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Literature / A Court of Thorns and Roses

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When human meets faery.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a fantasy romance series by Sarah J. Maas, initially aimed at Young Adults before being increasingly marketed towards adults.

After debtors raid her home and attack her father, Feyre Archeron and her family are forced into poverty. Unwilling or unable to help, Feyre's family leave her to do all of the housework and hunting. During one of her hunts, she comes across a fey-wolf stalking a deer. Knowing she and her family will starve if she doesn't bring back something, she kills the wolf, bringing its pelt to the village to trade. The next day, a giant beast crashes into her home. This beast is none other than Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court. For killing one of his brethren, he offers Feyre a choice: she can go with him to the Spring Court and live or she can die by his hand. Swallowing her hatred of faeries, Feyre follows Tamlin. When she arrives in Prythian, she learns that a strange blight is killing off Faery kind. And even though a powerful wall separates the humans from the faeries, it's only a matter of time before the blight crosses over.

The series consists of:

  1. A Court of Thorns and Roses (2015)
  2. A Court of Mist and Fury (2016)
    • Wings and Embers (2016): a short story and interquel included with some editions of the second book
  3. A Court of Wings and Ruin (2017)
  4. A Court of Frost and Starlight (2018)
  5. A Court of Silver Flames (2021)

This series contains examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Not quite played straight seeing as it's fantasy, but the setting generally indicates it's a Medieval European Fantasy. Trouble is, it tends to mix this with technology and what-have-you from much later periods. For example, Feyre hunts with a bow and arrow, rather than a crossbow or firearm, but simultaneously there are flushing toilets in the setting. On top of that, there are frequent occurrences of a clearly anachronistic language, such as "pissy". The descriptions of people's outfits (and the accompanying illustrations in the official coloring book) just add to the stew because the clothes seem to be pulled from various different time periods, some centuries apart.
  • An Ice Person: Kallias, the High Lord of the Winter Court, has powerful ice magic.
  • Anything That Moves: Helion isn't too picky as to who or how many accompany him in bed.
  • Attempted Rape:
    • During Calanmai in the first book, Feyre is cornered and nearly dragged off by three men who clearly intend to assault her, only for Rhysand to intervene.
    • Feyre stumbles upon Lucien chained to a tree as Ianthe ignores his protests and strips him.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Mostly played straight in that the High Lord tends to be the strongest fae of their court by design. The only exception being Amren.
  • Badass in Distress: During the chapters in A Court of Mist and Fury where Hybern manages to shoot down and poison Rhysand.
  • Badass Normal: Feyre establishes herself beautifully over the course of the first book. The defining moment is probably her fighting a massive, carnivorous worm while trapped in a labyrinthine maze and defeating it with only quick thinking and clever timing. People are still talking about it in the second book.
  • Becoming the Mask: Feyre and Rhys pretending to be lovers for the benefit of Amarantha, and then the Nightmare Court. The lines of real and fake get blurred pretty quickly.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Nesta and Cassian have a lot of feelings for one another, with frustration being the most prominent one.
  • Big Brother Bully: Nesta, especially in book one. She gets better.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The main villains, especially the King of Hybern and Amarantha, tend to be purely evil and don't even try to hide it; their goals and motives don't really get explored beyond "Take Over the World and kill anyone who gets in the way". The protagonists are firmly opposed to the villains yet many of them tend to be presented as flawed and willing to do some questionable things to achieve their goals. Feyre herself gets involved by killing a wolf she strongly suspects is a faerie and decides it doesn't matter either way because she needs to provide for her family and "all faeries are evil".
  • Broken Bird: Many of the female characters, especially Feyre.
