Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work. 

The Importance of Friendship in Healing from Trauma 

Feyre, Rhysand, and all the members of Rhysand’s Inner Circle experience trauma, but the support and kindness of their friends help them recover and even become stronger and more resilient. Feyre starts out as broken and depressed, barely able to do anything but sleep. She is unable to begin healing until she establishes friendships with the Inner Circle members of the Night Court. These new friends offer her love and caring, and, since each of them has also recovered from extreme trauma, they help Feyre see that healing is possible. Their friendships deepen as they rely on one another for support. Under the care of the Inner Circle, Feyre transforms into a physically and magically powerful force, moving past her trauma and nightmares. When she is finally able to pick up a paintbrush and return to creating art, Feyre’s paintings of her friends indicate their significance in her recovery. 

Rhysand, too, is recovering from trauma after being Amarantha’s plaything for fifty years, and his survival during that period was motivated by his desire to protect his friends. Looking back on these important relationships in a dark time gave Rhysand something to live for. It reminded him of his own value and identity, even when he had to conceal those elements of himself Under the Mountain. Rhysand’s past is full of trauma, which makes him sensitive and empathetic in his interactions with the deeply depressed Feyre. As Feyre recovers, she steps up to offer Rhysand similar comfort, which shows how these deep healing friendships can be self-sustaining. In all cases, the characters never completely heal from past trauma, but they learn to live with the scars of their experiences by supporting one another.  

The Difficulty of Balancing Love and Personal Agency  

Part of Feyre’s character arc is her struggle to transform from a passive object that needs protection to an independent being. As she falls in and out of love, it becomes clear that her romantic relationships complicate her quest for personal agency. In the Spring Court, Tamlin’s overprotectiveness spoils the happily-ever-after that Feyre hoped for after her rebirth and escape from Under the Mountain. Tamlin’s love for Feyre is so strong that keeping her safe becomes an obsession, making him unable to grant her the personal freedom she craves. The more he tries to protect her, the more he undermines her personal agency. He prevents Feyre from learning to use her own powers even though she could use them to protect herself and assist his court. The final straw for Feyre is when Tamlin places a magical shield around the manor house to keep her safe. Feyre feels like a prisoner, and the desire to escape is what drives her into Rhysand’s life. After being held captive Under the Mountain, Feyre’s independence is more important to her than almost anything else. 

Soon after Feyre leaves the Spring Court, she is attacked by the Attor, proving Tamlin right that her life is in danger. Instead of letting her rely on the protection of others, Rhysand encourages Feyre to use her hard-won new powers to become her own guardian. While he promises that he will always keep her safe, he understands that she needs to be able to manage her own life and protect herself. Balancing Feyre’s personal agency with his love for her is not easy for Rhysand, who panics when she goes off to fight the King of Hybern’s forces instead of taking refuge in the town house. During the battle, when he screams her name via their bond, he is looking for her, but he does not try to stop her from doing what she thinks is right.  

Rhysand makes a major error of judgment, however, when he withholds information from Feyre about their mating bond. Feyre sees this as him making decisions about her life on her behalf, and it takes her days to forgive him. Yet it is clearly a decision Rhysand agonized over, understanding how love would complicate her quest for self-actualization. After they are mated, Rhysand tells Feyre that she has total authority to make decisions about her own life. Then, when he swears her in as High Lady of the Night Court, the new title demonstrates his love for her and his respect for her personal agency. 

The Use of Manipulation for Political Gain 

Manipulation is a key part of the intricate power dynamics within the faerie and human realms. In both cases, it is used to gain political power. A known manipulator, Rhysand reveals that the safety of Velaris depends on his own ability to trick people into believing that the Night Court consists of nothing more than the Court of Nightmares in the depraved Hewn City. In this case, his manipulations serve the greater good, which sets him apart from the other characters involved in Prythian’s political intrigue. Under Rhysand’s training, Feyre also uses manipulation to preserve innocent lives when she flirts with Tarquin. She even plants thoughts in his mind so she can discover where the first half of the Book of Breathings is hidden. As war becomes more certain, the golden-haired queen must manipulate the other mortal queens by acting as their ally when in fact she plans to help Rhysand and Feyre. The goal of her dishonesty is to protect the mortals in her kingdom, and she ultimately loses her life for her actions. 

The King of Hybern is a master manipulator, using bargains and false promises to exert influence and gain a strategic advantage in the war. Unlike the manipulators in the Night Court, the King of Hybern uses people’s loving relationships as leverage. This approach shows that he has no concern for others, much less the greater good. When Feyre returns to the Spring Court in the role of a spy, she knows that the only way to regain political power from Tamlin and the King of Hybern is with an even greater level of manipulation and subterfuge. In the novel’s cliffhanger ending, the intricate web of deceit and power promises to become even more complex.