Trappings of the Night Court || A Court of Mist and Fury Review

Initial Thoughts: 

I hereby apologize to all you Rhysand believers. I love him now. I didn’t think I ever would even if he IS sex on a stick…but I love him now. So terribly deeply. And I love Feyre’s entire growth as a character. And I absolutely loved the progression of the story and the character arcs.

And Velaris, the City of Starlight? Um, CAN I GO TO THERE?!

Yeah. You win, Maas. You win.


A COURT OF MIST AND FURY

Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury, May 2016
NA fantasy, romance
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world torn apart.

In Which Mari Eats Her Hat

I will start this review by saying that initially, I had had no plans to continue this series in the nearby future. It’s not that I’m highly against Sarah J. Maas–I loved Throne of Glass and will likely love Crown of Midnight as well–but from the last time my friend Meg and I discussed A Court of Thrones and Roses as part of our podcast, we were both pretty “meh” about it.

  • I found Feyre to be silly.
  • I didn’t particularly like Rhysand (because he was most definitely a prick).
  • The worldbuilding and plot took a secondary role to the romance.
  • I thought the romance was a wee bit awkward (as were the sex scenes).
  • Aside from the pretty riveting last 100 or so pages at the end, the only character I simply adored was Nesta and her sass.

But after some soul-searching (or, you know, the fact that I have to read this book for the Fableulous Retellings Podcast) and sighing of reluctance, I finally started to read it. After the first sex scene appeared 21 pages in, I didn’t have much hope that the book would pick up. (My friend said it did, and it was her assurance that spurred me on!)

Two days and 600 pages later, I started eating my hat. Because everything I’d objected to in ACOTAR got utterly fixed in ACOMAF and holy hell, when things got fixed, they got SO GOOD SO FAST, and I absolutely adored this book.

Feyre isn’t silly at all anymore. Feyre went a long way as far as her character development went. At the beginning of ACOMAF, she is a broken woman, traumatized by what she had to go through with Aramantha and the goings-on of Under the Mountain. It was a grueling experience in ACOTAR, and it shows by how different Feyre is at the beginning of this second book.

I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal.

I was a survivor, and I was strong.

I would not be weak, or helpless again. I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.

And yet she riled up and became a powerhouse. Yes, she still has nightmares, and yes, it’s still going to take some time for her to heal from her traumas, but at the end of the day, she knows who she is and what she wants. And if she wants to be a High Lady to the Lord of Night, and if she wants to spend her days in the City of Starlight, who am I to begrudge her that dream of the future?

Rhysand is my sex on a stick TDH and I love him to pieces. Seriously. SERIOUSLY. How does that even happen.

The only evidence I had at all that Rhys remained on the premises were the blank copies of the alphabet, along with several sentences I was to write every day, swapping out words, each one more obnoxious than the last:

Rhysand is the most handsome High Lord.

Rhysand is the most delightful High Lord.

Rhysand is the most cunning High Lord.

Oh, right. It’s because Rhysand is a beautiful, sassy, tortured High Lord, and he is a fucking romantic. Like, who knew from his prickish ways from ACOTAR, right? But turns out he isn’t the villain he set out to be, and just like Feyre, he made a great deal of traumatic sacrifices Under the Mountain. One of the biggest things I loved about him was his loyalty to his people, to Velaris, and–of course–to Feyre.

“Delicious,” he purred.

My brows now knotted. I read the next two words, then whipped my face toward him. “You look absolutely delicious today, Feyre?! That’s what you wrote?”

He also taught Feyre how to read and use her powers. COME ON HOW IS THAT NOT SEXY?!

It also helps that he’s a beautiful man…and I was totally tempted to put a more risque picture here…but I’ll settle for him fully clothed. *snickers*

Seriously, though, I loved him to pieces. And after that heartfelt confession in Chapter 54, I can see I had it all wrong. And I’m glad I read ACOMAF to set that straight.

