars

:: CLUTCHES PEARLS :: This is in the Young Adult section?? Wowza. A Court of Silver Flames, by Sarah J. Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4)

The fourth installment in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series centers on Nesta, the sister no one likes. Here’s a plot summary:

It’s been a while since ACWOR, but you’ll remember that Nesta saved Cassian and killed the King of Hybern in pretty glorious fashion. She’s also a miserable bitch, who blames her personality on having been forced into the Cauldron and (capital-M) Made into High Fae. But she was a wretched pill long before that – and now she has to face those facts.

Thus begins A Court of Misogyny and Magical Artifacts. (I assume that was the working title.) Nesta must get sober, do squats, recover cursed antiques, make friends, dismantle the patriarchy, run stairs, and put away books.

As ACOSF begins, everyone is sick of Nesta living the frat boy life in Velaris on Rhys and Feyre’s tab. Cue the family meeting: Shape up or ship out – back to the human lands. But that would certainly mean Nesta’s death. So, in a move taken from/inspired by House of Earth and Blood, she’s given an uber-hot, tortured soul-ed, mountain of perfection for a bodyguard drill sergeant. Least dramatic drum roll ever… it’s Cassian! Together, they must solve her problems, and those of basically the entire world, pretty much on their own. And it’s a good time.

The first best thing Sarah J. Maas does for Nesta is give her a great story to star in. These worlds are always written with real peril: war, politics, evil. But in ACOSF, the battle for control is not only external. Nesta must also learn to control herself. She is put to work training and, well, working. Each gives Nesta purpose. She faces the dark, unknown power she ripped from the Cauldron in return for it having the nerve to change her. It turns out this cranky rag of a sister is extremely useful and necessary – and she learns to need that, too. Nesta ends up on a high adventure, quite the girl power heroine of lore.

The second best thing SJM does for Nesta is give her heart. Parts of ACOSF read like a self-help action novel. Clearly struggling with PTSD and other issues, Nesta identifies her triggers, learns coping mechanisms, and does thought work. While her situation is high-fantasy, her emotions are real world, and – surprise, surprise – as she learns to like herself, so do we.

Then, of course, there’s the porn.

I mean PORN.

ACOSF makes other SJM books seem PG-13. Where every book has a map of the realm, I’m surprised this one didn’t have a centerfold anatomical rendering of Cassian’s business, labeled “life size”, that rolls out like the tongue of a cartoon dog. There are pages and pages of detailed, intricate descriptions and actions and, well, I honestly skipped most of it. Sure, it’s hot. But the wilder it gets, the more it seems to be there just for shock value. I was genuinely invested in Nesta’s story, and the sex scenes became a repetitive deviation that dulled my interest. I turned 4-5 pages at a time and skipped right back to the actual good parts. I would have given this story 4 stars if SJM had trusted it stand more on its own merits than on Cassian’s, um, sword.

Apparently, there will be eight books in the ACOTAR series. (Not counting the lame-ass money grab novella A Court of Frost and Starlight that I really hope no one paid $26 for.) There were only seven in TOG. There is plenty of story left to tell here, especially if each character gets their own book. (Says the one person who liked Chaol’s tangential Tower of Dawn.) At first I wasn’t excited for Nesta’s star turn, but I stand pleasantly surprised by ACOSF. That’ll teach me to doubt SJM. She never lets us – or anyone’s libido – down.

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