A Court of Thorns and Roses Chapters 16-20: Pretty Much Just Backstory

Gonna be honest, I know last week we said this was the “good” book, but I wasn’t a huge fan of these five chapters. It’s certainly not bad, but I realized there was weirdly little of substance to summarize in these five chapters once I put the book down. I gotta love the commitment to having these characters who start out hating each other all slowly start to challenge their preconceived notions about each other, but, boy, the story isn’t really happening yet.

Also, I wrote half this post before I remembered it’s “Feyre”, not “Faeyre”, so maybe I’m just cranky.

Chapter 16

After her encounter with the suriel and the naga, Alis helps takes care of Feyre, who is finally asking some questions about how the hell faerie world works.

“Why aren’t the other High Lords keeping their subjects in line? Why are these awful creatures allowed to roam wherever they want? […] If this spills into the human world – if there’s war, or this blight poisons our lands…”

Although the book still isn’t very interested in giving us any answers about where the hell we are yet.

Alis grabbed my shoulder and pivoted me around. “It’s none of your concern. […] Let Lord Tamlin deal with it – he’s the only one who can.”

This is one of my biggest issues with ACOTAR so far: we have a ton of unanswered questions about where we are, and the answers so far are often less worldbuilding and more “because Tamlin” or “because someone’s secret backstory”. For example, we learn in this scene that Alis’s sister was murdered and that everything she does is to support her orphaned nephews (after Feyre unsuccessully tries to play the “you don’t have a family so you don’t UNDERSTAAAAAAAND” card and Alis is like “lol no”). Which I guess is useful info, but I do wish that there was a story happening alongside it so I had a reason to care about it.

At dinner with Lucien and Tamlin, Feyre learns that the “faeries can’t lie” thing is actually a crock of shit. Which is great, because if you stop and think about it, this is kind of one of the few things we know about what makes a faerie a faerie even a third of the way into the book, so that’s cool.

“Of course we can lie. We find lying to be an art. And we lied when we told those ancient mortals that we couldn’t speak an untruth.”

…so how did that lie even work in the first place?

Tamlin reveals a list of words he found that Feyre wrote down in the library, which we know is because she couldn’t read them, but Tamlin is kind of hilariously befuddled.

“Unusual? Queue? Slaying? Conflagration?” He read the list. I wanted to curl up and die. Words I couldn’t recognize from the books [now] seemed so simple […] “Is this a poem about murdering me and then burning my body?”

Eventually their conversation takes them to a reveal that before the war, some faeires and mortals used to be friends. And that Tamlin was actually a child when the war happened, and that if he were old enough he would have fought for the humans “against slavery, against tyranny” and that he “would gladly go to my death, no matter whose freedom I was defending,” which prompts Feyre to wonder if she could do the same.

This somehow immediately segues into a conversation about how Tamlin altered her family’s memory so that they don’t remember her being taken away by a faerie, but know that she’s safe. Surprise!

Feyre is pissed and they argue about this, but she eventually realizes that this does mean that her promise to her dying mother to take care of her family is totally satisfied.

My vow fulfilled, my task complete – what was left for me?

I’m just gonna point out that the reader has already been wondering about this question for the last ten chapters.

Feyre decides to tell Tamlin that she likes to paint, but she’s no good at it. Surprised, Tamlin says he can get her supplies, and also tells her that there’s a gallery in the house.

Chapter 17

Feyre has a dream about a faceless woman cutting her throat with bloodred nails, which totally doesn’t sound prophetic or anything. When she calms down, she realizes there’s a lot of shouting in the house for the dead of night, so she goes to investigate and finds that Tamlin’s carried in a wounded faerie. Tamlin tells Lucien that he was found dumped just over the border, from Summer Court. Feyre learns that the faerie is too badly wounded to heal even with magic, as the dying faerie is unable to say anything other than “She took my wings”. She takes the dying faerie’s hand, comforting him in his final moments with an empty promise that he’ll get them back.

Tamlin expresses surprise that a human would do this for a faerie, and Feyre explains that she wouldn’t want to die alone either. She expresses regret for killing Andras and “that there was… such hate in my heart. I wish I could undo it […] I’m sorry. So very sorry.” I know I’m being pretty harsh on how slow the story is moving so far, but it does totally make sense that this is (initially) a story about people slowly coming to terms with things. It’d be nice if they were doing things other than just sorta waiting around while this was happening, but I like how the slowness in this regard at least feels purposeful. (Contrast with House of Night, where the story reluctantly does anything at a snail’s pace and Zoey doesn’t even develop as a person.)

Chapter 18

Tamlin decides to take Feyre and Lucien on a peaceful, nondangerous ride to just check out some beautiful nature. Naturally, this results in… infodumping about Lucien’s past. There’s thankfully a chunk of worldbuilding worked into the backstory this time, but do recall what I was saying about slowness.

Feyre asks Tamlin if Lucien is alright after what happened last night. Tamlin explains that it probably hit close to home: Lucien is the youngest son of the High Lord of the Autumn Court, and while he was never interested in competing to inherit the title like his brothers, his father still didn’t take too kindly to his youth spent “doing everything a High Lord’s son probably shouldn’t” and wound up murdering a faerie he was in love with who was deemed “inappropriate for someone of his bloodline”. Lucien denounced his family, and his brothers went after him to kill him, which is when he wound up in Tamlin’s territory, resulting in Lucien and Tamlin having to kill two of his brothers. Tamlin then appointed Lucien as his emissary, which protects him and gives him a purpose, although it does force him to interact with his family, who never apologized.