The Night Court, holy hell, can I go to there AND the Summer Court, too?! We get a look at the rest of Prythian–and Hybern–in this book. I’ve actually liked the descriptions of the Spring Court, but Maas totally dialed up the beauty and vivid aspect of the Night Court, particularly Velaris. This city of Starlight is legit, and if I could live anywhere in Prythian, it’d definitely be in a place where the nights are the most beautiful. The glimpse we had of the Summer Court wasn’t bad, either, but nothing seems to compare to the glamour of a hidden, 5000-year-old city.

(But of course as far as plots go, you totally know what’s going to happen when a war is coming in, and there’s a hidden city in the agenda to crush…)

The romance was absolutely everything. You know what, after the first sex scenes, it literally took a good 500-something pages to finally get the full-on Rhysand-Feyre action that I’m sure everyone was waiting for in this book. The fact that it was such a slow-burn was the best thing ever. Yes, there were flirtations, yes, there was some tension, and of course the whole mate bond thing seems to remind me of the mate bonds I’ve read in urban fantasy (which, to be honest, is either something you like or hate). But honestly, I adored the whole journey that finally brought the Feysand ship together.

His words were a lethal caress as he said, “Did you enjoy the sight of me kneeling before you?”

… “Isn’t that what all you males are good for, anyway?” But the words were tight, near-breathless.

His answering smile evoked silken sheets and jasmine-scented breezes at midnight.

I mean, if I wasn’t already fanning myself with all the sexting and flirting going on, then those steamy new-adult scenes definitely made me squee-swoon (Squoon?)

“He thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story.”

She snorted.

“But I forgot to tell him,” I said quietly, opening the door, “that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key.”

“Oh?”

I shrugged. “He was the one who let me out.”

Ughhh. They’re way too cute for words. And the fanart for this fandom is AMAZING.

There’s also the fact that, mate-bond or no mate-bond, it’s clear Rhysand puts Feyre’s happiness above his own. He doesn’t force her to do anything, and always pushes and challenges her to surpass expectations. If you compare that to the possessiveness that Tamlin displayed in ACOTAR and the growing obsession of keeping Feyre safe from his enemies in ACOMAF, Rhysand is pretty much doing everything right to get the girl, including letting her decide whether to put herself in danger for his beloved City of Starlight.

He wiped away the tears on one cheek, then another. “You can either let it wreck you, let it get you killed like it nearly did with the Weaver, or you can learn to live with it.”

Sigh. Definitely shipping these two to kingdom come.

Rhysand’s Inner Circle is a barrelful of awesome. Seriously, Rhys pretty much is a misfit magnet, and that’s mostly because he’s a dreamer as well as the most powerful High Lord in all of Prythian. When I finally met Morrigan and Amren and Cassian and Azriel, I was already smitten with Rhys, and then I started being seduced into the Inner Circle madness. Cassian and Azriel are definitely fantastic Illyrians (they kind of remind me of Liraz and Hazael from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series), and Mor and Amren steal the show half the time. Hell, there were many more characters that I liked in this book, including Tarquin and Elain, and of course the fabulously fierce Nesta.

And the plot thickens. But I won’t get into what happens, only that things definitely heat up–and not in a sexy way–by the end. And yes, so it might take me a while to read the next book in the series, but I’m definitely not going to dismiss it outright like I’d done after ACOTAR.

5 out of 5 cookies! Sigh. SUCH a good book.


Did you read this book? What did you think?

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Mini Reviews: The Step-Spinsters, Ghost Slayer

Now normally I’d have posted a Food and Fandom post by now, since I’ve been so busy making random dishes from the books I’ve read. Buuuut, let’s get some of these books out of the way before I spam my blog with goodies.

There’s a heftier review of The Step-Spinsters in the form of a blog post at Fableulous Retellings Podcast, so I won’t go crazy over it here.

And I’m also trying to get through my Netgalley challenges, which is slightly a bit more difficult because I realized some of the books I meant to read over last year got archived and I never downloaded them. Oops!

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Season 1, Episode 2: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Fableulous Retellings Podcast is up with its latest episode! This week, we tackle Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, a popular new adult series in the fantasy circuit. Listen to us giggle about the new adulty-ness of the text and discuss the importance of food descriptions in the fairy world.

