Wow. What to say about this book? Well, let me put it this way: I think Maas has a knack for frustrating first books that she turns around in the sequels. While I wasn't disappointed with A Court of Thorns and Roses, the first book in this trilogy, I was frustrated with a couple of aspects of it. First, it was based off a fairy tale, you know, with a supposed "happily ever after," but it was pretty clearly set up to introduced a love triangle in the second book. Second, Tamlin, Feyre's love interest, was...kind of a controlling bastard. A very sexy controlling bastard who I let get away with a lot of things because he was cursed, and who really knows how much of all that stuff was the curse, anyway?
Well, let me say this: I should not have let Tamlin off the hook. He is a royal ass in this book, and you can really see how those controlling behaviors were not just part of the curse, but something inherent in his character. Not cool. That makes the whole "love triangle" thing much less of an issue, because it's not actually a love triangle: it's Feyre walking away from an abusive relationship and finding one that's better for her, which is a really interesting dynamic and one that I don't think gets seen a lot in young adult books (though, honestly, this is not young adult; it's marketed as such, but there's some pretty darn adult content in here) let alone fantasy books. Feyre's feelings on the matter also seem realistic; she blames herself, for a myriad of things, including being interested in someone new so soon after walking away from Tamlin, and for her actions Under the Mountain, though she only did it to save herself and the rest of Prythian.
The other main plot, besides the romance (With Rhysand, who totally grew on me; I get it now, guys, I get it, and that slow burn--ahhhhhh!) deals with the threat pressing down on Prythian in the wake of Amarantha's defeat. The King of Hybern clearly wants Prythian, and possibly everything else, and Rhysand and Feyre, along with the rest of Rhysand's inner circle, are trying to find a way to stop him. This book takes us to both of Rhysand's courts and to the Summer Court, and there is some beautiful imagery involved in both. Feyre is also coming to terms with her new fae-ness, including a startling array of abilities that seem to stem from being "created" by all seven High Lords like she was. She is, apparently, one of three fae who were "created," though I can't figure out why the other two don't have this same range of abilities, because wouldn't they have to be created in the same way? Maybe this will come more to light in the third book. It's definitely hinted that the third created person will have to come into play, given the dynamics there... We'll see. I'm very intrigued, and think Maas will probably tie this up pretty well. Maybe. But the romance and the adventure here hold each other up, and while I was originally frustrated that Maas was subverting the very tales she'd based the first book on, that has since grown on me--the idea that there's another side to the story, and maybe it's even better than the side we know.
That said, this book got off to a bad start. It's basically Feyre whining about planning a wedding and having a lot of sex with Tamlin. After the wonderful start of A Court of Thorns and Roses, where Feyre kills the faerie wolf that kicks off the whole chain of events, it was a very weak and frustrating start. In fact, I almost didn't read this book because of how bad the start was. Did it get better? Yes. Definitely. But it was a really rough beginning, and while I think the rest of the book ultimately made up for it, those first several chapters were a real struggle to get through, especially because they featured so much of Feyre just submitting to Tamlin's abusive behavior. It was hard to read, and I put the book down for several weeks before returning to it because of that. It also features some typical Maas stamps that I really wish she would diversify upon: the blond, kick-butt heroine who loves to read (Feyre learns to read in record time here) and to listen to music and who gains magical powers from pretty much nowhere. Honestly, it would take only a few nudges to push her entirely into Celaena/Aelin territory, so I hope that Maas manages to keep them unique...but I fear they edge closer together all the time.
It's pretty clear that Maas has grown a lot as a writer from her first book, Throne of Glass, and from when she began writing A Court of Thorns and Roses, which was substantially before A Court of Mist and Fury came out. In that time, it seems that she's gotten a real knack for plot twists and building up both characters and worlds, and I think that really shows here. I loved ACOTAR when I read it, but in retrospect it had some issues. I think ACOMAF resolved a lot of those while having very few of its own (in the large scale), and the third (and final) book in the series has a lot going for it. I just hope it lives up to that potential.
5 stars out of 5.