Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: February 16th, 2021
Number of Pages: 757 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

Conclusion:

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

New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: May 1st, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers from the previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my review for book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE

To see my review for book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE

To see my review for book #3 – A Court of Wings and Ruin – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

I am so torn on this novella (a shorter version of a regular, full length novel); part of me loved to once again read about this amazing cast of characters and see that their stories are not actually over and are still going on, but not nearly enough happens in this story to make it feel all that satisfying of a read.

It’s Prythian’s winter solstice after the war against the King of Hybern and this story is all about the after effects of war: the PTSD, the grief over losing loved ones, and just the struggle some have more than others to go back to having a “normal” life in Velaris…well, as normal as someone’s life can actually be in a Sarah J. Maas novel. Like before, some characters get more attention that others, but this novella does one thing in particular for the first time in the series: having someone other than Feyre’s perspective. Sure it’s Rhysand, but with this small gateway, it provides us the the opportunity to see the story begin to focus on other characters…

…but I just wish this book went further with it, so it would’ve been beneficial to make it a full length novel. However, there are several more books being added to this series, so maybe us SJM fans just need to be patient and savor what we are given at the time!

Stars flickered around us, sweet darkness sweeping in. As if we were the only souls in a galaxy.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

What I Liked:

  1. The Themes of Dealing with Grief and Recovery! While this novella isn’t the most exciting or action packed out of SJM’s books, it does address these complex emotions with how her characters are dealing with the fallout from all that happened with the war against the King of Hybern. Everyone deals with grief in different ways, and I think SJM does a great job of showing different ways in which her characters are dealing with everything; it’s not an easy path to go down, but it felt so real to look into their heads and see the different methods of recovery they chose, plus it helps lead me into my next point!
  2. The Potential for More! With the themes of what I just pointed out, also in this short story is that there are some potential easter eggs discovered to bridge the trilogy to the next phase of these books! While the King of Hybern is defeated and there’s no big threat like him (at the moment at least), there’s still a lot that has to be addressed within the cast of characters!
  3. Rhysand and Feyre’s Romance! These two and their relationship are still the forefront of these books, and this book is the first where the storyline doesn’t focus solely on Feyre’s POV; Rhysand takes center stage for a few chapters too! While some readers are sick of it by now, I personally didn’t mind at how these two seem to only have sex on the mind whenever they’re around each other! I mean think about it, they’re still kind of newlyweds who don’t have war or the safety of their world to worry about finally; they can just be a normal couple and slow down and breathe a little easier with their everyday lives. I think it still made sense, but I do agree that the word “mate” could’ve been said a lot less! We get it….they’re mated, but husband and wife can still refer to each other by their actual names and not have them simply be referred to as “my mate.” they’re too big of characters to be reduced to that! There’s lots of fluff between them for the hopeless romantics out there!
  4. Nesta’s Development! Nesta is an incredibly complex character, and the fandom is really torn on her character. Some despise and call her the “stone-cold bitch,” others think she’s a total badass who’s going to unleash a whirlwind of hell with her fae abilities. I’m not the biggest fan of her, but I can get where she comes from, especially with her reluctance to remain close to the “inner circle” that she’s obviously not a part of. She gets a really interested exploration of her character because she’s not handling the death of her father a well as she’d like the others to believe. She’s going down a dark path, and making some questionable choices, plus there’s the whole thing with Cassian too! She may piss off a lot of you when you read this story, but I can appreciate how SJM sheds so much light on a minor character and reveals so many complex things going on beneath the surface!
  5. “The Wall Scene!” Small victory for those who enjoy the smuttier side of this series, but we finally get the scene that Rhysand brought to our attention all the way back in Mist and Fury! Hey, I say take a victory like that whenever you can!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Only a Novella…With how the “trilogy” ended with us having so many more questions, plus leaving certain story aspects up in the air, this book hardly gives us any answers, and that’s simply because it’s a shortened version of a novel: a novella. It was simply supposed to be a bridge/teaser into the next phase of the whole Court of Thorns and Roses series, and while it certainly gives us easter eggs for some conflicts to come later on, it wasn’t really enough to fully consider it a satisfying read. Maybe if it was longer and just had more going on, it would be much more successful, but even with it being two years later as this review is being published in 2020, with this long of a gap between the books, it would’ve been nice to get more! Not trying to knock SJM for that, because I know she’s had a lot going on in her personal life since this book released, so I don’t want to sound whiny/bratty about all of this!
  2. Mor’s Situation Isn’t Explored…I guess you could say this kind of continues off the last point made, but Mor gave us a big confession of being queer in Wings and Ruin! She confessed that she doesn’t know how to break it to Azriel, who’s been following her around like a broody, lovestruck puppy for 500+ years, and I was really hoping this whole storyline would’ve been addressed, and it was…but it didn’t develop any further than Mor admitting she’s waiting for the right time to tell others….okay, I’m already not exactly thrilled at how this is how to break in a queer character, but Mor holding off like this is making me like her less and less, and I can say I’m justified in this reasoning considering I’m queer myself…I know it’s hard to come out and that everyone should have the freedom to do it when they choose, but c’mon….he’s one of your best friends who you’ve been stringing along for 500+ years and you still can’t just break it to him? It just doesn’t sit right with me…
  3. Redemption Arc for Tamlin?…So the scene with Rhysand and Tamlin was probably the most interesting scene in the whole book for me! I got the impression that Tamlin is going to potentially get a redemption arc of some sort, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Some redemption arcs are absolutely amazing–Prince Zuko, anyone?–but the thing about them is all about how it develops! If it’s done the right way, it can be amazing, but that also means it depends on the character themselves too. While Tamlin showed he’s not completely on the dark side with how he helped Feyre escape the King’s camp in Wings and Ruin, I’m still skeptical if he can truly redeem himself at this point unless he makes some major life sacrifice, which is usually the way these storylines end. I don’t know, I guess we’ll have to see how this is addressed in the future books!