  • Characterization Marches On: Several readers have noted that the way Nesta and Elain are portrayed in the first book differs from how they're portrayed in later books. In the first book they come across as stereotypical wicked fairytale sisters (likely based upon Beauty's spoilt and envious sisters in the original Beauty and the Beast) with little motivation or explanation for why they're so useless and nasty to Feyre. Nesta at least is revealed to have some hidden depths later, having tried to rescue Feyre from Prythian and encouraging her to save Tamlin. The later books try to portray the sisters with more depth and sympathy - Nesta is a bitch out of pride and unresolved trauma, Elain is sweet but passive to the point of helplessness. It still seems a bit strange to some readers that they're presented as having loved Feyre all along when they're so awful to her in Book 1, though. Sarah J. Maas stated in an interview that Feyre's sisters and in particular Nesta ended up being quite different from how she originally wrote them, which probably explains a lot.
  • Christmas Episode: A Court of Frost and Starlight is set during the Winter Solstice and is treated like Prythian's equivalent of Christmas, it being a winter holiday involving family get-togethers and the exchanging of presents.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Seemingly a favorite pasttime of everyone in Hybern.
  • Color-Coded Eyes: Rhys has violet/blue eyes that are often remarked upon as unique and striking. He is also noted to be the most powerful High Lord in history, and the first who isn't of "pure" High Fae blood.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Rhysand and the Court of Dreams.
  • Death by Origin Story: Rhysand and Tamlin's parents and siblings died in a feud between their two families.
  • Decadent Court: A running theme. Under the Mountain resembles the Capitol in its elegant brutality, and while the Autumn Court isn't evil per se, it is highly political and quite a swamp to navigate, even for a particularly scrappy human. The Nightmare Court is also this, duplicitously, so Rhys can keep up the illusion that he's a languid, hedonistic bastard.
  • Disability Immunity: Lucien's artificial eye is able to see through glamours.
  • Distressed Dude: Tamlin is Feyre's at the climax of A Court of Thorns and Roses. See the Badass Normal entry for how she handles it.
  • Domestic Abuse: Suggested to occur behind closed doors between Beron and Lucien's mom.
  • The Dragon: Rhysand to Amarantha. It's a front.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: It's no exaggeration when Feyre says she destroyed herself to save Tamlin.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Bryaxis is so horrible that just looking at it can make people drop dead from fright. It is also never described.
  • End of an Era: When Hybern tears down the wall.
  • Entitled to Have You:
    • Ianthe's attitude towards men in general.
    • The more Feyre slips away from him, the most Tamlin develops this attitude. At the point that it can no longer be denied that she doesn't love him anymore, he suggests that for having sheltered her and supported her family, she owed him her affection.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The King of Hybern is only referred to as The King of Hybern, despite being the main antagonist of The Court of Mist and Fury and The Court of Wings and Ruin.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After their time Under The Mountain, Feyre finds Tamlin's efforts to protect her to be controlling and emotionally neglectful. When she rejects him, he then goes so far as to hurt her friends and family trying to get her back.
  • Faerie Court: Several of these appear and play a central role in the series (it's even in the title). The High Fae of Prythian are divided into different Courts, each ruled by a High Lord: the Spring Court, Summer Court, Autumn Court, Winter Court, Dawn Court, Day Court and Night Court. Some are more benevolent than others; the Night Court has the most sinister reputation by far although it turns out some of this is intentionally played up to keep enemies out.
  • The Fair Folk: Faeries in this series are clearly inspired by or based upon fairies and equivalent creatures from Celtic mythology and the like. The High Fae in particular seems greatly inspired by the Sidhe of Irish mythology. While they're not all inherently evil and some can be highly benevolent, they all tend to be powerful, ruthless and dangerous, tend to treat humans like pets at best, and humans themselves are fearful of them.
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Rhys kisses Feyre without her consent in the first book to protect her from Amarantha's anger.
  • Fallen Princess: Feyre the impoverished merchant's daughter.
  • Family of Choice: The Night Court's relationship with one another.
  • Fantastic Arousal: Wing-touching for Illyrians. According to Rhysand, Illyrian males can reach orgasm solely through that if it's done right.
