Even faeries experience trauma. This episode is all about the novel A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas. ACOMAF explores what happens after a brutal experience for Feyre, human-turned-fae. We discuss post-traumatic stress disorder in a fantasy setting, signs of a healthy (or potentially unhealthy) relationship, and angsty faeries. While the mental ill-health representation is a strength, we both agree that Prythian could use some more diversity.
Mental health issues covered: PTSD, depression, anxiety and panic attacks, abusive relationships, and the relationships between abuse and trauma – all in a fantasy setting!
Trigger warning: Trauma, suicidal ideation, sexism and misogyny, violence and abuse, and abusive relationships (particularly intimate partner abuse). We will also be talking about sex a bit – this is a fairly smutty book at times! We try (and mostly succeed) to keep it PG.
Listen to the episode:
About the Book
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
About the Author
Sarah J. Maas is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, as well as a USA Today and international bestselling author. Sarah wrote the first incarnation of the Throne of Glass series when she was just sixteen, and it has now sold in thirty-five languages. Visit the author’s website here.
Sarah has spoken in recent interviews about her own mental health, including severe anxiety, depressive symptoms, and panic attacks. She has also spoken about her experiences with therapy and medication. Here is a transcript of her interview with NPR, where she talks about her experience with anxiety and panic attacks while promoting Crescent City (features minor spoilers for Crescent City).
Relevant mental health resources:
- If you are a mental health practitioner in Australia, you may be interested in the Australian PTSD Guidelines provided by Phoenix Australia.
- Phoenix Australia also has a range of resources about understanding and recovering from trauma.
- You can also find information about PTSD from Black Dog Institute.
More books like A Court of Mist and Fury:
- If you enjoyed the style and tone of ACOMAF, you may enjoy Sarah J Maas’ other books series: Throne of Glass and Crescent City (Book 1: House of Earth and Blood was released in 2020). People who like this series often recommend other fantasy romances such as From Blood and Ash, Serpent and Dove and The Cruel Prince.
- Although it’s not Fantasy, the Animorphs series is an example of a series that does a good job representing the mental toll life-and-death battles would take on a person – in this case, teenagers. The quality of the series is inconsistent, but as a whole it is a solid series. The Hunger Games series, particularly the third book Mockingjay, also does this well.
- If you like big fantasy books with sprawling worlds, politics, banters, and lots of angsty pining, you may enjoy Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters Chronicles. Start with The Immortal Instruments for the full Shadowhunter experience, though Priscilla would recommend The Dark Artifices the most for its portrayals of politics and diverse cast of characters (including a character on the spectrum, a trans character, and polyamory).
- If you want fantasy that features more diverse characters or magical worlds in general, check out Children of Blood and Bone or Sorcerer to the Crown.
Voices from Lived Experiences
We had some difficulty finding reviewers or bloggers speaking from personal experience about ACOMAF. If you have any, or wish to share your experience, please let us know as we’d love to read them!
That said, we found this post from Mikaela at The Riverside Library.
Of course, everybody’s PTSD manifests in different ways, and Feyre’s is very different to mine, but one thing I appreciated incredibly was that Feyre’s PTSD didn’t go away, it didn’t heal itself, and it always reared its head when she needed it least. There is no magical cure. It lingers. Even if its potency is decreased by time, it comes back. … Maas described the loneliness, the suffocation and the fear of the condition so well, I was blown away. It’s not something I ever expected to find in a romance/fantasy novel.Mikaela, The Riverside Library
We have also read a lot of reviews from Goodreads and the ACOTAR subreddit both positive and negative, in terms of representation of PTSD where people refer to their own experiences. Note there is no right or wrong way to have PTSD – it differs a lot from one individual to the next. Some of the observations in those reviews were:
- Some have noted that Feyre’s PTSD feels realistic, and have compared to other books where characters experience trauma and this often gets overlooked or (even worse) they become evil). “As someone with PTSD, anxiety, and depression I can relate to so many of her characters… She shows that you can deal with horrible things and make bad choices but still be good and that trauma can affect everyone.” – u/JadedRavenclaw
- Some have criticised the depiction of Rhys’ PTSD – which involved sexual trauma – as he is still very sexual/comfortable with being touched (this is often not the case for people who’ve been through sexual trauma). However others have noted that people have different ways of coping and that for some taking control of their sexuality can be very powerful.
- Some reviewers criticise the book and say that Feyre’s PTSD magically disappears after she leaves the Spring Court and/or after she falls in love. We disagree. To say that is quite a surface reading of PTSD as just being flashbacks/nightmares. The emotional and cognitive symptoms take much, much longer to heal. It’s also worth noting that her PTSD did not disappear while with Tamlin, who was set up to be her love from Book 1. If anything, the message is ‘you can’t heal just through romantic relationships – but the right relationship can be healing’.
- Some have noted that Feyre’s recovery is very linear – which is fair! A lot of people recovering from PTSD may go one step forward, two back.
On the TBR Pile
These are books we’ve added to our TBR pile after reading ACOMAF:
- The rest of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. Priscilla still needs to read the next book in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin. Elise is eagerly awaiting the upcoming instalment in the series, A Court of Silver Flames and is regularly refreshing Instagram for updates.
- For fantasy books with better representation of sexual and/or racial diversity: The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore, and The True Queen by Zen Cho (among others!). Let us know your recommendations for diverse fantasy books!