Conclusion:

Overall, this novella is merely a tease that hits at more, but doesn’t really give enough to make it fully satisfying. There are some good things to come out of it: mainly at the hints of what’s to come later on in the later books and how well SJM deals with grief and characters with poor mental health and the choices they make to either save themselves or further dig themselves deeper down the dark hole of depression and further alienation.

It’s just such a brief bridge from the original trilogy and into the next phase of this series, which all I can for sure say is A Court of Silver Flames, coming out February 16th, 2021 and it will star Cassian and Nesta, who had the most development within this novella and had the most potential for an interesting story moving forward based off Frost and Starlight alone! I seriously can’t wait for the next installment; SJM has confirmed it will be her smuttiest book yet and my body is READY for it!!

I want you out of Velaris,’ Feyre breathed, her voice shaking.

Nesta tried—tried and failed—not to feel the blow, the sting of the words. Though she didn’t know why she was surprised by it. There were no paintings of her in this house, they did not invite her to parties or dinners anymore, they certainly didn’t visit—

‘And where,’ Nesta asked, her voice mercifully icy, ‘am I supposed to go?’

Feyre only looked to Cassian. And for once, the Illyrian warrior wasn’t grinning as he said, ‘You’re coming with me to the Illyrian Mountains.‘”

– Sarah J. Maas, “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, Romance

My Review: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: March 3rd, 2020
Number of Pages: 803 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Through love, all is possible.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Earth and Blood”

I know, I know…it sounds like a really cheesy quote; like something straight out of a Sailor Moon movie where something flower or heart shaped pops out of Serena’s chest along with some song with those exact lyrics while she saves the world with the help of Tuxedo Mask and the other sailor scouts and everything becomes back to normal…Read this book though, and this quote will have much more meaning to you, along with the characters who say it.

So, it’s been a couple of days since I’d finished this behemoth of a book, and with the time away from it, I was able to fully absorb everything that happens and be able to organize my thoughts. I’ve also been able to get a Fancast for the series going on here as well

You should check out my in-progress Fancast/Dreamcast by clicking the link HERE!

Like any other title SJM has written, I’d gotten completely transported into the story with all its characters, and nothing else mattered to me but finding out what happened next. I know some people aren’t really fans of her work—a few who’ve read this couldn’t get past the repetitiveness of her words—but I can’t help but admit that I just really connect with her books! The plots, the characters, the twists, and the romance; I just can never get enough of it…Plus, isn’t it normal for an author to have similar themes and/or characters in their multiple work projects? If it works for them once, can’t it work again? Also, don’t readers also have a set of similar expectations whenever they check out the author’s other books anyways?

I had many different emotions while reading this book: the first one being confusion because right off the bat there was a TON of world-building info that honestly didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The next was the usual overall happiness because theres also a group dynamic amongst the main character, her long-time best friend, and their squad of wolves—not werewolves because they can choose when to change. The next was absolute heartbreak…then that turned back into excitement, and I’m not going to lie, I actually cried six times the last 25% of the book too, and now I need to know what happens next when the sequel doesn’t even have a release date yet!

