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63 pages 2 hours read

Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Silver Flames

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2021

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

A Court of Silver Flames (February 2021) is the fifth and final book in the young adult fantasy series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Other books in the series include A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015), A Court of Mist and Fury (2016), A Court of Wings and Ruin (2017), and A Court of Frost and Starlight (2018).

Maas is a #1 bestselling New York Times author, and her books have sold over 12 million copies worldwide. She is best known for her young adult Throne of Glass series, an alternative version of the Cinderella story in which the protagonist is an assassin rather than a damsel looking to wed a handsome prince. More recently, Maas began writing the adult fantasy Crescent City series.

A Court of Silver Flames falls into the categories of Romantic Fantasy and Epic Fantasy and was originally intended for young adult readers between the ages of 12 and 18. This study guide and its page citations are based on the Kindle edition of the novel.

Content Warning: While earlier books in the series might be appropriate for teen readers, the violence against women and frequent, graphic sex scenes might cause adults to question its suitability for younger teens. The author herself has admitted that this title skews closer to adult material. Some librarians have hesitated to recommend this book to readers under 18 for that reason.

The story is set in a fantasy realm inhabited by humans and Fae. The Fae are humanoid fairies who possess many supernatural abilities. While some elements of the story suggest a contemporary timeframe, much of the book’s ethos derives from medieval warrior cultures and aligns closely with the sword and sorcery genre. The events described in the novel span approximately six months, from autumn through spring of the following year. Events are described using a limited third-person narrative technique from the alternating perspectives of the book’s protagonist, 25-year-old Nesta Archeron, and her antagonist/lover, a winged Fae general named Cassian.

The novel opens shortly after the events concluding the preceding book in the series. Nesta has alienated her two sisters and all the members of the royal Court of Night. Her family attempts an intervention to get her to shape up by sending her to train with Cassian. In Nesta’s evolution from wild child to warrior, she discovers Valkyrie mind control and battle techniques that allow her to master her supernatural powers and volatile emotions. As the novel follows Nesta’s transformation, the book explores the themes of Overcoming Male Abuse, Mastering Emotions, and Alienation and Connection.

Plot Summary

As the novel begins, Nesta is still traumatized by events in the previous installment of the series when she was forcibly changed from human to Fae and ended up taking supernatural powers from the magical Cauldron that caused her transformation. In the present, Nesta is corroded with self-hatred and blames herself for failing to save her sister from being turned into a Fae or saving her father from being killed by the King of Hybern. She secretly believes she isn’t worthy of love and pushes away everyone who reaches out to her.

After pursuing a self-destructive lifestyle of gambling, drinking, and one-night stands, Nesta becomes the target of a family intervention. She is sent to the House of Wind perched high atop the city. Since the only access to the world below is a spiral staircase consisting of 10,000 steps, Nesta is a virtual prisoner. While at the house, she is expected to undergo physical training with Cassian, a battle-hardened war veteran and leader of the military forces of the Court of Night. The two get off to a rocky start before Cassian coaxes Nesta into a daily training regimen. She repeatedly tries to escape the house by climbing down the stairs, but her poor physical condition always makes her abandon the effort.

The house is also the sanctuary for priestesses who were physically abused during the war with Hybern and have retreated to the court library inside the house to pursue their studies in peace. Nesta is also expected to help them out at the library each afternoon. She eventually makes friends with a young priestess named Gwyn, who teaches her the mind-quieting techniques and battle tactics of the legendary Valkyries. The Valkyries were formidable female warriors who were all killed in a battle 500 years earlier. Gwyn and Nesta want to revive their practices and convince Cassian to train them Valkyrie-style. They are soon joined by a shopkeeper named Emerie, who lives among the misogynistic Illyrian race of male warriors and wants control of her own life.

During her months of training, Nesta forms a bond with Gwyn, Emerie, the sentient House of Wind, and Cassian. She and her friends are forced to participate in the Illyrian Blood Rite to prove that females can’t compete with males, but they end up winning against impossible odds. By the novel's end, Nesta succeeds in saving her entire family, learns how to accept Cassian’s love, and accepts herself as she is.

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