A Court of Thorns and Roses Chapters 40-42: The Second Trial Features Feyre NOT Doing Stuff Again

Chapter 40

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.”

…nevermind.

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:

Chapter 41

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”.

Like so

Chapter 42

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.

Almost unnoticed.

“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.

Wait, seriously?

“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…

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17 comments

  1. Cara Reply

    “I drug you, but” lmao
    (I know that’s out of context but I still find it funny)

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  2. 22aer22 Reply

    The quote from chapter 42 that got me was, “Believe me, I would have liked nothing more than to enjoy you— but there are bigger things at stake than taking a human woman to my bed.”

    “Hey, I didn’t rape you because that doesn’t fit into my bigger plan like these other bad things I’m doing. SEE I’M NOT ALL BAD”

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  3. Andreas Reply

    “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.”

    That’s a very typical thing to state in a mortal/immortal romance. Typically followed by either the mortal stopping being mortal and so negating the problem or the immortal promising to commit suicide or dieing from broken heart when the mortal is gone. Heavens, how I hate this second option. All kinds of bullshit in my opinion: it implies that each relationship which is not forever is wrong or pointless or too painful, that everyone can just be happy with a single person and that it is not normal or not True Love ™ or even morally wrong to move on and stop griefing some day.
    Also, it begs the question if the immortal beings really percieve time in such a different way. I mean, living 1000 years instead of the human 80 is just 12x the time. So, let’s say Feyre lives around 60 years with her immortal lover, for him it should feel like a 5-year relationship to a human. Obviously that’s not for always and forever, but it’s a relationship that has a reasonable time to be, well, a real relationship with all the emotional connection and good stuff.

    Is there any good supernatural romance where both participants are from the start – or at least very soon in their relationship – ok with the inherent problem of their relationship but decide that it is not a problem they care for?
    A story in which the immortal being declares: “Sure, you most likely will die long before me and I will have to let you go, but … you know what? Being together with you is totally worth this and someday after you are gone I will stop grieving and then I’ll gladly remember what we had for the rest of my life!” And in which the mortal is NOT all the typical self-hating drama (“Oh woe is me! My death will only cause you pain and therefore we shouldn’t even try and you should get someone who is not just a lowly human!”) but maybe sees it even as incentive: “Yea, let’s work at making it the best time we can have and try to not waste it with pointless bickering!”

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    • Cara Reply

      There’s an element of this in The Hero and the Crown, which is one of my favorites. That’s more an adventure than a romance, but there is a romantic subplot (involving immortality and other complications) which is dealt with in a really nice, non-angsty way.

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    • Ana Reply

      I actually like what happens in Stardust (the film, I haven’t read the book). They stay together while he is alive, and afterwards she comes back to sky to be a star again, but he goes along. It doesn’t actually says he dies, but I think it is implied. They never discuss his mortality as a problem, and she would always come back to the sky anyway.

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      • Andreas Reply

        Ohhhh, right. Stardust. Totally forgot that. Awesome movie and great book 🙂 In the book Tristran dies after many years, but Yvaine stays at Stormhold as immortal queen

        Will check out The Hero and the Crown. Thanks for the suggestion, Cara. (And it being more adventure than romance isn’t really a problem for me. I prefer adventures anyway.)

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    • jdefrancesco Reply

      Mmm, not in a book, but in the videogame Fire Emblem: Awakening it is discussed and implied in most relationships, both friendship and romance, with any of the three Manakete (dragon people) characters. At one point the oldest one tells the youngest that she’ll have to get used to her human friends/lovers dying before her and that the best thing to do is keep them in her heart.

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  4. Rebecca Reply

    When Rhysand gets his power back he could just crush Amarantha’s mind, or mist her. WHY DOES TAMLIN HAVE TO DO THE THING?

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    • 22aer22 Reply

      And wouldn’t Tamlin have already been plenty mad without Rhysand trying to make him jealous?

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      • Rebecca Reply

        3000%. Even the book seems to forget Tamlin genuinely loves Feyre. Seeing Amarantha toy with her would have been enough–but apparently we also need bad boy love triangle.

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        • 22aer22 Reply

          Right?? And all the horrific things she did to Lucien and his court and Tamlin himself!! MY LORD WHY DID THIS ALSO NEED TO OCCUR?

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          • Rebecca Reply

            Does not hold up to a close re-reading–you were right.

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            • 22aer22 Reply

              Like despite all this, I still feel so much fondness for my first read and how caught up I got with it all. I felt like I was in the dungeon with Feyre alone, worrying about the next trial, wanting her to just have one moment with Tamlin. THIS RE-READ CAN’T TAKE THE FIRST FEELS AWAY!

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              • Rebecca Reply

                I’m SO with you. I got really caught up in this story the first time, and it’s okay that we felt those things! IT WAS GOOD!

                Actually, seeing all this stuff again, I’m somehow becoming more pissed that Tamlin was taken away from me. LOL.

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  5. Krista B Reply

    The second challenge was so disappointing. I like drawing in the illiteracy, but there just should have been some other way. It was a let down from the first challenge for sure. I did like when Rhysand talks her through not breaking in front of Amarantha. I want to think that I don’t like how she needed someone else to help her win this challenge, but I also think it shows her demoralized and having a downward spiral afterward.

    The second book really takes the “Rhysand does bad things, but it’s for a greater good” idea and runs with it. It’s his cross to bear – for his people.

    Why does Feyre completely stop trying to solve the riddle after 1 day? Let’s assume the riddle is actually hard. I feel like there should be times when she’s trying to figure it out. She basically tries for an hour and then gives up.

    “Or maybe she’ll make Tamlin solve a riddle, IDK. Kinda seems like more her style these days.” – This made me laugh!

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  6. callmeIndigo Reply

    “Rhysand quickly starts kissing Feyre, and that’s what Amarantha sees when she bursts in through the door with Tamlin.”
    NO I HATE THIS. This is one of the worst tropes that has ever existed and I want it to die because I know where this is going because for some reason no fictional character ever is capable of understanding that it is possible for one person to kiss another person without consent. I’m not even invested in Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship but this is the worst way to introduce conflict, stop it Maas

    I’m also 40 chapters too late to justifiably comment on this but Tamlin is an awfully on-the-nose name, isn’t it.

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