Book Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

Reading format: Kindle e-book

Content warnings: sex, violence

Rating: 3.75/5

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Hybern and his legions have been defeated. The wall is no more and both fae and humans alike are learning to navigate this new way of living. In a post-war world, Feyre, Rhysand, and their inner circle are rebuilding the Night Court, maintaining new alliances, and remaining alert for whispers of discontentment. With so many tasks to attend to, time for each other is scarce. But the Winter Solstice is near and with it comes a reprieve.

At its essence, A Court of Frost and Starlight is about healing. It’s about slowing down and spending time with those dearest to you. It’s about helping others, giving them grace, and allowing them to grieve. Unlike the first three books in this series, there is no overarching quest in this novella. It’s an interlude, a glimpse into a short time period of the lives of the characters with whom we’ve laughed and cried.

There were times when I thought the story moved a little slowly. On the whole, though, I thought it was a sweet glimpse into the lives of Feyre, Rhysand, Cassian, and Morrigan as they readjust to daily life without war looming, despite the invisible scars they harbor. The story oscillates from the points of view of these four characters. The changing perspectives work well for gleaning insight into each character’s past and feelings. It also made me feel like Sarah J. Maas might be starting to transition to a story told from someone else’s point of view. (This was made more evident since the publication of A Court of Silver Flame, which is mostly about Nesta and Cassian.)

As with this series as a whole, I feel the writing needs improvement. There are a lot of incomplete sentences, more so than in the first three books of the series. I assume Maas did this to show a stream of consciousness for the characters. It doesn’t bother me if the author throws in incomplete sentences here and there. In fact, I find that it can add drama when used more sparingly. But at some points I felt like whole paragraphs were littered with incomplete sentences. As someone who appreciates lyrical writing in a novel (such as in The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue), I found this stylistic choice mildly distracting.

Despite the gentle pacing of the story and the writing style, reading this felt like breathing a sigh of relief. I felt like these characters deserved a break after everything they endured in the first three books. I was glad to see them reconnecting and enjoying each others’ company without the ever-looming threat of death. (Semi-spoiler: I was hoping we’d learn more about Bryaxis here, but the focus is mostly on Feyre, Rhysand, and their friends and family.)

Book Review: The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

Reading format: Hardback

Content warnings: death, imprisonment, sex (non-graphic)

Rating: 3.5/5

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Ruby Benoit has moved to Paris with her French husband, Marcel, and they spend their first few months in newlywed bliss soaking up the city. But war is looming and their marriage begins to fracture as the Germans draw closer. It’s not long before her husband begins disappearing for days at a time. So Ruby finds herself turning to her 11-year-old neighbor, Charlotte Dacher, for friendship. But as the Nazis impose restrictions on the Jews, Charlotte begins to fear for her family.

Across the channel in England, Thomas Clarke has joined the Royal Air Force. After numerous successful missions in the sky, Thomas abruptly finds himself on French soil. Following hearsay about a route de la Resistance, he makes his way to Paris and knocks on Ruby’s door. The Room on Rue Amélie follows Ruby, Thomas, and Charlotte as they find strength in each other to make it through the war.

I’ll admit that this isn’t a book I’d usually pick up for myself. More often than not, when it comes to WWII reading I prefer to read memoirs by those who survived it. That said, I did enjoy The Room on Rue Amélie. This historical fiction is an emotionally lighter read than the memoirs, if you could call a war time book “lighter.”

Because Harmel’s writing style is more prosaic than lyrical, I think that makes it easier to read at a faster clip (for me, anyway). There aren’t grand descriptions of the settings, but she offers just enough detail that I felt like I could picture everything pretty well in my mind. I do feel that the characters lacked some emotional depth. While reading this book I felt like I was peering in at an artsy movie and watching clips of someone’s life rather than getting to know the characters’ deeper fears or motivation. I also felt like Harmel made Charlotte a little too wise for her age. Then again, you could argue that that’s what war can do to some people.

Regardless, this book still evoked emotion from me. I found myself frustrated with Ruby’s husband and his antiquated notions of a woman’s intelligence concerning politics. I was equally frustrated that Ruby kept going back to him, though perhaps that’s a sign of the times. (Plus, of course, if you love someone you’ll probably keep trying to make it work.) I also unexpectedly found myself very emotional at the end of this book. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t cry at very many films, shows, or books!

