Sexual Violence, Bad Boys and A Court of Thrones and Roses

July 3, 2015 / 173 Comments / Review, Uncategorized

WARNING: Major spoilers for A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, and I will be quoting from some of the explicit, 18+ scenes in this essay. 

I know I’m going to be hated for this post, but I can’t not write it, because, very few people are talking about the sexual violence in Sarah J. Maas’ latest bestseller, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

So here we go. Way back in the day, I talked about my love for Good Boys, and how Bad Boys are problematic, especially in YA. I’m not one of those people who believes that all YA or all books need to be “important” or send a message. They don’t. I don’t need my books to be pedantic. I like light, fluffy stuff that’s entertainment as much as I like books that say something.

But the Bad Boy trope is one that drives me absolutely batty, because it IS dangerous and it DOES propagate a sense that it’s okay for men to treat women in violent, harassing ways (I’m using the heteronormatives here, but feel free to slip in “women to treat women” or “men to treat men” or anything else. Bad Boy is just a concept). And it’s a trope that often allows those violent, harassing men to be redeemed by a woman, or love, or because they have something in their past that absolves them of responsibility for their own actions.

Let’s be clear: nothing absolves anyone of sexual violence or abuse. If someone has a bad past, or mental health issues or a motive that is honourable, that still doesn’t make it okay to treat a woman badly. If you plead insanity in a court of law and that defense stands, you still get put in prison. You still have to take responsibility.

The reason this came up for me is because I recently read A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, which, for the most part, I liked. I liked how Feyre had no magical powers, but was able to use cunning to defeat faeries. I liked learning about the different courts and the descriptions. I liked how Lucien was always a bit of a dark horse in Feyre’s heart, and how much they all learned about each other. I think there’s a great theme of learning to get past your prejudices running through the book.

But there are some major consent and sexual abuse issues in this book.

First is the slow-burn romance between Tamlin and Feyre. Tamlin plays the Beast in this retelling, and Feyre the Belle, so there’s already a bit of an instance of Stockholm Syndrome and imbalance between them, but this scene in Chapter 21 where Tamlin is “drunk” on magic goes a bit far:

“Let go,” I said as evenly as I could, but his claws punched out, imbedding in the wood above my hands. Still riding the magic, he was half-wild.
“You drove me mad,” he growled, and the sound trembled down my neck, along my breasts until they ached. “I searched for you, and you weren’t there. When I didn’t find you,” he said, bringing his face closer to mine, until we shared breath, “it made me pick another.”
I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to.
“She asked me not to be gentle with her, either,” he snarled, his teeth bright in the moonlight. He brought his lips to my ear. “I would have been gentle with you, though.” I shuddered as I closed my eyes. Every inch of my body went taut as his words echoed through me. “I would have had you moaning my name throughout it all. And I would have taken a very, very long time, Feyre.” He said my name like a caress, and his hot breath tickled my ear. My back arched slightly.
He ripped his claws free from the wall, and my knees buckled as he let go. I grasped the wall to keep from sinking to the floor, to keep from grabbing him—to strike or caress, I didn’t know. I opened my eyes. He still smiled—smiled like an animal.
“Why should I want someone’s leftovers?” I said, making to push him away. He grabbed my hands again and bit my neck.
I cried out as his teeth clamped onto the tender spot where my neck met my shoulder. I couldn’t move—couldn’t think, and my world narrowed to the feeling of his lips and teeth against my skin. He didn’t pierce my flesh, but rather bit to keep me pinned. The push of his body against mine, the hard and the soft, made me see red—see lightning, made me grind my hips against his. I should hate him—hate him for his stupid ritual, for the female he’d been with tonight …
His bite lightened, and his tongue caressed the places his teeth had been. He didn’t move—he just remained in that spot, kissing my neck. Intently, territorially, lazily. Heat pounded between my legs, and as he ground his body against me, against every aching spot, a moan slipped past my lips.
He jerked away. The air was bitingly cold against my freed skin, and I panted as he stared at me. “Don’t ever disobey me again,” he said, his voice a deep purr that ricocheted through me, awakening everything and lulling it into complicity.

Is that consensual? It’s certainly rough, but Feyre explicity asks him to let go and he doesn’t. One could argue that Tamlin didn’t know what he was doing, and he didn’t actually hurt her. But to me, it still counts as an abusive act when you force someone to be in a situation they don’t want to be in. What’s worse is that the book still treats Tamlin as the ideal lover for Feyre, even after this (a few other bloggers agree). Tamlin, however, isn’t a Bad Boy, really – he’s extremely dangerous, but he has treated Feyre with respect throughout the rest of the book.

But it gets worse. We then meet Rhysand, who is the true Bad Boy of the series.

Rhysand is dark. Rhysand is powerful, the High Lord of the Night Court. Rhysand is hot and sexy, with a voice that swirls over you and makes Feyre’s knees go weak. And Rhysand is a blackmailer who exchanges Feyre’s health for ownership of her one week out of each month (Chapter 37).

As if enslavement wasn’t bad enough, he then has her taken, strips her, paints her skin with dark ink in signature Night Court swirls, and parades her around in a transparent gown for the world to see. And then he forces her to drink bad faerie wine, night after night, so that she blacks out and wakes up each morning with vague memories of the night before. And by “forces”, I mean he uses his power to get into her head and basically Imperius Curses her into drinking it.

“Wine?” he said, offering me a goblet.
Alis’s first rule. I shook my head.
He smiled, and extended the goblet again. “Drink. You’ll need it.”
Drink, my mind echoed, and my fingers stirred, moving toward the goblet. No. No, Alis said not to drink the wine here—wine that was different from that joyous, freeing solstice wine. “No,” I said, and some faeries who were watching us from a safe distance chuckled.
“Drink,” he said, and my traitorous fingers latched onto the goblet.

I awoke in my cell, still clad in that handkerchief he called a dress. Everything was spinning so badly that I barely made it to the corner before I vomited. Again. And again. When I’d emptied my stomach, I crawled to the opposite corner of the cell and collapsed.
Sleep came fitfully as the world continued to twirl violently around me. I was tied to a spinning wheel, going around and around and around—
Needless to say, I was sick a fair amount that day.

Feyre wakes up the next morning with no memory of what happened, She sees a few smudged inky splotches on her hips and she knows that Rhysand has at least touched her on her hips. Luckily, according to the book, he has not violated her further.

That right there? That is STILL called sexual violence, even if he didn’t rape her. That is the equivalent of roofie-ing a girl’s drink and then taking said unconscious girl to bed.

Later, after Rhysand saves her life, he goes down to visit Feyre in her cell:

The stones reverberated as he knelt before me, and though I tried to fight him, his grip was firm as he grasped my wrists and pried my hands from my face.
The walls weren’t moving, and the room was open—gaping. No colors, but shades of darkness, of night. Only those star-flecked violet eyes were bright, full of color and light. He gave me a lazy smile before he leaned forward.
I pulled away, but his hands were like shackles. I could do nothing as his mouth met with my cheek, and he licked away a tear. His tongue was hot against my skin, so startling that I couldn’t move as he licked away another path of salt water, and then another. My body went taut and loose all at once and I burned, even as chills shuddered along my limbs. It was only when his tongue danced along the damp edges of my lashes that I jerked back.
He chuckled as I scrambled for the corner of the cell. I wiped my face as I glared at him.
He smirked, sitting down against a wall. “I figured that would get you to stop crying.”
“It was disgusting.” I wiped my face again.
“Was it?” He quirked an eyebrow and pointed to his palm—to the place where my tattoo would be. “Beneath all your pride and stubbornness, I could have sworn I detected something that felt differently. Interesting.”
“Get out.”
“As usual, your gratitude is overwhelming.”
“Do you want me to kiss your feet for what you did at the trial? Do you want me to offer another week of my life?”
“Not unless you feel compelled to do so,” he said, his eyes like stars.

The fact that the novel depicts him still as an alluring creature, with eyes that are “bright, full of color and light” and “like stars” makes Rhysand continue to seem like a romantic possibility to the reader and to Feyre.

Rhysand then forces Feyre to kiss him later on, under the pretense that he is helping her to escape the villain of the story. He justifies this to her by saying that he never touched her despite ADMITTING that he drugged her:

“Feyre, for Cauldron’s sake. I drug you, but you don’t wonder why I never touch you beyond your waist or arms?”
Until tonight—until that damned kiss. I gritted my teeth, but even as my anger rose, a picture cleared.
“It’s the only claim I have to innocence,” he said, “the only thing that will make Tamlin think twice before entering into a battle with me that would cause a catastrophic loss of innocent life. It’s the only way I can convince him I was on your side. 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.”

How romantic – he would have raped Feyre had it not been for the bigger circumstances of the world. I was horrified by this admission, and by the fact that even after Rhysand admits to perpetrating a crime, he still attempts to justify it. And the book lets him. While the text never quite condones Rhysand’s actions, it also never condemns him for it.


Guys, I can’t with this. One instance of questionable sexual assault from the love interest is already bad enough. I can at least understand the Tamlin-Feyre ship because the book is explicit about it and Tamlin does ask her consent the next time, and in general, acts like a pretty good guy.

But what Rhysand does is sexual assault and battery. His claim that he’s doing this to keep her safe (which she later agrees with) is idiotic, because if he’d just told her his plan and GOTTEN HER CONSENT to it, none of this would have happened. Instead, he enslaves her, touches her without consent, drugs her, and then tries to justify it. THAT ISN’T SEXY.

I know I’m fixating on one part of a mostly good book, and boy, do I know that just because it’s written doesn’t mean that the author condones it, but look, if we are calling out Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, and Game of Thrones for abusive relationships and sexual violence, we need to call this out, too. The tone of the book, the text, allows for Rhysand (and Tamlin) to continue to be seen as a potential love interest for Feyre.

Look, I’m not saying not to read this book. I liked it. It’s one of the few fantasy books I’ve liked, where the action is intense and the stakes are very real. But this is a flaw. It’s a big flaw and it’s a flaw that no one is talking about because Bad Boys and sexual violence are so pervasive in many books.

Ladies, I need you to think about this: when you’re reading about a character and you’re thinking how dark and brooding and mysterious he sounds, don’t allow yourself to headcanon that he’s gone through something terrible, or doing something for someone else’s good, but really he’s a good person at heart who needs your sacrifice.

When you say to yourself, “look, he healed Feyre, he helped her through her trial, and he bet on her when no one else did, that means he loves her!”, you need to think about his actions, and that his intentions are not about her, but about getting what he wants back (his land), with no regard for her mind or body.

And when you’re thinking how sexy he is, think about what he does and says to Feyre, and the lines you’re going to draw for yourself and for your female characters.

And that is why the Bad Boy trope is scary, and sometimes dangerous.

Let’s keep it a trope, and not real life.

Let’s Talk:

Have you noticed this issue in A Court of Thorns and Roses or other books? Do books sometimes inherently or accidentally allow for sexual violence?
-Are you a Bad Boy or Good Boy lover?
-Are you Team Rhysand? Tell me why – did I read it wrong or miss something? (Please tell me I did. For real. I want to be wrong about this). 

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas (website | twitter)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s / Recorded Books
Source/Format: Audiobook bought on (passages taken from eBook)
Publication date: May 5, 2015
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: | | | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | The Book Depository | Audible | iTunes | Google Books

When 19-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it … or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

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173 responses to “Sexual Violence, Bad Boys and A Court of Thrones and Roses

  1. I definitely agree with you about Rhysand. I was apprehensive reading this book in the first place, what with what I'd heard about Tamlin/Feyre and the biting scene – but that didn't bother me as much as Rhysand. I honestly couldn't stand him at all, and don't understand how anyone could ship him with Feyre. I'm a bit worried for book 2, because Sarah alluded to there being s love triangle, and I reckon it'll be Tamlin/Feyre/Rhysand, and be even more problematic as book 1 was :/

    • Yeah, I had heard that there would be a love triangle, and it's obvious from reading the book that Rhysand will be involved, which terrifies me. She's sown quite a few seeds that indicate that Rhys is a love interest, and it's just…it's not okay to use sexual abuse and violence to make a character seem more like a Bad Boy. If Feyre likes it rough, I get that, but to have her continually say no and have both men take advantage of her, and to not act like that's a problem is a problem.

    • Katie

      Actually, you are very wrong about Rhysand. It explains everything in the second book (I hope you’ve read it). Feyre was drugged and dressed weird to distract herself from the nightly horrors Under the Mountain. Rhysand was licking away Feyre’s tears to keep her from completely shattering. Rhysand has found his mate- in the hands of another lover. This is why he made the bargain with Feyre. As she seemed him to be the most beautiful man ever seen, Rhysand felt the same. He wanted to be with her still, but not in a suspecting way. Just so you know, a mate is a person the Cauldron picked that was your equal in every single way- a very rare bond. Tamlin is the seductive and abusive person. I don’t care if you think I’m over-reacting to this, but ACOTAR is the best series ever. I hope you read the second book someday and understand what really happened.

      • Taylor

        There is no explanation that makes sexual assault okay.

        The fact that Rhysand had reasons for what he did doesn’t make it okay that he did them. He did not have to sexually abuse and assault Feyre to save her life. Sarah J. Maas did not have to write the story in such a way that he had to sexually abuse and assault her. But she choose to, and most disgustingly, she asked readers to not only be okay with scenes of sexual assault, to forgive them, but to find them sexy, to start to see Rhysand a potential sexual interest for Feyre because he is even more rapey than Tamlin.

        At best this is a book where the main character enjoys being sexually assaulted.

        • Morgan

          That’s a terrible excuse for what he did. Sexual assault is still sexual assault and if he loved her like he claimed, he wouldn’t have done that.

        • Jean

          It explains on the second book that Rhysand acted that way to trick the people under the mountain I to thinking him a horrible man. But when Ferye goes to the night court the first time, She his guest and not a slave. The only one who every really sexually assaulted Ferye was Tamlin and not Rhys, he acted like he was going to but that was a way to Protect his people until he could save Ferye.

        • Tanya

          i understand how you would see it that way as you have not red the second book. The first book is only (atleast for me) and introducction to the storry. The second book fully w+sjows you wat had been happening under the curtain, and i understand how you would come to those asumptions based on only reading the first book, so i would gladly recomend you the second book to clear up any comfushions, but do NOT, insult SARA J. MASS on something she clearly did not do, you can never judge a story if you cannot see the full picture.

      • Alex

        I read the second book and I will stay still in my opinions. I understand that Rhys had to make some choices and the fact that he had a role to play but there is a lots of things that he could have avoided telling Feyre : like, for example, as mentionned above that he would not have hesitated to rape her if it had not been to make Tamlin angry with him. Because I’m sure that Rhysand would not have hesitated for one second to rape someone to protect his city or people if it had been necessary ! A weird link that implies a “love by default” like a mating bond does not justify what he did at all ! And as long as I’m there: telling someone that you make her drink so that she can forget what happens looks more like the justification of a rapist than anything else; because it’s never fine to make someone drink in order to forget ! I really hate the way Rhysand is described in ACOMAF, like someone perfect and all, as if the author wants to make us forget all the bad things he had said and done during the past !