And, of course, follow Meg and me at Fableulous Retellings Podcast!

http://wp.me/p8GfxC-1Q

Beauty, Beast, and Sexy Times || A Court of Thorns and Roses Review

Initial Thoughts:

I feel conflicted about this book. I so very wished that it was just a damn standalone because AS A STAND-ALONE I CONDONE THE SHENANIGANS A LITTLE BIT. What drove me nuts was the hint of a love triangle. OF COURSE that’s what would drive me nuts.


A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES

by Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsburry, May 2015
New adult fantasy, fairy tale
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Note: This review has spoilers. This review is also a mess. This review won’t discuss everything I made notes on because future podcast reasons.

So I have a love-hate relationship with Maas right now. Well, maybe. Okay, not so much her as a person but the direction she takes stories sometimes. Alright, all the time, judging from what I’ve been seeing on the Maas fandom.

I’m going to back track because honestly, I loved Throne of Glass and likely I’m going to love Crown of Midnight, but I haven’t read anything past ToG in ages. And then I ended up picking ACoTaR for “research” reasons. And judging from the pattern that’s said to have happened in the ToG series (where eventually the intended ship sinks and the story goes in an entirely different direction), I’m betting it’s going to be the same in the ACoTaR series. Correct me if I’m wrong, but considering I’m hearing more about how awesome Rhysand is and not enough about Tamlin, I’m willing to bet the story gets away in the later books and shifts into something horribly wrong.

(Like Rhysand the jerkwad being part of the romantic arc. Oh god, he so is.)

So…anyway, this book.

I was a little underwhelmed by it, and for the longest time I ping-ponged between liking the story and groaning because once again, the main character was doing something stupid. Feyre is very different from the massively confident and deadly Celaena (or whatever her name is nowadays), and she constantly reminds me of how different the two characters are by putting herself down several times within the same chapter. I get it, Feyre, you’re human, you’re not something super-powerful or assassin-like deadly, you’re not even a special snowflake (up until the end of the book where we discover OH LOOK. She’s quite phenomenally a snowflake now!). But for eff’s sake, you killed a damn snow-fairy-wolf-thing right in Chapter 1, so clearly you aren’t as useless as you make yourself out to be.

Oh STFU Feyre.

Rant over, I liked where the story was actually headed at a certain point. Things picked up once Feyre actually stopped trying to run away and started trying to live her life within Tamlin’s castle. I mean, it’s an effing easy life, Feyre, stop making excuses about family vows when clearly EVERYTHING IS BEING TAKEN CARED OF. What the hell, Feyre. Does nothing please you?!

Alright, sorry, I get heated when I think of the main character.

There is a rich history revolving the creation of the wall between humans and fae. There is a great war that happens which killed off many people on both sides of the war, and somewhere along the way, a Treaty is enacted in order to keep the peace between the fairy realm and the mortal realm. Now the problem with Treaties is that for one side to stick to it, the other side has to stick to it, too. But clearly in this story, there’s some rule-breaking ahead, and that’s what lands Feyre in the mess she’s in.

I wish there’d been more of a prologue to work with. It took two-thirds of the book to finally introduce the big baddy, who turns out to be someone whose past revolved around love and betrayal–typically something you’d expect humans to feel, not so much the fairies. The whole affair in the fairy court humanizes creatures like Tamlin and Rhysand and Amarantha, and also displays the kind of shit they get into when they’re super-powered creatures with very human problems. I liked that. I liked that a lot.

(There could have been a bit more work on the worldbuilding, which is a whole other discussion that would get really lengthy, so I won’t even try to talk about that right now.)

