My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Normally I wouldn't try to read a book this long in one day anymore, but I had Memorial Day off, and had spent the previous 2 days doing outdoors active stuff with my family, so I allowed myself a full day of lounging around and reading, a real luxury. And then, how could I just stop reading and go to sleep at a reasonable hour when I'm already at 75% and I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? That alone is generally a good sign that I am liking a book.
I already had a soft spot for Rhysand - I could tell based on the way he helped Feyre in the first book that he wasn't as needlessly cruel as he pretended to be. I was delighted in this book that we really get to know who is his beyond the facade he presents to the world, especially when we get insider peeks into what he's really thinking, either through seeing scenes unfold in his memory, or through him basically rebelling the first book from his perspective. I'll admit, I got a little swoony when he finally told Feyre the whole truth, how he started having dreams of her years ago, ones that kept him sane Under the Mountain, and how he knew they were mated but kept his distance when they finally met, both to keep her safe and to honor the love she felt for Tamsin, and how to tortured him to see her slowly losing weight and becoming more and more withdrawn, but he still kept his distance until he heard her ask for rescue at the wedding.
I appreciated how the love story or triangle or whatever you want to call it transitioned from Tamsin to Rhysand. It felt real, and the reasoning behind Feyre's actions and emotions made so much sense, especially when you throw in the wildcard of being magically mated to someone. I liked that being in love and being someone's Mate weren't assumed to be the same thing, or mutually exclusive. Rhys's story about his parents' mating and marriage was an interesting case study - they mated but we're ultimately incompatible and fell out of love - and I loved that Rhys was willing to give up a future with Feyre, even though she was his Mate, if she was in love and happy with Tamsin.
People change overtime, and sometimes the person who is right for you at one stage of life is not the person who is right for at another. That doesn't give you free reign to bail whenever things get difficult, but there is room to say, "I loved you once, but I have been through this traumatic event and you don't even see who I am anymore." It reminds me of someone in a domestic violence situation - their life wasn't always like that, otherwise they never would have been with that person, but somewhere along the line things changed and life became untenable. If someone is hurting you physically or mentally or emotionally, regardless of their intentions, you can't stay with them just because you love them.
This book talks a lot about respect, and allowing people, and women specifically, the right to make their own decisions, regardless of how it makes you feel or what you think is best. Rhys mentions that he doesn't want to be compared to Tamsin, but I don't think he realizes how far ahead he comes out in that comparison. Every step of the way, he watches Feyre but allows her to make her own decisions regarding her safety and life choices, which Tamsin could never do.
Tamsin wasn't an inherently bad person. Feyre would never have fallen for him if he hadn't been kind and caring, especially in the beginning. But somewhere along the way, it became more important for Tamsin to have peace of mind that Feyre was safe back at his house than for Feyre to actually be happy and healthy. He claimed to love her but stopped truly seeing her, leaving her to deal with her own nightmares and issues entirely by herself. Even to the end, Tamsin was convinced he was doing the right thing, that he was "saving" Feyre, when anyone could see that was not the case.
I was glad to see Feyre call Lucien out on not stepping in and helping her when she was clearly miserable and slowly wasting away. He continuously backed Tamsin, even when he was making careless, dangerous moves like making a deal with the King of Hybern, even when Feyre explicitly told him that she was never going back. Lucien claimed to be her friend, but refused to help when she needed it most.
I love the new characters we meet in this book, and the ones we get to know so much better. Mor is lovely and kind and sassy, and it would be interesting to compare her to other Morrigan characters throughout myth, literature, and pop culture. The ones that come first to mind are the Morrigan from the comic the Wicked and the Divine, which is about reincarnated gods and one of my favorite comics ever, and the Morrigan from the TV show Lost Girl, which is about the Fae, both good and bad. I'm super curious to learn more about Amren and what exactly she is under that human shell. Cassias and Azriel remind me of angels, in both the style of their names and their mighty wings.
While I'm sad Ianthe ended up being traitorous and power-hungry, I'm excited to see what happens with Nesta and Elain now that they are both Fae as well. We barely saw them in s book, which seems fitting, but I'm sure they will play a much larger role in book 3. I totally called Elain and Lucien having a connection, and I'm hoping his inherent need to help his Mate will cause Lucien to side with Feyre instead of Tamsin in the coming battle. I'm also really curious to see what Nesta is like as Fae. Cassias already has some sort of connection with her, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out. I'm also skeptical about what Feyre's father has been doing on the continent for so many months. I can't imagine he's completely out of the story.
Perhaps my favorite aspect to this book was seeing Feyre grow, not only learning how to use her new powers, but also training physically and slowly healing her heart. It takes time, because she has to not only admit what has been haunting her - killing of innocents - but learn to accept and love herself again, for doing the best she could under difficult situations and saving the most people she could. Her trip to see the Bone Carver was particularly enlightening, when she admits that she was prepared to kill herself rather than live with what she had done. Part of her recovery was also being able to share in Rhys's recovery - knowing you're not alone can lift a huge weight off your mind, especially when you can talk through what haunts you with one other. Tamsin and Feyre had been aware of each other's nightmares, but they pretended them never existed, basically ignoring them and hoping they'd go away. With Rhys, he would hold her hair and comfort her while she threw up, and try to distract her so she could slept, and in return, Feyre wake Rhys from his own nightmares and was a comfort to him as well.
The action scenes, as I like to call them, were fast-paced and riveting. It seems the best way Feyre learned to use her powers was to be thrown into a situation where she needed them - escaping from the Weaver (YUUUUUCK), tracking Rhys and winnowing to rescue him from torture and certain death, the battle in Velaris where she conjures the water wolves and turns the attacking army into ice, even the underwater theft of the first half of the book. When given the chance, Feyre proved time and again that she had a lot of power and ingenuity, and wasn't to be messed with.
Also, I just have to say, I'm SO happy and relieved that it wasn't the mating bond that was broken by the King, but just the more superficial deal bond. AND how amazing that Feyre was officially made High Lady of the Night Court?! I can't wait to see what impact that has on events in the third book.
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