        • thechefette

          For the love of Christ, I don’t understand where you’re all getting this “admission of rape” from. He said he’d like to enjoy her, he never said he would or he’d force her. He never says he would rape her. Him saying he’d like to enjoy her is like catcalling kind of, but it does not insinuate rape. “I would like to enjoy you” DOES NOT equal “I would have.” I would like to enjoy a pint of ice cream, but I’m not going to. I understand a lot of Rhys’ behavior is problematic and not a good thing, and his reasons don’t necessarily justify it, but he isn’t a fucking rapist and I’m sick of people trying to paint it that way, especially if you haven’t read book 2.

          • Sam

            EXACLTY. COULDN’T AGREE MORE WITH YOU @thecheffete

            I have seen so many people just picking up a book just for the sake of trying to find things that aren’t even there. They’ll hear that ACOTAR is SO bad etc and not read the book with an open-mind. RHYSAND NEVER SAID HE’D RAPE HER. Please, he said he would have LIKED nothing more than to enjoy her. HOW DOES THIS IMPLY HE’D RAPE HER ANY CHANCE HE GOT?!?! WHICH HE GOT PLENTY BTW. HE NEVER DID.

            If these same people actually read the whole series, they’d find out that Rhysand, Cassian and Azriel are the last people on Earth to sexually assault somebody. RHYSAND BUILT A HUGE LIBRARY/HOME UNDER THE WIND HOUSE IN VELARIS TO PROTECT AND HELP THE FEMALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT/ABUSE/HARASSMENT. He has several protection charms for them to be extremely safe. He and Mor regularly check in on them, listen to them, help them with everything, do not allow anyone to enter w/o the victims’ permission and help them heal with time. How? Just how? I wish people would stop jumping on the ‘I hate ACOTAR bandwagon’ and actually read the books with an open-mind.

            ALSO, RHYSAND WAS HIMSELF A VICTIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT. It is stated in the book that he COULD NOT DENY Amarantha when she demanded him in her bedroom. He became her whore to save his people. HOW CAN A VICTIM HIMSELF, KNOWING HOW IT FEELS TO BE RAPED, MAKE SOMEBODY ELSE TO GO THROUGH THE SAME AWFUL, TERRIBLE THING???

            Further, later on in the books, he shows Feyre what Ianthe tried to do to him. Ianthe had tried to grab his sexual parts. He’d then proceeded to tell her that IF SHE EVER LAID A FINGER ON ANY MALE OR FEMALE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT, HE’D CHOP HER HAND OFF. Please, man, how? How can this guy sexually abuse another person??

            As for what he did Under the Mountain with Feyre; the whole hands on her hips and then kissing her and then making her wear all those clothes, and having her drink the wine. Under the Mountain was AN EXTREMELY HORRIBLE, EXTREMELY NIGHTMARISH PLACE. If anyone read the later books, they’d know that Feyre suffered from PTSD for a VERY LONG TIME after escaping that place. NOW IMAGINE, WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF SHE HAD NOT BEEN PLAYED AS RHYSAND’S WHORE IN FRONT OF AMARANTHA AND HER CRONIES, IF SHE’S NOT BEEN UNDER RHYS’S PROTECTION BECAUSE OF THAT, IF SHE’D NOT DRUNK THE WINE THAT MADE HER FORGET EVERY TERRIBLE CREATURE SHE ENCOUNTERED AT NIGHT. Her PTSD would have been a million times worse. He had to had some excuse for taking Feyre under his wing, and he couldn’t very well just say to Amarantha “Hey, so I really care about my mate Feyre over here, it’d be very nice if I could protect her from every terrible creature and monster in this place, so please give her special treatment, pls be kind to her and let me ensure minimal harm comes to her.”
            Thank you to the people agreeing with this POV in the comments. The others, well, everyone had different opinions. And that’s really good. But maybe give this book another go with an open mind this time and actually try to see things for what they are. Thank you.

            • Corey Beth Greaves

              Thanks for this excellent summation of all the reasons why Rhys is the awesome hero we love & not at all the icky rapist some people seem to think he is! I really think you touched on all the points & I hate how people take his actions in ACOTAR out of context. Without having read the full trilogy, you can’t have a complete picture of him nor be able to understand his motives. Anyway, just wanted to thank a fellow fan for some awesomeness in support of my favorite books ever!

              • sam

                You’re very welcome 🙂

                I’m so glad you liked my summation!! Yes, exactly, you cannot just read a single book and then judge a character like that. You have to read the second book to fully understand his actions. And to be honest, I explained everything in that comment above. If people still don’t get why Rhysand is NOT a rapist, then there’s something wrong with their minds.

            • Nikita

              Lol he and Feyre were turned on thinking about f*cking in the very library filled with SA women, and if they both had such PTSD then the throne scene in the CoN would have made them both super uncomfortable

        • Hailey

          Since when is Rhys ever portrayed as perfect? Did we read the same book? He openly admits to feeling shame for his past choices, apologizes, admits he was wrong, and puts in the work to change. Every time someone he loves calls him out for being a dick, he stops and thinks about what he’s doing and re-adjusts. Isn’t that what we WANT people to do? To see their toxic behaviors and work to change them? Demonizing people for having toxic behaviors pushed on them by society that they try to fix and change is not going to do any good in ending toxic behaviors.

      • Katrina

        I agree. Rhysand helps her keep away from shattering. You didn’t list all the ways that he helped her either. If you believe him to be like this, I don’t think that you have read the rest of the books in the series. He risks his life for her, and for others along the series. He dreams of peace throughout the whole land. He also attacks Amarantha, and is injured gravely in the process. When she was in the cell, she heard music coming from the vent, Rhysand playing music. This helped keep her from shattering. I definitely think that Rhysand may as well be the best person in the story that she could be with.

        • Niomee

          You know, I really like Rhys as a character and I think he is a good person after all (better a option than Tamlin, I thought after the second book) but damn, Feyre forgives his shit waaaaay too easily. Their relationship is too romantcized, as well as the discovery that he was the good guy all along. Like, ultra exagerated. If it was me, I would have forgived him after some time, sure, but I wouldn’t have chosen him over Tamlin. Just because stay single is ALWAYS an option (even though Sarah and many other YA authors make it seem it isn’t).

        • Jennifer

          Yeah, he once supposedly kept her from shattering by licking her face and smirking at her disgust. Another way was presumably by keeping her drugged. Every single time he uses her, there’s some pathetic excuse.

      • Grace

        EXACTLY KATY!!!
        GIRLS, you have to READ THE SECOND BOOK. You’re make a big deal about this. I mean that don’t exist excuses for sexual violence but You are SO WRONG ABOUT RHYS. You really needs the 2 BOOK.

        • Jennifer

          If you see Maas as the best feminist author, you know very few or very poor ones. Feminists do not laugh off or smirk at insulting actions from men, nor do they huff and puff about being angry and then fail to actually do anything. If you want further proof of her failure to be feminist, read Nesta’s book and how she’s treated by another male infringing on her space and Rhy’s inner circle treating her like garbage.

      • Vanessa

        Rhys could still have given Feyre the choice of becoming drunk every night. He didn’t have to dress her in a “napkin” and have whole body painted in his courts insignia without her consent. He took away her self determination. If someone did this to me even they thought it was in my best interests it would be unforgivable

      • He could’ve asked her before drugging her if that was his intention. He could’ve done a lot of things differently so it wasn’t sexually assaulting feyre

      • Nora

        Hey you need to put a spoiler warning for ACOMAF on this comment please! It just revealed a huge spoiler for me about Book 2 (Feyre and Rhysand are mated?? ?), which is super frustrating cause this post is supposed to be spoiler free for people who’ve read book 1 but not the others. People who want to discuss the events of the first book, who don’t know the events of later books.

      • Hailey

        All this. The second book addresses EVERY instance of sexual assault, abuse, and the controlling factor. Rhysand’s behavior in the first book is never justified.

    • Cerys

      Actually, you don’t need to worry about book 2, because his actions are explained – basically most of what you see of him in book 1 is an act!

    • Mattea

      Okay I’m leaving this as a collective reply to all of the anti-rhysand comments. Rhysand DID NOT want to hurt feyre. He says so in every other book. Further on he explains what he did was an act to keep feyre alive. After all, sexually abused is much better than death, dont you think? He didn’t want another person to be traumatized. He picked her tears to bring her back- rage is a much better feeling than nothing at all. He drugged her so she wouldn’t remember the horrible nights unlike himself who stayed relatively sober to make sure no one basically ate her alive. His not telling her his plans was to make sure she had the right reaction. He traded her health for a week of every month because he wanted to at least SEE his mate. He was okay if she hated him and loved tamlin-he could live with that. If your evil boyfriend/girlfriend was watching and controlling everything you did, you’d make them think you were on their side so they gave you more room to maneuver wouldn’t you? That’s what rhysand was doing. He hated himself after and as for consentual issues, ANY LOVE SCENE BETWEEN FEYRE AND RHYS AFTER UNDER THE MOUNTAIN ALWAYS HAS RHYS STOPPING AND ASKING FEYRE IF THIS IS WHAT SHE WANTS. You don’t really see tamlin doing that. He just takes what he wants because 1. That’s how he was raised and 2. He’s basically obsessed with feyre. “I don’t care if she’s your mate,” TAMLIN said that. He was controlling and didn’t mean to really hurt feyre except in backlash when she left him. Yes he was violent. He has the emotional control of teaspoon. At the end of the third book when feyre is begging him please, please I’ll do anything, it’s in reference to his pleas with the other high lords at the end of the first book.

      • Jennifer Corry

        “Rhysand DID NOT want to hurt feyre. He says so in every other book.”

        So does every abuser who wants to keep whoever they’re abusing around.

      • Jennifer Corry

        “After all, sexually abused is much better than death, dont you think?”

        Wow..I have no words for you. I hope no abuse victim ever turns to you for help.

    • Maya Sarram

      Don’t be. It’s amazing in my opinion. You will soon step into the light and forget that Tamlin was ever a thing.

  2. Tiff, I think that you are right to point this out. If it makes you feel creepy when you read it, then it's making you feel creepy for a reason. I love SJM's work with the TOG series and how she develops stron, independent and smart female protagonists; from what I've heard (because I've not yet finished the book) Feyre is also a strong character in her own way. What concerns me are the same things that concern you – that consent is fluid, that ulterior motives are used to justify actions and that the Bad Boy is sometimes Bad for a reason, yet people still 'ship those pairings. I'm really into the storyline – she's an exceptional writer – but like you, I'm having trouble connecting with Tamlin and Rhysand for exactly the same reasons. Thanks for being forthright enough to put your concerns out there.

    • The storyline is good and I think SJM has done a superb job of remaking Beauty and the Beast into this story, but there are lines being crossed here. And I think the thing I'm struggling with is whether it's the author's job to portray things a certain way. I don't want to censor authors, but I think there's some kind of responsibility or at least awareness that has to be acknowledged in writing something for teens that is so obviously abusive and implicitly condoning it. I'm not sure where that line should be drawn, but obviously this book crossed the line for me.

      Thanks for your support. I think this is a bigger issue than just one book, and that the Bad Boy issue does need to be addressed in a more serious way than it has.

      • Mika

        I have to agree with the issues in the first book. So many things there rubbed me the wrong way, mainly both Feyre’s lack of independence and the general dismissal of consent in the whole book between Tamlin & Feyre AND Rhys & Feyre. I was so close to not reading the second book just because of how messed up acotar was.

        I don’t want to be that person saying “just read the second book, it explains everything” because you can’t just wave away what happened in the first book. At the same time, I have to hand it to SJM for making a very good recovery in the second book that actually showed how her relationship with Tamlin was toxic and not consentual at all, and ended up having long-term negative effects on her health. She also did a rather good job with Rhys and Feyre given the circumstances, and I would suggest reading the second book if only so that you can judge for yourself how the various relationships develop without being influenced solely by what you hear from others.

        Also I’d like to point out that Rhys is very much not a bad boy at heart. He does some pretty awful stuff but never gives flimsy excuses for his behavior, and genuinely struggles with what he had to do under Amarantha (both literally and figuratively).

  3. I have to play devil's advocate on this one.

    I didn't see any of it as sexual abuse. Maas writes such strong female characters that I think she went through great lengths to ensure that it wasn't abuse.

    ACOTAR is told in first person so the reader knows exactly how the protagonist is feeling and they are thinking. It's evident that Feyra likes Tamilin. For the Tamlin scene, Feyra says that "she wasn't entirely sure she wanted to." She's talking about escaping Tamlin's advances. As a reader, I read that as she wasn't sure she wanted to escape because she didn't want to fall for him. I didn't see that as she wanted to escape a possible sexual assault.

    As for Rhys, he was forced to be there and he knew the consequences of non-compliancy. I think he drugged her so that she didn't have to be aware of what was happening. He treated her like an object because if he didn't, they would both be killed or severely injured. As we already know, Feyra can be quite obstinate. If she had have been in on it, not only would the story have suffered, but she would have done something to jeopardize everyone's life.

    I abhor sexual abuse in life or literature but I just didn't see this novel as abusive to women.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dawn – I really appreciate it because I've been eager to discuss with someone who didn't read these passages as abuse.

      Yes, Feyre likes Tamlin, but in the instance where he is biting her neck, I read that she liked the roughness of what he was doing. However, to me, no means no means no. I can't emphasize that enough. She asked him to let go and he explicitly did not. I feel like even if you read the "not wanting to escape" as her not wanting to fall for him, this still applies.

      For Rhys, you've tapped into what I feel is the exact problem with his character and with Bad Boys in general – that our society likes Bad Boys because they're actually good guys who are either doing things for other, more noble purposes, or because we want women to redeem Bad Boys. The book does not tell us that he was forced to be there – in Feyre's eyes, he wanted to be Amarantha's Whore and he sold out his territory. And yet, Feyre continues to be both repulsed and drawn to him, and doesn't even see it as a true violation when he drugs her. You say that he did this to save her, but there was no indication that Rhys was trying to do that when he licked her cheek or drugged her or kissed her. The problem is that when you get to his "real" reasons for doing this, to me, it just seems like manipulation without real cause. If he had told her, they could have worked it out together. And yeah, maybe the story would have suffered, but frankly, that's my entire point: that using sexual abuse and violence as a plot point in order to make the Bad Boy seem more bad so that he can later be redeemed is a pretty poor way to plot a story.

      • Katie

        RHYSAND AND FEYRE ARE MATES!!! OF COURSE FEYRE IS ATTRACTED TO HIM!!! I hope you read the second book someday and understand what really happened.

      • Zayna

        Don’t forget that there were malevent fairies Under the Mountain that have mind reading powers like Rhysand does. If Rhysand told Feyre what he was trying to do, they both would have been killed and then the rest of the fairies Under the Mountain would have lost. And Feyre was crumpling mentally, if Rhysand didn’t do things like licking her check even though it was wrong she would have die.