  • Fantastic Racism: Between humans and fae. In the fae realm the high fae also look down at lesser fae.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Prythian and Hybern are loosely based upon the British Isles. The bigger island containing Prythian and the Mortal Lands resembles Britain in shape and size; Hybern, the slightly smaller island located to the west of Prythian, resembles Ireland. Prythian appears to be a portmanteau of Prydain (the old Welsh name for Britain) and Brython (Welsh for Briton). Hibernia is the Latin name for Ireland. The whole history with Prythian and Hybern warring for centuries is similar to the real-world conflict between Ireland and Britain, although weirdly it's the Ireland-counterpart who keep trying to invade the Britain-counterpart; anyone who is remotely familiar with the history of the British Isles will tell you it was the other way around in real life.
  • Filler: The novella A Court of Frost and Starlight is largely a low-stakes, lighthearted slice-of-life story that doesn't significantly advance the plot or characters; you can skip this one and go straight to A Court of Silver Flames with little trouble.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Feyre and Rhys, so much. The fact that they have to act as lovers multiple times, including a rather handsy kiss, does not help. By the end of the second book, it's no longer "foe" or "subtext".
  • Good All Along: Rhysand. Also Jurian in the third book.
  • Good Is Not Soft: The entirety of the Night Court.
  • Gratuitous Rape: Although Feyre fortunately isn't raped, she spends a lot of the first book's third act being sexually harassed and humiliated, including being subjected to Go-Go Enslavement, being drugged and forced to perform lap dances, and being intimately touched without her consent. She is also clearly afraid that she will be raped at some point or that she might've been raped while drugged. Rhysand states he's only doing this in order to protect her from worse treatment from Amarantha and her cronies, though some have questioned why his idea of being Cruel to Be Kind is so centered around sexual assault and degradation (especially seeing as at one point he just has her clean his room for hours). Feyre is already in an extremely dire situation note  so this adds little to the plot. Given what happens in Book 2, Maas may have intended these scenes to establish the future romantic relationship between Feyre and Rhysand, although Rhysand secretly helping Feyre with her trials sets this up just as well (if not better).
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Tamlin is not a pleasant ally to work with once he accepts that Feyre willingly left him for Rhysand.
  • Happy Ending Override: The first book technically has a Bittersweet Ending as Feyre is traumatised by what happened and the King of Hybern is still a threat, but it otherwise ends on a positive note with Amarantha dead and Prythian freed from her tyranny, and Feyre and Tamlin happily reunited. The second book immediately undoes this; three months later neither Feyre or Tamlin have made much progress in dealing with their trauma and seem to have forgotten how to communicate, which causes their relationship to rapidly deteriorate. Feyre in particular is severely depressed until Rhysand steps in by technically forcing her to come to the Night Court against her will.
  • Heel Realization: Lucien refers to himself as "the villain in [Feyre's] narrative," upon seeing how she lives in Night Court.
  • Heroic Fantasy: The first book mostly falls into this category, although for the remainder of the series it shifts into High Fantasy. Feyre is a Pragmatic Hero whose main goal is initially to protect her family and survive, including trying to find a way out of a magically-binding contract with a faerie lord, who tricked her in the hopes she could break a curse that has befallen his court. After she falls in love with him she goes to save him from an evil faerie queen, whom she learns is a threat to the whole world. Feyre is also a Badass Normal who mostly relies on her wits and hunting skills to overcome obstacles; in the second book she gains powers.
  • High Fantasy: Especially following the first book. The series is set in a pseudo-medieval world where fae and humans live side-by-side, magic is reasonably commonplace amongst fae, and the main villain is a Sorcerous Overlord who is trying to reinvade Prythian after being foiled centuries ago.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The series has never shied away from depicting sexual content, but A Court of Silver Flames (the first book to be specifically marketed as adult literature rather than young adult) really ramps this up, with sex scenes being far more frequent and explicit than previous installments, to the point of bordering on/crossing into Porn with Plot.
  • Humanoid Abomination:
    • Amren. She's an incredibly old being from another dimension who is somehow magically constrained, keeping her powers tamped down. Even with her powers tamped down, she's terrifying. Also she drinks blood.
    • Both the Bone Carver and the Weaver also qualify.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The Archeron family are desperately poor and primarily rely on Feyre's hunting to get by. However, it's mentioned that Elain - who loves gardening - is able to maintain a small flower garden outside their cottage. Which begs the question: why didn't any of them think of trying to grow vegetables?
