A Court of Silver Flames, by Sarah J. Maas
I sobbed my eyes out over ACOSF in a way I haven’t done in a really long time, and it had nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the characters. Though this is a high fantasy novel, the portrayal of depression and anxiety and internal trauma is quite possibly the best I’ve ever read, and I needed it. Nesta’s journey to make peace with herself and face the consequences of her actions is the perfect example of how you can’t put a “one size fits all” tag on mental health and healing. We are all dealing with our own shit. And that’s ok. Just because someone recovered faster, or someone looks to be fine from the outside, doesn’t mean we get to project and assume that everyone will heal the same way.
Ok. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to write two blog posts. One being just a review of the good I found in this book, another being a deep dive into characters, theories, what I liked and didn’t like, etc. Because if I tried to cram all of that into one post, we’d be here for DAYS. I can’t really mention what I didn’t like about this book without giving away major details to the story going forward. Plus, I really want to talk about other characters and theories, but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t read this series or book yet. That’s never fun. So without further ado, let’s dive on into my ACOSF review Pt. 1.
A Court of Silver Flames is the fourth/four-and-a-half/fifth book in the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas, depending on if you squint your eyes and tilt your head… though I’d deem the three previous books and one novella necessary to read before you start on this one. The book follows our main characters, Nesta and Cassian, as they work through the aftermath of trauma from the war with Hybern that took place in the third book, ACOWAR. Nesta, who has always been fighting and losing her internal battles, has spiraled out of control into a very dark, painful depression, using sex, gambling, and heavy drinking to drown out her thoughts. She lashes out at anyone who tries to get close to her… even Cassian, who has always stood up for her in the past. Because she continues to gamble away her family’s money, and because of the dangerous power within her body that she has no control over, they force her into isolation and training with Cassian, along with a job in the library. Though mean and spiteful at first, Nesta works through her own trauma and ultimately finds herself in the end. I just have to quickly say, this book combined two of my favorite past times: reading and working out, and all of the training/fight scenes in this story were top notch. SJM did her research, and I desperately want a punching bag and some swords to do the workouts in this book. Address in bio if you’d like to send me some.
Nesta. I went into this story with Nesta being a character I greatly admired in the first three books, and left with her being my favorite character out of this entire series. Though Feyre’s previous perspective didn’t paint her in the best light, her stone cold attitude and desperation to save her sister Elain was respectable, and I loved the role she played in ACOWAR. However, after reading the novella, Nesta left a bitter taste in my mouth… she lost herself and her strength, and had turned incredibly mean and nasty towards her sisters and even Cassian. She was so goddamn mean, and that was hard to read. I was very angry with her character after the novella, and my feelings had me less than excited for this book at first… though as I began ACOSF, I had an epiphany as to why her behavior bothered me on such an intrinsic level. I saw so much of myself in Nesta’s thoughts, many of which I’ve had myself… almost verbatim. I was so angry with her because it was like looking in a mirror, and hating yourself because of what you’ve done.
Not only did Nesta’s thoughts strike home, but I love her so much because of her failures and mistakes. I’ll say it again for the millionth time, I don’t connect with a lot of female characters… and I think it’s because many of them set unrealistic expectations for us. They’re usually always a do-gooder, always a martyr, always willing to sacrifice themselves, always perfect *rolls eyes*. I’m not saying don’t try to impart goodness on the world, but let’s be realistic… how often is doing the right thing the HARD thing? And how often do we take the easy road, the selfish road? Even Feyre drove me nuts during ACOTAR because she was always putting others before herself… but NESTA. Nesta was afraid, she’d rather hide her feelings, she was a pessimist; she’d tear down the world for Elain (eldest, bossy sister here too *nervous laugh*), but she was scared shitless of doing the right thing and I LOVE that. Instead of meeting her challenges with open arms, her knee-jerk reaction to everything was to say “woe is me” and to freeze up. As someone who is also caught up in their own feels 99% of the time and often says “why me”, I FELT THAT. So much of Nesta’s journey meant a great deal to me, and I am not ashamed to say that I will draw strength from her story as I continue to face my own fears and grow into myself. But *swallows tears* as this is starting to feel a bit too much like a personal journal entry, let’s move on to Cassian, everyone’s favorite himbo.
Cassian was always an amazing, necessary character in the other books… but now, he has also risen to my favorite. Tbh I’d rather have more Nesta/Cassian books than anyone else; their dynamic was incredible. Cassian was never afraid of Nesta and her brutal behavior. He went to the mat for her time and time again, and he understood her on a level no one else had. He wasn’t afraid to push her out of her comfort zone either, to weather her storm because he knew that’s exactly what she needed. There’s a phrase that he constantly repeated to himself whenever he struggled with Nesta, and that was “keep reaching out your hand.” Brb while I go get that tattooed on my body like it has been tattooed on my brain. Cassian wore his heart on his sleeve for all to see, and I absolutely loved that we already knew this about him. We knew he loved fiercely and passionately, we knew his actions were big and loud and he never seemed to be afraid… though what this book did was prove that he lives so loudly in order to face his fears. I thought SJM wrote his perspective so authentically (I mean, duh, but you guys know what I’m saying), and there was just something about his character that was so pure and true to himself that made me emotional. For example, Azriel’s small POV completely blew my mind… but nothing about Cassian surprised me. But THAT’s mainly a discussion for Pt. 2 and I’ll explain myself further there.
If you couldn’t tell, I am still crying over what this book means to me like the emotionally wrapped up human I am. I saw a snippet of Sarah’s virtual book tour, and she mentioned that she hopes that these pages prove to everyone out there that you can “find your happy beginning”, for Nesta’s journey wasn’t to reach an end, it was to reach a beginning. Sobbing. But now, let me dry my tears from my laptop and let’s talk about the fun shit. If you’re ready, head on over to Pt. 2, where I’ll deep dive into all that there was to unpack with the rest of the story.