As a huntress and her family’s primary source of survival, nineteen-year-old Feyre stalks the bleak woods, a little farther from home than usual. Her family was once very wealthy, but they now live in poverty. Feyre’s luck turns when she spots a deer. At the same time, an enormous wolf appears out of nowhere. Feyre wonders if the wolf is a faerie in disguise. She hates faeries for all the harm they have done to humans. Feyre decides to use a precious ash arrow, a surefire method to kill a faerie, just in case. She fires the arrow as the wolf attacks the deer, killing the beast. The next evening, a golden beast bursts through the door of her family’s rundown cottage. The beast reveals that the wolf was indeed a faerie named Andras. The beast demands payment for his death under the terms of the Treaty between the human and faerie realms. The beast gives Feyre a choice: he can kill her now, or she can follow him to the faerie realm of Prythian to live out the rest of her days. Feyre chooses to live. 

In Prythian, Feyre learns the golden beast is a High Fae called Tamlin. He is the High Lord of the Spring Court. Tamlin and all the faeries in his court wear permanent masks on their faces due to an affliction called the blight. At first, Feyre is determined to escape Prythian, but she soon becomes accustomed to her new home. She learns about its history and magic and that much of what she was raised to believe about faeries, including their inability to lie and their aversion to iron, are myths. Feyre develops an affection for Alis, her lady-in-waiting, and Lucien, Tamlin’s best friend. Tamlin encourages her to explore her love for painting and to improve her reading skills. He reveals that he has ensured her family is well cared for in the human realm. Romantic and sexual tension grows between them. Although Feyre finds Prythian beautiful, it is full of dangerous creatures and intrigue. The blight makes life in Prythian increasingly perilous. After a threatening visit from a High Fae named Rhysand, Tamlin believes Feyre is no longer safe in Prythian and decides to send her back to the human realm. The night before she leaves, they make love. Tamlin tells Feyre that he loves her. Though she loves him too, she cannot bring herself to speak the words aloud.  

Feyre returns to the human realm to find that Tamlin was true to his word. Her family is extremely wealthy and well cared for. Her father and sisters have been glamoured, or tricked with faerie magic, and know nothing about faeries or how their wealth was restored. They believe Feyre has been away caring for a sick aunt. Soon, her sister Nesta reveals the glamour did not work on her. After Feyre was taken to Prythian, Nesta searched for her but was unable to cross the wall between the human and faerie realms. Nesta also reveals she is still angry at their father for not trying harder to save their mother’s life. Nesta’s words inspire Feyre to fight harder for Tamlin and she sets off for Prythian to fight the blight alongside him.  

When Feyre arrives at the Spring Court, Tamlin’s manor house is in shambles. Alis is the only one left. Alis reveals that the blight is a euphemism that refers to Amarantha, the High Queen of Prythian. Amarantha is an interloper who took Prythian over by force. She stole the powers of the High Fae and placed a curse on Tamlin that could only be broken by a woman who hated the fae declaring her love for him. Since Feyre never told Tamlin she loved him, the curse remained. The curse prevented the faeries from telling Feyre the truth, so they used the blight to explain their masks and other conflicts. Alis can tell Feyre this because Amarantha has relaxed part of the curse, believing she’s already won, but there is still one aspect of the curse Alis cannot reveal. When Alis explains that Tamlin and Lucien are Amarantha’s captives, Feyre decides to go after them. 

Feyre journeys to Amarantha’s faerie court Under the Mountain, where she becomes a captive as well. Amarantha gives her the chance to save Tamlin by completing three tasks or by solving a riddle. For the first task, Feyre uses her hunting skills to escape a giant worm in a labyrinth. As the faeries place bets and watch in amusement, the only one to bet on Feyre is Rhysand. After, he heals her broken arm. In exchange, Feyre agrees to spend a week every month with him in the Night Court. For the second task, Feyre must successfully solve a puzzle and choose the right lever or she and Lucien will be impaled and crushed. She makes the correct choice with the aid of Rhysand’s voice in her head. In the meantime, Rhysand parades Feyre around as his escort at parties. 

For the third task, Feyre must stab three faeries in the heart with ash wood daggers. Despite her guilt, she knows it’s the only way to break the curse. She stabs the first two faeries, but when the hood is removed from the third one, it is Tamlin. At first, Feyre believes she must kill the man she loves until she remembers two conversations about Tamlin’s heart of stone. She believes this means Tamlin’s heart is literally made of stone so he cannot be harmed by the dagger. Knowing Amarantha wants Tamlin for herself and doesn’t want to see him killed, Feyre plunges the dagger into Tamlin’s chest. She is correct, but Amarantha refuses to break the curse based on a technicality. In a rage, Amarantha beats Feyre almost to death. Feyre finally realizes the answer to Amarantha’s riddle is the word love. She speaks the solution aloud and the curse breaks just as Feyre dies. With the curse broken, Tamlin and Rhysand join forces to destroy Amarantha. One by one, the six High Lords gift Feyre with healing light and immortality. Tamlin sets a bit of this golden light on her heart, resurrecting Feyre and transforming her into one of the High Fae. Feyre and Tamlin are finally free, but Feyre must reckon with her new life and the lives she took to bring them to this point.