        • Jennifer

          My gosh, there are actually people here defending drugging, assaulting, imprisoning, objectifying and putting one’s mouth on a woman without consent. “It was for the greater good, poor guy just HATED himself!” It’s the abuser’s manual: I knew what was best for you, I HAD to, I just hate myself. Boohoo.

            • Leah H Fox

              I completely agree with Jennifer and Misty. Even if “all is revealed” in the second book, there is no justification for the behaviors in A Court of Thorns and Roses for either male protagonist. Consent is paramount, and even in book two, these actions are unforgivable.

          • samm


            Oh. My. God. Some people just need to open up the dictionary once in a while to look up the meaning of the words they use. Damn, this is almost too funny for me. Do you know what objectifying, assaulting, imprisoning and drugging mean?

            Can you pls quote the exact lines which imply that Rhysand did all of those things you wrote above? And before that, do look up their meanings, no offense.

      • Cortney

        I think this a really interesting perspective but regarding your opinion on Rhys, I think it is important to remember that at this point Feyre doesn’t trust Rhys at all and he his attempting to manipulate her for several reasons. First, this is really a bit of a last ditch effort to free everyone from Under the Mountain (I’m not entirely sure when this comes out I read the series a while back) and he needs Feyre to accomplish what needs to be done. Second, he needs to try and keep Feyre in a place where she is able to accomplish what needs to be done here mentally and physically. A lot of his actions goes into this but suggesting that had he simply explained himself to her it would all be okay wouldn’t work because she doesn’t trust him and beyond a simple distrust of a stranger Tamlin has spoken horribly of Rhys and Rhys has appeared to her as the villain. There is no chance that she would have simply taken her word for it so Rhys was in a position where he couldn’t be forthcoming but also acted in what he believed to be her best interest.

        I also struggle to see sexual abuse here, for the above reasons and also because touching a woman’s arms and hips without a sexual intention doesn’t ring as sexual abuse to me. Such a topic is pretty subjective to the alleged victim’s perspective and I think Dawn makes a great point in that way. It’s even harder to see these as sexual abuse when Feyre herself doesn’t seem offended by them. I do think you make a great point about Bad Boys in general and the alarming acceptance it breeds for mistreatment of women. I think there are other novels that would show this more prominently, particularly the “Myth of the Omega” series which I could never recommend due to the severe abuse throughout.

        I appreciate the opportunity to discuss!

        • Leah

          Courtney, I disagree. If anyone were to touch my hips without my consent, regardless of sexual intent or not, that would be a form of sexual harassment and unacceptable. I also disagree with your comment that sexual abuse is subjective to the perception of the victim. I think many people are in emotionally or physically abusive relationships without realizing or understanding. There are so many complications of mental health issues, gaslighting, and stigma around this topic. YA books like this suggest that this is not only normal, but a good, sexy, romantic thing, which perpetuates this problem. Young women should not be led to believe that any harmful, scary or distressing actions are justifiable and “for their own good.”

          • samm

            oh my god pls, just stop. Go read the book properly first. RHYSAND NEVER TOUCHED FEYRE ON HER HIPS WITHOUT CONSENT.

            Let me quote the book itself:
            “I woke with vague shards of memories—of dancing between Rhysand’s legs as he sat in a chair and laughed; of his hands, stained blue from the places they touched on my waist, my arms, but somehow, never more than that.”

            This was Feyre’s POV in which she wonders why Rhysand had her dressed like that only to touch her hands and wasit. He never touched her beyond that. Never. Despite having a MILLION opportunities to do so.

            For all those saying he is a sexual abuser, can you then pls explain this sentence?

    • If you see in her mind that she is conflicted but on the outside she tells Tamlin no then he needs to take that at face value and back tf off. If she’s conflicted then she needs the space to figure out her feelings and then choose it for herself. This lax view on consent is “well she secretly wants it so that makes what I’m doing ok”…similar to what happens when Rhys licks her tears off her face…she’s secretly not disgusted by it cuz I can sense it so that makes what I just did ok.

      This view of “Feyre doesn’t know what’s good for her or how to navigate this land of the fae courts so I have to drug her and manipulate her/mark her as my territory with a bite/lick her face like a fucking weirdo/kiss her in front of her spring court bf/steal you from your wedding for her own good” really rustles my jimmys. Feyre has proven to be capable and very clever and should be given agency to make her own choices.

      Also, Rhysand admits that he made the bond with her out of his own selfishness. He wants to exert this bond over her because even though she loves tamlin he still feels like he is owed her life because she’s his mate. He later says he would’ve left her with him if that’s what made her happy and he doesn’t exert his power over this bond until the wedding where she was losing her marbles but she really wasn’t given a choice. She had two choices, let her infected arm kill her, or take the deal and live. That’s not much of a choice. Even when he “rescues her” this is another instance of “I didnt ask you to do this but it’s ok that you did because you know better and it’s for my own good”. She throws her shoe at him and is visibly upset. It’s hard to extricate yourself from an abusive situation like the one she had with Tamlin but it should have been her choice.

      These are thoughts I’ve been recently having after having read and loved the series for a couple years now but this itch is one I can’t scratch.

      • Hailey

        AND ANOTHER THING! Correct me if I’m wrong but he never really apologizes for what he did he just makes excuses for why he did it and said his intentions weren’t to hurt her. That doesn’t sound like an apology to me it sounds like excuses for completely avoidable conflicts.

    • Jennifer

      Wow, you blame Feyre as being the more volatile and less reasonable one while simultaneously defending her narcissist abuser. All this “he had to treat her like garbage” junk is just that, junk. If he couldn’t have anyone guessing he liked Feyre, the ideal thing would be to largely IGNORE her and act disinterested, not treat her as an object of all the stupid ideas; the fact that Maas framed things this way and REALLY worked up the sexual objectification is unreal in and of itself.

      “Maas writes such strong female characters that I think she went through great lengths to ensure that it wasn’t abuse”

      Noo, she went to great lengths to justify it, and possibly to paint Feyre as some irrational female who didn’t know what was actually good for her so he HAD to mistreat her and lie; my God, it’s an abuser’s manual. What kills me is that Maas clearly knows how people react in trauma and how narcissist’s abuse logic and relationships; she just has no idea how we should DEAL with it.

  4. This is very interesting for me because this is the second post I've read in a row that places ACOTAR in with Young Adult books. Before the other post about ten minutes ago, all the reviews and discussions I've read have placed ACOTAR in with the New Adult group, which is for a (slightly) more mature age bracket than Young Adult, but it would mean that the intended audience for this book is not as impressionable as the teen group. I think that's worth mentioning since you discuss the effect of the "Bad Boy" on teens.
    Other than that detail, I also did not read the scenes as abuse; for me, Feyre's 1st person POV thinking "yes" was a larger influence on me than her saying "no". I know in life we don't have that luxury of reading people's thoughts, but I liked that it upped the tension in the book, at least for me!

    • Ada

      Her thinking ‘almost yes’, but saying ‘no’ is even worse – it perpetuates the idea that all victims secretly want the abuse, but say ‘no’ to be coy. Also, he was not in her head, he should back off after hearing ‘no’.

  5. Kayla Arnold

    I hate Rhysand too! I can’t consider it a love triangle sort of thing when Rhysand shouldn’t even be an option- and I know it will be developed in the future books :/ I’ve read quite a few reviews on ACOTAR and it was nice to see one that was a bit more critical of certain issues like these.

  6. I am in 100% agreement about Rhys. I didn’t like him, and hate how he justified his terrible actions. Tam’s part didn’t bother me. I know the scene, but for me, I feel like Feyre was exactly where she wanted to be. I know that I have been in a fight with someone I loved before, and they had me by the shoulders trying to talk to me. I was angry and told them to just let me go, but inside I was thankful that they just held on to me. Actions speak louder than words, and in that scene with Tam, Feyre didn’t want him to let her go, as angry as she was. But like I said, Rhysand’s actions were revolting and I absolutely agree that he was abusive and manipulative and far too aggressive, and it very well could have ended with him raping her. I hate his character, and I don’t like to see people like him excused for their crimes, as he very well was. I am very curious to see how Sarah J. Maas handles his character in the next book. If Feyre starts to fall for him, I will have to be done with this series, because all of the tremendous love I have for it will be ruined by it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jaime Lynn – I think you make a good point that Feyre was where she wanted to be. I agree with you – it’s difficult for me to be okay with it, but I think you’re right. With Rhys, I felt sure that she didn’t want to be with him at any time, and even their deal during the first challenge was disgusting to me.

      I’m also curious to see what will happen in book two. I’m not convinced that I’m going to read it, but I might have to because I need to know…

  7. Jennifer T

    I remember reading your review before reading the novel. Your points are totally valid though maybe lot of the readers see it as “well Rhysand isn’t human, so he has obviously other moral views than human”, I liked him but I see him as a tainted character, not one who is actually a kind character just hiding his honest heart.

  8. See, this is a hard one for me. I felt this way when I read Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. I felt guilty for reading something that was so obviously a dysfunctional relationship, especially when my own sister had dealt with those types in the past. But then I got over it thinking that it is fiction. I read lots of stories by Stephen King, doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and kill people or any of that. Or that I expect everyone out there to be like that. I read a lot of VC Andrews when I was in middle school, like Flowers in the Attic. Doesn’t mean I developed a crush on my brother.

    I look at fiction as an escape from real life. To go to a world that is not real, and be a part of it in a safe way. Things I would never do or want to do in real life. However I also realize that not everyone is like me, and so there may be some people who feel that this then is the type of relationship they want or that is okay. So I feel like it is good thing to think about it. Thanks for the discussion!

  9. Nicole Wetherington

    I really enjoyed the book! I don’t tend to over analyze everything and find I enjoy reading much more! Abuse and afterwards the woman still being interested in the man is a thing that happens in real life and I don’t object to that being in stories. I would like to see where Sarah Maas takes it in the next book!

  10. Sarah Cone

    I’m almost speechless. *Almost. Wow. I guess I should start with the fact that I haven’t read any books in this series but had planned to. My initial reaction, as a mother to 3 girls who love to read ( and one boy that loves to read but wouldn’t read this book anyway), I would never let this book in my house. What horrible examples to set of what we as females should allow or think of as OK or acceptable behavior. MAMA BEAR IS MAD, y’all! Grrr!!
    That said, the logical part of me says that it’s worth reading if the story is good and will lead to an important discussion and/or life lesson that I can use as a teaching moment. It reminds me of the Twilight book (I can’t remember which one) where Bella purposefully commits dangerous & life threatening acts just to see a vision of Edward. Just as I discussed with my daughter’s then that it is never acceptable to have to do these things to get a guy’s attention or “see” him, in this case, would be what behavior of the guy that is not acceptable/legal or moral and how it can lead to even more extreme violent situations. Sexual aggression should never be made to seem as if it’s good,positive or acceptable in any way,imo.
    At this point, so soon after learning of these happenings in the book, I’m not sure if I’ll read it or allow my daughters to read it but I really appreciate the heads-up as I had not heard this information from any other reviews that I’ve read.

    • sam

      hey @sarag cone

      I would strongly recommend reading the actual story first instead of just judging the book based on a review of any other person. Thousands of people loved this book. Rhysand is not a sexual abuser. He isn’t.

      I’ve read the books and have proof that he isn’t a rapist(I’ve already made a comment above) Being an adult and having 3 younger sisters myself, I am very careful of what they should and shouldn’t read. Books like the Bridgerton series(which the writer of this blog- Tiff, loves despite having a very clearly specified rape scene) shouldn’t be read by very young audiences. However, it is okay for someone who is 16+ to read the acotar series. It shouldn’t be read by people below 16 not because the male lead Rhysand is a rapist, but because the book has sex scenes in it.

  11. Kaitlyn

    This is going to sound strange, but I actually am intrigued by the idea of Feyre and Rhys together. Tamlin, as stated, seem so overwhelming for her by making her seem as though weaker force, but did you notice on how and why Rhys was making her doing the things she did? Pay attention and suddenly you realize. He made her drink until she got drunk so she wouldn’t remember what Amarantha (sp?) had her do that night, painted her up so the queen wouldn’t cause her to go back and do something even more disgraceful etc. Made her kiss him to save both Tamlin and Feyre from the wrath of the queen finding out they had been together. And so much more! I feel as though Rhysand was saving Feyre in his own way, doing the least possible to please the queen so Feyre wouldn’t be harmes in any way. Does that make sense? Tell me what you think:)

    • Kaitlyn

      But I do agree that he was doing it for his own intentions, rather than for her without regards for her own body etc.

    • sam

      Yes, I agree with your take on this book. Atlough I do wish things could have occurred in a different manner Under the Mountain, but then, there wasn’t the option of choosing. Any single one of Amarantha’s victim had absolutely no control over their lives or the lives of their families. Rhysand did what he had to. His main motive in mind was getting everyone freed of Amarantha, escaping from Under the Mountain, getting back to his people(to protect whom he had whored for the Queen) and re-uniting with his family after 50 years of being a captive slave.
      He explicitly states that he didn’t like the things he had to do to escape from Under the Mountain.

      But hey fellow reader, I don’t think we can help people with a fixed mindset in believing what he did was necessary and that his actions were not that of a sexual abuser. But I just needed to put out these comments, because I WOULD NEVER KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT IF SOMEONE WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED. I STAND AGAINST RAPE, LIKE EVERYONE SHOULD. RAPE CAN NEVER BE JUSTIFIED. NO. MATTER. WHAT. CONSENT IS IMPORTANT.

      But, this wasn’t sexual assault. This was hands on the hips, and if someone consider that sexual assault, then I’d be more than happy to tell you SEVERAL YA/NA BOOKS THAT GO WORSE THAN THIS BUT ARE IGNORED BY SO MANY BECAUSE THE WORDS ARE SO CLEVERLY SUGAR-COATED THAT THE MAJORITY OF THE READERS NEVER NOTICE. There are so many popular books with huge fanbases which actually have issues relating to consent, but which are stupidly ignored by some. Thank-you.

      • You do realize that men stating that because they were abused gives them the right to do terrible things is the oldest narcissist abuser trick in the book? There literally was no reason for Rhysand’s behavior to Feyre. He even admitted later in the books that he used the tattoo to spy on her naked. When Edward gets docked for stalking Bella, it’s somehow acceptable for Rhysand to use the tattoo he literally forced on Feyre and gaslighted her and called her stupid into accepting to watch her naked is somehow okay???

        Oh and a man stating “oh I didn’t like the things I did” is also narcisstic abuser speech. It’s not taking responsibility. It’s not an apology. It’s not empathizing with the victim. It’s literally a way to manipulate a victim into feeling sorry for the abuser. Which is what Rhysand does throughout the sequel when he’s actually in power. “Oh I thought we were over what happened Under the Mountain” when Feyre confronted him. So he literally makes light of her pain that he was responsible for and had no reason to.

        Rhysand mansplains in a ten page monologue about how he didn’t have to respect Feyre and how he did terrible things to her because “I love you” and”I was jealous”. Not because there was any rational reason.