I was pretty tickled with the romance. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, and I don’t really know if I’d ship them, but I will admit that the sexy times were the right kind of steamy. Except for that one bit where Tamlin pretty much bites Feyre and then talks about the dirty things he’d do to her if he’d caught her during one of the fairy festival-rituals. Yes, I know, she didn’t seem so bothered by his advances, but um, dude, no means no. Totally creepy. Thankfully, Tamlin isn’t super-psychotic, and it turns out he’s kind of a nice guy, except when he’s being all fae-y. A nice, muscled, strong guy with a mask perpetually glued to his face, but Feyre totally knows he’s hot underneath that, just by how his strong jaw looks and everything. He doesn’t even keep slaves or anything! (This is me trying my best not to snort…seriously trying here!)

As for Rhysand…I still think he’s a jerk. The Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone comes to mind for comparison, and honestly, I thought the Darkling was a more compelling and seductive force than Rhysand was. It’s clear both characters are assholes, but honestly, the Darkling was a special kind of lovable asshole (or…maybe it’s just me…).

Um. Lucien was awesome. So was Nesta, actually. I want more of these two characters. Yep.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! Again, there was a lot more I wanted to say, but I’ll save it for podcasting purposes.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Review: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger

If somebody told me a couple years back that it’s possible that a magic system with a basis in alcohol can exist, I would have nodded, smiled, and then dismissed the prospect into the same closet I keep my imaginary friends. Then I found Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge on NetGalley, and after reading the teaser, I thought: “Huh. You know what, it could work!”

cocktails


LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE

by Paul Krueger
Quirk Books, June 2016
Urban fantasy
Rated: cookieratingcookieratingcookieratingcookierating / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley

lastcallCollege grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.

Gifly Thoughts

To be honest, one of the first things that grabbed my attention regarding this book was its unfinalized cover. It was pretty much an overlook of a bar in dark orange lighting. I can see why it was ultimately changed, because had I not read the book jacket summary, I wouldn’t have pegged the book for an urban fantasy. That bit is kind of important to grasp, because Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge is an urban fantasy.

And in all fairness, I like the change from dark orange to a more ominous, supernatural-y green. I like that there’s an Asian character in the cover (because the main character is Chinese, and heaven forbid they whitewash the cover), and I like that there’s the mysterious glow of the cocktail in her hand. It definitely fits the contents of the book better.

Cover aside, I was a bit tentative over starting this book because it was marketed as new adult. So far, my encounters with new adult covers and premises kind of just make me cringe and walk the other way. That said, it was probably a good idea that I mostly avoided new adult stuff, because while I did adore my college years and while I have gone through a similar rocky “I don’t know what I want to do with my life” patch post-college, I’m not very interested in reliving them vicariously through story protagonists (a few exceptions notwithstanding–like Fangirl).

Enter Bailey. A relatively smart cookie, she’s a fictional (though the real life truth isn’t far off) testament that an Ivy League education doesn’t necessarily bring you a barrel of success on the get-go. Sure, the resources are easier to tap into, and Bailey Chen is nothing if not a hard-working girl from a hardworking Chinese family. She pretty much is set to succeed. Except she doesn’t. Not at first.

God, no. This was how it ended, not with a bang but with a minimum-wage job and a heap of student debt. Bailey cringed, and with all her dizzied, nauseated might, she mustered up one stupid, single, and probably final thought:

Fuck. That. Shit.

And she kicked. Hard.

That said, she’s got pluck. For a tiny Asian girl, that says everything, and I warmed to Bailey like the magical cocktails in her system (haha, yeah, I went there). Sure she had her fair share of problems and drama, and often I sighed at the stupid things she said out of anger, but on some level, she does find herself to be justified in a few of them.

But let’s get away from the characters for a moment to look at the magic system: mixology.

“You’re sober, which is synonymous with useless, so if you want to help, come back with something in your system. I’ll cover you.”

cocktails1

This book’s major appeal to me was definitely in the magic system of cocktail-mixing. As a cocktail enthusiast (which should not be equalized to “perpetual drunk” because…well, just because!), I could appreciate the intricate skill it takes to make a perfectly mixed drink. When done right and in the proper ratio, it does have a magical “feel” to it. So when Krueger tried to tie mixology to the pseudo-science that is alchemy, I was completely sold on the matter, albeit my initial misgivings of several years back.

