Review | A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses

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Sarah J Maas
Published: 2015
Page count: 416
Goodreads: See here!

Plot at a Glance:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever


Reviewed: 

I’ve been putting off reading this series for years, because I knew I was likely to have mixed feelings about it. How can anything live up to the massive amount of hype that has been created around this series? As I expected, I’m conflicted in the ways this book subverted both my positive and negative expectations. This will probably end up being the longest review I’ve ever written, just because I need this space to sort out my feelings about it.

There’s a reason why Sarah J Maas has become the queen of Young Adult and New Adult fantasy styled fiction. She’s created her own niche within the genre, where she’s made fantasy romantic and sexy again, with a snappy and exciting pace to her storytelling. Like Patrick Rothfuss captured teen boy wish fulfillment in his Kingkiller Chronicles series, Maas has captured the lightning of teen girl wish fulfillment in a bottle and sold it to the masses, and I can see why it’s done so well – even if it didn’t totally work for me.

Feyre is a perfect surrogate for the audience to experience the story through. She’s kind and noble and strong in her own, perfectly human, right at the start of the story. Bound by a curse after killing one of the fae-kind while out on a hunt, Feyre is whisked away into a mysterious world of magic, beautiful men and dangerous liaisons that she’s just as unfamiliar with as the reader is. She’s a quintessential romantic lead because of how easily the audience can step inside her shoes and I most enjoyed the earliest parts of the story when the world was still mysterious and new to her.

I do wish that she had been a bit more flawed, and that information had come to her with a greater degree of difficulty than it seemed to here. Often times, if Maas needs the audience to know something about the world of Fae that we don’t yet know, Feyre is conveniently placed to overhear a conversation, or outright told what’s up by her captors. As a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Maas recaptures the element of romance well, but I feel like she neglects the greater character building moments that the Beast (Tamlin) and Belle (Feyre) had in the source material in favor of making things too easily learned or given to the characters.

Every time Feyre is lost or in the dark about something, or in grave danger, one of the male leads shows up and delivers her information that becomes pivotal in saving her skin. Maas is great at using these moments to engage that romantic, wish-fulfillment element of the storytelling, but as far as creating a compelling character that grows organically, I felt it fell a little short.

Not to mention that I spent a great deal of the book trying to make sense of the plot. In the original Beauty and the Beast, Belle sacrifices her freedom to take her father’s place as a ward of the beast. In ACOTAR, Feyre accidentally kills one of the Fae while hunting for food for her destitute family and is carried away as punishment… to live in luxury and with complete freedom with the sexy Tamlin in the world of faerie? To further confuse the reader, Tamlin also agrees to pay Feyre’s family a stipend for taking her away that allows them to live in comfort without her while she’s imprisoned. Huh? In what way exactly is this a punishment?

It works in a rags-to-riches, wish fulfillment sort of way but I found myself scratching my head for 80% of the story, trying to figure out in what way her imprisonment made any sort of sense. And Feyre never questions it, because Maas never intended the reader to examine this element that closely. Clearly, the important part is not how she is drawn into Tamlin’s world, but just that she is at all.

Even while she’s imprisoned, Tamlin and Lucien constantly feed her information necessary to plan an escape. It’s another example of things coming too easily for Feyre. She’s never truly in danger when she’s a prisoner, because that’d make the romance element too difficult to engage.

I’m truly mixed on how I feel about the world building so far. I full expect to learn much more about Prythian (the Faerie lands) over the course of the series, but it felt a little sparse to me in places. Especially concerning the mortal world. We have no idea how humanity functions in this world, aside from knowing that they are terrified of the Fae that live to the north. How does their government function? Are they a democratic society, or are they lead by a ruler? How many human beings are left in this world? It’s obvious from the map that it’s far less than the Fae, so why haven’t the Fae overrun and destroyed humanity? It’s never really clarified in a satisfying way in this book, though I suspect we’ll learn more in the next books.

I will hand it to Maas though that her imagination is a vivid one. Prythian, and the various fae courts is by its nature intriguing and exciting to watch unfold. I’m particularly excited to see the ways my understanding of it develops in the next installment of the series.

I can see why younger readers and fans of romance love the male leads. They’re all beautiful, sexy, dangerous and damaged, like the worst YA and NA leading men always are. Maas asks the reader to overlook their most problematic aspects – like how possessive they are over Feyre – because they’re stunning and sexy men. Feyre literally has her eyelids and eyelashes licked by one of the male romantic leads in a scene that I’m sure was meant to be sexy but I found myself cringing over.

Also, why does every male character always have to snarl/growl at everyone they ever speak to? I lost track of the amount of times Tamlin’s claws or fangs shot out over the course of the story. I know the Fae are meant to be sexy and enigmatic, but they’re too close to animals for me to really find attractive, though I get why fans of romance do.

All in all, this wasn’t as good or as bad as I might have expected it to be. Much like Throne of Glass, I found it sort of average? I understand that A Court of Mist and Fury is supposed to improve upon the formula that Maas created here, so I’m excited to see if I find it an improvement or not in a few weeks when I pick that book up.

🌟🌟🌟 = 3/5 stars! 


Have you read this? What did you think? What about ACOMAF? Does it improve upon the first?

xoxo

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74 thoughts on “Review | A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

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  1. I am a huge fan of Maas but ACOTAR was defintiely one of my least favorite books of her’s but the story greatly improves and changes a lot during ACOMAF (and is one of my favorite Maas’s novels) so I would say if you are willing to try it, you might like it more then the first book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was reluctant too. I will say that I went in with purposefully LOW expectations and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The magic and fantasy aspects are fun, but the romance and worldbuilding fell flat to me. You may find aspects of it enjoyable. And I’ve heard that book 2 improves upon the first.