    • In the first book, Feyre's encounter with the shapeshifting puca in the manor garden, which she genuinely believes is her father. This is despite the fact that a) she knows some faeries can shapeshift and b) there's no logical explanation for her father getting there (he has a crippled leg and no wilderness survival skills - she even considers the possibility he came on a horse despite her family lacking the means to obtain horses - he has no idea where Feyre was taken in Prythian, and Feyre herself describes him as not the kind of man who would venture into faerie territory to save his captured daughter). In spite of all this, Feyre is immediately taken in by the illusion and isn't even a little suspicious.
    • At the end of A Court of Wings and Ruin Feyre and Rhys make a magical pact that if one of them dies so will the other. Besides the co-dependency issue, considering they're co-rulers of the Night Court it would leave the government leaderless and unstable, and possibly endanger the civilians. It only gets worse in A Court of Silver Flames after Feyre becomes pregnant, as if anything were to happen to one of them it would guarantee their child was orphaned, and it directly makes things even worse in the climax when Feyre nearly dies in childbirth. Several readers considered it stupid at best, selfish and irresponsible at worst.
  • I Gave My Word: Promises are Serious Business, considering their world depends on one.
    [I]n our miserable human world—shielded only by the promise made by the High Fae five centuries ago—in our world where we'd forgotten the names of our gods, a promise was law; a promise was currency; a promise was your bond.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Nesta and Elain take it poorly when they're turned into fae.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Tamlin and Rhysand are both willing to give Feyre up if it means letting her be safe with her loved ones.
  • Immortality Inducer: A bath in the cauldron can turn a human into a high fae.
  • Immortality Seeker: The human queens ally with Hybern to gain access to the cauldron's ability to grant immortality.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Azriel. He gets better.
  • Impractically Fancy Clothes: Feyre's Pimped-Out Dress in A Court of Mist and Fury.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Many of the Fae are depicted as such, especially the High Fae.
  • Interspecies Romance: All over the place between humans and various fae.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Lucien makes it no secret that he despised Feyre and wouldn't mind her getting killed when she first comes to live in Prythian, in no small part due to the feeling being mutual. However, he later grows to genuinely care for her and tries to be a good friend.
  • Land of Faerie: Prythian is separated from the human realm by a magical barrier. The land is broken into various courts, ruled over by fae High Lords.
  • Magitek: Lucien's eye and Nuan's hand.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Lucien takes after his mother in enough ways that it's not immediately obvious whether he's the son of her husband, or the man she was having an affair with at the time.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: The High Fae all look young but are long lived. This means that there are multiple romances that fit this trope:
    • Feyre (who is in her late teens/early twenties) to either Tamlin or Rhysand, who are both hundreds of years old.
    • Nesta (early twenties) and Cassian, who is likewise hundreds of years old.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Feyre Archeron. By the end of book one, she's become one of the High Fae, and by the end of book two, she is the High Lady of the Night Court. "Acheron" was one of the five rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology.
    • Tamlin himself shares the name of the eponymous Tam Lin of Scottish folk tales, also one of The Fair Folk who falls in love with a human and fears retribution from a fae queen.
    • Morrigan, noted to have fought with humanity and have powers of truth, shares the name of Irish Mythology figures associated with battle, fate and truth.
    • Lucien's name comes from the Roman name "Lucius" which means "light". Fittingly, he is likely the product of an affair between his mother and the high lord of the Day Court, Helion.
  • Mills and Boon Prose: It's not so present in the first book, but the sex scenes become increasingly loaded with grandiose metaphors and descriptors.
  • Mind Rape: How Feyre responds to the situation when she catches Ianthe about to actually rape Lucien.
  • The Mole :
    • Rhysand looks for ways to take Amarantha down from within while forced to serve her.
    • Feyre, after Tamlin's betrayal. She pretends to still be in love with him while manipulating events to turn Tamlin's followers against him and spark a civil war.
    • Tamlin and Jurian both pretend to ally with Hybern over obsession for lovers who jilted them in order to spy and weaken him from within.
