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

The Weight of Duty 

Both Feyre and Tamlin bear the weight of duty throughout the novel. Feyre carries the weight of being the primary provider for her father and sisters after making a deathbed promise to her mother to do so. Even though she is the youngest daughter, she is the one who learns to hunt when the family is thrust into poverty by their father’s poor decisions. Feyre views her word as her bond and takes her duty to her family seriously even though she resents its unfairness. She carries this vow so closely that even while captive in Prythian, her main concern is not her own safety, but the well-being of her family. Relief only sets in once Tamlin convinces her that her family is well provided for in her absence. However, there is an emptiness in the fulfillment of her duty. Though she has kept her word, she struggles to know who she is without the weight of her promise.  

Tamlin also feels the weight of a duty he never intended to carry when the deaths of his father and brother thrust him into the leadership position of High Lord of the Spring Court. Despite his reluctance to take on the role, Tamlin fiercely protects all the beings of his court. In particular, he protects and gives refuge to his friend and emissary, Lucien. Although Tamlin views his resistance to Amarantha as essential to his duty as a leader of Prythian, he also grapples with the cost. In order to break Amarantha’s curse, sentries in his court die on their mission to lure a woman from the human realm, leaving him wracked with guilt over their deaths. His decision to stop sending the sentries at all illustrates that he chooses their lives and safety over hypothetical salvation. When Tamlin finally relents and sends Andras to the human realm, his guilt over his death is immense. Similarly, Tamlin’s shoulders physically sink as he carries the dead faerie left as a warning on his border. Tamlin, the reluctant leader, will do anything to protect his people and his land, except risk Feyre’s life. As he grows to love Feyre, her safety becomes part of his duty and he can’t bear the thought of her death at Amarantha’s hand. 

The Transformative Power of Love

The ability of love to transform shines through in the relationship between Feyre and Tamlin. As the story begins, Feyre focuses on taking care of her family, though she doesn’t believe they care much about her. She resents her father and her sisters for not doing more, but her promise to her mother will not allow her to abandon her responsibility. With fear and hatred instilled over years of legends, Feyre takes the life of a faerie without hesitation or regret. She struggles to see beauty, humor, or hope in her harsh existence. As far as Tamlin is concerned, Feyre is a simple, uncultured human, only of interest to him because she may be the one to break the curse. Tamlin’s courtesy, kindness, and eventually, love, change Feyre. When not burdened with the survival of her family, she can indulge in her passion for painting. Feyre’s time at the manor allows her to see that not all faeries are nightmare creatures and she shows genuine regret and compassion. She begins to see Prythian not as a prison, but as home, finding her sense of humor, beauty, and hope for the future. At the end of the novel, Feyre’s love for Tamlin is so powerful that she refuses to disavow it, even when it means certain death. Her death in the name of love is what ultimately allows her to be resurrected and transformed into a High Fae. 

The Human/Fae Capacity To Be Both Good and Evil 

The human/fae capacity to be both good and evil is illustrated through the actions of Rhysand, Feyre, Tamlin, and Amarantha. More than any other character, Rhysand demonstrates the grey area between good and evil. He torments Tamlin for fun and relishes his power over Feyre in the trials as he forces her into a humiliatingly revealing costume for court parties and commands her to drink faerie wine. Yet it is Rhysand’s intervention and scheming that saves Feyre’s life and frees Prythian from Amarantha’s grip. Feyre is initially compassionless when she kills Andras in wolf form simply because he may be a faerie. The act may seem evil, but it is done with the good intention of feeding her family. At the end of the novel, Feyre is placed in the impossible position of choosing to stab two faeries to death in order to save Tamlin. She ultimately kills them, and the novel ends without a clear resolution to her understandably complex feelings about murdering innocents for the greater good of Prythian. Tamlin initially seems to be the embodiment of the stereotypically evil faerie when he rips Feyre from her family and holds her in Prythian. However, his evil actions are balanced by the good intentions behind them as he takes Feyre in order to break the curse and save his people. Amarantha is presented as the closest to pure evil in the novel, but even she is motivated by her love for her murdered sister. At different times, each character embodies both good and evil, and their choices and actions emphasize the importance of nuance and compassion.  

The Healing Power of Mercy 

The novel uses Feyre in two different ways to highlight the healing power of mercy. The first example occurs during Feyre’s early days in Prythian when a dying faerie’s suffering forces Feyre to reckon with her prejudices. Though Feyre has been taught to hate and fear faeries her whole life, she is horrified by the suffering of the blue faerie whose wings have been torn off. Feyre makes the merciful decision to tell him the white lie that his wings will be restored so that he may die in peace. She refuses to let him die alone, and holds his hand in his final moments, even after his last breath. In this scene, Feyre’s own mercy has the unexpected result of healing the hatred she’s carried in her heart toward faeries. The blue faerie’s tragic death humanizes faeries for Feyre in a way she hasn’t experienced before, and she experiences genuine regret for killing Andras so callously. The second example is more literal as Feyre is resurrected from the dead by the mercy of the High Fae at the end of the novel. Though many faeries harbor a hatred of humans, Feyre’s heroic actions prompt each of the High Lords to intervene after her death. One by one, the high lords literally heal Feyre with their mercy, transforming her into a High Fae in the process. Not only does their mercy heal her and save her life, it makes her immortal.