Sarah J. Maas is a top name in YA fantasy these days, and I’ve finally taken a look at one of her first-in-a-series books, A Court of Thorns and Roses. Although the end of winter would be a much better time to read about the Spring Court of Prythian, I took this book right out to the fields with me this fall and could hardly put it down.
About the book: Feyre is the youngest of three daughters in an impoverished family, but she seems to be the only one capable of ensuring that her sisters and father survive. Feyre promised on her mother’s deathbed to take care of them, but their luck’s about to change. While hunting in the woods, Feyre shoots her arrow into a wolf that may be a faerie in disguise, and her whole life changes in consequence. An immortal faerie comes to claim the life debt by taking Feyre as his captive into Prythian, a deadly place not fit for mortals. Despite her desire to return to her family and keep the promise she made to her mother, as Feyre becomes more involved in life with the faeries she learns some disturbing secrets that change her view of the world and perhaps even her purpose in life. An unlikely love will also play a role in Feyre’s decisions as it becomes clearer that her life and her friends may be at stake in an epic, magic-infused fight for control of Prythian.
” ‘So,’ he said wearily, ‘here we are, with the fate of our immortal world in the hands of an illiterate human.’ His laugh was unpleasant as he hung his head, cupping his forehead in a hand, and closed his eyes. ‘What a mess.’ “
This book is a fantasy retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast story, which is a personal favorite of mine. Feyre, however, is no helpless damsel in distress, and even when she knows she stands no chance against an enemy, she refuses to go down without a fight–which includes fighting for those she loves. The world Maas has created in this novel is delicately sumptuous and positively irresistible.
“Magic–that’s what the tang had been, what was keeping my limbs tucked in tight, preventing me from going for my knife. I recognized the power deep in my bones, from some collective mortal memory and terror. How long had it kept me unconscious? How long had he kept me unconscious, rather than have to speak to me?”
However, there were times I felt that Maas had such a clear idea of this story and its setting that when she inserted main characters into the novel, she failed to mine them sufficiently for personality. The characters’ motivations were so basically related to human instinct and natural emotion that there seemed to be little about them that was distinct. These characters felt like they could be strong, but weren’t quite reaching their full potential in A Court of Thorns and Roses. With Feyre in particular, an event would be followed by a note of her emotions or thoughts that didn’t quite match what had been shown previously in regards to her personality and reactions. I think that the return of these characters in future volumes of this series will help them develop more fully, evolving into unique traits and consistent mannerisms, so it’s not a major concern of mine yet although it did make this story feel more contrived.
Nevertheless, whether the characters’ emotions are remarkable or not, emotions are certainly prevalent. Love and hate and immense loyalty in this novel are laying the seeds for what I predict will be remarkably complex relationships as this series continues. Even where the emotions are predictable, they are strong enough to insist upon being felt, inserting themselves into the readers’ own hearts. The plot of A Court of Thorns and Roses has been constructed to instigate emotion.
“Tomorrow–there would be tomorrow…to face what I had done, to face what I shredded into pieces inside myself…but for now…for today…”
My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I think that if I had approached this book as I would a stand-alone novel, it would’ve had a lower rating. The fact that I knew beforehand it was part of a series, and that the second book is widely held as the better of the two that have so far been published, gave me more patience with A Court of Thorns and Roses than I might have had based on its own merit. I liked the plot, but if I hadn’t read this book intending to get to the next one, I might not have been invested enough to read the next one. Now that I don’t read YA books as frequently as I used to, it takes a truly extraordinary novel to keep me interested in a YA set, and this one makes the grade, but barely. I’ll read the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, and see what happens from there.
- Anything by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes would probably be appreciated by Sarah J. Maas fans. She’s lesser known than she deserves. Hawksong is a great YA fantasy choice with a fulfilling romance, and it can easily be read in one sitting.
- The Vampire Diaries series by L. J. Smith is another fantastic YA romance, albeit supernatural rather than fantasy. The books are better than the show, as per usual, but the plot is irresistibly dark and addicting, sweet and intense, like A Court of Thorns and Roses. Even if you already have an idea of the story line from the TV show, or generally don’t like vampires, don’t pass on this series without trying it, especially if you like Maas style romance.
What’s next: I panicked on my last library trip, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to get back for a while, and grabbed a few extra things on top of what I was already planning to read in October. I must have been in an otherworldly mood that day, because I picked up fantasy and supernatural books. I hope it won’t throw off my October TBR too much, and I hope I won’t get too bogged down with fantasy to get through them, but I’m planning to finish the library books first. So now that I’ve turned this into a long explanation, I’ll get to the point and mention that I’m currently reading Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, and loving it. Keep an eye out for my next post soon to find out why The Raven Boys is another perfect October read!
The Literary Elephant
Update: You can now find my complete review of the next book in this series, A Court of Mist and Fury, here!