“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas
4 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Hard times have taken nearly everything away from Feyre, and even though she is the youngest of three daughters, she has become the sole provider for her family. The burden of a promise she made long ago weighs Feyre down, but so far she has managed not to break it and has kept her family alive for all of these years. But one cold, harsh day in winter changes Feyre’s life forever.
Driven deep into the dangerous forests near the Wall, the only thing that separates the Mortal Realm from the realm of the Fae, Feyre kills a what appeared to be a great wolf so that she and her family can eat. But the creature she killed wasn’t a wolf at all, but a Fae that had crossed the Wall, and such a mistake will cost Feyre her future, her life. After a deadly, beast-like creature bursts into her family’s home, Feyre is given two choices: die now for her crime or live out a life sentence across the Wall in Prythian. The choice Feyre makes takes her to Prythian, a land unlike any other she has ever seen, as a prisoner of the beast, Tamlin.
The Spring Court appears as beautiful and bright as the ancient legends have said, but looks are just as deceiving in Tamlin’s land as they can be in Feyre’s world. Her first impression of Tamlin was also deceiving, and the longer Feyre lives in the Spring Court, the less beast she sees in him than man. Feyre doesn’t understand why, but she is drawn to him and the mysterious land he lives in. Secrets encircle the faeries of this Court, and Feyre is determined to find out why everyone on Tamlin’s manor wears a mask and why they act so suspiciously all the time. Something dark and vicious lives within the Spring Court, and some unknown force drives Feyre to uncover the truth behind its link to Tamlin before it is too late.
“A Court of Thorns and Roses” was a truly addictive read. My older sister was super sweet and she let me borrow it, and I sat down that afternoon, consuming it in practically one sitting. I was utterly captivated by Sarah J. Maas’s new version of the beloved “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale, and I was surprised by just how much I ended up liking it. I had read “Throne of Glass” a few years ago, and I enjoyed Sarah’s writing style, but high fantasy fiction is just not my deal. A much as I liked “Throne of Glass,” I didn’t end up following the rest of the series because of the high fantasy themes in it. “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” however, became one of the first traditional (fae, fairy tale themes, etc.) high fantasy books to truly hold my attention. Sarah J. Maas completely captured my heart with the fantastical world she created within this book, and I adored how it transported me to the beautiful and fierce land of Prythian.
The world that Sarah J. Maas created in “A Court of Thorns and Roses” was stunning and layered, with parts of the book shifting from the dreary coldness of the human world deep in the winter season to the bright, earthy, and ethereal atmosphere of the Spring Court. Each land that Sarah took me through was distinct in feeling and looks; I was so impressed with how markedly different each of her lands felt within this book, and it made for such an all-encompassing story. It was truly magical!
One of the things that I am really looking forward to in the next book in this series is learning more about the Courts, how they function, and what kinds of fae live in them. I loved the map in the front of this book and I can’t wait until I can fill in the “blanks” concerning all of the Courts!
In the past year or two of reading, I have really grown to love world-building. I love how it draws me into the story as well as giving me a taste of the environment that the characters live in, and I love how it feels be taken to a place I’ve never visited before. But what I love most of all about world building is that it gives me the opportunity to understand the characters in the book. When an author builds their world well, I feel that I can connect with the story and characters so much better because I understand where they come from; it doesn’t always mean that I’ll adore the characters, but it really does help me. Sarah J. Maas not only delivered on the requirement of fabulous, in-depth world building, but she also managed to create equally fantastic and intriguing characters.
I ended up liking Feyre as the protagonist a lot. In the beginning of this book she came off a bit prickly because she’d had a rough life, and the toll of taking care of her family all by herself had jaded her. I was completely okay with that fact because I understood where Feyre was coming due to Sarah’s effortless world building; the human world I was introduced to was cold and heartless, and only the strong could survive in it. Feyre had a tough exterior with a mildly tough interior because, in her eyes, that was the only way for her to survive in the Mortal Realm. I found it interesting while reading “A Court of Thorns and Roses” that the environments, whether it was the Faery or Mortal Realm, reflected what was happening internally with the characters and vice versa. Feyre appeared to be neck-deep in despair during the first act of this book which could be seen in the cold, harsh undertones of the human world, but as the second act commenced, Feyre began to blossom into a more hopeful individual while she lived in Tamlin’s Court. The Spring Court had its own dark underbelly, but the way Sarah J. Maas wrote it made the Court seem like it was brimming full of life and light with its gorgeous gardens, thick magical forests, and ethereal creatures. There were a few scenes that displayed the Spring Court’s brokenness, but mostly I envisioned it to be beautiful and bright.
