78 pages 2 hours read

Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2017

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Summary and Study Guide


A Court of Wings and Ruin (2017) is the third book in bestselling American author Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses fantasy romance series for new adults. The last entry in the series told exclusively from protagonist Feyre Archeron’s perspective, the novel follows Feyre, her partner Rhysand, and their friends and family as they battle the evil King of Hybern to save all of Prythian. Maas blends elements of the romance, high fantasy, and horror-action genres to explore the moral ambiguity of war, the relationship between consent and identity, and how true love requires self-acceptance first.

Maas is also the author of the Throne of Glass (YA) and Crescent City (adult) fantasy series. This guide references the 2020 paperback edition of the novel published by Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.

Content Warning: A Court of Wings and Ruin depicts and references instances of sexual assault, domestic abuse, and intimate partner violence.

Plot Summary

In the faerie realm of Prythian, Rhysand (Rhys), the High Lord of the Night Court, narrates a short prologue set 500 years before the series. Two years before the end of an ancient war to free humans from faerie enslavement, Rhysand looks for his friends on the battlefield. The seven Prythian courts are divided; some fight for human freedom, and others fight alongside Hybern, another faerie realm, to keep humans enslaved.

Part 1 begins several weeks after the events of A Court of Mist and Fury, in which Feyre Archeron left Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court, for Rhysand. Feyre was once human but died saving Prythian from the evil faerie queen Amarantha and was resurrected as an immortal High Fae. Afterward, Tamlin’s possessiveness inhibited her psychological recovery. Rhysand, Feyre’s true love and fated mate, rescued her from unwillingly marrying Tamlin. Feyre and Rhysand fell in love as they worked to thwart the King of Hybern, who wants to use the ancient, elemental Cauldron to re-enslave humans. Tamlin allied with Hybern in a misguided attempt to get Feyre back, ultimately resulting in Feyre’s sisters, Nesta and Elain, being turned into High Fae as well. Feyre pretended she still loved Tamlin and returned to the Spring Court as a spy; she and Rhys secretly married, and she became High Lady of the Night Court.

Feyre now works to undermine Tamlin’s authority and weaken Hybern’s chief ally in Prythian. She manipulates a public scenario pitting Tamlin’s sentry against Ianthe, a High Priestess sympathetic to Hybern. Tamlin is politically forced to pick his unpopular alliance over his sentry, losing the loyalty of his men. A delegation arrives from Hybern, including Jurian, a resurrected human warrior who once fought against the king but now serves as emissary to Hybern’s mortal allies. After Feyre discovers Hybern’s plan to destroy the Wall that divides the faerie and mortal realms, she returns to the Night Court. Lucien, Tamlin’s emissary, goes with Feyre, as her sister Elain is his mate.

In Part 2, Feyre reunites with Rhysand in the Night Court, and they work with their friends to build alliances before the coming war with Hybern. Feyre’s sisters struggle to transition to life as High Fae; Nesta is bitter, and Elain is too devastated over the loss of her human fiancé to tolerate interaction with Lucien. Elain’s strange dream-talk concerns both her sisters. Feyre also worries about Rhysand’s obvious willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends in the war. Cassian, Rhys’s general, Azriel, Rhys’s spymaster, and Morrigan, Rhys’s cousin, help devise strategy and support Rhys’s call for a council of all seven Prythian High Lords. Nesta trains her new magical powers with Amren, Rhys’s deputy who is an ancient, otherworldly creature bound to a High Fae body. Amren believes Nesta’s connection to the Cauldron will prove useful.

Desperate for allies, Feyre begs the Bone Carver, an ancient death-god, to help them in battle. He will, but only if Feyre brings him the Ouroboros mirror, rumored to destroy anyone who looks into it. Later, while researching in the Velaris library, Feyre and Nesta are attacked by Hybern spies; they narrowly escape when Feyre makes a bargain with the monster at the bottom of the library, Bryaxis. After, Feyre realizes Elain predicted the attack with her dream-talk and that Elain is a seer. Based on another of her visions, Lucien goes on a solo quest to find another potential ally: a human queen named Vassa.

When Hybern attacks the Summer Court, Feyre, Rhys, and their friends rush to their aid and achieve a hard-won victory. However, the battle exposes Feyre to the horrors of open war and fails to reconcile Feyre and Rhys with Tarquin, the High Lord of the Summer Court whose trust they violated in their previous efforts to stop Hybern.

At the council of High Lords, old grudges similarly threaten the success of the war efforts. Tamlin arrives unexpectedly and reveals he is a double agent; his alliance with Hybern gives him access to sensitive information. He is furious that Feyre’s undermining of the Spring Court left him vulnerable to Hybern. An uneasy alliance forms, catalyzed by Nesta’s appeal to principle and Feyre’s embrace of her full powers. The next day, Hybern destroys the Wall using the Cauldron.

In Part 3, the war begins in earnest. Despite their broken engagement, Elain’s former fiancé agrees to harbor human refugees at his estate. While there for negotiations, the friends discover Jurian is also a double agent working to protect humans. The Prythian alliance engages the Hybern forces in several battles, and although they achieve narrow victories, they cannot stop Hybern from destroying much of the Spring Court and human lands along the border. Feyre makes another deal with Bryaxis so it will fight for them, but she will only unleash the monster when they locate Hybern’s main forces. Feyre decides to seek the Suriel, a truth-telling faerie she’s sought out before. The Suriel advises that Nesta should scry for the Cauldron’s location and provides a clue meant for Amren before it is killed by Ianthe; Feyre kills Ianthe by luring her into the Weaver’s cottage (another death-god and the sister of the Bone Carver). Nesta successfully locates the Cauldron and Hybern’s forces, but the Cauldron abducts Elain in retaliation. Feyre and Azriel succeed in a risky rescue mission, aided by Jurian and Tamlin.

The combined Prythian forces are vastly outnumbered by Hybern. Feyre decides to face the Ouroboros mirror to save those she loves; when it shows Feyre her true nature, she accepts the good and bad, thereby earning the Bone Carver’s help. In the final battle, all seven Prythian Courts fight together against Hybern, joined by unexpected allies from overseas, including Vassa and Feyre’s father. Hybern overpowers them anyway. The King of Hybern murders the Archeron sisters’ father in front of Nesta, who is creating a diversion so Feyre and Amren can get close to the Cauldron. Elain stabs the king through the neck, and Nesta decapitates him, but the Hybern army fights on.

Amren tricks Feyre into releasing Amren’s true form via the Cauldron; Amren’s supernatural form destroys the Hybern forces, but the process kills her and breaks the Cauldron, fracturing the magical foundations of their world. Rhys pours his power into Feyre so she can mend the Cauldron and hold the world together, but the exertion kills him. Feyre demands the High Lords resurrect him as they once resurrected her. With the war won, Feyre leads the first of many meetings to renegotiate peace between humans and faeries and then returns home with her friends and family.