A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas (author of the Throne of Glass series) offers her readers a dark and sensual retelling of the beloved Beauty and the Beast tale, further embellished with faerie lore. The author tells a story of Feyre, a young woman living in poverty with her two sisters and father. While hunting for food to feed her family, Feyre kills a wolf, but soon discovers that the wolf is far from ordinary. A beast-like creature comes-a-knockin, demanding retribution for her actions; Rather than killing her, the beast whisks her away to a treacherous magical realm where she must live for the rest of her life as punishment. And thus begins the story of Beauty and the Beast (or Cupid and Psyche for all you mythology lovers out there).
Okay, while I had a few problems with this book (uneven pacing, questionable diction, kinda-sorta-flat world building, and how many times can you rephrase the act of shuddering), I liked it overall!
Things I Loved
- The Characters
- The detailing of the manor and the paintings
- The romance/sexual intensity
- The entire third section of the book
I think Feyre is a strong, relatable heroine. I felt her pain. I felt it and I understood it. I felt her frustration with her family, the love for Tamlin, her fondness for Lucien, her distrust of Rhysand, etc. etc. And I absolutely loved her affinity for painting. I think that was one of my favorite traits from her, other than her illiteracy (and I most certainly like how Maas allowed her to be talented in many other things, but reading and writing still proved to be a challenge to the very end). She was believably human–annoying, flawed, relatable, funny, strong, weak, ignorant, clever, and more. She made mistakes and tried to atone for them, and stayed faithful to those that she loved. Sure, she needed saving at times, but she was the one doing the saving at the end and she kicked ass and got her ass kicked in the process. You go girl.
The boys were well rendered. I liked each of them very much, even Rhys at the end. Tamlin was adorable in his gruffness and sexy in his confidence, Lucien was a fun and witty sidekick to Tamlin, and Rhys was an unexpectedly likable villain at the end. And though it seemed Rhys was presented as the start of a love triangle, it wasn’t a very large aspect of the writing. Though I know it might add some more drama, I truly don’t want another love triangle. Tamlin and Feyre’s chemistry is undeniable (and oh so sexy). But I’m excited to see how Rhys’ life will turn out (either with or without Feyre). The only qualm I had was how many times Rhys’ voice and movements were described to sound and look like a lover’s. He’s sexy and a playboy. I get it. I don’t need to hear it every time he walks in a room.
As for the villains of the story? All I have to say is they were perfectly nasty and perfectly deserving of their fates. Well done, Ms. Maas. Well done.
Maas has a great sense of detail. I can imagine the beauty of the mansion, the wreckage of the cottage, and the gowns. (She did have some weaknesses in description, though. More on this later). And the way she details the blossoming love between Tamlin and Feyre was sexy, romantic, steamy, and tender. Loved it.
And all I will say about those last few chapters is that they were thrilling, intense, sensual, enthralling, and all around bad ass. 10/10
Things I Loved A Little Less
- The pacing of the first half of the book
- The world-building
- The data dump
- The diction
- Nesta’s character development
Okay, now for the not so good/bad. Though I enjoyed this story very much, it was an effort to get through the first half of the book. The slow-build up lasted for about 100-150 pages, up until a certain event rolled around. THEN things got interesting (and extremely sexy). And once Tamlin was in danger, the story was on a roll. I couldn’t put the book down.
The lore behind Prythian and the war between the Fae and humans was interesting. The map was lovely and I clearly understood where everything was located. But I had a hard time picturing anything beyond the manor, the cottage, and the throne room Under the Mountain. Any land, forest, dirt path, or village in between was either non-existent or muted in detail. Maas is a great writer, but I wish for a bit more description about the surrounding area. I want to know more about the land beyond the manor and the cottage (like the glen and the willow trees); what it looks, smells, tastes, and sounds like. I’m hoping for a little more world building in the next installment.
Speaking of the lore and history behind Prythian, I wished Maas had revealed the ramifications of the war and the curse slowly over the course of the novel rather than through one character and about 7-8 consecutive pages of data dump.
And though I liked the characterization of most of the characters, some of the word choices/language seemed strange. Sometimes the High Fae seemed ancient/archaic and other times they seemed weirdly modern and human (i.e. use of “vomit” or “balls”). Also, I couldn’t figure out what type/era of society Feyre lived in. One moment she’s in a hovel, hunting for food in animal skin rags and the next she’s living in a manor with servants, dressed in a lacey debutante gown and attending a ball. Were there peasant villages in Victorian London?!
And lastly, Nesta. I liked how her character behavior was explained at the end, but I could not for the life of me understand her motivations. I know it was explained, but I still couldn’t bring myself to care much for her, especially not after how she treated her family. Her character development just seemed so sudden and I got a crick in my neck from trying to keep up with her 180 turn of behavior. I want to know more about her and I hope she makes a return in the next book so I can see her character develop just a little bit more.
Despite this book’s flaws, it kept me reading through until the very end, and that’s all I ask for. The majority of the characters were likable and did well in their roles. It was well-written, romantic, sensual, dark, funny, beautifully detailed in many places, and overall, hella entertaining. I grant this tale 4/5 stars!
I’ll be returning to this series very soon. Bring on A Court of Mist and Fury!