“I threw myself into that fire, threw myself into it, into him, and let myself burn.”
I realise I’m a little late to the party, but I just finished Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, and I definitely have feelings about it.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is a new adult fantasy novel that takes its inspiration from the traditional fairytale, The Beauty and the Beast, and combines this with faeries, court intrigue, and a significant amount of sexual tension. After killing a wolf in the forest to survive, Feyre’s punishment is to be taken to the magical kingdom of the faeries, a land filled with secrets, magic and danger. As Feyre spends more time in the faerie kingdom, she finds herself falling for her masked but handsome faerie captor, and finds herself entangled in a dangerous game of faerie politics.
“Because all the monsters have been let out of their cages tonight, no matter what court they belong to.”
This book took me a while to warm to. For around the first hundred pages, I wasn’t sure what I thought of the main character, Feyre: sometimes she seemed too passive, whilst at others she was prickly and hostile, so initially, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. Additionally, it took me a while before I could distinguish between the main male characters (though this may be my fault, rather than the book’s).
However, after the first hundred pages, things really picked up, and I found this book quickly growing on me. Feyre began to act with more agency, the individual personalities of Lucien and Tamlin (the two High Fae who live in the court where she is kept captive) began to shine through, and I became increasingly intrigued by the world Maas has created.
The plot of this book gets better and better as it goes along. Maas does a great job of gradually adding more elements into the mix to build intrigue, and the sense of peril quickly begins to escalate, particularly in the final hundred pages or so.
If I were to describe the genre of this book, I would say that it’s probably equal parts romance to fantasy. The first half of this book focuses mostly on building both the world and sexual tension, so for a while, I wasn’t sure exactly where the plot was going, but the later half of this book raises the stakes significantly, diving into the complexities of the world, and introducing a particularly loathable villain.
“You don’t hold on to power by being everyone’s friend. And among the faeries, lesser and High Fae alike, a firm hand is needed. We’re too powerful, and too bored with immortality, to be checked by anything else.”
I can see why the romance in this book has so many people excited. It’s passionate, it’s dangerous, and it has that slightly “forbidden” feel to it. Personally, the romance gave me mixed feelings. Some parts of the romance I really liked, but I felt uncomfortable about others. Whilst I loved how intense the romance felt, what I didn’t like was that there were times the main male love interest started to feel threatening. My main problem is that some of his actions felt non-consensual, controlling and actually quite frightening, which is definitely not what I look for in a love interest.
Without giving too much away, there are also other events later on in the book, involving a different male character, that also gave me some mixed feelings. If I’m supposed to be concerned by these things, and they’re an indication that the characters have a dark side and maybe aren’t to be fully trusted, then it’s working. However, if I’m meant to be madly falling in love with them after witnessing how sinister and threatening they can be, then I’m not convinced. Let’s just say that I won’t be adding any of the characters to my list of fantasy boyfriends.
Romance aside, the world-building in this book is a highlight. I love how Maas gradually builds up a picture of the world, revealing its monstrous past and deadly present piece by piece. Throughout the book, I found myself desperate to learn even more about the world, and experience the other faerie courts that are mentioned, but never shown.
“I was loosened, a top whirling around and around, and I didn’t know who I danced with or what they looked like, only that I had become the music and the fire and the night, and there was nothing that could slow me down.”
The characters definitely grew on me, and I felt that by the end, I had a much better idea of Feyre’s drives and personality. One character who I particularly liked by the end was Lucien, who turned out to be vibrant, smart, and funny. The most intriguing character meanwhile, was Rhysand. I just can’t decide how I feel about this character, and whilst a part of me hates him, I get the feeling there’s more to him than I’ve seen so far.
Despite my qualms, this book was utterly gripping. When I was reading, I felt completely absorbed in the world, captivated by its deadliness. The final hundred-or-so pages were definitely the highlight of the book, and aside from a few flaws, would have earned themselves a five-star review. Even if I hadn’t enjoyed anything else about it, this book would have been worth it for that final section.
I’m not sure I’ve quite managed to articulate my exact feelings about this book, but I’ve done my best. My rating for this book falls somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, because whilst it had its flaws, I can’t claim that it wasn’t addictive. I’ll be very interested to see what happens in the next two books in the series, as Maas has definitely laid some intriguing foundations.
“It’s a rare day indeed when someone thanks you for bringing them to their death.”