When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
Here I am again, the black sheep.
The hype for A Court of Thorns and Roses was inescapable. People loved this book left, right and center. Me? Now that a month has passed since reading it (and I can articulate my thoughts with more confidence and clarity), I’m not sure if I liked it. I liked certain elements and parts of it, but unfortunately I was not too fond of the story itself.
First and foremost, I love the idea of fantasy new adult. Despite its shortcomings, A Court of Thorns and Roses is a good one, and I look forward to seeing more books of this genre. I loved the fantasy elements of this novel – the Fae, the ominous border between Prythian (land of the Fae) and the mortal world, the friendly and dangerous creatures of Prythian, and its various wonders. Special mentions to the starlight pool; that idea filled me with a sense of awe and reminded me of why I love fantasy. Despite the criticism that A Court of Thorns and Roses gets for its plot, I didn’t mind that the book lacked a strong plot and direction. I didn’t mind that time was taken to develop a rich, deep world that tried to push the boundaries of our imagination. For me, it was one of the highlights of the book.
Two-thirds into the book, the plot begins to ‘develop’ and ‘things start to happen’ — and this was the part where Maas began to lose me. The writing began to derail, losing cohesion and structure. Even if the stakes are high, the situation dire, and the characters find themselves in a dark place, the events that occur break away from the identity that A Court of Thorns and Roses was developing, straying from meaningful storytelling. Characters became inconsistent. The plot transformed into something unrecognizable, disjointed from the buildup.
Many of the things that the first half succeeded in – inquisitive worldbuilding, character development, the mysterious yet compelling nature of the Fae – were given way to a climax so dire, grim, and desperate that some of the scenes felt excessive. Certain scenes felt extremely exploitative of Feyre’s desperation, as she is thrust into a friendless place where she is naught but a pawn and at the mercy of powerful lords. I detected perverted undertones, particularly with Feyre’s ‘dancing’, forced intoxication, being reduced to a plaything – just to name a few. No matter the characters’ ulterior motives or the circumstances, these incidences did not contribute to the story, hence why my reservations.
It seems that much of this book’s success is owed to the romance. Whilst I see the appeal for both Tamlin and Rhysand, both of them didn’t appeal to me. (I’m more of a Lucien kinda girl.) There were some scenes that were steamy (particularly the fabled 27th chapter), but the relationships lacked substance. Most of Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship feels more like the makings of an arbitrary plot device rather than an authentic emotional connection. Though there were some scenes that tried to convey a sense of mutual attraction between Tamlin and Feyre, particularly since the attraction was initially one-sided, I am not so sure why Tamlin and Feyre like each other. Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship felt forced – and understandably, since it was part of the story – but it lacked the emotional depth that would compel me to believe in their love and relationship.
To further address the book’s problematic elements: I do not fault the book for its problematic relationships and plot devices. I am, however, faulting this book for having those problematic elements and leaving them underdeveloped. To elaborate, I don’t mind if books have problematic elements, but I think, to a degree, these problematic elements should be addressed or, at the bare minimum, acknowledged. Not once was Tamlin’s behaviour called out or questioned, and it felt like Feyre (and the reader in extension) were to interpret this behaviour as protective, sexy, or actions of his good will. If, perhaps, another character had second-guessed Tamlin’s actions, or if Feyre had some iota of self-awareness, then I could see their relationship as dark, twisted, and unhealthy for each other (and that could be interesting). However, devoid of this awareness, Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship is questionable.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is not a bad book. On a purely entertainment level, it is a great book. However, for all its hype and love, A Court of Thorns and Roses was severely underwhelming. In hindsight I enjoyed reading it, but most of that enjoyment is attributed to the anticipation of that moment – the moment when I would realize that I loved this book. Unfortunately, that moment never came.
Book Name: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Book Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury’s Children