        Feyre wasn’t even a target to Amarantha. Amarantha shoved her in a dungeon. Rhysand actually made Feyre more of a target. Amarantha believed Claire Beddor was Tamlins true love. So Rhysand had no reason to use her as a sexual pawn. And using her sexually to make Tamlin jealous is actually turning her into a pawn of war. It was a mind game. And it made no sense.

        What was even worse was that Feyre was even more triggered in Rhysand’s own Court of Nightmares and she dissociated and became someone else (which is a trauma response btw). And he did this in front of a bunch of rapists and abusers which sets a really great example as a high lord. What was even worse was how he didn’t apologize to sexually objectifying her in his own court. He played the “woe is me. Everyone will see me as a bad guy and this is my mask”. But again, makes no sense because everyone was afraid of him, it’s his own court, he had all the power. And making a woman whom he has literally just sexually objectified not to mention chronically lied to for months and you know sexually harassed feel like the bad one and negating her emotions is classic narcissistic abuser methods. I’m a trained anti abuse advocate and I could see these patterns from a mile away. And Feyre fell for them. Which was frankly easy because she had horrible self esteem and was an extremely self degrading character. Which is also standard for literally every SJM woman while the men are toxic and egotistical and not respectful of women’s struggles or emotions but expect them to just bend over and be their hypersexualized power women who will love and adore them.

        Hint: that’s not feminism. It’s internalized misogyny. When women feel the need to dis themselves and praise men and credit them for their healing and power, that’s not feminism. It’s an abuser grooming them into submission. And Feyre becomes the perfect trophy wife.

        • sam

          First of all, Rhysand never says in the book that just because he was a victim of abuse, it justified him abusing other people(he never did “abuse” Feyre btw). Get your facts straight. SJM literally never wrote or portrayed it like that. It was just a fact that Rhysand was raped by Amarantha several times over the course of 50 years. Being a victim of abuse never justifies abusing other people. I think everyone sane agrees on that. But Rhysand never abuses Feyre.

          And excuse me? Are you kidding me? Rhysand spying on Feyre naked literally never happened. Never. As someone who as read the books several times, I can confirm that this is non-existent. Go re-read if you want to confirm this smh.

          About the tattoo: Now I do highly suggest you re-read the book/s so that you get your facts right. You do remember that the tattoo he forced on her served as a protection against the monsters lurking under the mountain, right? It was a way for him to check if Feyre was safe or not in a place where she could literally be killed at any given moment. That tattoo was the Night Court Tattoo, which marks the bearer as being under the protection of the High Lord of the Night Court. It tells anyone that if you mess with this person, you mess with the High Lord of the Night Court.

          And I think you also forget that it was the same tattoo that made it possible for Feyre to survive her second task. It was the same tattoo he forced upon her that helped her survive. Lucien and Feyre would be dead if it weren’t for Rhys helping her during the second task. He then emotionally supported her when she had completed the second task and was about to completely and devastatingly break down.

          And wow, you’ve really got to be joking now. Amarantha USED TO(emphasis on used to) think Clare Beddor was Tamlin’s love but when Feyre showed up and claimed her undying love for Tamlin, Amarantha then and there knew that Feyre was actually Tamlin’s partner and that Rhysand had tricked her by pretending to be oblivious/unobservant about the identity of Tamlin’s real lover. This was something Rhysand was actually punished for by Amarantha(She sexually abused him again that night).

          So yes, Feyre WAS a major target for Amarantha.

          About their Court of Nightmares visit: Rhysand didn’t want Feyre to go to the Court of NIghtmares. He denied that she go because it was a very horrible place full of like you said- abusers and rapists. But Feyre wanted to go and help them out in any way possible. It was HER choice to go there. Not his. He didn’t force her. Quite the contrary. She was the one who insisted on going and then she didn’t dissociate with her true self.

          As someone who is majoring in psychology and has been studying the subject for quite a long time, don’t throw words like that around. It irritates me to see people use terms like dissociation without actually knowing what it truly is. Feyre did not have DID(Dissociative Identity Disorder), nor did she dissociate from her true self.

          She, being a fully grown adult, who is responsible for her own choices, decided to go to that place, decided to be portrayed as Rhysand’s plaything, decided that she had no problems whatsoever with it. She enjoyed herself sexually. She actually said to Rhys “Why’d you stop?” implying that she was loving what he was doing.

          So please, if Feyre did not have any problems in being sexually objectified, neither should you. She was consenting to the whole situation.

          Yes, I agree, Feyre did have horrible self esteem BUT it gradually improved by her relationship with Rhysand who constantly uplifted her emotionally and mentally.

          Ah yes, I totally needed that lesson on feminism and internalized misogyny as a feminist and someone who is quite vocally against misogyny. Also as being someone who has been a part of several protest against gender discrimination. Truly, thanks.

          Feyre did credit some of her growth and healing to Rhys, and there is nothing wrong with that. She knew and acknowledged that she was the one who had herself helped herself out of her dire situation and that Rhys was just an additional help in the process.

  12. Val

    Hey Celine! I thought your points are great. And I agree with a lot of them. The second book came out earlier this week and I decided to see if I could stomach more. *slight general plot spoiler*

    A lot of what was wrong with the first book turns out to have been intentional. I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised when those red flags we both noticed about Tamlin are addressed and *spoiler 2* two of Feyre’s friends hels her get the fuck out of the spring court.

    On Rhysand: One thing I really didn’t like was the drugging which I think was explained away pretty weakly (Amarantha is forcing him to drug and humiliate Feyre to make Tamlin feel like she’s “unfaithful” [ugh] and since she still has control over Rhysand – literally using him as a sex slave – he can’t do anything about it. I thought this reasoning was weak.

    I did think it was useful to hear a bit more of Rhysand’s perspective. I can understand him better as a character & and his motivations which surprisingly made a lot more sense to me. I guess I kind of forgot that Feyre spends maybe 7 minutes actually alone with Rhysand and her perspective (the only one we get) is understandably colored by his heinous public persona which is an act he uses (to protect himself, his court, and Feyre) from Amarantha.

    All in all, I think you’d like the second book far better than the first. A lot of those creepy and wrong messages are have the spotlight shone on them. I think it might be eye opening for a lot of readers who accepted Tamlin and Rhysand’s behavior. Trust me, in book 2 Maas makes it clear the disrubing and manipulative behavior both men exibit is just that. She draws clear parallels between the love interests sexual coersion and Amarantha which I liked. She makes it clearer that these issues were hints at Tamlin and Rhysand’s characters. I think she wanted to give the abuse the amount of writing it deserved and there wasn’t a place to address all of it in the first book.

    I hope you give book 2 a chance. I think the author was playing the long game here

  13. Hey, Tiff! I am finally able to read your review! I finished reading ACoTaR and now halfway through ACoMaF so I think it is safe to read this!

    I agree with you. Although it didn’t really bother me personally as much as it should since I am looking at this through grown-up lenses and totally know that this is all fiction BUT I also realize that this is read by impressionable teens and violence/abuse is NOT OKAY. So yes, this book and others like it may be sending a message – and not a good one. I remember Twilight and Fifty Shades when I think of books not sending the right message. *sigh

    Although I enjoyed this book, I definitely had problems with this. I know that this is slated for a much older audience but my jaw just dropped when I read the sexuality and abuse in this book. I am also not going to touch on ACoMaF because THAT gets more sexual, too. I get that some of the things that happened here was forced on by Amarantha but with Tamlin NOT doing ANYTHING about it just made me scream in anger! Obvs I am hating that the initial couple here is going to be for naught because in the second book, Tamlin just gets more controlling and abusive. Which actually made me think that Feyre’s sacrifice WAS USELESS!

    I actually love bad boys and alpha males in general because that is what I’m used to reading (historical romance yo!) BUT I draw the line to abuse: physical, sexual, or mental, etc. Maybe I should rephrase my statement. I love reformed bad boys. It’s the redeeming that I absolutely love to read, with their anger and alpha natures not really directed to the heroine.

    I am sloooowwly plodding through ACoMaF because it’s slowly starting to feel too much for me….

  14. Bazza Hazzason

    yo so if you read ACOMAF then read ACOTAR , you’ll notice the abusive patterns of Tamlin, that ‘sexy wall scene’ was anything but, Feyre told him to back off yet he didn’t. Even under the mountain, Rhys gave Tamlin a chance to free Feyre but he used that chance to have sex instead of doing something useful. So plot twist and spoiler alert it turns out Rhys and Feyre are mates, but Feyre didnt know it, only Rhys did, under the mountain he drugged her to make her forget about the horrors. When Feyre is about to marry Tamlin at the start of ACOMAF she freaks out because Tamlin and Ianthe are suffocating her, not giving her freedom. So at that time Feyre was pleading in her mind screaming for someone to help, and through the mating bond Rhys heard and saved her taking her to the night court for a week where she learnt to read and make mental shields to block Rhys’ power. When she returned Tamlin again cut off her freedom, until he locked her in the manor. Feyre scared shitless of not being able to escape that the walls were closing in, freaked out. Rhys sent his cousin Mor to rescue Feyre and she came back to the night court she was skinnier than before and pale. She decided to stay with Rhys in the night court and when she had the chance to return to the spring court she stayed with Rhys. Then she found out they were mates and everything he did was in order to protect her from under the mountain, she accepted the mating bond and ladadadada shes in love with Rhys and feels nothing for Tamlin.

      • Emily Shore

        Giving you two thumbs up. Because you’re absolutely right. Fall for your abuser romances are never okay. And if an author has to make one love interest seem like the “monster” to prop up another love interest who was also a monster, it’s like um noooo Feyre just ditch both these fools and move on

  15. Carrie

    Rhysand’s ‘bad boy’ behavior is actually explained in the 2nd book. He’s trying to protect his court from evil by convincing the world that it’s a crap hole not worth attacking. His home means everything to him, so he becomes a different person to fit the part of the despicable lord to a despicable place.

  16. I haven’t read the book but I also noticed something similar to this in Sarah j mass’s heir of fire where one of the characters rowan bites celaena when they have some kind of altercation. And during the times they were together he treated her like shit. I never liked the guy and it annoys me that they are portrayed as a perfect couple. The author seems to have a thing for all this primal rubbish and scars as well. It’s disturbing.

    • Ella

      If I remember correctly the altercation was that they were being chased by supernatural beings that were going to brutally murder them and they would have been caught because Aelin was in her human form and he had to do something to provoke her to shift so they can outrun them

      And as to treating her like shit, you have to be a liar ti say that you didn’t meet someone and you immediately go I don’t like them and having preconceived notions of them and so you treat them like shit and usually with the help of someone to *figuratively* pull your head out of your arse)and you get to know them and find they’re not all bad and become friends with them

  17. Ella


    • Thalia

      THANK. YOU. This is one HUUUGE thing that people have been glossing over. As Rhys was “Amarantha’s whore”, he was constantly tested for his loyalty to Amarantha. If anyone had found out that Feyre was sided with Rhys, that would mean that Rhys would be against Amarantha and like you said, they would all die. So Rhys had to do terrible, terrible things in order to make Feyre hate him and make sure she had no thoughts of associating with him.

      • Yes, and you think those terrible things were justified? Even with the “long game” that people keep telling me about, I don’t believe that drugging a person and then potentially raping or hurting her counts as protecting her.

        • thalia

          No. This is NOT justified. You’re reading into this wrong. A good choice does not undo a bad. What I’m saying is what Rhys did was NECESSARY. Rhys was choosing what would ensure the survival of the people Under the Mountain, and choosing what would NOT doom Feyre. Again, I am not saying that Rhys was justified. I am saying what he did was choosing the lesser of two evils. And also, it was never said that Rhys was going to rape her.

    • sam


  18. I came across this post when I was doing some (more) research for my thesis and I’m so pleased someone else is addressing this issue. The fandom is VERY quick to defend Rhysand’s actions which is so sickening. SJM herself said that “What’s fun about creating this faerie world, is that I kinda get to do what I want with it.” And she did this. She built this entire fantasy world and relied on a very realistic and (for some people) triggering situation that is oft too reminiscent of what happens in day-to-day life. On a much baser level, it just comes across as lazy writing.
    If Rhys were a real human in real life, and his appeal was that he had a tough childhood, or that he wanted her to be blissfully ignorant of her current situation, no jury/media/person, would stand for that, and the fact that so many people do in this series is sickening to me.
    Thank you, thank you, for this awesome post.

  19. Anne Hartung

    This is really interesting, and something I’ve been thinking about since I finished the book yesterday. (note: I have not yet read ACOMAF)
    I did not feel the romance between Feyre and Tamlin, at all, and like you pointed out, found the biting scene confusing and kind of abusive.
    As for Rhysand, I’m torn. He intrigues me. Maybe it’s because the Bad Boy trope is a quilty pleasure of mine, or just that every scene with Rhysand is meant to disorient you, as Feyre is experiencing a lot of mixed feelings about the High Lord.
    As I read the late night visits from Rhys, I was intrigued with Rhysand. He felt like a misunderstood and extremely sad character, but still had the occasional moments of superiority. And this is also why I have such mixed feelings about him.
    The drugging and licking of Feyre’s cheeks sat bad with me. I was left with a bad taste in my mouth, to the point where I was sure I absolutely did not like Rhysand. But then again and again there would be subtle indications of someone else – almost like he had this facade that I really didn’t like, but still, the drugging is not something I’m likely to forget.
    Moving on. The kissing scene with Feyre was actually something that I really liked. I did not view it as abusive or an act of sexual assault, but more as a means to protect all of them. The instant his head jerked to the door, I was reminded of a scene in Captain America, where Steve Rogers and Natasja Romanov kisses in public – with Natasja being the one initiating the kiss – to avoid being caught by HYDRA agents. And I think this is the point where I – again – began to have mixed feelings about Rhysand.
    To me, a lot of what Rhysand did, he did to save his own skin, and not with an ulterior motive of assaulting Feyre (even though the comment he threw at her about having her if he willed it left me nauseated)
    I hope ACOMAF will be able to clear up some of my feelings about Rhysand, but for now I shall see this story as my guilty pleasure reading, BECAUSE there are problematics of abuse and sexual assault that I myself simply cannot decide how I feel about.
    I hope this all made sense.

  20. Evie

    I’m glad someone said it. Does it really matter why he did it? It shouldn’t. This is why I had to stop after book 1. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences, and it’s impossible to read this sort of thing for entertainment.

  21. I think to understand the ACOTAR series properly you have to go back to the source material in Beauty and the Beast there are 2 love interests for Belle – The beast who is eventually falls in love with and Gaston – who is despised. But we have to remember that Belle spends most of the movie terrified of the beast and its only towards the end that she begins to see the real “beast”, and I thinks its the same with Rhysland she is frightened of him at times but she never fears for her life and eventually she comes to understand and love him. While the way SJM went about it is slightly questionable in the overall context of the series Tamlin and Rhysland’s action ARE JUSTIFIED.

  22. And as someone who has dealt with sexual assualt and rape in real life this doesn’t even come close if anything it is a relationship where the balance of power between partners is constantly shifting causing tension and anger between the pair but neither oversteps any boundaries set by the other

      • jodie cook

        If you have read the series then you would know it does. That behaviour Rhys explains later. Personally if I had to chose between enduring that or possible death I’d take that any day. Feyre herself even understands later that his actions were necessary and she justifies them by telling him he basically did the right thing.