“So what does a mai tai do?” she asked to fill the silence. From skimming the The Devil’s Water Dictionary, she knew that rum drinks produced elemental effects, but she couldn’t remember the specifics for mai tais.

He grinned. “Let’s hope I won’t have to show off. But if I do, well, you’re in for fireworks.”

“So it’s fire?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“But it’s fire.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t need to. It’s fine.”

He sighed. “You done?”

She nodded. But to herself, she repeated: fire.

cocktails2

On top of the story, almost each chapter was followed by a particular cocktail recipe, as illustrated in the fictional The Devil’s Water Dictionary. While I did find the excerpts distracting by the end of the book, I actually loved reading them. Obviously, the historical writeups are fictional at length, but it was still interesting to read through each ingredient–and it just made making a corresponding cocktail much easier to do! (Case in point, my “Food and Fandom” accompaniment below.)

The final reason for the mai tai’s prevalence was eloquently summed up at the 1970 National Symposium of the Cupbearers Court by the Chicago bartender Robert Whelan: “Fire is cool.”

Can I just get a copy of The Devil’s Water Dictionary, please? That would be fabulous.

But anyway, let’s get back to the characters and their dialogue. Sometimes the dialogue made me cringe, to be honest. Bailey’s interactions with Jess and the startup company Jess represented drove me up the wall, mostly because I felt my IQ go down a bit with their exchange in conversation. You’d think this wouldn’t be the case, but it was, and I got to respecting the presence of the “Alechemists” (har har, I thought this was funny) much more in that regard. I mean, come on, Bucket was a hoot-and-a-half, but so was Zane in some degree. Also, I pretty much imagine this happening whenever there’s a bartending scene at the Nightshade Lounge:

cocktails3

Totally my image of Bucket and Zane.

But with women bartenders as well. Because, you know, feminism and all.

Perfect martini anyone?

“But,” Zane said with gravitas, “there’s one big missing piece that no one’s been able to crack in more than three hundred years: the secret of the Long Island Iced Tea.”

Bailey laughed into her coffee.

Even though I still couldn’t take the whole Long Island Iced Tea thing seriously. I’m in Bailey’s court here as well. I pretty much burst into laughter when Zane went into his Long Island Iced Tea spiel.

But then again, I kind of lost it with Zane because he’s just such a big NERD.

Zane had swapped his usual suit for a black tuxedo. He’d paired it with a long red-lined cape, a black top hat, and a white domino mask. He twirled a rose in his fingers like a wand.

“I’m not a magician,” Zane said with a flare of annoyance. “I’m Tuxedo–never mind. What’re you doing here?”

Case in point. I just cannot with dudes dressing up as Tuxedo Mask. CANNOT.

So did I enjoy the book? You bet I did. It was fun, it was an easy read, and while there was a degree of danger and suspense and drama in the book, it was still a lighthearted romp into the bartending life of Chicago’s best demon-slayers.

I’d totally read a sequel if there is ever going to be one. Just saying.

4 out of 5 cookies! Now excuse me. I’ve got a cocktail to make.


lastcall-mona


The Screwdriver

And though the abilities granted by the proper preparation of other libations may require years of steady practice to master, drinkers of the screwdriver have found that hitting things very hard in the face until they die is rather straightforward.

screwdriver

The Alechemists used this drink quite a few times in the book, and it’s pretty much the first one Bailey makes that becomes the turning point between her being a barback and an official bartender, a member of the Cupbearers Court. The screwdriver is also easy to make in a home kitchen. Which is why I pretty much did one. I’m a vodka girl, I like orange and citrusy cocktails, and I had the ingredients right there! (Ironically, I didn’t have orange juice at the time, so I actually had to run to the store to get some. But nevermind that tiny detail! I eventually did get orange juice!)

I can see why this is the go-to cocktail, because it packs a punch with the barest of ingredients. It’s literally just a tall glass filled with ice, one-third vodka, and orange juice. That’s pretty much it. And the magical effects? Super strength!