It’s time for the second trial!
“Well, Feyre, your second trial has come. […] Have you solved my riddle yet?”
I didn’t deign to make a response.
Seriously? Half the comments section on last week’s post with the riddle was our blog readers figuring out the riddle. It’s almost like Feyre isn’t paying attention to the central themes of her own book.
“I’m feeling generous tonight. […] How about a little practice?” […]
I dared a glance at my High Lord, and found his eyes hard upon me. If I could just hold him, feel his skin for just a moment— smell him, hear him say my name …
A slight hiss echoed across the room, dragging my gaze away. Amarantha was frowning up at Tamlin from her seat. I hadn’t realized we’d been staring at each other, the cavern wholly silent.
“Begin,” Amarantha snapped.
Feyre is lowered into a pit where she finds Lucien chained to the floor. Oh shit. We know that Amarantha really has a thing for punishment. After his actions helping Feyre during the last trial, she made Tamlin whip him. What if the trial makes Feyre do the same thing? Or kill him? Oh my god, this is so intense I’m on the edge of-
“Here, Feyre darling, you shall find your task. Simply answer the question by selecting the correct lever, and you’ll win.”
Feyre has to answer a riddle and select one of three levers that corresponds to the right answer, before the lowering spiked ceiling comes down and crushes them. Also, nobody knows that she’s illiterate and Lucien is too far away to read the riddle. So she can’t even solve this one, but Rhysand is still secretly helping her and can communicate with her by sending a burning sensation to his tattoo on her arm when she reaches for the wrong lever. And that’s what she uses to defeat the second trial.
So, Ariel and I chatted and we’re a little in disagreement about how well this second trial works in the story. I totally agreed with Ariel when she told me she found Feyre’s shame and anger over her illiteracy compelling, and pointed out that Amarantha throwing a challenge at Feyre that wasn’t actually totally up her alley does make her a more competent villain. That works! At the same time, my main criticism is that we were introduced to Feyre the competent hunter in chapter one but then had to wait until chapter thirty-six before she got an opportunity to actually do that again. And Feyre getting yet another challenge that doesn’t require her to actually assume any agency (like she spent roughly the first half of this book) was really disappointing to me after the highs of the first trial.
On top of that, there’s something very underwhelming about how Amarantha’s second-best idea after the giant, man-eating worm is a riddle? That’s the depths of her psychological torment of Feyre? I hate to be do criticism like “oh, if the villain really wanted to fuck with Feyre, she should have done X instead”, but basically the first trial set me up to feel like this:
And instead Amarantha felt more like this:
Back to what Ariel was saying about Feyre’s misery being compelling, though. After the second trial, Feyre’s notably slid further into a not-great place:
What followed the second trial was a series of days that I don’t care to recall. […] I began to look forward to the moment when Rhysand gave me that goblet of faerie wine and I could lose myself for a few hours.
Feyre feels certain that the third trial will definitely kill her, and pretty miserable that even the best case scenario of a future with Tamlin isn’t a very happy ending either:
I’d grow old and withered, while he would remain young for centuries, perhaps millennia. At best, I’d have decades with him before I died.
Decades. That was what I was fighting for. A flash in time for them
At one point, Rhysand’s shadowy faeries sneak Feyre out of her cell again, but on the way they overhear the Attor nearby talking with a creature that makes even Rhysand’s faeries tense up.
“Yes,” the Attor was saying, “good. She’ll be most pleased to hear that they’re ready at last.”
“But will the High Lords contribute their forces?” the guttural voice replied. […]
“The High Lords will do as she tells them,” the Attor gloated, and its tail slithered and slashed across the floor.
“I heard talk from soldiers in Hybern that the High King is not pleased regarding this situation with the girl. Amarantha made a fool’s bargain. She cost him the War the last time because of her madness with Jurian; if she turns her back on him again, he will not be so willing to forgive her.”
Once they leave and it’s safe, Feyre asks the faeries who that was, but they just tell him “trouble”.