        • Jennifer Corry

          That’s because she’s the classic brainwashed victim who never challenges the toxic male who drugged, marked, spied on her and assaulted her. Pure BS.

          • Leah

            Gaslighting is the term you are looking for here. I completely agree with you Jennifer. This book deals with more than just physical forms of abuse, though those are more obvious. There is also a layer of emotional abuse and psychological maltreatment of the protagonist that are hugely problematic.

  23. Jamie

    Neither character is perfect (nor Feyre herself actually). While reading ACOTAR, there are moments of discomfort and dislike for both male leads. By saying that the characters should have behaved better, you rob readers of a chance to see different forms of abuse and learn from them. Both characters don’t behave in a 100% completely ethical way, in the same way that people don’t behave in a completely ethical way.

    Tamlin bits her, and his excuse is that he’s under a spell/ he really wants her – Feyre as a character is both upset but also aroused. You can see there the start of how many abusive relationships are formed, and (spoilers) in ACOMAF, she deals with more of the consequences of this relationship that felt light and airy, but has this underlying tension of abuse and an disregard of what Feyre wants.

    Similarly, under the mountain, Rhys also doesn’t treat her with the respect she deserves (both men often keep her in the dark about the ongoings of what’s happening). His intentions seem apparent in ACOTAR – he’s trying to maintain his mask, give her an ally, and also subtly stand up to Amarantha. That doesn’t justify his behavior, and it isn’t meant to. It’s meant to demonstrate that people are complex and make complex choices in difficult circumstances. He’s doing what he thinks is the best for everyone’s survival (not just his, not just Feyres – his repeated mercy towards other characters in ACOTAR is indication of that), and although he’s not in the right, if you spend more time trying to understand his motivations you can see how he sees several bad choices and picks the option that seem the best to him. You may not agree with what he chose and in a similar situation you may have behaved differently, but that’s the point of seeing characters in these types of situations – it helps you understand your personal gage of right and wrong.

    It is also very irresponsible for you to say that Rhys would have raped her. Based on the circumstances, it’s an unfair conclusion that’s not substantiated. Throughout ACOTAR, Rhys had ample opportunity to rape her if that was his intention – she was drugged every night and she wouldn’t have known. The reason for the paint all over her body is so that the next morning, Feyre can clearly see that no one has touched her. You see in ACOTAR how Rhys himself is torn apart by the sexual abuse that he experiences, and to accuse him of planning to inflict that same sexual abuse on someone else even when he takes steps to ensure it’s clear that he won’t is careless of you.

    • Jennifer Corry

      He’s exactly like the pathetic Christian Gray: abused in the past so it’s boohoo for him, and we should all ignore how he’s abusing someone else now.

  24. Jane

    I definitely agree.

    This was my first SJM book and I had already heard her books could be problematic, but the Rhys stuff just grossed me out so badly. I personally don’t care much for her writing and then the last third of the book was just too much. The fact that ‘grabbing someone by the pussy’ doesn’t stop them from winning an election demonstrates how far people are willing to go to excuse this kind of behavior.

    I hate that Rhys and his past is played up for melodrama. He’s ‘troubled’ and a ‘bad boy’ and has his own history of abuse, which leads a lot of people to excuse those actions. No matter his intentions, everything he did was SO gross and terrible.

    I’m really glad you are calling it out. I am 1000% in agreement with you – the fact that we do call out Twilight, 50 Shades, and GoT means we definitely shouldn’t ignore what happens elsewhere, whether we like it or not, or whether or not it’s super popular.

  25. Dev

    When I read ACOTAR, I remember instantly liking it because Feyre is introduced as a hunteress. I really liked the way SJM showed us the dysfunctional family in poverty. I remember hating Nesta, pitying Elain and admiring Feyre. Then the romantic plot kicked in and i still continued reading it, because the writing seemed good and the pace was interesting.

    I expected it to be a lot like other extremely popular YA novels in which abuse and lack of consent is made romantic, and I remember getting to those scenes between Tamlin and Feyre and getting kind of disappointed by the fact that this well written book to had a unrealistic romance. I really didn’t feel like Tamlin and Feyre would make a good couple, the romance felt forced and personally it felt like Lucian would have been a better choice for Feyre.
    In the first book, I didn’t know what to make of Rhysand. He felt like a very extra character. Important enough, but does he really require that much of a “screentime”? (Spoilers, the same way I felt about Jurian in the beginning of the third book)

    After I read the second book, everything suddenly made sense. I was so pleasantly surprised that everything that felt wrong in the first book was pointed out and exposed. I went in with low expectations and curiosity on how SJM could continue where it left off as the first book had a “happy ending”. We got to see Tamlin in war time vs Tamlin in time of peace, Feyre as human vs Feyre as a powerful fae and those things seemed very realistic and legitimate, not forced like a lot of things felt in the first book. It’s fun comparing the behaviours of various characters after “happily ever after”.

    ( Tamlin during book1 : I let Lucian talk to me like that because I enforce no statuses in my court and expect him to call out on my bullshit.

    Tamlin during book2: Okay, now that everything is back to normal, know your place Lucian.

    Meanwhile Rhys : I like to think that my Illyrian-brothers-from-other-mothers and I can handle anything but truth be told no one can help us from my cousin sister and I’m literally terrified of my second-in-command. )

    I started appreciating Rhys’ character more as I learned of his reasons. I know that sounds like a bullshit excuse to the people who has not read it, but I’m not going to spoil it for you, you’re gonna have to read the book.
    I really liked the characterisation of Nesta through the first and the second book and strangely enough, I kind of started to respect her. Elain too, she reminds me of a kind of person Azriel would have been if he was born in different circumstances. Maybe that’s why they get along so well.
    SJM plays a long game, but in the end it seems worth it. (I actually didn’t like the TOG series as well as I liked the ACOMAF series, but more on that later )

    The first book seems like a net to fish for people who like that sort of books (Twillight, 50 shades) and the second book shows them how such concepts are wrong and dangerous.

    Once you read the second book, the first one seems like a prequel. I can’t even begin to tell how much I love Cassian, Azriel, Mor, Nesta, Elain and Amren. The inner circle is precious and must be protected at all costs, Rhysand seems to think so too, no wonder he did what he did. Obviously what he did was selfish, but I think as the High Lord of Night Court, wanting to protect his court at all cost can be justified.

    Rhysand relationship between him and Feyre is anything but abusive. Honestly that’s the last thing from it. You’ll understand when you read the book. Being mates surprisingly is not the reason their relationship works out (See: Rhysand’s parents), it’s because they were friends first and lovers later, and honestly that’s the kind of relationship we all wish to have.

    And as for the most controversial topic, Rhysand isn’t actually a Bad Boy at all, he seems more like ‘call mom every friday and smile at little children’. Looking back, this seems like such a weird statement.
    The second book isn’t perfect ( Example :The drama in Hewn City was not really necessary, it just seemed more like fan service and an excuse to get back to the Bad Boy/Bad Girl trope) that being said, its much better than the first one.

    Tldr; Give ACOMAF a shot.

      • Jennifer Corry

        Never mind, someone clarified he didn’t, an abuse survivor who knows abuser psychology extremely well and exposes the BS.

  26. Thank you Thank you for pointing this out! As a sexual abuse survivor, I was completely sickened by Rhys actions in ACOTAR. He had no right to make Feyre feel shamed and violated the way he did. I completely agree that the long game does not justify his actions. He still put her through a lot of mental turmoil thus contributing to the PTSD that she later develops. It bothers me that the fandom is so quick to explain this away, do not be nieve thinking that Rhys actions played no part in her mental instability later on. Please. I’ve been feeling so alone in this opinion because my friends that have read this series completely ship Rhys and Feyre’s relationship and I just can not get on board. As an aspiring writer, you can bet that these types of sexually abusive relationships, if present, will be seen as just that. Sexually abusive. My character’s actions will not be explained away by weak storytelling. This whole, “he had to because” excuse is disturbing. He did not have to, he could have found another way. Besides Rhys actions, I did enjoy this book overall. The retelling of the Scottish tale of Tam Lin was excellent.

  27. I found you!!! Finally someone who noticed these things in Rhysands behavior and called him out! I thought I was the only one! I loved and I mean absolutely adored Tamlin in this book. That incident on fire night did concern me but Tamlin himself would have never done it to her. He was under powerful magic and he told Feyre not to come out because of that. And even under magic he held himself back even though Feyre was clearly wanting more. He still treated her respectably. He was amazing ughhh! I was so in love with him in this book and never for a moment was for Rhysand. I’ve not read the other books yet, I’ve read that the author does a major character reverse between these two in the next book but I’m sure when I do, I’ll hate the author for ruining my Tamlin!

    • Leah

      I did wonder about the fire night incident. I didn’t find Tamlin to treat her with respect. He demanded/commanded that she stay in her room, but didn’t have the decency to explain why? Healthy relationship are built on communication and that communication builds trust. A respectable love interest would have explained why fire night would be dangerous for her, and ask that she please remain in her rooms for those reasons. She then could have made a choice. Instead, he angrily confronted her, ignored her request to let go of her, and then bit her. This is then supposed to be excusable because he is “drunk” on magic? He should still be held accountable, but when she was upset about the incident the next day, neither male showed remorse or shame, but instead turned it into a joke/her fault. Victim shaming because “we told you to stay in your room.” The emotional abuse was real, and the respect was lacking.

  28. Jeton

    I hope you have read all the books in the series.

    Yes, I can see where you are coming from, but those specific sections of the book, don’t include the whole side of things. Rhys’s actions aren’t done to humiliate, or take advantage of Feyre in any way. He is a very cunning character, and every decision that he made Under the Mountain were for the good of everyone, except Amarantha, obviously. He doesn’t drug Feyre to take advantage of her, he makes her take it because he doesn’t want her to be traumatized, and so she doesn’t mess up his plan for freeing everyone. Rhys letting Feyre know of his plans is absolute lunacy, because there were other mind readers that were loyal to Amarantha, as stated in the later books. His sensual act that he puts on in front of everyone is armor against the evils of his world. Rhys showing any kind of affection or emotion at all towards her would lead to their deaths, slow ones at that.

    And I don’t understand this talk of redemption. Redemption for what? Explaining motives behind ones actions and decisions isn’t redemption. Feyre was treated as an object, in order to save the world, literally, and she understood that. She understood all of Rhysand’s decisions that were made Under the Mountain. That isn’t redemption, that’s understanding and forgiveness. And I think readers will know that Rhys isn’t the ‘Bad Boy’, not really anyway. His heart is kind, and the sensual, suave asshole character he displays is a ploy to protect his loved ones, which is something that is repeatedly mentioned throughout the second and third book. You cannot base a character on two passages from one of the first times you see them in action. These scenes and their later explanation further develops Rhys’s character. Rhys is not a sexual harasser, and had never had any intention of taking advantage of Feyre that way at all, although it seemed that way at the time, because that was how the character viewed it without explination. And then, there is the right of a poetic license.

    But, of course we aren’t going to talk about how Rhysand almost killed Ianthe for attempted rape, and actually taking advantage of men, or how Rhysand himself was raped by Amaratha for 50 years. No, let’s just talk about how Rhysand is a ‘Bad Boy’ and doesn’t deserve happieness for keeping Feyre safe, even though the methods weren’t ideal.

    • Jennifer

      This is crappy abuser talk: I HAD to do it, someone else made me do it, I know best for you, I just hate myself. “Rhys showing any kind of affection or emotion at all towards her would lead to their deaths”

      Refraining from drugging her and parading her around would have not have been particularly affectionate actions, just humane ones.

  29. Read The Rest

    Please before you judge Rhys or SJM, read the rest of this series. Tamlin is definitely abusing her, but Ryhsand is not. He himself is actually sexually abused in this book by Amarantha. In ACOMAF, Rhysand explains that he kissed her so that Amarantha wouldn’t know that Tamlin had been trying to fuck her the first chance he got. The drugging was so that she wouldn’t have to remember the majority of her time Under the Mountain and the dress and paint were all for show. Everything that Rhys does is for his court, his family, and Feyre. He is not an abuser.

  30. N

    I beg to differ. If you wouldve read the second book which im sure you havent since youre so against rhys then you would know exactly why rhys did what he did. Tamlin is in fact the character who abuses feyre. Kindly read the FULL SERIES before raising accusations.
    Team rhys forever.

  31. sarah

    Thank you so much for this entry, I couldn’t agree with you more! I thought I was the only one having great issues with this book since I did not find any criticism on this topic yet, but fortunately, I’m actually not the only one as it seems. I have to admit that I have just finished the first book, so I have only a very, very limited perspective, so maybe it gets better in the second book and from what I have read in a few other comments, some or most actions, especially Rhysand’s, get explained in it – however, in my opinion it doesn’t change the fact that the novel is really problematic.
    Although I’m trying to be more critical of the whole bad boy trope, I have to admit that I’m still a bit of a sucker for it. In this case, I found the mysterious aura surrounding Rhysand after the first appearances very appealing and interesting, especially since I found Tamlin in this book already highly problematic as well, but that’s another story. I’m alsoa sucker for romance and happy endings, but from this view point, I would be glad if this book wouldn’t include a love story at all, at least not between Feyre and any of the other male characters.
    As I’ve already said, I haven’t read the second book, but will do so asap; maybe (and hopefully) it will clear things up, but judging from this book, I find your claims totally convincing. It bothered me tremendously how Maas raises several times the topic of sexual violence/abuse, but never really condemns it. In fact, I thought the book rather romanticised it, because both, Tamlin and Rhysand, are still presented as potential love interests as you’ve already mentioned. I wouldn’t really make a difference between Rhysand and Tamlin here; I thought Rhysand was the more problematic one in the second half of the book, and Tamlin the one in the first half.
    This brings me to Tamlin, and boy, how much he annoys me. First, as the book later reveals, he sent out his spy/guard/whatever on purpuose (!) to the border to have him killed, but still makes such a fuss about it, terrifies Feyre and her family to extremes and then forces her to go with him, all the while making such a show. Yes, you can argue that there is the curse, this is an emergency, and Feyre would not have come with him otherwise. Yes, I also know he cannot talk about the curse and everything that comes with it. But still, I think he could have at least tried to explain everything regarding the purpose of her “kidnapping”, the background etc as close to the truth as it can get. I mean, why didn’t he just tell her that she was the means to find a cure for the sickness or whatever? Besides, why did he had to display full rage mode, destroy the door of the hut etc? If he’s such a “powerful High Lord”, he clearly could have convinced Feyre to come with him otherwise.
    This leads me to my second point, which is not entirely Tamlin’s fault, but still has to do with him. This is also something concerning style, nevertheless, it bothered me enormously how Feyre had to mention whenever possible that Tamlin is such a “powerful High Lord”, “her High Lord”, basically her person, the one who is in control of her, to whom she is submissive, you name it. This did not fit at all from my opinion, considering the fact that at the beginning, she is presented as a very strong female lead, which was actually one of the reasons why I wanted to read the book. But this whole presentation of Tamlin as endlessly powerful, although he does in fact mostly nothing, was sooo irritating imho.
    What I found extremely shocking was a scene shortly after this ominious almost-rape-scene, in which Tamlin makes fun of Feyre and basically blames her for what happened because she was not in her room when it happened. Well, perhaps because nobody cared to explain to her what was going on in the first place?! I’m not sure, maybe Lucien did shortly before the incident happened, but still, couldn’t he have ordered someone (Alis, for example) to guard her if he was really that concerned about her? In addition to that, yes, Feyre shouldn’t have left her bedroom, especially after what has already happened that night, but still, this does not justify what Tamlin did, and it certainly does not justify him blaming (and somehow even mocking) her for it afterwards!
    I could rant on about this and his character probably forever, but I will stop here. Again, I’m very glad you showed up that it’s mostly indeed a good novel, but that there are just several aspects which are highly problematic and therefore need to be pointed out!