There were designated Lords over each of the Courts in this world, and Tamlin was Lord of the Spring Court. I went into “A Court of Thorns and Roses” without any expectations for the character of the Beast. Traditionally, the Beast was initially cruel towards Belle and her father, and he was a fairly ferocious creature. Obviously Belle brought out the good in him, but I went into this book being a little wary because, yes I loved the movie, but I didn’t know how I would feel about a guy character being that unkind towards the heroine in a book. I shouldn’t have worried, though, because Tamlin ended up being the less prickly of the two main characters. I liked Tamlin a lot because he never acted like the Beast in that he wasn’t brutish or vicious (he was a little broody at times, but I could get over that). Obviously, the Beast from the original fairy tale was pretty mean at first, but I felt like Tamlin was never that way except for when he first came and got Feyre to take her to Prythian. It was an unexpected, but not unwelcome, twist to the original tale. After I had finished reading “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” my sister and I started to chat about it and she pointed out that Tamlin was actually the one to engage Feyre in conversation and he helped her to become less wary of her surroundings. Tamlin had his moments of being the Beast, but for the most part he acted more kindly towards Feyre than she did to him. I really liked that Sarah wrote it that way because even though I wasn’t in his head while reading “A Court of Thorns and Roses” I could still get a feel of his character while reading. Tamlin was a strong male lead and I liked what Sarah did to the original fairy tale’s character to make him her own.
Both Feyre and Tamlin were really great characters, and Sarah J. Maas did a wonderful job developing them. I thought that the romance between them was well-founded and it never went into insta-love territory, so I really appreciated that while reading “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” I also really loved some of the side characters like Lucien, who ended up being fabulous! I’m hoping that Lucien will be a main player (or hero) of the next book in this series because he was just so great! One thing that irritated/scared me about this book, though, was Rhysand. I am sorry, but I hated him! Most of the bloggers that I follow really liked his character, but he was just SO evil and he never showed me that I should consider him as anything more than wicked; if anyone was a beast in this story, it was Rhysand. I really hope that Sarah J. Maas doesn’t take us readers into love triangle territory concerning this character, and that is honestly my biggest fear for the next book.
Rhysand aside, another aspect of this book that I found interesting was how the “Beauty and the Beast” curse was approached, and once again Sarah did a lovely job of making the original fairy tale her own while paying homage to it. I loved that I could almost see both the scenes of this book and the movie “Beauty and the Beast” playing-out side by side, and I could pick out which moments matched up and also what was different about them. It was really ingenious of Sarah J. Maas to write and recreate this beautiful fairy tale.
As I said before, I basically read this book in an afternoon. It was addictive and consuming, and page after page I kept reading until I got to about page 300, and at that point, the story slowed a bit because it got darker in feeling and theme. I wish that it had stayed in that etherial, magical place forever, but I did understand that Sarah had to change it up so that numerous issues could be addressed. I didn’t like it, but I understood. Seriously, though, those last hundred pages were brutal, so prepare yourself. I kinda wanted to yell at Sarah a couple of times to stop all of that from happening!
Considering the chaos that Sarah unleashed upon her characters in the third and final act of “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” I thought she did a pretty good job of wrapping it up so that some questions were answered before new ones were introduced. “A Court of Thorns and Roses” was a really great read, and Sarah J. Maas did a fantastic job of creating vivid, dynamic characters and a beautifully fearsome world. Sarah also managed to take the story of “Beauty and the Beat” and stayed true to it while having made it entirely her own; “A Court of Thorns and Roses” read like a fairy tale, but it also felt unique and fresh. Overall, I think this book was one of the best retellings I’ve had the pleasure of reading.