Note: This review may contain spoilers for all the previous books in the ACOTAR series, but will not contain spoilers for this particular installment.
The wait for this book was already extra long--all the ACOTAR books had come out a year apart, but this one came out two years after the last one--and it felt even longer, because 1) ACOFAS contained a preview of this book that was FIRE, and 2) on the whole, I was less than satisfied by the SJM release that we got last year, the first novel of her new Crescent City series. (I can't ever seem to remember its actual title, even right after I've just read it.) I liked it, I mostly just wished we could have this next ACOTAR book instead.
And now we have it. For starters, I want to point out that the covers have been redone for the entire series, because I think they're trying to rebrand it as adult, which I fully support because OH MAN, this book was raunchy. I mean, I'm pretty sure we were all expecting it--Cassian and Nesta? There's no way that their sexy times were going to be anything less than epic. This is not the sweet, tearful true love of Feyre and Rhys. Theirs seemed tame and romantic compared Cassian and Nesta (and we know it was not actually tame and merely romantic).
I know a lot of shippers were excited for their thing to develop, and I definitely was too, but I think my favorite thing about this book was that it was a book about trauma. I mean, all the previous books addressed trauma--the trauma of war, of poverty, of sexual assault, of abusive relationships--but this one was a deep dive into trauma, the difficult non-linear journey of healing, and the importance of friendships.
It's also an important lesson in the way other people should react (and the way they DO end up reacting) to a specific person's trauma. Nesta is a controversial figure even in the SJM fan community; on a recent social media post I read, the comments ranged from "NESTA IS QUEEN" to "I can't stand her, she's so toxic." And even in ACOSF itself, there are those who see her suffering, those who write her off, and those who see her suffering but also need to protect themselves from her toxicity for their own self-care. Nesta is not an easily sympathetic figure, even when we do get her (3rd person omniscient) point of view, because we can feel bad that she feels the way she does, but we can also sit here tearing our hair out that she CHOOSES to be hurtful. (She's got some great zingers, though. Not gonna lie.) I have always loved character arcs as a focal point more than action, and this book, in addition to some action, is soooo much character arc, and not just Nesta's either.
For that reason, I think ACOSF might actually be my second favorite installment of this series, behind ACOMAF. The journeys of the characters in this book really held me all the way until the end, and I have no idea when the next one will be out, but I hope it's as well-done as this.
I gave this five stars.