Novel: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | Goodreads
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
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’m always hesitant going into Sarah J. Maas books, mostly because I’m concerned about them being overhyped. I did love Throne of Glass and the following books (although I haven’t finished the series) and this one’s been floating around for a while. Although I’ve heard how insanely good these books are, they took me a long time to get around to reading. A book doesn’t necessarily need to blow my mind, just let me escape my surroundings for a while.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is one that fed off my atmosphere — perfect for tucking in beneath a quilt with a flashlight in a cozy, rainy cabin — while providing a well-structured respite. I wouldn’t say A Court of Thorns and Roses is quite as action-packed as her preceding reads, but it’s great in a different way.
Part of me was surprised that I ended up liking this one because I generally dislike books that I feel are copies or hodgepodges of other popular books. That’s part of why I resent Red Queen‘s popularity so much, because I find it to be wholly unoriginal. A Court of Thorns and Roses did check the same boxes those books do — using a ton of tropes I’ve seen a dozen times before — but for some reason I still loved it.
It has that first-book feel that I’m willing to forgive. I’m hoping to blame it on being a retelling.
In this novel, a huntress named Feyre providing for her family despite her own discomforts kills a wolf in the woods who turns out to be a faerie. When the faerie’s grieving friends come to collect her — “a life for a life” — she goes back to live with him in the mysterious faerie land, from which no humans have emerged. It turns out he’s a High Lord of the Spring Court. Over time, Feyre begins to fall for Tamlin as their friendship deepens and changes. When a dangerous blight falls over their lands, intruding on his Court, she has to go save him and undergoes a series of trials that will determine their fates. (Lots of books involve the sorts of trials she goes through, with particular ones plucked out of fairy tales.)
As a reader, I don’t mind a few tropes. I tend to get annoyed with a ton of them; however, I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses despite its many repetitions. Sarah J. Maas is a skilled storyteller. Her world-building is crisp and intricate. It’s all-encompassing while still maintaining clarity, a balance for which I applaud her. It’s part of what makes her name such a stunner.
It was vivid. It was steamy (which I didn’t quite realize going in — it made me blush often.) It’s lush and thick and elaborate. It was a world I could fully sink into and appreciate. Certain scenes — like the Fire Night descriptions — were at least inventive. I’m reminded of books I used to love back in 2011 when paranormal was a real genre. One of my favorite books, Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, also captured that ethereal and sinister feeling of faerie lore that I love to poke into. So if there’s any reason you want to read it, it’s for a great balance of atmospheres. Weird compliment, but I love Maas’s word choices?
There was exactly one moment during which I rolled my eyes because everything was just so convenient. Like, okay, naturally everything falls into place that way. I don’t think that part of the book will ever stop bothering me. She could have done so much better! Luckily, it was about midway through the book so I wasn’t cheated out of a satisfyingly difficult ending.
I enjoyed some of the characters. Tamlin, the warm and brooding love interest, was solid. Lucien, his friend, was funny. Feyre could annoy me at times but I dug her stubbornness. I’m still hesitant though because she was so beyond bland. I’ve read her character a dozen times over — what makes her different? I’ve been told the second book will convince me, so I’m looking forward to that.
I loved Rhys, the compelling High Fae of the Night Court. I want to read more about him and his motivations — easily the most complex figure in the book. He’s magnetic, to say the least, and even though parts of his character were familiar, I didn’t mind because Maas arranged it all nicely. He’s dark and confusing and alluring.
There are a lot of problems I had with A Court of Thorns and Roses revolving around insta-love and a protagonist I didn’t find particularly memorable. Plus, I’m not totally sure it’s a YA story. But the tension and world-building made it great. And their bickering was entertaining.
I wish that she’d fleshed out the family dynamic because it jumped from emotion to emotion with little transition. She’d talk about how vulture-like Feyre’s sisters were when it came to wealth and effectively martyr her, but then I’d get a little confused when she’d jump straight into discussing the oath Feyre made to her mother to keep them all together. Sometimes, affection would wash over her randomly for her sisters. It felt a little disjointed, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to feel for them. The contradictory images didn’t quite convince me.
In that same vein, I worry that I’m being a bit too harsh on Sarah J. Maas because of her prior success — because her books have achieved this pedestal in the YA world that it feels like few can touch or criticize. All in all, I did love A Court of Thorns and Roses even though I have a lot of critiques.
Although it sounds like this review was chock-full of complaints, they’re all issues that I could look past. I found them worth mentioning, but they didn’t detract from the way I savored the prose, story, and world-building.
If you’re down with an engrossing story that will make you emotionally invested — even if you don’t totally love the romance or main character — it’s worth the read. Although I can’t decide whether I’ll go after the sequel right away or wait a little bit until I just need a book I know will be solid to cleanse my palette, I’m still pretty happy with it.