A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J Maas
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
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?