Warning: Minor spoilers.
Considering my love of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series (and you should check out my Heir of Fire review for some serious ranting about this series!) I was really excited to see her take on a completely different story, set of characters and world in A Court of Thorns and Roses. I was certainly curious as to whether or not I would like it as much as Throne of Glass, and whilst I don’t think I liked it quite that much, it was still an enjoyable read.
A Court of Thorns and Roses tells the story of Feyre, a huntress struggling to feed her family throughout a harsh winter, and keep the promise she made to her dying mother to look after them. In desperation she kills a wolf before it can kill the deer she’s hunting, and finds herself having to pay a terrible price: going to live far away in a faerie court lorded over by the mysterious masked Tamlin.
One of the things I loved about this book was the tone. The fairytale aspect of the book is very prominient, with magical deals and curses abounding, and you could definitely see the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ strand working throughout the story. The choice to write this book in first person was also a good one I feel, as whilst Throne of Glass flicks between characters to give us the full scope of goings on in Adarlan, A Court of Thorns and Roses is intrinsically the tale of Feyre and her personal journey.
Maas’ track record for writing really bad-ass heroines continues in this book with Feyre, who is not only a skilled huntress, but also the bread winner for her small family. I found her to be more instantly likeable than Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass (although I came to love her eventually!) as she was brave and strong, but not arrogant.
I also really liked the relationship she has with her family, as when she first starts mentioning providing for her sisters and father in the first chapter I expected to find a couple of doting younger sisters and an appreciative father waiting for her at home. Instead she returns to her cold and hateful sister Nesta and naive Elain, and a deluded father who refuses to grasp the direness of their situation or do anything about it. This unexpected hostility within her family made me wonder about what had gone on between them in the past, and I liked the way the way they are all developed throughout the novel, and how it gradually becomes clear why they are the way they are.
I also liked the juxtaposition between the two worlds in the book: the mortal lands and the faerie realm. The dismal, harsh world of the mortal realm where Feyre lives at the start of the book is in stark contrast to the vivid, colourful land of Prythian and the Spring Court, and I liked how Feyre’s initial mistrust of it turns to wonder.
It’s inhabitants seem every bit as exotic, and I liked the little twist of them all being stuck wearing masks, so none of their faces can actually be seen. It was especially interesting to have a romantic interest (Tamlin) whose face isn’t revealed until the end of the novel. I had kind of presumed he would be incredibly handsome, but it still made a change to have that fact unknown for most of the book.
As a character I really liked Tamlin, and found myself intrigued by the mystery regarding the blight that was supposedly ravaging his court, and his history with the shadowy figure of Amarantha. The way his relationship with Feyre progresses from antagonistic to love wasn’t exactly unexpected but I liked them as a couple nonetheless. I also kind of liked Rhysand in a way, as the dark foil to the inherently good Tamlin, and I really wanted to know more about his back story.
However, there were a few parts where I felt Feyre’s relationships with Tamlin and Rhysand became a little problematic. With Tamlin I felt the scene in the corridor after the ritual where he pins her to the wall, despite the fact she tells him to let her go, was an example of the way YA sometimes tries to portray abusive acts in relationship as hot. Similarly I didn’t like the way at the end Rhysand takes her to all the parties and basically proceeds to drug her. It just left me feeling a little uncomfortable, and doesn’t exactly give off a great message. I get that it’s part of the story, and part of the characters, but I really could have done without those parts.
There weren’t actually a huge amount of secondary characters in this book, but the ones there were I liked, namely the prickly Lucien, whose friendship with Tamlin I adored, and Alis, Feyre’s servant. I did find Amarantha a little disappointing though to be honest when she was finally revealed. I don’t know what it was, but I just found her to be a bit two-dimensional, and really not all that frightening (considering the fact she likes to torture and kill people!).
In fact I felt that the whole plot went a little awry in the last part of the book, following Feyre’s imprisonment, and to be honest my reading slowed down a lot at this point as I wasn’t particularly interested in the three trials. Presumably she’d win, they’d leave and live happily ever after, blah blah blah.
However, despite my loss of interest at the end, overall I feel that this was a good book, and definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of the Throne of Glass series. In just the one book Maas has created a world every bit as vivid, and I absolutely loved the beautiful writing and descriptions throughout. Whilst the plot was a little wandering at times, the characters were for the most part strong, particularly Feyre who I thought was a brilliant and brave heroine. The villain of the piece was a little disappointing in my eyes, but there were some really great secondary characters which livened things up, such as Lucien and Rhysand.
In a way I think I’ve been spoiled by the Throne of Glass series, as I would probably have loved this a lot more had I not already read and fallen madly in love with those books, as you can’t help but compare them. This is still worth a read though, and was a very enjoyable book, even if it was a little predictable.