    • Leah

      I am so glad I am not the only one who had such a big problem with the post-fire night victim shaming. It wasn’t even the bite scene that bothered me. It was the lack of respectful communication about WHY is was dangerous for her to leave her room, and then the follow up morning *cringe* lack of accountability for his action and both men laughing her out of the room. That brainwashing “this is your fault for not doing what I said” is very problematic.

  32. Sami

    These books are labeled New Adult and that’s good bc of the content. However I think it is forgotten that almost all of these creatures are just that creatures… non human. I feel like a lot of opinions are applying human ideas of right and wrong to a fantasy world of non human creatures that have magic, live forever and have epic world ending battles. If the reader can’t separate right and wrong from fiction and non fiction then they should self monitor what they read or have their parents do that for them. At some point we all need to be responsible for what we expose ourselves to and how we process fictional stories into our realities.

  33. Rhea

    Heyy. My reply here is probably very late. But honestly I can’t stop myself. Let me start by saying I’m personally a huge fan of acotar series. Now, moving on, when I read the first book, yeah I was like wait…that wasn’t consent on Tamlin’s part and I used to slightly hate Rhysand. But then I read the rest of the books. The only problem seemed to be with acotar and not the rest of the series after that. Now let us remind ourselves that they are imprisoned under a mountain and have their powers stripped. And have no way to fight back Amarantha. They are trying to get out of there alive and in one piece. If Rhysand didn’t force that kiss, Amarantha would have killed Feyre. Also let’s also remind ourselves of the fact that this was set millinias ago. And the author is trying to juggle that setting with today’s social climate. There a kiss would have been nothing. Ever watched or read game of thrones? That’s a YA book that’s inappropriate. And yes atleast where I live it’s considered a YA book. Now, let’s take some other common example. Books which children in schools have been forced to read for decades now (still being done): Shakespeare pieces like Othello, The merchant of Venice (I had that when I was in bloody 8th grade for god’s sake), Hamlet (also has a huge fandom for it), Taming of the shrew, etc. Children are expected to write essays upon essays on books like these and all of them portray women as property of man in one way or an other. Either to their husband or to their father and that also have near to no rights. Now I don’t have a problem with Shakespeare’s work. In fact I do enjoy them. What I do disagree with is the fact that this may lay down an impression on children. If you want to read Shakespeare out of your own free will go ahead but forced in school? Nope. Now back to our topic. Do you really still think this little bit of a consent issue in a not so widely spread book is going to harm more than all of the misogynistic literature children / teens are forced to read? I MY opinion you have a very good understanding of what consent and everything is. Thing is maybe you have to concentrate that thought elsewhere where it actually matters and will change a lot of things.. People like you can change today. Maybe think it through. And as always I meant none of this as an offense to anyone and if anyone did get offended, you are welcome to share it here and leave
    Love, a random person.

  34. Rhea

    Heyy. My reply here is probably very late. But honestly I can’t stop myself. Let me start by saying I’m personally a huge fan of acotar series. Now, moving on, when I read the first book, yeah I was like wait…that wasn’t consent on Tamlin’s part and I used to slightly hate Rhysand. But then I read the rest of the books. The only problem seemed to be with acotar and not the rest of the series after that. Now let us remind ourselves that they are imprisoned under a mountain and have their powers stripped. And have no way to fight back Amarantha. They are trying to get out of there alive and in one piece. If Rhysand didn’t force that kiss, Amarantha would have killed Feyre. Also let’s also remind ourselves of the fact that this was set millinias ago. And the author is trying to juggle that setting with today’s social climate. There a kiss would have been nothing. Ever watched or read game of thrones? That’s a YA book that’s inappropriate. And yes atleast where I live it’s considered a YA book. Now, let’s take some other common example. Books which children in schools have been forced to read for decades now (still being done): Shakespeare pieces like Othello, The merchant of Venice (I had that when I was in bloody 8th grade for god’s sake), Hamlet (also has a huge fandom for it), Taming of the shrew, etc. Children are expected to write essays upon essays on books like these and all of them portray women as property of man in one way or an other. Either to their husband or to their father and that also have near to no rights. Now I don’t have a problem with Shakespeare’s work. In fact I do enjoy them. What I do disagree with is the fact that this may lay down an impression on children. If you want to read Shakespeare out of your own free will go ahead but forced in school? Nope. Now back to our topic. Do you really still think this little bit of a consent issue in a not so widely spread book is going to harm more than all of the misogynistic literature children / teens are forced to read? I MY opinion you have a very good understanding of what consent and everything is. Thing is maybe you have to concentrate that thought elsewhere where it actually matters and will change a lot of things.. People like you can change today. Maybe think it through. And as always I meant none of this as an offense to anyone and if anyone did get offended, you are welcome to share it here and leave
    Love, a random person.
    P.S: These characters are creatures. Not human. They are ancient mythical creatures. You are holding them to current human standards.

  35. Simaa

    You sound ridiculous XDDDD Yes, I kinda agree with Tamlin but Rhysand ? This is ridiculous… If you read ACOMAF that you are probably considering it thag Rhysand commited a crime XD

  36. A reader

    This post was very interesting and did open up my mind, but I would say to read the second book as well. I don’t disagree and I did actually not like how Tamlin treated her and how Rhysand treated her, but reading the second book helped me understand both of their characters more. Please do this before you judge both of them(also note that I’m not defending them)

  37. tj

    The real question is- why are you looking so much into a book series that is legit about High Fae, a world that is completely different front the society that we live in? Why are you putting a human lens on a book not really dealing with humans and then being overly harsh after you claimed to like it? And finally- if you thought this book was so vulgar and demeaning to women ( which is ludacris ) then why the hell would you read it all the way through? Most people stop after they hit a part they don’t like- not read the whole damn thing and then bitch about it later.

  38. Anon

    Um did you read the 2nd and 3rd book before writing an essay on everything that is answered in the other 2 books? ??‍♀️

  39. AnnoyedReader

    The thing about Rhys is that you learn more about motives in the second book when (SPOILERS INCOMING) Tamlin LITERALLY KEEPS FEYRA HOSTAGE UNTIL SHE IS SKIN AND BONES. He knew what Tamlin was like all along from previous family history but Feyre was too blind by the end of ACOTAR to see it. So he bargains with her to get her away from a toxic environment. There is SOOO much more that needs to be explained by book two that in my opinion, you should have read it first before writing the essay, but I do agree there was some sketchy scenes with Tamlin and Rhys. But Rhys, contrary to your belief, would NEVER have raped her. Under any circumstance. But you need to read the whole series before you’d get what I mean…

  40. Erin

    I’m going to leave the Rhysand stuff alone because that’s been thoroughly done by others already, but I feel like this assessment of Tamlin is failing to see the forest for the trees.

    Is Tamlin’s exchange with Feyre consensual? No, but that’s the point. Even if she wants it, just a bit, the reader is meant to come away with the impression that this is not entirely OK. That he does not respect her boundaries.

    I think that the reader is SUPPOSED to see how dysfunctional this relationship is from the very start.

    This feels a bit meta, like complaining about a character being a bad person for committing a murder in the story. That’s the point, they’re a bad person.

    Tamlin is a misogynistic, controlling, abusive tool, and the reader is supposed to catch onto that bit-by-bit, even before Feyre does. The shit he does is MEANT to elicit side-eye from the reader. You’re MEANT to be left with the impression that things are very wrong. You’re MEANT not to trust him.

    It sounds like you quit after the first book, so I understand why you would think SJM is romanticizing the Tamlin relationship, but that is not the case.

  41. AVistior

    “Read the second book” — I see that everywhere. But, as an author, may I say — the reader should NOT HAVE TO READ A DIFFERENT BOOK to understand another book. Even if it is a series, this is a failing by the author. Perhaps SJM wanted the “shock” value of an about-face in book two, but… That is not how it should work. And — please, no matter how big a fan you are — do not shame other readers for disliking book one just because they haven’t “read book two” (or three, or whatever). Readers have the right to dislike a book and NOT continue with a series based on that dislike. I know if I don’t care for a first book in a series, I’m not going to bother with another book in a series, and I don’t want to be called out because of that. Books should be able to stand on their own — book two shouldn’t have to “redeem” the problematic aspects of book one.

      • Hailey

        If you have to read the second book to enjoy the first one it’s a bad series. Your books should stand alone well enough on their own that you don’t need three books to explain why abuse is or isn’t ok.

    • hellorobin

      I agree, I read the other books after a looooonnnnngggg break. All the nonsense of the first one made me kinda hate the book, dislike the writing, the characters, felt super sleezy and shallow. BUT I ended up really enjoying the other books, again besides for repetitive writing and sex scene that were not YA. But I honestly might not have read the rest of the series walking away from the first one the way I felt…. I like how she turned it into a lesson of how unhealthy the relationship was in book 1 but she did glamorize it during the first books, which propagates the message of abusive relationships.

    • Leah

      Thank you! I am not an author, but as a reader, Agree – books in a series still need to stand alone. Story arcs, character development, and plot twists/secrets persist or are revealed from book to book in a series, but if you publish a novel as a complete book… it can and should be critiqued on its own merit (as well as its place in the series).

      And this essay is specifically about the fist book in this series.

  42. KK

    Tiff, I respect and appreciate your insight in calling out the issues at hand. I too am still striving for an explanation that I can live with in regard to the romanticized abuse and dysfunction that started the relationship between Rhysand and Feyre. I wasn’t quite able to reconcile in my head the justification for the humiliation of Feyre at his hands during the Under the Mountain section of ACOTAR. It was just so specific — dress her in scandalous attire to be exposed to everyone, and put his hands on her, for the sake of making another male jealous and to entertain their captor. He used and abused her — how can it be forgiven? Imagine being married later, as they were: “remember when you sexually humiliated me in front of hundreds of strangers and my then-boyfriend? Haha, glad that’s all in the past now!” It just doesn’t sit right. Just like the throne-lap scene in the Hewn City, where they dry-hump in front of everyone to “send a message” or something. It was just so oddly specific that it was weird. I’m sure that was just for the raciness factor and exciting the readers, but it still bugged me. HAVING SAID all that, I must admit I enjoyed all of the novels and their sexiness, and chose as a reader to suspend disbelief and take it all as pure entertainment. On the other hand, due to the general naivete of the YA/New Adult audience, and to be frank due to the ignorance of the general public on women’s rights, I think some of this writing is irresponsible on Maas’s part. The characters being supernatural or set in the past is not an excuse, as the novel is being read TODAY. Again I will say that I have not only read and enjoyed these books thoroughly, but discussed and promoted them with others! I love the characters and I am guilty of finding Rhysand ultimately attractive. Perhaps I’m part of the problem that I critique. But. Sarah, can’t we strive to do better?

  43. Chelsea

    I didn’t respond to this the first time I saw it but just wanted to add a quick comment. I couldn’t imagine what was going through the Spring Court and their allies heads. Now.. I can. Thanks ?

  44. Carolee Thumma

    All I’ll say is Luke and Laura…women love when bad boys force their way with women. Most women have rape fantasies.
    I think that SJM destroyed TAM so that RHYS will shine in the later books. Plus I find Feyre a one dimensional character. And out of the men I liked Lucien the best, he was honest, he showed you who and what he was. Feyre spent to much time on doom and gloom and after awhile she bored me.

    • Jennifer

      Feel free to tell real survivors of abuse how you confuse some women’s fantasies with what women actually want IRL.

  45. haley

    Something that I haven’t seen mentioned but I think is really important to point out is the fact that Rhysand can read minds. Particularly Under the Mountain, before Feyre learns how to shield her mind, he would easily be able to feel anything that she is feeling, including a true sense of fear. I’m not sure how it would work at this time since the mating bond hasn’t fully clicked into place, but the shared emotions between these two might be especially amplified. I can see how parts of this book won’t sit well with people, but I think when reading this kind of high fantasy it’s important to remember the rules of the world when thinking about these situations. I also think the fact this book is supposed to be for more mature readers also plays into people being able to understand the nuance of the situation.

  46. Maya Sarram

    I know he like, apologized for it 100 times but he couldn’t do anything else. You know if you read the second book

    • Tilly Guest

      ***SPOILERS IN REPLY*** I’m going to assume that at the time of writing this, you had read ACOTAR but had not yet moved on to ACOMAF. This is becasue it is revealed Rhysand was sexually assaulted by Amarantha almost every night over the course of half a century, therefore making consent an even more important thing to him than it was beforehand. In the second book, Rhysand’s character has more of a chance for development, his background is explained in more detail and there is the introduction of his inner circle of which he is protectivebut not in a suffocating way like Tamlin which comes to a peak a few chapters into ACOMAF. Furthermore, when a mating bond snaps in place for a Fae male, denying their instincts can drive them insane and most do not have to self control that Rhysand has in that they claim the female as theirs even against the will of the female. Rhysand didn’t reach out to Feyre until the day of her wedding when she didn’t want to be wed to Tamlin and she cried out mentally for help which he offered. While Rhysand waiting to ‘claim’ Feyre and gave her a choice on everything is not a miraculous thing and is heavily romanticized, he is the better choice of the two males. At the end of ACOMAF, Tamlin makes a deal in which to forecfully take Feyre away from Rhysand and tries to justify his actions by saying she was forced into the mating bond, Rhysand was willing to lose his mate to his enemy because he wanted her to be happy while this yes is possessive, as though they are mates, Feyre doesn’t belong to either, Tamlin treat her that way whereas Rhysand would never. Overall, while Rhysand’s actions in giving her a choice are overly romanticized, it is clear that Rhysand truly cares for Feyre whereas Tamlin sees her as a possession. While making love with Tamlin at the start of ACOMAF, Tamlin tells Feyre that she will never be High Lady once they are wed, showing how little he thinks of her, Rhysand on the other hand, swore her in as his High Lady days after they were mated. Rhysand is the most powerful High Lord in History and his High Lady would be his equal in every way, showing that he as a pose to Tamlin knows and accepts just how powerful Feyre truly is and unlike Tamlin he isn’t afraid of her. Over time, even Tamlin comes to accept that he isn’t right for Feyre and at the end of ACOWAR when Rhysand dies, Tamlin tells her to be happy then gives Rhysand a drop of his power to bring him back after seeing how distraught Feyre is.