Great…

I did have some initial hesitation going in that I thought was worth mentioning. Once I’d read the blurb, I was worried how similar this plot sounded compared to A LOT of other paranormal romance titles/series out there. One in particular that I’ve become obsessed with in 2020: The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. They both sounded too eerily similar: both include a young, gorgeous party girl who’s easy, party-drug induced world is flipped upside down when someone they care about more than anything else ends up mysteriously murdered. They’re thrust into deadly hunt to find some answers with the reluctant help of Mr. Tall, Dark, Gorgeous…and completely broody, cheeky alphahole. Together, they discover the dark workings of an underworld full of demons and other evil creatures, along with many sketchy beings, and make questionable alliances in order to learn the truth and save the world from impending doom. I was thankfully relieved when after I’d gotten a few chapters in at how different the two stories were able to remain amongst each other, especially as it would’ve looked worse for SJM since the Fever series has been coming out since 2006. She’d dodged the bullet there, and still managed to make another series that’s just as binge-worthy.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Development! So it can’t even be considered a spoiler because of the blurb, but there’s a romantic subplot that occurs between Bryce and Hunt. I would gladly categorize it under the “Enemies-to-Lovers” romance trope, and it’s honestly done to perfection. The two of them become reluctant partners to try and solve the big mystery of the murders, and as the stakes get higher, they grow closer along with the sexual tension rising at a really well drawn out slow burn. Hunt and Bryce really compliment each other well, and as they grow closer and become more vulnerable with each other, they reveal tidbits about themselves and realize how similar they both are. I seriously just loved their relationship, and how they’d come to mean so much to each other in the amount of time they spend together. I really, really hope they’re endgame because based off how SJM book romances go, the first love NEVER works out…Hopefully this relationship breaks the pattern.
  2. SJM Called Herself Out! SJM has gotten a reputation for having the same content in her books, but also excluding certain components too: mainly, people get sick of how she doesn’t seem to try and include diverse characters in terms of both ethnicity and sexual orientation; she only likes to write characters who are straight + white. They also say her male love interests are complete alphaholes— who gets way too possessive, jealous, and the word mixes the word alpha with asshole for those that couldn’t figure it out. He’s usually broody, moody, and scowls a lot while being considered an admirable/fearsome leader, and usually has a tragic background and doesn’t think he’ll ever find love…spoiler alert: he eventually does with the main character. There’s more to it, but I think you get the point…Bryce calls Hunt out right as their partnership is officially formed, and I actually laughed as I’d pictured SJM herself flicking off all the haters to show everyone that she sees them..and she beat them to the punch. It felt like SJM listened to the criticism she often receives from some readers, and showed them how she’s aware of it all, and honestly made an effort to change it for this book.
  3. Ruhn Danaan! I think he’s considered a minor character, but he also feels like a main character because you read his perspective throughout the story, but all I know is, he is by far one of the best characters in this book. He calls himself out on his “chosen one” status everyone has given him as the heir to the Fae throne in Crescent City, but based off his demeanor and how he’s gone all tattoos-and-piercings; he rebels against the expectations everyone has given him. His relationship as Bryce’s cousin…anyways, it’s also quite a treat to enjoy to see how it evolves and uncover hidden depths of its dynamic as you read on, so please enjoy!
  4. The Cover Design! House of Earth and Blood probably has to be her best cover yet! I’ve loved some of the Throne of Glass covers while not really the Court of Thorns and Roses covers, but this one instantly bops to the top!
  5. The Theme of Friendship! The deepest relationship besides Bryce and Hunt’s relationship explored is the friendship between Bryce and her sister from another mister, Danika. Throughout the story, their friendship really goes through the wringer, and is tested as more secrets are unveiled in order to solve the mystery. This was especially shocking because you know about Danika’s terrible fate even in the blurb. It’s a real emotional roller coaster, especially as you learn how hard it is for both women to actually say the words I love you to anyone else and how they’d literally die for each other and sacrifice everything in order for the other to be happy. Nothing exchanged between these two is insignificant, that’s for sure!
  6. The Swearing and the Sex Talk! Honestly, I am here for the amount of swearing there is in this book; it makes up for every “fuck” Aelin wanted to yell but wasn’t able to. I swear a lot when I talk amongst my friends or whenever I’m in a casual setting, so this truly resonated with me, and made the dialogue feel so much more natural! SJM has quite of bit of her characters lewdly talk about topics like sex, drugs, drinking, and partying because it’s stuff that people actually talk about in today’s world. At least, they are amongst my friends and age group of the New Adults aged 18-25. It makes it even cooler that in this book, the people doing it are Fae, Witches, Mermaids, Witches, Wolves, Vampires, and other creatures straight out of fairy tales.
  7. The Evolution of Danika! Like I’d mentioned above, Danika was a huge surprise for this book. Once the inevitable happens, I’d kind of written her off, but her character continued to stay relevant as the plot thickened. It turns out Danika had a lot of secrets to hide, and even has her moral code questioned at one point, only to develop even further, and I was amazed at how SJM was able to do that with a character that was never standing by the rest of the cast in present time. My favorite part of SJM’s writing is her character work, by far. She can even make a dead girl one of the most popular characters of the entire book, not to knock any of the characters still alive—just read the book to see what I mean.
  8. Aidas! A character we see only three times, and of course he’s the most interesting character to me despite that fact. He’s a level-5 demon prince from Hel (not a typo, thats how it’s spelled in this book), and since there’s only two other princes above his status, he’s kind of a big deal. He’s partially at fault with how I want the next book, like, NOW! The very last words are uttered by him, and with that, the torturous waiting has begun…