Feyre is brought to yet another party to be Rhysand’s drunk, scantily clad plaything. By this point, Feyre is more used to these events: nobody pays attention to her until they know she’s drunk, she doesn’t bother looking at Amarantha and Tamlin, and Lucien can’t risk talking to her. Something does go different this time, when a Tamlin catches an opportunity to sneak away with Feyre unnoticed.
I couldn’t kiss him deeply enough, couldn’t hold him tightly enough, couldn’t touch enough of him. Words weren’t necessary.
I tore at his shirt, needing to feel the skin beneath one last time. […] What I felt was wild and hard and burning, and so he was with me. […] This might be the last time I touched him, the last time we could be together. I wouldn’t waste it.
“Shameful,” Rhsyand purred […] With that ability of his, he had probably walked through the walls. […] “I wonder how she’d punish you, [Tamlin]. Or perhaps she’d stay true to habit and punish Lucien.”
Or maybe she’ll make Tamlin solve a riddle, IDK. Kinda seems like more her style these days.
Rhysand tells Tamlin to fix himself up and leave. Tamlin does so while keeping his eyes fixed on Feyre, quietly saying, “I love you” to Feyre before leaving. Feyre turns on Rhysand, who asserts he’s really on their side.
“You’re a fool, Feyre. Do you have any idea what could have happened had Amarantha found you two in here? Tamlin might refuse to be her lover, but she keeps him at her side out of the hope that she’ll break him. […] How did you not think that someone would notice you were gone?”
Sure enough, there’s a sound at the door. Rhysand quickly starts kissing Feyre, and that’s what Amarantha sees when she bursts in through the door with Tamlin.
Amarantha laughed, and a mask of stone slammed down on Tamlin’s face […]
“I knew it was a matter of time,” she said […] “You humans are all the same, aren’t you.”
Later, Rhysand sneaks into Feyre’s cell again to talk about what the hell he’s up to.
“What do you want?” I demanded.
“A moment of peace and quiet,” he snapped, rubbing his temples.
I paused. “From what?” […]
He sighed. “From this mess. […] That damned bitch is running me ragged. […] You hate me. Imagine how you’d feel if I made you serve in my bedroom. I’m High Lord of the Night Court – not her harlot.”
So the slurs were true. […] “Why are you telling me this?”
The swagger and nastiness were gone. “Because I’m tired and lonely, and you’re the only person I can talk to without putting myself at risk.”
Rhysand explains that his plan is more or less to make Tamlin so angry that, when Feyre completes the trials and breaks Amarantha’s curse which will return Tamlin’s powers, Tamlin’s pent-up fury will “be so great that no force in the world will keep him from splattering [Amarantha] on the walls”.
“Who’s to say he won’t splatter you as well?”
“Perhaps he’ll try – but I have a feeling he’ll kill Amarantha first. […] Feyre, for Cauldron’s sake. I drug you, but you don’t wonder why I never touch you beyond your waist or arms? […] It’s the only way I can convince him I was on your side.”
Rhysand complains about how Amarantha has enslaved his people, pointing out that Tamlin must have vented similar frustrations to Feyre. He also reveals that Amarantha singled him out to be her whore because it was his father who killed Tamlin’s father and brothers, and “she hated me enough for my father’s deeds that I was to suffer”.
“So,” he said wearily, “here we are, with the fate of our immortal world in the hands of an illiterate human.” His laugh was unpleasant as he hung his head, cupping his forehead in a hand, and closed his eyes. “What a mess.”
They come to a certain understanding of each other when Rhysand points out that Feyre could easily tell Amarantha everything he just said in exchange for her life and Feyre points out that he didn’t need to bargain with her about how much time she’ll owe him when she fixed his arm.
“When you healed my arm … You didn’t need to bargain with me. You could have demanded every single week of the year. […] Every single week, and I would have said yes.” […]
A half smile appeared on his sensuous lips. “I know,” he said, and vanished.
“You did a shitty thing to me that you didn’t have to do but at least you didn’t make it shittier” is sort of… less convincing…