A Court of Mist and Fury begins at a moment when the characters should be celebrating their fairy-tale ending, something Tamlin is prepared to pretend is real despite Feyre’s obvious suffering. While he encourages her to focus on wedding preparations and pretends nothing has changed, Feyre realizes that their time Under the Mountain has transformed them into different people who are no longer compatible. While Feyre’s transformation into a High Fae makes her appear to be an even better match for Tamlin than she was as a mortal, her inner changes make it impossible for her to accept her new life as the wife of a High Lord, something she dreamed of as a human. After being forced to stand by and watch Feyre be tortured, Tamlin has been transformed from a loving and chivalrous male into a controlling partner with a violent temper. While both of them have nightmares from their trauma, they cope in very different ways. Feyre is desperate for Tamlin to comfort her, and let her comfort him, but he rejects her efforts and ignores her obvious pain and illness. By refusing to talk about his trauma, Tamlin hopes to live out a happy fairy-tale marriage, but he doesn’t realize that pretending nothing is wrong makes it harder for them to heal and rekindle their connection.   

When Feyre leaves Tamlin and joins Rhysand and the Night Court, she begins a journey of healing and self-discovery that is made possible through open communication and empathy. By the time Rhysand enforces his bargain with her, Feyre is filled with self-hatred. As a human, she had two things of value in her life: her love of painting and her unwavering commitment to any promise she made. By the time she abandons Tamlin, Feyre feels she has lost both. Instead of ignoring her pain, Rhysand and his Inner Circle offer her comfort by sharing their own stories of recovery and encouraging her to invest in herself by training her powers. As they accept her, she begins to see herself through their eyes, and understands that she is powerful, loved, and worthy. It soon becomes clear that the Inner Circle also needs Feyre, so she is able to gain strength through her desire to help them. 

Feyre’s story explores the transformative nature of genuine love. Despite the intensity and beauty of her love with Tamlin, he and Feyre change in such dramatic ways that their seemingly perfect match cannot last. This theme is not usually explored in fairy tales, in which the idea of a fair maiden changing her mind and choosing someone other than Prince Charming almost never arises. Part of the novel’s power comes from the upending of reader expectations and fairy tale tropes. Feyre’s happiness depends on her having the courage to reject her first love, despite the pain and guilt of doing so. Yet, finding her true love is an even bigger undertaking. To accept her mating bond with Rhysand, Feyre must go through another transformation, this time of healing and personal growth. Only once she understands her innate powers and accepts her self-worth can she truly fall in love with him. 

Challenging the fairy tale convention of the virtuous hero and the evil villain, the book explores the theme that there is good and evil in everyone, and either one can emerge in unexpected ways. Feyre herself has a strong moral compass, yet she murdered innocents and debased herself for the greater good. Tamlin seems like a storybook hero, yet he stifles Feyre’s potential and shatters whole rooms when he is angry. Rhysand, who is considered wicked and depraved, debased himself willingly to distract Amarantha’s attention from those he loved. Becoming her lover was also an attempt to gain some influence over her for the good of others.  In A Court of Mist and Fury, what looks like self-sacrifice may in fact be self-interest and vice versa. These moral ambiguities reflect the complexity of human relationships in a way that traditional fairy tales, which rely on simple plots and flat characters, do not. Most of the characters in A Court of Mist and Fury are not painted with broad strokes of either pure goodness or absolute evil. Instead, the narrative embraces a gray morality that recognizes the complexities of human (and faerie) nature.  

The concept of found family is central to the relationships within Rhysand’s Inner Circle and to Feyre’s healing. Feyre, who feels isolated at the Spring Court despite Tamlin’s love and Ianthe’s so-called friendship, finds acceptance and belonging among Rhysand, Mor, Cassian, Azriel, and Amren. The Inner Circle, with each member socially outcast in some way, provides Feyre with emotional support, understanding, and camaraderie. The members of Rhysand’s court find common ground because each of them has a traumatic past, the details of which Feyre learns over the course of the narrative. This helps her see herself as someone who can find resilience and acceptance, despite her past. The bickering and teasing among the Inner Circle imply an easy, informal code of conduct that reflects Rhysand’s democratic leadership style. Although Rhysand is extremely powerful, his closest advisers find him approachable and are not above challenging him. As Feyre learns to trust Rhysand’s Inner Circle, she forms the foundation for deep and meaningful connections and learns that family is not solely defined by blood ties. 

Feyre’s character development illustrates the importance of second chances and forgiveness in personal growth. Feyre, haunted by her experiences Under the Mountain, is given a second chance at life and love in the Night Court. Feyre must learn to forgive herself for what she did to save others and for abandoning Tamlin. She must also learn to forgive Rhysand for his actions Under the Mountain and for deceiving her about their mating bond. Only once she has found it in her to forgive is she able to move on with her second chance at a happy ending. However, the novel’s ending is ambiguous as to whether Feyre will be able to enjoy the new life she has created and fulfill her destiny as High Lady of the Night Court. When she enters the Spring Court as a spy, she holds hatred in her heart, and she has promised to get revenge on the King of Hybern, Ianthe, Tamlin, and the mortal queens. The high stakes of war and the capture of Nesta and Elain will make it increasingly complicated for Feyre to find forgiveness as her story continues.