  • Never Learned to Read: Feyre is borderline literate.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Feyre masterfully devolves Tamlin's court into a civil war after he hurts her family and allies with Hybern. Too bad Tamlin was still on their side in the war and was only acting as The Mole. His men turning against him makes Spring Court fall immediately to Hybern's forces, and his court just happens to be the one to share its border with the wall Hybern wants to bring down.
  • No Woman's Land: Prythian generally isn't an ideal place for women, though it varies across the land as to how well women are treated. All the Courts are ruled by men and Tamlin explicitly says that if he and Feyre were to marry, she wouldn't be considered High Lady and hold any power herself; the primary role of a High Lord's consort is to plan parties and give her husband heirs. Illyrians treat women extremely poorly; they don't allow them to become warriors and think their main purpose is to breed. The moment a girl gets her first period (and thus 'comes of age'), their wings are forcibly clipped so they can't fly, making it easier to control them. Fae men in general also tend to be rather possessive and jealous over their female significant others. However, the Night Court (surprisingly) is more progressive for women; Rhysand has tried to stamp out the Illyrian practice of wing-clipping and when he and Feyre get together, he officially names her High Lady, insisting she is his equal and co-ruler.
  • Non-Idle Rich: Many of the High Lords, who govern and protect their lands.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Characters regularly exclaim "by the Cauldron!" or refer to "the Mother".
  • Parental Abandonment: Feyre's mother intrusted her with taking care of the family on her death bed. A wise choice, since her father shuts down after losing his fortune and does nothing to provide for his children.
  • Phantasy Spelling: "faerie"/"fae".
  • Playing with Fire: Lucien, as well as the rest of his family.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: By killing Andras in the first chapter, Feyre meets the qualification to break Tamlin's curse. He wastes no time in whisking her away to his court.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • A lot of the first book needn't have happened if someone just bothered to explain to Feyre what was going on. It's especially egregious with Calanmai, as that wasn't made off-limits by the curse. While it's understandable Tamlin might not want to explain to Feyre about having to participate in the Great Rite, either he or Lucien or anyone else could've at least made it clearer that it was dangerous for her to leave and so she needed to stay indoors.
    • This one of the reasons Feyre and Tamlin's relationship breaks down in the second book. Feyre states early on that they "mutually agreed" to not talk about what happened Under the Mountain even though they're both traumatized by it; in doing so, they don't do themselves any favors because they either can't understand or misinterpret the other's actions. While we never see what Tamlin thinks exactly, we're constantly in Feyre's head and she tends to not make it clear if she's unhappy or why she's unhappy, just going along with whatever she thinks will make Tamlin happy, and then when she does speak up she tends to make inflammatory comments like saying it feels like he's "drowning [her]" and that he should "marry someone who can deal with this", which in turn makes him shut down from anger, so nothing gets resolved.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: As the series goes on the books go out of their way to excuse Feyre, the Inner Circle, and especially Rhysand's more morally-iffy actions despite them being hypocritical or downright morally reprehensible, while other characters guilty of doing the same thing are treated as terrible people. Rhys's actions in particular range from hiding the danger's of Feyre's pregnancy from her, drugging and molesting her for days Under the Mountain for the flimsy excuse of stoking Tamlin's rage, shaming Morrigan for being triggered when he reveals her safe space to her abusive father, repeatedly keeping Feyre in the dark when he has a mission for her, making rather disgusting comments about their sex life, but his actions are often justified in-universe as being necessary evils or a cover-up for benevolent acts.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Illyrians. Childhood in that legacy is....rough, to say the least.
  • Questionable Consent: Lucien willingly participates in Calanmai with Ianthe, but only out of a sense of duty towards Spring Court. Everything about his attitude towards her and the incident suggests that he didn't want any part in it.
  • Rape as Drama: Rhys and Amarantha's arrangement. That lasted decades. Despite Amarantha's beauty, it's made abundantly clear that it wasn't an enjoyable experience for him. In A Court of Mist and Fury, he confesses that almost all his nightmares are about her, either that he's back in her bed, or one of his friends is, and he's powerless to help.