  47. Gabi

    I agree with a lot of what the blog has said and honestly I feel ridiculous in overlooking these because I never realised them for what they are. Parts of me have tried to understand Rhysand’s actions rather than justify them but the conclusions I arrive to seem like justifications and that’s not what I want. I’d still like to share my opinions and if anyone can add theirs or educate and explain something to me that I don’t understand I’d appreciate it because even if I love the whole series I want to be able to recognise its faults. I now realise that what Tamlin and Rhys have done are a 100% acts of sexual violence and there is simply no justification for their actions no matter the intent or the good nature of the characters that is later established in the following books. I have read another blog which holds the same opinions and it talks of Rhysand’s reasons for sexually assaulting Feyra as a political tactic to achieve political means (Getting rid of Amarantha) and however good the cause may seem it is in no way an excuse or a just reason for what he did. I am curious about the part where he says ‘I would like to enjoy you’ and this is conflicting for me because it suggests that he would like to have sex with her but he doesn’t state whether he would like to do so without her consent. As I said it feels very conflicting for me because having read the books I know that Amarantha has manipulated and coerced him into having sex with her for 50 years and that is essentially rape as well and so it seems that forcing someone to have sex with him would be a huge no because of what he has been through himself. Another part of me wonders if these flaws in the books, mishandling of situations and character flaws are a result of Sarah’s writing. I wonder if she herself has lacked the full education and realisation of the severity of the scenes that she’s written, like the many fans who have walked into these books believing that this behaviour in men is normal. While she is a grown woman with a lot of knowledge I wonder if she was misguided in her mindset and if she would have written it in another way if she reflected deeper on the discourse of consent and sexual violence which I didn’t know myself. I don’t want to justify the flaws in her writing if it was written with full knowledge of what is happening, but I want to give the benefit of the doubt to all women who havea been led to romanticise violence and mistakenly apply it to their own stories believing it was the pinnacle of romance especially if the perpetrator is redeemed. She is a great writer to me who I admire and I pass no judgement on her, I am merely wondrous about how the writing came to be. Along with that, in the later books these characters are redeemed in sorts of ways, but I believe that still doesn’t excuse what has been done, no matter how people develop and improve you can’t erase the damage, and as a fandom I believe it’s important to recognise flaws in what we love. I also wonder if seeing the criticism that Tamlin’s and Rhys’ actions of abuse have received, Sarah wanted to improve their characters’ good natures in the later books, well at least Rhys’. I’m happy to see the flaws in the books I love rather that let myself be blinded by the love so much that I miss all the important conversations that must be had. For too long we have been led to believe that bad treatment was romantic, it’s simply not and it should end.

  48. Tasha

    I actually agree with this. It was abuse and it was not okay and the entire time I was hoping Rhysand would be killed. However, when I got to the second book, without condoning what he did, I found it very easy to forgive the actions of the character and give him a second chance as a reader. Often we do that in real life depending on the circumstances. People do bad things and we have to judge whether to forgive it and whether to move on or give people second chances. I thought Maas really illustrated that with Tamlin and Rhysand. Rhysand got a second chance because Feyre thought he was worth it and they were mates. Tamlin did not get a second chance because he was never going to change and Feyre did not want to forgive him.

  49. Hailey

    It doesn’t. And honestly he never actually apologizes and says the words “I’m sorry I did that to you and made your experience worse regardless of how I felt I had to. Ultimately, it still hurt you and added to the trauma you experienced there so I’m sorry.”

  50. Autumn Davidson

    For years I hated the ACOTAR series, which I once loved. But as soon as I took the rose colored glasses off I was angered to the point where I couldn’t finish the third book. To all of you who defends Rhysand, I’m gonna ask a honest question. Imagine being enslaved to an organization and someone in the higher ups stripped you down naked and paraded you among the group, where EVERONE can see you. Not only that but roofie you, forcefully kiss you without consent, and touched you where you didn’t want him to. Later you get out of enslaved and the guy that did all these terrible things tell you that he was only protecting you. WOULD you FORGIVE him? Despite everything that happened to you. WOULD you even LOVE him? If that happened to me I’d want to be on the other side of the world from that guy. If Feyre was a realistic person she would of had nightmares with Rhysand as well. I know this because victims of sexual abuse often have nightmares from the past. I am one of those people. Years back my stepfather had talked to me dirty multiple times, he unclipped my bra once, saying “I need to let those puppies breath”, he touched my stomach before saying men like doing that. When I turned 18 he asked if I ever masturbated before, when I said I didn’t want to talk about this he said that “I was an adult” and plays it off as if that’s a normal thing to talk to your kid. as a teen I never quite understood what was happening until I got out of the house and all those memories started flooding in my mind. I still have nightmares about this man. I don’t care if he was sorry about it later. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t mean to do it or was trying to protect you/etc. YOU still get PTSD for what they did. No amount of forgiveness is going fix a relationship between a victim of sexual abuse and the abuser. The best thing is to stay away from them and eventually move on from the past. And that’s why I HATE the series because Rhysand never got the consequences for his actions.

  51. Saanvi





  52. SAANVI


  53. Please please please truly educate yourself. Not once did I state DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER! There is a MAJOR difference between a DID SYSTEMS and DISSOCIATION! Feyre literally quoting “I became that *wild dark THING in that high lord’s arms* in a state of TRAUMA RESPONSE is literally ***DISSOCIATION***. NOT DID SYSTEMS!

    Longer post impending to address ALL your statements to give them due respect:

    In the CON, Feyre internalized how she felt sick and horrible. How she felt like she was back “UNDER THE MOUNTAIN” just like she did when Tamlin put her in the closet.

    Regardless, RHYSAND KNEW this! He FELT her emotions through their BOND. So, a GOOD, a KIND, and RESPECTFUL man, would have FELT her TRAUMA, and would have stated, “Hey, I’m not going to put her in this position. I’m not going to be like Tamlin who made her feel like she was ***suffocating*** Under the Mountain. Especially not when I have all the POWER here.” Especially not when he showed her off to a whole Court, HIS court of ABUSERS and RAPISTS who had hurt his own cousin!

    So, only one conclusion. Rhysand completely IGNORED Feyre’s trauma and inner state. Or he just wanted what he wanted. Which was using the TRAUMA BOND he created UNDER THE MOUNTAIN (Educate yourself on “Trauma Bonds”. They are real and are a way of creating a link between a victim *Feyre UTM* and Rhysand *UTM* which he translated to the CON. So, she could not have truly consented to this scene. Because she was under Rhysand’s power. And that manifested in every scene prior from the “Weaver’s Cottage” to “Tarquin’s Court” to even dismissing how Rhysand used Feyre as bait for the Attor or discounting how he sexually harassed her publicly and privately.

    Now, RE-traumatizing Feyre and sexually objectifying her was WORSE in the CON than UTM because HE literally had ALL the power in this scene. NOT Amarantha. He could have simply commanded his people to give him the Orb. They were terrified of him after all, and he’s ALWAYS bragging about his unchecked power to literally break minds and bring down the mountain with one roar!

    Now, how do I know the difference between a DID systems and literal DISSOCIATION? Oh, perhaps because I, in a state of TRIGGERED PTSD, have endured the EXACT same thing. For DECADES. And with my previous Rhysand-like abuser who also used his tears to manipulate me just as Rhysand did to Feyre. Who was much OLDER than me. Who STALKED me just as Rhys did to Feyre. Who forced down my hands and prevented me from fighting and licked at my face without my consent. (This is NOT a way to HELP a woman who is in a state of suffering. It’s still sexual assault. It’s creepy and disgusting. And he excused it by saying “Oh, you were breaking down and I wanted to make you angry so I licked your face.”. A GOOD man would have simply healed her and helped her without forcing her into a slavery deal. She was TERRIFIED of him for months. She hated him. And HATE is never a good foundation for a romance FYI.

    (FYI: LUCIEN did this very thing. Rhysand could have HEALED Feyre without ANY strings attached. And a truly GOOD man who cared about his people would have trusted and respected his “future mate” and healed her without anything while communicating his true motives and intentions.)

    Yes, I have broken down ALL his patterns in the entire series due to decades-long training as anti-abuse advocate and #metoo.

    With that training, I can equivocally state Rhysand fits the standard PROFILE of a narcissistic abuser.

    Positive men take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. They EMPATHIZE with women. Rhysand did NONE of these things. He literally NEVER apologized to Feyre for sexually using and objectifying her. He GASLIGHTED (look it up-anther abuser technique) her countless times from the tattoo he forced on her which she EXPLICITLY stated “get rid of it, take it away), he EXCUSED his actions, he pretended to be the “good guy”.

    It’s NEVER okay to treat a woman like sexual property, and Rhysand literally called Feyre both his “property” and his “pet”. I would never ever want my daughters treated like this. The ENDS do NOT justify the MEANS. NEVER for #metoo! And Rhys’ ends were solely to use Feyre as a sexual pawn against Tamlin, to bait him, and because Rhys felt entitled to Feyre. In his words in ACOMAF. “I WAS *JEALOUS*” So because he was jealous, that gave him the right to sexually assault and treat Feyre like a stripper and use his power against her and make her vomit each night.

    You know, not to mention lied to her in ACOMAF for months. And again, NEVER apologized. Seriously, stop making excuses for him lying and manipulating and sexually harassing!

    Recognize: This is ALL classic ABUSER patterns. And I shudder for how many women are brainwashed into believing they have agency when it’s truly just a malignant man making them believe they have “agency”.

    FYI: BIPOC AND QUEER influencers and FEMINISTS are calling out SJM globally on her glorifying sexual violence and the fact that she was entirely complicit in promoting EXPLICIT SEXUAL GRAPHIC content to TEENAGERS. Not to mention RACIST stereotypes of ILLYRIANS and wing-clipping and portraying dark men as savage rapists and HOMOPHOBIC stereotypes with either the sad, closeted for 500 years bisexual or the flamboyant “I want orgies all the time” gay trope.

    Sigh. Do you TRULY want to be on the WRONG side of history here with your fiction tastes? Do you want to die on the sword of idolizing fictional characters and believing their AUTHORS somehow can do NO wrong? or have ZERO flaws? and bring none of their own BIASES to their fiction? Especially when the majority of MAINSTREAM authors have shut themselves off from SJM due to her TOXICITY and how she uses BIPOC to prop up her WHITE CENTRISM books? how she has never apologized for her SEXUAL GRAPHIC material promoted to kids as young as 11?

    I don’t know. Maybe you are one of those who believes JKR’s transphobia in her books is somehow OK. Which would explain dismissing SJM’s misogyny and racism and homophobia which will and is already biting her in the a**. All you need to do is google “Sexual violence and ACOTAR” to find countless resources.

    Truly: at the heart of ACOTAR, Feyre had a TRAUMA BOND with Rhysand. This combined with the patriarchal mating bond and Feyre’s own internal landscape of comparing herself to “prey” (her words) and Rhys to “predator” and herself to a literal “THING” was her nail in the coffin to do whatever Rhysand wanted her to do from teaching her to read and write despite him sexually harassing her. FYI: it’s never okay to say “well, you could RUB that PALM with the EYE ON CERTAIN BODY PARTS AND I’LL COME FASTER!” (literal quote from ACOMAF). Um yes, that is DISGUSTING. Or commenting about her BREASTS in public! Or only acknowledging her womanhood after she’d gained more weight and put on a dress. (Starfall) – same night he joked about letting her fall to her death off a cliff! (NOT OKAY)

    And yes, go back and read. in ACOAFAS, Rhysand stated how he had indeed used the eye to spy on her NAKED during her time in ACOMAF and Feyre *laughing it off* before sending him a future image of their newborn during their sex and Rhysand getting off on a BABY – also very gross. (this is not okay, it’s internalized misogyny. I’ve been married 12 years and my husband would never ever have pulled this crap with me because he’s respectful. And I’d never want a man to treat either of my two daughters like this).

    Ironically, with Tamlin, Feyre rebelled and had agency and autonomy. But sadly, once she was with Rhysand, she literally caved and bowed to every single thing he wanted her to do. Weaver ring a bell? Placing his mate in unspeakable danger to fetch her own wedding ring? as if that was NOT somehow manipulative?

    And please EDUCATE yourself to abuser patterns. Literally, when an abusive male GROOMING his victim, he will literally state “I do NOT want you to do this!” because he knows it paints him in the light of a VICTIM. It makes him seem like the “GOOD GUY”. It is a GROOMING and MANIPULATIVE tactic to get his VICTIM to do EXACTLY what he himself WANTS. And Rhysand is VERY good at dressing up his words in cunning and sexual harassment.

    Par example: TRAFFICKERS who masquerade as BOYFRIENDS will legit straight up tell their victims “No, I do NOT want you to sleep with this other guy “the bad guy:” I owe money to. We will figure out another way. We will do whatever we need to. I know I’m in doubt, but this is not YOUR problem.” And the victim wanting to help her boyfriend in whatever way he can. And he will wear her down for hours with his refusal before he finally lets her “help”.

    Domestic abusers do the same thing with their victims. “I am such a bully, You can’t stand me. And I will never be good in your eyes. You can’t stand to be around me. I might as well just die because I will never be the good guy in your eyes. And your eyes is all that matters to me. It’s always your choice, my love.” And etc and etc. This is exactly how groomers work. And they know exactly how to manipulate the TRAUMA BOND between themselves and their victims.

    Just as Rhysand did. And Feyre became his glorified trophy wife. She literally couldn’t do anything beyond his permission. He always propped up his power and reminded her that her own power came from him and all the lords of the land. And him acting like a savior because he gave her the title of “High Lady”? Um sorry to burst your bubble, hon. That’s NOT feminism. A woman OWNS her power. She does NOT need a MAN to SAVE her OR give her power. But Feyre could not have survived without Rhysand. She couldn’t tie her own shoes without Rhysand. And he used all that including the mating bond against her.

    (FYI: mating bond – likening MEN to BEASTS who couldn’t control themselves and women as submissive vessels simply meant for impregnation and women just going along with it. Yeeeeah. Not feminism, sorry to tell you. That’s just fifties-style “serve the man” soup and be a good housewife and bend over and take it. And Feyre did. And Rhysand even needed to draw a paint diagram to find her P*ssy! :-P)

    • sam

      First of all, despite us not agreeing on certain views, I just wanted to say, whoever the fuck your past abuser was, I hope to God he suffers painfully for all he did. I’m sorry for anyone who went through any form of abuse in their lives and I never want that to happen to anyone.

      Moving on, about the dissociation. Uhhh yeah, again, that was NOT dissociation. Please before REPEATEDLY asking me to educate myself like I am a blissfully unaware 5 year old, do educate yourself on what dissociation truly is. It is NOT something as simple as you believe it to be. And yes, I am aware that you did not mention the term DID even once.

      What you did say though, was that the sentence “I became this wild dark thing in his arms” implied Feyre’s dissociation. Damn, with med mid terms coming up, I could really have used a good laugh. Thank you, your sentence made me cackle hard.

