A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 5, 2015
Genres: young adult/new adult, romance, fantasy, retellings
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If I had to use one word to describe this novel, I think it’d be “tepid.”
Others don’t seem to fit right. “Bland” implies I didn’t enjoy this novel. “Dull” makes it sound like this book was disagreeable. It’s not that I didn’t like A Court of Thorns and Roses. It’s that I didn’t love it.
I’d heard mixed reviews about this book from my peers, so I was a little wary of starting the series. But the people I knew who’d liked it had loved it. These people lauded Maas as a masterful writer. Fae combined with a Beauty and the Beast retelling seemed more appealing than assassins to me, so I picked ACOTAR up first.
I will say that Maas definitely isn’t a bad writer. Her descriptions are vivid without being overbearing, and she does a good job of establishing the setting, whether it’s the forest during the winter, Feyre’s home village, or Tamlin’s Spring Court. She’s a good world-builder (which is further evidenced in ACOMAF, but I digress), and that’s something difficult to get right in YA fantasy.
The world Maas has created here is intruiging and mysterious. I want to more about the Fae and other nonhuman creatures in this world. I want to know more about Fae politics and dynamics between the High Fae of each court. This novel does a great job of setting up all these elements for future installments, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of this book. I can’t wait to see what Maas does with this world in later books.
I also enjoyed the relationship Feyre had with her sisters. She’s angry and upset that she’s the only one providing for them (which is understandable), and, though their relationships are strained, you can see that these siblings care for each other in their own ways. I also liked how Feyre was the youngest, which flips the “older sister=family provider” trope on its head (a trope which, if you’ve read my review for The Stars Never Rise, you’ll know is a trope I’m very tired of). It was nice to see something different for a change.
In regards Beauty and the Beast undertones, this is a very loose retelling. I got vibes of the original from ACOTAR via certain elements included, but this story is very much its own tale. (Speaking of which, one of my fellow bloggers wrote a short post comparing the abusive elements in Beauty and the Beast to the same elements in ACOTAR. If you’re interested, the link is here.)
Unfortunately, though I liked all of these things about ACOTAR, I failed to fully invest in the book as a whole. It’s 416 pages long, and, for at least 150 of those pages, we’re with Feyre in Tamlin’s house, where she does little more than explore the grounds and paint. Rounded up, that’s about 36% of the book where she’s doing pretty much nothing, and, honestly, it’s pretty boring to read. I had to push myself through first two thirds of the book in hopes that I would get invested soon.
There’s almost nothing to keep you reading during that time, either, besides the mystery behind Tamlin’s mannerisms and the world of the Fae. But for readers hoping for some sort of romantic tension, there really isn’t much until about halfway through the book. (I’d estimate it at about 55% in.)
After the big twist, of course, things get interesting, but they took such a drastic turn that it seemed I was reading a totally different book, and I felt a little disoriented. We went from admiring the various rooms and flowers on Tamlin’s estate to battling giant carnivorous worms in front of almost all the High Fae, and that was a rough transition for me.
(Also, people might argue with me, but I actually found Rhysand to be kind of creepy in this book. One could use his situation Under the Mountain to justify these behaviors, but, where some readers say they liked him immediately, my first impression of him was “typical cocky, good-looking bad boy.” So, obviously, I wasn’t endeared to him immediately.)
The main thing this book is betting on is the romance. In order to be invested in the story enough to want to keep reading, you have to be interested in Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship. But again, there’s little romantic tension or anything to keep readers going in the beginning, and, by the big twist, all of the sudden we have several “I love you”s. I just wanted more build-up, and we didn’t get it. Thus, by the end of the story, I wasn’t fully convinced that Feyre and Tamlin really were in love with each other, and I felt I couldn’t fully root for them as a couple, which was kind of disappointing. (Or maybe it wasn’t, because of what happens in ACOMAF? Jury’s still out on that one.)
While we’re talking about the romance, some readers have taken issue with Tamlin and Feyre’s romance in this book, and, while I see the red flags in retrospect, I didn’t take an issue with the dynamics while reading (probably because I’m oblivious, haha).
In conclusion, ACOTAR provides an intriguing new fantasy world full of potential, but this novel is lacking in both plot and romantic development, which made the roses in this court look wilted. (But it’s okay, because ACOMAF exists.) If you need one reason to read this book, read it so you can enjoy ACOMAF.