  • Really 700 Years Old: As a rule, the High Fae tend to look like young adults. All of the High Fae who appear in the series, with the exception of Feyre, Tarquin, Nesta, and Elain are all actually centuries old.
  • Redemption Demotion: Lucien goes from being Tamlin's right-hand man to a freeloader in Night Court eager to find some way to make himself useful.
  • Romantic False Lead: Tamlin in the first book.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Tamlin. Rhys is especially devoted to the well-being of his land.
  • Same Plot Sequel: The main premise of A Court of Silver Flames recycles quite a bit from A Court of Mist and Fury. A young woman who saved Prythian in the previous installment is left traumatized and alienated from her loved ones. She is forced out of her rut against her will and eventually finds ways to heal and makes new friends, while also developing a romance with a man she previously disliked who turns out to be her destined mate. Oh and there's a side plot about an evil monarch trying to get a magical artifact.
  • Shapeshifter: Tamlin's main power.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Rhys is frequently mentioned to be smartly dressed, making him the time period equivalent of this trope.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Multiple female characters, but most prominently Nesta and Mor.
  • Ship Sinking: If Feyre becoming Rhysand's mate and acknowledging that her love with Tamlin turned toxic isn't enough, Tamlin allying with Hybern and inadvertently getting her sisters abducted certainly cements that he's no longer a romantic option.
  • Terms of Endangerment: Rhys and his "Feyre darling". Later becomes an actual term of endearment.
  • That Man Is Dead: Feyre declares that the girl she was in the first book died Beneath The Mountain. Literally in her case, seeing as she did die for a short while.
  • Token Minority: Mor, Helion, Thesan, Nephelle and her wife, and the two unnamed Mortal Queens are the only non-straight characters in the series.
  • Tranquil Fury: Most of the characters tend to express anger in this fashion.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: The fate of Brannagh and Dagdan in The Court of Wings and Ruin.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Feyre doesn't put any thought into who else she'll hurt in her quest for revenge against Tamlin, which both Tamlin and Lucien are quick to call her on.
  • Whole-Plot Reference:
    • A Court of Thorns and Roses is inspired by Beauty and the Beast (Feyre is an impoverished merchant's daughter with two sisters, who has to make a deal to live with a mysterious beast. The mysterious beast turns out to be a handsome royal under a curse, and it is her love that will break the spell) and later the myth of Cupid And Psyche (Feyre is set three difficult tasks by a cruel and envious queen in order to be reunited with her love interest; after completing them she is magically turned into an immortal being). It's also inspired by the Scottish ballad of "Tam Lin"; besides this being where Tamlin gets his name from, the plot concerns a young human woman who must rescue her lover from the Queen of the Fairies.
    • A Court of Mist and Fury is inspired by the myth of Hades and Persephone (Feyre, a lady of the Spring Court, is whisked away by the sinister ruler of a land with a dark reputation, and must remain there for a set amount of time. Said ruler is revealed to be Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, has fallen in love with her and makes her his queen. It also turns out the land has some unexpectedly beautiful and benevolent parts, where Feyre resides. Oh and the loved one she left behind in the Spring Court pitches an almighty fit when she disappears).
    • A Court of Wings and Ruin is loosely inspired by Snow White; Feyre eats an apple containing faebane that temporarily causes her to lose her power, the villain is an evil monarch with magical powers (albeit a king rather than a queen), the villain is betrayed by a subordinate who helps the protagonists, there's a subplot involving a magic mirtor that shows your true self, and the scene in which Rhysand dies and Feyre begs the High Lords - of which there are seven including her - to save him out of love loosely resembles the seven dwarfs watching over Snow White until she's brought back to life by the prince.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Feyre deliberately provokes Tamlin to the point of lashing out at her in A Court of Wings and Ruin in order to gain Lucien's (and the rest of Spring Court's) sympathy against him.
  • You Are Too Late: With a book and a half spent trying to prevent the wall from falling, it collapses days before the cast would have been ready to reinforce it.