      First of all, if you’re quoting something, atleast quote it right. But, nevermind.

      Secondly, having experienced dissociation myself and having listened in depth to people with DID (please, before you scream and foam at the mouth, I know you never mentioned this term) and people who have experienced dissociation due to several reasons including, and other than, trauma, I can confirm that this was not dissociation. If you still have a hard time believing this as I am not a psychologist yet, please do ask somebody who is one. My peers and I (all being bibliophiles and majoring in clinical and community psychology/psychiatric medicine) and having read this book and your replies to my comments, agree that this was not dissociation. Please do extensively research on the subject. I would recommend Dissociation by Lynn or even good old DSM-5.

      Btw, going through abuse and having experienced dissociation does not make one an expert on the topic. Same goes for any other experience. This goes for you, me and everyone else. There are so many things a victim simply is unable to grasp. I chose to follow psychology, mental health and disorders as a subject because this was something I was truly passionate about. Doing this course, getting my degree, will however make me more knowledgeable than anyone actually having experienced the situation. That’s why psychiatrists exist in the world. To help people with mental and physiological issues and disorders.

      As for you repeatedly telling me to educate myself- thank you for your concern, but I am educated well enough. Clearly, more than you are in this particular subject as you are stating that what Feyre went through UTM was dissociation.

      About UTM- Yes, Feyre when stepping in through the gates did feel a sickness swoop through her. But, it did not last long as she was there on her own accord and had an aim in her mind. As soon as she was on Rhys’ lap, she stated that she felt comfortable because of his body heat and she found it very pleasurable when he started touching her.

      No, Rhys’ did not ignore her trauma. STOP acting like Feyre is the poor helpless female victim here. She is a strong woman who is very capable of making her own decisions. As I have already stated in my previous reply, it was Feyre who made the decision of going under the mountain. Rhys never forced her and let her make her own decision. He was actually against it but Feyre being the strong-headed person she is, decided to go along with the rest of the IC.

      As for you stating that Feyre was his pet/trophy wife/pawn/subordinate etc etc.
      Let me just say- BS. Pure BS. Look at this quote for example-

      “I will say this once—and only once. You can be a pawn, be someone’s reward, and spend the rest of your immortal life bowing and scraping and pretending you’re less than him, than Ianthe, than any of us. If you want to pick that road, then fine. A shame, but it’s your choice. But I know you – more than you realize, I think – and I don’t believe for one damn minute that you’re remotely fine with being a pretty trophy for someone who sat on his ass for nearly fifty years then sat on his ass while you were shredded apart.”

      This was directly quoted from the book. Rhys said this to Feyre during ACOMAF. If this isn’t proof enough to you, I don’t know what is.

      Hope this doesn’t come off as rude to you but I am just fact checking- Sometimes, our sense of reality and fantasy gets warped without us realizing it. I’m not talking about childish bs, this is pure psychology- we don’t even realize how we get so very biased over something and forget to really realize what is right and what is wrong. If you know what I mean by that…

      As for me- yes, I did not like certain parts of the story in book 1 and hoped that things hadn’t occurred that way.

      I completely love book 2 however, and don’t agree with your views on it.

      Again, for the third or fourth time(I lost track lol) in your screaming reply with all capital letters- you told me to educate myself. This time, over abuser patterns. Let me assure you, I am well aware of what abuser patterns are, well aware of how the deranged and warped minds’ of abusers work and well aware of what makes these abusers tick.

      I think for most of your comment- you derailed off the track of this topic and just randomly started to throw in little paragraphs of humans psychology which made me chuckle. For example- the whole human trafficking thing you wrote.

      Can you give me any examples of the supposed restrictions Rhys put on Feyre? You said she couldn’t do anything beyond his permission- pls quote any scene of the book on this.

      On what you said about women owning her power- totally agree. A woman is not given her power. She earns and owns it.

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but Rhys didn’t “give” Feyre that title. Feyre EARNED it and owns the power she received with the same.

      Yes, a woman does not need a man to give her power and the same goes vice-versa too.

      And oh dear god, you really don’t understand what feminism truly is huh?
      A woman needing the help and protection of a man is NOT being anti-feminist or being weak. And a man needing the help and protection of a woman is completely normal too. We are all humans and sometimes, we are all weak and powerless and need somebody else’s help irrespective of their gender.

      A woman needing the help of a man is not anti-feminist or something. Just as a woman needing the help of another woman isn’t.

      At this point, you are just twisting simple things into something so warped and wrong that I am getting irritated by your incredibly fixed mindset. I understand, you went through abuse by your S/O in the past, but the same thing ISN’T happening here. It really isn’t. Try to snap out of it and understand why the two situations you are unconsciously connecting in your mind aren’t the same.

      As for you telling me to look up what gaslighting is- now that is truly laughable. Props to you for making me chuckle so much throughout your comment.
      Gaslight. Gatekeep. Girlboss.?The mantra I repeat to myself every morning when I wake up. (Uhh just so you know, this is meant to be sarcastic, I have a feeling you would have thought otherwise)

      As for playfully telling your sibling/best friend/partner to jump off a cliff being very “oh so problematic” for you- I wonder what kind of stiff and formal relationship you have with the people in you life to not being able to joke around like that. Everyone has once in their life threatened to punch their friend or beat their asses or push them off a mountain and other childish shit like that.

      That was literally a joke after which they both laughed like normal(emphasis on normal) friends do.

      As for that last line you wrote- are you alright? that was just Rhys playfully telling Feyre “In case you didn’t know where this was leading” by drawing an arrow with paint on her stomach.

      And also, as for you saying I’m one of those blind SJM supporters- I have never been one to take quick, rash decisions. I don’t support people or ideas blindly. It’s only after thinking about it over a long period of time, that I come to a decision. People who blindly and faithfully follow things no matter whether they are right or wrong are stupid idiots. So are those who have rashly and rigidly made a decision and now are too prideful to accept that yes, they were wrong.

      Btw, I just advice you to check out the goodreads account of this blog’s writer. They have rated the book Bridgertons a 4 stars. In case you didn’t know, the book has a scene in which the male lead is explicitly being raped by the female lead. It is so clear and staring us right in our faces. Everyone sane has agreed on this fact. The audacity that the same person would rant on ACOMAF, rated a book with a rape scene a 4 stars and said that she thoroughly enjoyed it. Ugh. Idk if you are on gr but just in case you were.

  54. May

    My two cents… the comments here have devolved into a mid slinging match over individual instances in the book. From my perspective:

    * the entire boom perpetuates rape culture even if no one was “technically raped”. If we have to debate so many instances of romanticized events actually just being sexual assault, and this blog really only scratches the surface, it’s really pretty telling.

    * Justifying the writing of the first book by the story telling in the second is a convenient way to excuse the first book. I’m confused at why people are taking about this as if the story is the way it had to be… the story is fiction… someone wrote this. They could have written it differently.

    * Feyre is presented as a strong, independent woman, but I found that largely underneath there’s an unsettling current of her being placed in sexualized situations with limited agency. It’s gross..

    Tbh, I made it 60% through the first book and I had to stop. I found it fun and intriguing enough (best books in the world? I don’t think so, lol), but I felt uncomfortable and I needed to reflect on why and do some reading before I invested in a multi-book series. I came to the conclusion that I can’t in good conscience keep reading. It’s just… the book’s not a good look. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind romance as a genre. What I do mind is hollow attempts to seem sexually progressive, which ultimately just place women in vulnerable situations and call it love… I’ll pass, thanks.

    • Kim

      My feelings 100%. This is a way more concise and effective comment than the one I made with similar points. I had missed this while reading through the comments initially and hadn’t really seen anyone else make these points. I read the first book and forced myself to get to the end. I have no intention of reading the rest of the series, especially if, as a lot of these comments seem to indicate, the plot relies on forgiving abusive behavior because it was done for “good reasons.” Just gross.

  55. notlootsa

    Thank you so much for this. I read the first book because it’s my sister’s favourite series but I was absolutely shocked and disgusted with the portrayal of literal sexual harassment in the book. “Oh but the second book explains his action!” – how do you excuse sexual assault? You can’t assault someone with good intentions I am sorry. In every other way, Feyre is such a strong, feminine heroine only for her to absolutely forgive a guy for sexually assaulting her because they’re mates? Because it was to save her life? No way, and I’m honestly concerned there are this many young girls out there who idolise these characters and these books, the amount of people writing essays in these comments alone is concerning enough. I don’t understand how anyone would WANT to go into the second book after the first one, I don’t understand how anyone can just put all the rapey stuff to the side. Yuck.

  56. Leela

    I do have to point out that almost all of the characters in the series have been, or are currently being abused by someone else in the book, or by characters from the past. To immediately say that the only character that has been abused is Feyre is incorrect. The entire main cast is abused in the first book. Even the characters you call bad boys don’t really fit the trope because they are constantly being abused in the book. There isn’t just sexual abuse in here, there is psychological abuse as well. That can keep people believing they are beholdened to someone, or a certain set of rules they must follow. No type of abuse is worse than any other in my opinion. They all cause undo amounts of trauma to people. They all are being abused and drugged by the main villain. Your reasoning for why you felt creeped out is sound, but make sure you have the facts straight before calling people out. TBH a lot of the actions Feyre herself took are terrible and inexcusible too, but she was also neglected and abused by her family. The whole theme of the trilogy is folks trying to live and overcome their trauma in a world where the only people who can help them are others going through trauma. It’s a triggering book, but in my opinion, after a couple of words, this series slides quickly down to horror instead of being straight fantasy. So I believe where the book fails is in it’s marketing. It also needs to be said that yes, a lot of the characters could have made better choices, but this is not a study on morality. It’s a book the author wrote while going through battles with mental illness. While it might not relate as strongly to you, it might cause someone else to look at his life and change, or help someone else through their crippling depression. Also don’t overlook non-human characters in books. They can have trauma they are going through as well, and it means just as much as the things the human characters go through.

    • Im with you. This is really an issue. I don’t think you read it wrong but this what I understood: Rhys still had to act like a cruel person in front of Feyre just in case his charade was discovered. He could not tell anyone and could not use his power on every single person that could be listening and suspecting. He needed to talk ti Feyre for the plan to work without revealing his hand. And being abducted for 50 years and s3xv4lly 4bv$3d might have made him desperate enough to do this.Still I find it that I don’t justify it , bc SA can’t never be. But I understand why he felt like he did it. Maybe there’s more behind what Amarantha planned to do with Feyre during her time there and that was Rhys messed up and I hope only way out to save her from being brought to a worst destiny. I still like to remember the fact that Rhys had to mantain the mask of the High Lord of Nightmares but I still can’t myself justifying what he did and yes there’s a lot we don’t know that happened to him Under the Mountain but still SAing and Drugging someone will never have an excuse unless someone is absolutely and irrefutably coerced and forced to do so. And still there I have my doubts. I enjoyed the book as any other person but yeah I still have conflicts reading the rest. I think maybe the author at the time didn’t see it as SA and with time the narrative changed that’s why you can see the good intended characters respecting boundaries and acting in a consent culture base as far as I’m concerned. Rhys even has a foundation for SA woman in the library and in the sexual scenes and many others he always reminds Feyre that she always has a choice wether in sex or life. This is basic decency btw she has a choice and she s entitled to choose whether he liked it or not. My point is I think it’s maybe the authors mistake or there’s smt else we don’t know about why Rhys did that and wasn’t condemned for it. Still I’m not defending him nor what he did but this is what I thought when I read it and what I think. Everyone is welcome to comment I would love to read your thoughts about this.

  57. Pamela Allison

    Dr Brian Talarico, North Bay Psychiatrist Has been convicted of child molestation, and possession of child pornography on his computer. Sexually molesting a young boy. He had prior convictions for child molestation in 1990 and 2001. After his parole in 2006 Dr. Talarico Brian Works for North Bay Regional Health Centre, and elsewhere, despite his background, and numerous complaints against him of abuse, fraud, negligence, and imprisonment. he has a sexual preference for younger boys, feeds them antipsychotics, and fondles children… we’re now dealing childhood trauma, we’re concerned for the safety of the public…. we’re so sick and tired of the injustice.

  58. Kim

    I think that the issue really lies with the author here. The fact that anyone feels the need to sit and debate whether the sexually abusive and violent actions of their favorite book characters are “justifiable” or “understandable” given certain horrific in-world circumstances is, in my opinion, a major flaw in the writing of this series. For the most part, I think SJM is a wonderful writer. But people must remember that this is a fictional work and the characters were never required to have this backstory or group of circumstances and, most importantly, they did not have to be written to handle their circumstances the way they did. SJM could have chosen not to rely on sexual abuse and violence as a major plot point that needed to be explained away and she did it anyway. A huge point of confusion for me was the scene where Tamlin bites Feyre in ACOTAR. Why does the author have to invent a scenario where Tamlin “can’t be held responsible for his actions” just so we can see Feyre stand up for herself and learn that she likes it a little rough? There are so many ways to introduce those points and choosing non-consensual sexual abuse/violence at the hands of the character who is supposed to be her love interest just felt gross to me. Don’t even get me started on Rhys. Feyre asks him to tell her the details of the deal he wants to make and he refuses. When she says her final no, he twists the bone in her arm causing her indescribable pain. In this situation the character as written probably would have waited for Lucien, even if it meant her death, but Rhys forces her hand into accepting his deal. Then leaves a mark on her that allows him to spy on her and read her mind. The invasion of privacy and unnecessary infliction of pain alone without her consent is mind-boggling, even if it was to help her realize how close she was to death and get her through the trials (remember, the author is so creative, she could have found other ways for him to help her). The drugging, and him admitting to drugging her and shrugging it off like it’s nothing, is just appalling and so easily fixed. He could have easily thrown a comment her way with a twisted smile that she could either forget her nights and the horrors around her or never rid herself of the resulting nightmares if she didn’t. That keeps him a villain in her mind and still gives her agency. But no. He compels and forces her to drink and forget. The author takes a strong, capable character and has a man make her decisions for her because “he knows better.” There are just so many ways a large majority of the issues with the relationships in this series could have been avoided. I don’t understand how anyone feels it is ok to have a YA series with content that leaves a real possibility for young readers (or any readers) to believe that someone’s sexually abusive or violent actions are justifiable in any way shape or form. It is one thing for people to learn from their mistakes and grow. Another for people to feel compelled to act a certain way due to certain horrible circumstances. And a completely different thing for a character who suffers abuse at the hands of another to be compelled to forgive the abuser, and worse, almost feel grateful to them for it because they did it “for a good reason.” It honestly just feels like cheap, shitty writing and discounts the rest of the incredible story. All of the arguments around whether or not something clearly abusive should actually be seen as abusive because it was done for the greater good or the character had no choice in their circumstances…… forget the characters. The author didn’t have to write the story that way.

  59. Hannah Hudson

    I can’t believe how rapey this book was, SO disappointing. I LOVED the first third of it and then quickly realized how non-consensual, abusive, and controlling it was. We really have some issues with consent on this culture!!!

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