Now, this story is super interesting, but that’s also the problem: it’s way more interesting than anything that’s happening right now. It’s unclear why this was the moment to reveal this, and because it’s just characters talking about things that happened before the story started, it doesn’t take the story into a scene that has anything to do with our changed perception of Lucien but instead into a… sexy swim…

I didn’t allow myself room for second-guessing. […] I removed my boots, then unbuttoned my tunic and pants […] My undergarments were modest enough that I wasn’t showing much, but […] Slowly, so slowly, his eyes roved down, then up. As if he were studying every inch, every curve of me. […] His eyes met mine and he gave me a lazy smile before removing his clothes.

Meanwhile, Lucien is just chilling by himself in another part of the area, while his companions talk about his storied past and indulge in sexual tension.

When they all meet up again, Feyre brings up his advice for capturing the Suriel and tells him that “If you still want me dead, you might have to try a bit harder.”

Lucien loosed a breath. “That’s not what I intended. […] You can’t possibly forgive me that easily for sending you into danger. […] Tam told me that your first shot was to save the Suriel’s life. Not your own.”
“It seemed like the right thing to do.”
The look he gave me was more contemplative than any he’d given me before. “I know far too many High Far and lesser faeries who wouldn’t have seen it that way – or bothered.”

Lucien gifts her with a hunting blade and admits that he hesitated too long after hearing her scream to go off and help her. It’s interesting to see how Lucien and Feyre are slowly coming to trust each other – honestly way more interesting than Tamlin and Feyre, since those two totally want to bone so it’s kind of a given.

Chapter 19

Tamlin takes Feyre to the gallery, full of incredible art beyond her imagination, “each a voice shouting or whispering or singing about what that moment, that feeling, had been like, each a cry into the void of time that they had been here, had existed”, which is kind of crazy good prose about someone looking at paintings.

The art supplies also arrive and weeks pass with Feyre practicing, but not yet feeling confident about sharing any of her work with the others. She gets distressed as she comes to realize how easy it was for the mortal world to move on “without me, as if I had never existed”, feeling like her easy embrace of life amongst the faeries made her “no better than those stupid zealot Children of the Blessed”. She has a surprisingly open conversation with Tamlin in a rose garden about her shame and existential grief, resulting in Tamlin assuring her her grief is valid.

“Why?” [I said].
[He] kissed my palm. As if that were answer enough. [He] kissed it carefully – in a way that made heat begin pounding in my core,

Ooooo

between my legs.

Well, that escalated quickly.

They have a few more increasingly flirtatious moments over the rest of the chapter, and Feyre notes that something’s changed between them. We also get an infodump (of course) about how Tamlin’s father was just as bad as Lucien’s and kept human slaves before the war, before his entire family was killed, forcing him to take the title, after which “many of my father’s courtiers defected to other courts”.

But in terms of things finally fucking happening now as opposed to years before the story started, we also learn that faerie world is preparing for a holiday, where the borders will be open between courts, and which includes something alluded to as a “very faerie” ritual. Tamlin bluntly says Feyre is not invited and has to stay hidden at home.

Chapter 20

Feyre goes anyway.

Feyre picks up that the celebration involves hundred of High Fae (she wonders where they live if they’re from Spring Court but don’t live in Tamlin’s manor) and bonfires, but doesn’t get very far before being discovered by some hostile faeries. However, before anything bad happens…

“There you are. I’ve been looking for you,” said a deep, sensual male voice I’d never heard. […] “Thank you for finding her for me,” my savior said to them, smooth and polished. “Enjoy the Rite.” There was enough of a bite beneath his last words that the faeries stiffened. Without further comment, they scuttled back to the bonfires [and] standing before me was the most beautiful man I’d ever seen.

Again
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7 comments

  1. Rebecca Reply

    As usual, your gif selections are top notch.

    I think Lucien is my favorite character just because he must constantly be like “wut.”

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  2. callmeIndigo Reply

    So this raises a question, if it’s not actually true that they can’t lie, how did they maintain that lie? Because I feel like the only way to convince people of that is to actually never lie, in which case it sort of is true, it’s just “we can’t because we didn’t think this through, like, at all” rather than some sort of…biological imperative? This concept has never made sense to me anyway.

    And I mean obviously after a certain point enough people would believe this that you wouldn’t have to actually do it anymore, but there are still plenty of situations where if you lie it’ll be really obvious so this whole thing just seems like shooting yourself in the foot.

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  3. wordswithhannah Reply

    I think having Feyre be (functionally) illiterate is an interesting choice, but I wish it had gotten more than a passing mention before someone teaches her and it goes away. It would be nice world-building to see just how important the ability to read is to this society, and how a person functions without that ability.

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    • matthewjulius Post authorReply

      Good points, and I’m happy to confirm it’s partially addressed? As of another eight chapters past this point, nobody teaches her how to read and write. And based on…plot developments, doesn’t seem like it’ll happen any time soon.

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  4. Mara Reply

    I feel like it’s such a waste to introduce that “we can’t lie” thing and then just toss it away. Like, the whole point of that trope is that these beings don’t have to lie to bewilder and beguile you, so pulling it down to a simple “pfft–humans will believe anything” just feels so…. cheap.

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  5. Krista B Reply

    I think the story really only gets going in the second half of the book. The first half is background to get us there, but drags along at times. I finished A Court of Mist and Fury and I liked it better than I think most will, but there are chapters of infodumping in it. Get pumped!

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