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  2. So, I’m reading your review and totally getting why certain things didn’t work for you. But the whole fantasy romance thing sounded intriguing so I thought it might be worth a try. Then I got to the eyelash licking part and after I stopped laughing at the absurd imagery, I found myself terribly concerned for her well being because I’m pretty sure that would lead to some sort of infection. Yikes!

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      1. Oh my gosh, I hope I’m missing something because that’s sounding pretty traumatic, maybe even non-consensual. I’m so glad I didn’t pick this book up expecting amusingly awkward sex.

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  3. I adore this series! I know a friend that was not a “fan” of the first novel but quickly fell in love with the series after the 2nd book! Great review

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So I just finished ACOTAR for the first time too.. and I LOVED it. I definitely had some of the same concerns as you, but I’m almost finished with the second in the series and I can tell you A LOT gets explained and you get kind of an AH HA moment in regards to her imprisonment etc. Rhysand was like that creepy older brother of your bestfriend who knows he shouldnt hit on you.. but he does anyway because hes a perv.

    I definitely think you should continue with the series. The second book goes into even more world building and Maas did an even better job showing us more of Pyrinthian.

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  5. This was my least favorite book in the series, I really enjoyed ACOMAF a LOT more. I guess I didn’t like Feyre in this one at all, the whole thing kind of felt cliché, even how it ended and I agree that everything seemed conveniently given to her and it ruined all the fun and adventure this could have had. I really liked the world Maas created, the courts and everything is original and was my favorite thing in this book.

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  6. I totally agree with you!! It was so hyped that I was worried about picking it up, but when I did, at first I was pleasantly surprised. Then it got to all the bits you mentioned, and it just had me scratching my head! I also found the whole “you have to stay in your room because he simply can’t be held accountable for what he does to you if you come out tonight” problematic! Not the best message to give teen girls, especially as Tamlin didn’t seem to give a crap the following morning and pretty much maintained that she shouldn’t have left her room!!

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    1. I’m so glad you and I are on the same page about this! I definitely found a lot of Tamlin and Rhysand’s possessiveness of Feyre to be a bit problematic. It’s pretty strange to me how their sort of predatory behavior gets overlooked because they’re supposed to be beautiful.

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  7. This was a fantastic review, Bentley! I have to say that I found myself having the same gripes that you did (lol, I actually DNF’d it at one point and had to set it aside for a month XD) and I was quite surprised when I picked it up that this was the book that everyone raved about it since I did find it quite average. But I totally think you nailed it on the head with why it’s so marketable and so best selling. I will admit that I did find the next installment far better since I thought Maas did an interesting job with the psychology that she took on and really explored the rest of the courts which I found to be quite cool. Wonderful review, Bentley, and hope you enjoy the second one more (and let’s not talk about that third one XD)! 🙂

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    1. Thank you Mandy!! I’m actually heartened to hear that I wasn’t the only one who had some issues with this! Though I really can’t wait to learn more about the world. I think it’s the fantasy aspects of this book that I loved the most.

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  8. i honestly think this book is in some ways the best of the series……and i was not a fan. can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the remaining books!! great review 🙂

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  9. Ah yes I so so agree about having trouble making sense of the plot- it didn’t really feel like a punishment (and honestly, I felt like Feyre had done something wrong, unlike in the original) I do agree about Maas’ vivid imagination. hehe and yes I found a fair amount of the romance cringey in this one. I wasn’t as crazy about this one, but I found the series definitely got better. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled to make sense of how exactly Feyre was being punished. I get that it was given some context near the end, but spending 80% of the book confused didn’t sit well. I’m glad to hear you think the series improves though! I hope I find it the same.

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  10. Love your review! I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first book I did like it but I wasn’t wowed. I didn’t like Tamlin as a love interest at all. Book two really made a difference for me and I loved it!

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  11. Loved hearing your thoughts on this hyped book! I think after reading several well-spoken lukewarm/negative reviews, I won’t be picking this series up lol. There’s too much else I’d rather get to. The eye-licking/crying thing?? I remember Edward tasted Bella’s tears in Twilight and I just 0.o couldn’t handle it lol.

    Really appreciated your last gif lol I loved the first few seasons of that show!!! Still love Eric and I still refer to lil kids as teacup humans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Omg you’re so right! That was a definitely twilight parallel moment! I’m actually a little shocked Sarah J Maas put that in now.

      And I loved True Blood! I used to watch every episode with a viewing group. I wish the last couple seasons had been as great as the first few.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Great review, I absolutely love this book and I can totally understand why this book was just ok for you. Now I made the decision to not continue on with this series because I have a gut feeling I will not like the rest of the series and so far the reviews I have seen I know I would not like where the ACOTAR series was heading. So I decided not to read the rest of the ACOTAR series maybe one day I will read the rest of the series but as of right now I’m not going to continue on with the series. Thank you so much for sharing your awesome post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Katiria, I’m glad you enjoyed this review! I sort of am on the exact same page as you about continuing on with this series. I’ve read some small bits of info on the next book, and I’m not certain I’ll love where the plot/romance goes in the next book. We’ll see though!

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  13. You have said everything, I’ve been trying to put into words. I just couldn’t with this book and have yet to move forward in the series.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve heard the book two is far better than book one and that is why I should read it. But I have not even batted an eye towards it.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. The sexual situations are very animalistic to the point that it almost makes me just laugh. But I still love it. I can’t wait to see if your opinion changes after the next book!

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