A Court of Silver Flames marks a new era for Sarah J. Maas’ Court of Thorns and Roses series

Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas. Image courtesy Bloomsbury Publishing
Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas. Image courtesy Bloomsbury Publishing /

A Court of Silver Flames is the beginning of a new era in author Sarah J. Maas’ bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series. It’s the fifth novel in the series, but the first that doesn’t focus on its original protagonists Feyre and Rhysand, High Lord and Lady of Prythian’s Night Court. Instead, its story shifts on Feyre’s older sister Nesta, who’s struggled with both adjusting to life as a High Fae and the lingering trauma from the events of the series’ first four books.

This novel also marks a significant stylistic shift: Where it’s easy to classify A Court of Thorns and Roses and its immediate sequels as YA fantasy, this book is….very much not that. A clear step into the adult contemporary style that marked the start of her recent Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood series, this is a novel that features darker themes, adult language, more violence, and lots of explicit sex.

Perhaps this change was always going to happen when the series moved on to Nesta, who is a darker and more complicated woman than her sister. But it may well feel a bit shocking for some readers who aren’t necessarily prepared for it. And that’s not the only change in store for them in this book.

A Court of Silver Flames is a story about pain, a complicated exploration of rage, grief, and vulnerability that feels very different from the earlier books in this series. In the wake of the war with the King of Hybern, Nesta is positively reeling. Made High Fae against her will and forced to watch her father die in front of her before nearly dying herself in an apocalyptic battle, she’s practically choking on her own trauma.

In the year following the war, she’s been drinking herself blind drunk every night, sleeping with strangers whose names she never bothered to learn, and spending her sister’s money. She’s pushed away her sisters, stopped speaking to Amren, and rubs her sexual conquests in Cassian’s face whenever she gets the chance. She’s a mess, a writhing ball of pain and rage and fury, and making little attempt to find a place for herself in this new world.

In an attempt to stage an intervention and curb the worst of her bad behavior, Feyre gives Nesta an ultimatum: Train with Cassian in the House of Wind and work in the library there – which is staffed by an order of damaged and healing women – or be sent back to the human lands forever.

Like most Maas books, there’s also a larger plot at work, in which the worst of the human queens from the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin is attempting to assemble a new dangerous trove of ancient weapons that would both allow her to find the mystical Cauldron that made her an immortal crone and take over the HIgh Courts for herself.

But that’s truly the smallest part of the story of A Court of Silver Flames, which is primarily focused on Nesta’s journey to self-love and acceptance.

Nesta has always been a prickly and often unlikeable character, thanks to her uncontrollably acid tongue, but Maas takes us inside her head in such a way that grounds her fury and resentment in the trauma she’s carried around inside her for years. Sure, none of that makes her constant lashing out at those that care about her better or more admirable, but it makes it all a little bit easier to understand, and even empathize with at times.

Nesta slowly learns to make peace with herself, through her sexually charged relationship with Cassian and the bonds she forms with a group of new female friends, who join her in confronting similar fears and grief that have kept them from reaching their potential. And A Court of SIlver Flames does not shirk from showing us either the difficulties or the duration of this journey – this book is almost 800 pages long, and the bulk of it is spent on Nesta’s time at the House of Wind, and the extensive work she puts into both her physical and mental recovery.

For his part, Cassian is supportive without becoming enabling or controlling, always willing to meet Nesta where she is without making excuses for her worst behavior. And Maas’s greatest strength as a writer has always been her dedication and love for female friendships, which is on full display once again here, as Nesta forms new bonds and builds a support system with a group of women on her own terms.

These friendships are as complex and appealing as any of Maas’ romantic relationships, and as much as most of us have been rooting for Nessian to get together romantically for years, these friendships are maybe an even more important part of Nesta’s journey. (And the quiet bravery and resilience of these women is truly something marvelous to behold.)

Most of A Court of Silver Flames centers on Nesta and Cassian’s perspectives, though Feyre and Rhys get a significant if small subplot of their own. But those looking for lots of Mor, Azriel, or even an in-depth perspective on Feysand’s story are going to be disappointed. (But since the central character will likely shift again for the series’ sixth installment, there’s always hope.)

Maas has succeeded in building a complex, moving story around one of her most difficult characters and crafting an important lesson in healing and vulnerability at the same time. Even readers who never quite much cared for Nesta Archeron will find this saga hard to put down.

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A Court of Silver Flames is available now. Have you read this latest ACOTAR installment yet? What did you think? Sound off in the comments.