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

Reading format: Library hardback

Content warnings: sex, theft

Rating: 5/5

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In Villon-sur-Sarthe, France, 1774, Adeline LaRue is a dreamer. She wants to live beyond her countryside village and explore the world. Forced into an engagement, she prays for anything, anyone, to set her free. Her pleas are answered by a stranger with whom she makes a deal: her soul to be able to live forever. But she hasn’t chosen her words carefully and she soon realizes her bargain has limits. Everyone she meets quickly forgets her, so she is forced to leave her small town and learn a new way to live. Only Luc, the beguiling stranger who bargained for her soul, remembers her. And every year on Addie’s birthday he returns to try and collect his due.

Cursed to a life of loneliness, Addie dons new identities for 300 years while she explores Europe and crosses oceans, trying to leave an imprint on the world. Then, one day, she steps into a New York City bookstore and meets someone who can remember her. Confused yet exhilarated by this change, Addie thinks maybe after all this time Luc finally made a mistake, that just maybe she’s not doomed to loneliness after all.

This is the first book I’ve read by V.E. Schwab and I absolutely loved it. Schwab wrote a beautiful novel. Reading it was like reading a dream or a fairy tale. It’s a struggle to describe the lyricism of this book, but suffice it to say I feel like each word in each sentence was perfectly constructed to convey the setting and emotions of Addie LaRue’s life. I could feel Addie’s sadness and pain when she visits her old village, decades later, and sees the passage of time. I could feel her confusion and hurt transform to hardness and weary acceptance each time someone forgot her.

Also, I like that the focus stays mostly on Addie, rather than giving bad boy Luc too much page time (though I wouldn’t have complained too much). This allows for plenty of character development over time, with Luc as the mildly dreaded yearly highlight show. Splashes of Luc here and there also hone the everpresent sexual tension between them. Luc is what I would call a morally grey character, so if that’s what you’re into, he’s your guy. This book pushed me back into the speculative fiction (fantasy) genre and I’m not mad about it.

My only teeny tiny critique is that the plot moves along just a little bit slowly at points. But overall I didn’t want this book to end. Again, I absolutely loved the writing style. It’s one of my 5 star reads of 2021.

Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Reading format: Kindle e-book

Content warnings: gore, sex, suggestions of rape, suggestions of torture, death, battle scenes

Rating: 4/5

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Vengeance and love are strong motivators. After Tamlin’s betrayal in Hybern, Feyre returns to the Spring Court to play a game of hide and deceit in plain sight. There she spins Tamlin’s character traits and feelings to her advantage, patiently working to gather information on his plans with Hybern. After gathering the necessary intelligence, Feyre returns to Velaris as High Lady where she’s reunited with Rhysand and her sisters. While trying to help Nesta and Elain cope with their new and unwelcome transformations to High Fae, she must also plan for war against Hybern. As they strategize and form alliances, Feyre finds herself striking bargains with those she least expects in order to save Prythian and the Mortal Lands.

As we saw in A Court of Mist and Fury (ACoMaF), Maas continues to aptly portray trauma, particularly with respect to Nesta and Elain in this book. How they cope falls in line with their already established character traits. Nesta constantly remains on the attack, her concern more about Elain, and keeps her own internal battles private. Gentle Elain closes herself off from the world and floats in a haze of melancholy and depression. I’m no expert, but I feel these are both believable responses to trauma. I’ll echo my sentiment from ACoMaF and say that I’m glad Maas shows the progression of healing from trauma rather than pushing it aside.

We learn more about the High Lords of each court and some of their histories, which I found particularly interesting. I also developed a soft spot for Azriel since we’re blessed with more interactions between the shadowsinger and Feyre. There’s a lot of character growth in this book and learning to trust in yourself and in others. This growth applies to more than only Feyre. The plot surprised me a few times, in a good way, as it progressed. And the ending…well, it may or may not have wrecked me. No spoilers, though!

Lastly, as with A Court of Thorns and Roses and ACoMaF, I have to comment on the writing. I feel that it continued to improve in this third installment. I think this book is less repetitive in terms of word choices. However, I do think it’s odd that the editors chose to leave multiple instances of ellipses in the middle of sentences. The repetitive use of ellipses to show pauses in thought or action was distracting. I also think this book could have been shortened a bit. At times I felt like I wasn’t make much progress; or maybe I just wasn’t as interested in battle preparation as I was in relationship progression in ACoMaF. That said, the parts I enjoyed in A Court of Wings and Ruin far outweigh the mildly stagnant sections.