I delayed reading this one. I'd been warned that it had some content I would prefer it didn't. I wanted to learn what had happened to these characters though. Especially Manon (whom I wasn't crazy about, to begin with, and now find myself favouring).
- And those scenes were certainly there. All of the books have been steamy, but Book 5 takes it to a new level with play-by-play of physicality during sex -- something I'd rather wasn't in a book. On a scale of one to rude it's nude-nude-nude. There's even a warning on the back cover (as though the teenage horde obsessed with this franchise will heed its call!). So that's a bummer.
- I was very aware in reading this latest book at the unfortunate way in which Maas addresses sensuality generally. Descriptions of a mouth or body being "made for sin" may read as sexy to some, but for me, they are so disappointing. Equating sensuality with sin is one of the most dangerous messages that can be sent to a young reader, to any reader. Does having a soft mouth or a curvaceous/muscled figure mean you are made for something that isn't good? That's horrible. Even "good" characters' narrative viewpoints were coloured by these types of connotations and it doesn't sit well with me. These choices may ramp up the steam-factor but they also reduce the beauty of something that is not by nature sinful (neither attraction and sex are). For a novel that attempts to grand-slam a sex scene, there is a disproportionate amount of derogatory references to sex. Even a female character thinks of sex as "being taken" or "being had." Sex as possession in a book -- even with a medieval fantasy setting -- is incongruent with the other modern messages Maas has managed to integrate without such antiquated bias (i.e. the portrayal of same sex attraction or excellent female leadership).
- There's also some cussing and graphic violence.
- I was genuinely surprised to find that in amongst vulgar characters and unfortunate lust semantics, I found some of the most tender romantic moments I've ever read. This is the exact thing that brought me back for more. My satisfaction was multiplied by having so many compelling love stories on the go.
- That, and Maas can write.
- It took me some time and patience to settle back into the layers of the world -- the many names of characters and places that have accumulated throughout the series that are now known variables. I didn't rereading in preparation, so the first 100 pages required more concentration.
- I was glad to be back in the world. I felt that.
- There were some truly epic scenes that I will remember always.
Overall: There were so many things I thoroughly enjoyed in this book. I am undecided on whether I'll read the next one. Maas, you mess with me! Gah!