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Massive Info Dump at the Beginning…One of the biggest critiques this book has been receiving is the massive info dump that occurs within the very first few chapters, and I gotta say I’m in total agreement here. 80% of Chapter 1 is an info dump, and it’s just way too much too soon, and it hardly made any sense as quite a bit of the information doesn’t really come into play until much later in the book. I say, SJM should’ve spaced it out more to make even the opening chapter less overwhelming for everyone reading it for the first time. I can say, however, once you get past this initial set up, the book gets a whole lot better, and even the last third of the book is balls to the walls amazing! Seriously, if the book is dragging for you, PLEASE wait until the last 200 pages to really give it a chance, because it makes it all so worth it!
  2. The WorldBuilding is All Over the Place! With the info dumps at the beginning, it’s also confusing how so many cities and other civilizations are referenced so much in this story, but we don’t know where they are, or have any map for reference to help my fellow visual learners make reading it any easier. The only map we get is of Crescent City itself, so that was irksome…Hopefully another map of the whole world will be created soon, maybe even before the next book releases. Hopefully!
  3. Compared To Her Other Work…Not that I didn’t enjoy the book, but once people started pointing out certain things, I couldn’t ignore it. They’re saying she’s almost plagiarizing herself with how similar this book is compared to her Throne of Glass series. A lot of the character arcs all seem the same, and I don’t feel like going into detail about it all, but I can say that I definitely see the comparison made there.
  4. It’s Length…No, not the velvet wrapped steel SJM sometimes mentions in her sex scenes….you filthy perverts can go get your minds out of the gutters! I’m talking about how this is one thicccc book, and for those that are already on the fence about SJM and her books, this one will be a major test to see how you fare with her work because of the length, and how no major twists or revelations happen until after the 500 page mark. Even I can agree that the pages before you hit 500 could’ve been condensed a bit more in order to make it an easier read for some people. I remember I had a similar issue like this with The Priory of the Orange Tree, but I have other issues besides the length of that title, and I will say something controversial by stating I enjoyed this title more than the standalone literal brick by Samantha Shannon—check out my review in the embedded link to see my reasoning for that.

Conclusion:

At this point, I really take a lot of the criticism SJM books receive with a grain of salt. I’m always extremely emotionally invested in her stories whenever I open the pages of my copy of whatever book it is of hers, whether it’s for the first time ever or I’m able to squeeze in a reread of the previous book before the next one releases. I just connect with her style of writing so much, and enjoy her work more than so many other authors. I can recognize her faults as a writer too, and still be able to look past them to still be able to enjoy her stories. I just hope some people will learn to go out and find other authors that they can enjoy and praise more instead of wasting so much time and energy bashing her work just because she won’t include certain components into her titles. No writer should be forced to do something like that, to change how they tell a story just because certain members of the target audience require X,Y, and Z in order to be able to enjoy a work of fiction. Like I said, if you don’t like an author, simply go search for someone else’s work to praise instead. SJM has a huge following, her books are always popular, so some negative reviews on Goodreads aren’t going to change that anytime soon! Okay…rant over on that, now back to House of Earth and Blood:

Was this book perfect? No.

Is this book my new favorite? I’m not sure, but it’s defs up there!

Did I still enjoy this book? Hell yeah!

Did I cry while reading this book? Oh, you bet’cha…

Do I need the next book? Immediately!

I recommend this book to anyone who already enjoys Sarah J. Maas’s other books, maybe more her later work that gets more mature themes. Personally, I would be fine if she decides to stay this route and not continue with YA anymore just because I can tell she enjoys the more mature themes, like the swearing and sex scenes themselves that can only get a whole lot better as she keeps writing! I also recommend this book to people that enjoyed titles like the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning; Bryce Quinlan has a lot of similarities to Mackayla Lane that I think fans of both series will immensely enjoy, and might also enjoy comparing Hunt Athalar to Jericho Barrons! Total side note: but wow, their names sound so much more crazy when they’re next to each other like that… It’s a good thing I’m still crazy about those two alphaholes!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell