A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publishing Info: May 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s
Star Rating: 4/5
Back Cover Summary:
Feyre is a huntress.
She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price…
Imprisoned in an enchanted court in her enemy’s kingdom, Feyre is free to roam but forbidden to escape. Her captor’s body bears the scars of fighting, and his face is always masked – but his piercing stare draws her ever closer. As Feyre’s feeling for Tamlin begin to burn through every warning she’s been told about his kind, an ancient, wicked shadow grows.
Feyre must find a way to break a spell, or lose her heart forever.
Having loved the first two books in Maas’s Throne of Glass series, I was eager to dive into the first book in her other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I wasn’t disappointed. The book is quite slow to start but everything comes together brilliantly in the second half. The slower pacing earlier on meant I had time to get to know the characters and become invested in their fates. It didn’t drag or get boring, so if you start reading it and find it a tad slow, please persevere because, well, it gets so good.
This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it doesn’t lean as heavily on the tale as many retellings do. Although it very obviously draws from Beauty and the Beast, Maas deftly crafted an original world and plot. This made it so much richer for me than some retellings. I don’t have a problem with ones that follow their inspiration story more closely, not at all, and they can be done very well, but I really liked that Maas didn’t rely on the origin text. She used it as inspiration but crafted something of her own from it.
Feyre was a compelling central character, and I didn’t find her irritating like some young adult protagonists can be. Although she is clearly devoted to her family, it isn’t a blind devotion. Her family has flaws and she knows it, but she still loves them anyway. Also, finally, a peasant who can’t read! The number of characters in books who are supposedly ‘peasants’ who are somehow still very knowledgeable it just unrealistic. I liked that Maas acknowledged that Feyre hasn’t been able to learn to read, and this has an impact on her story. Maas slowly immerses Feyre in the faerie world, meaning we get to discover everything through her eyes. It was great to see her feelings and attitudes towards the world around her, other people, and herself, change over the course of the book.
The love interest, Tamlin, was fairly gruff and brooding, and fit the ‘beast’ element of the Beauty and the Beast retelling well. The romance felt natural as it was slow to build and didn’t feel forced. However, I wasn’t completely enamoured with Tamlin. Rysand is an interesting character, I’m sure there is more to him, and am curious to see how his character develops in the rest of the series, as his actions were a little problematic at times.
As antagonists go, Amarantha was excellent. Maas did a brilliant job of creating a sense of fear around her character. There are little details that make her very creepy and sinister. She is by no means a 2D villain, and neither does her back story seem forced. I truly felt afraid for the protagonists, which is the mark of a good antagonist.
The last section of the novel is so full of suspense and unpredictable. I was completely hooked. The slow start did pay off, making me care deeply about what happened to the characters.
This book definitely falls at the mature end of the YA spectrum, with more detailed sexual scenes than you get in most YA. Maas also didn’t shy away from some goriness and violence, though it wasn’t excessive.
Sarah J. Maas has quickly become one of my new favourite authors, and I wish I had picked up one of her novels sooner. Although, at least the rest of this series is out already, meaning I don’t have to wait ages to find out what happens next!