A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

court of thorns

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.

Rating: 2/5

Book Information
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
Format: eBook

A Court of Thorns and Roses on:
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | My review on Goodreads


33 thoughts on “A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

  1. I’m one of those people who *still* hasn’t read this book! I know, I know–shame on me. But I have heard a lot of different opinions about it, but apart from that, I’m very excited to give this one a shot as I adore her other series. Do you think you’ll give the sequel a chance?

    Great review–your writing is lovely. :)

    • Hi Kara! Haha, no worries, it took me forever to get a hand on a copy. Well, I do hope that when you read it, you’ll enjoy it more than I did! I think it is a good book, just perhaps not really to my tastes.

      I will give the sequel a go, because I am curious as to where Maas will take the series. I have some reservations, but I’m all about giving books a chance, especially since I didn’t downright dislike ACOTAR.

      Thank you; you’re too kind! ❤

  2. First of all, I had no idea that this is a New Adult book. I’m thrilled that there is finally an NA fantasy out there, it’s about time. Secondly, I haven’t read this and now I’m scared like I’m scared to read Glass Sword or the rest of Maas’ ToG series. I sometimes feel like they try to put so many elements in a book when it’s perfectly fine to focus on one thing. As if the fantasy element is not enough and you just need to add romance in it, no matter how awkward it might be.
    I shall now approach this book with caution, especially with regards to Tamlin’s behaviour and Feyre’s responses. Could it be because she’s so taken by the Fae she didn’t recognize how harmful it was?
    Great review CW! Do you draw those review banners from scratch? They’re so pretty <3

    • I would say that this is book has NA elements but it reads more like YA. But I liked the tone of the writing and story overall.

      HAHA tell me about it, I just bought Glass Sword and I am scared to read it too. I loved Red Sword (like how one loves eating a whole carton of ice cream in one go), so I hope I love it?!

      I think it really depends on how you interpret it. I think if you’re taken by Tamlin, it’ll be enjoyable. I can see it as *good* in a sexy-only-in-my-darkest-fantasies-but-not-irl thing, but I’m not really fond of it so it was lost with me. XD But that is definitely a possibility! Regardless I’ll leave it for you to decide. I look forward to reading your review! c:

      Thanks Joan!! I do. I used to draw by hand, scan it, then trace my own drawing, but I’ve practiced enough that I don’t need to do that anymore. I use references for objects I don’t typically draw (i.e. the mask haha). But thank you! I’m glad they are somewhat worth it because they’re 100% the reason why I’m 20+ reviews behind…

  3. Terrific review CW! I haven’t read this book although I am quite curious to check it out, I somehow always end up pushing it back on my TBR. I liked that you mention acknowledgement as one of the book main problem. I don’t like alpha possessive guys in general, but obviously that’s just me :p However, I don’t mind reading about these kinds of relationship as long as both sides are aware of the situation they’re in. I read some books with questionable bordering on paranoid relationship that might be perceived as hot by some readers, but as you said it’ll be better if it’s addressed.
    I don’t mind super-long setting up and worldbuilding as long as it paid off though, so I might check this out still for its fantasy elements.
    Good to see you’re back, by the way! :)

    • Hi Windie!
      I think you should give the book a go. It definitely isn’t bad, despite the criticisms I gave it, but I think it just wasn’t for me (which is a very cliche thing to say, I know!) – and like you, not terribly fond of the alpha possessive guys either. XD

      Definitely check this book out for the fantasy elements. I really, really liked them, and I think there’s a lot of potential in that aspect of the book. Depends if Maas will invest in it or not. ^_^;

      Thanks Windie! It’s good to be back. :D

  4. I agree with you about this one. I read it, but I became so uninterested and confused at one point that I put the book down for about a month. I think Maas has a good premise and hopefully this series will improve, but I really have no desire to continue on with it and I probably won’t. I excepted a Throne of Glass caliber novel and that wasn’t what I received.

    • Hi Sydney!
      I was the same too. At one point I wondered if I had missed a significant part of the book – there was just such a massive change in the tone?

      I hope the series will improve too; I’m still willing to give the sequel a go though, because I’m curious to see how it’ll turn out!

  5. I’m part of the hype train to be honest. I loved this book, but purely for the entertainment. Of course I did have my own problems with it, and one you mentioned was the romance between Feyre and Tamlin. While people were swooning about them, I kept thinking of Lucien and Rhysand. I could not understand why Tamlin and Feyre were really together – you make a great point there when you say it seems like it’s done as a plot device, as this entire story seems to centre around that (also it centres around the romance because this is a beauty and the beast retelling).
    Fantastic review, I loved it! It’s great to see a perspective on it, so long after its release.

    • Fair enough Josie! I’m genuinely glad that you enjoyed it more than I did.

      I reaaaaally liked Lucien, but I guess it’s because his personality appeals to me more. I’m a sucker for the witty guys. But, I have hope for the sequel! I guess sometimes one book isn’t enough to develop its characters nicely, so maybe the sequel will be better?

      Thank you Josie, especially for always leaving lovely comments. I appreciate it!!

  6. I was so interested to hear your thoughts on this one! To be honest, I have not read the book. I really need to read Sarah J. Maas because everyone is obsessed with her, but her books don’t really appeal to me all that much (though I’m sure I’ll get to them eventually). I had originally thought if I was going to read any it would have been this one until I watched a booktube video the other day by Kaylay Hyde where she talked about what she perceived to be manipulative and abusive relationships in the narrative.

    It’s not that I’m against problematic relationships in books, it’s just, as you’ve said, really uncomfortable to read super creepy guys being represented as epically romantic. I hate it, actually, and I just don’t have the patience to read it any more. There is this idea in so many books that a guy treats you badly, or tries to control you or whatever it is because he loves you, and I hate reading it.

    • Thank you Lydia! Thanks for mentioning Kaylay Hyde; I might find her video and watch it! Tbh, life is too short to read books you don’t feel like reading. Tbh, I think with Maas’s books, if the books don’t appeal to you from the get-go, it’s probably not worth your time. D: But, in saying that, you never know?!

      I completely agree with you; I don’t mind problematic relationships because I think they can be interesting or convey a certain message… but yeah, I wasn’t very fond of Tamlin, and I recognize that it could be a personal thing.

      To be fair, Tamlin doesn’t really treat the protagonist badly, but it just felt a little weird to me. I can’t go into it without divulging spoilers, but, eh, I guess I have read better romances. Dx

      • I suppose it perhaps depends on personal sensitivities. I was especially surprised to hear the negative feedback about this book because the representations of women in her other books have been so highly praised.

        I don’t know what it is, but whenever books mention ‘faeries’, I’m instantly turned off.

        • I had the same thoughts. ToG has more interesting and compelling female characters, whereas ACOTAR… doesn’t?

          The faeries weren’t really winged, petite creatures like we’re familiar with. They were more, like, humanoid beings that can transform into animals and had special powers. (I made it sound really tacky but I’m sure someone could do a better job at describing them!)

  7. I didn’t realise it was fantasy new adult? I’ve always thought of new adult as just contemporary but more intense, you know?
    Anyway – interesting review, CW! So glad to see a not so positive review on this book – I’ve only ever seen Josephine @ Word Revel’s negative review on this, and I’m worried that if I pick it up, I won’t feel the same way as everyone else has!
    Thanks for reviewing! :)

    • Hi Geraldine!
      I think it is! I was led to believe it was YA, but then there was a scene that made me go, “OH. Okay this is NA.”

      Thanks so much! Thanks for mentioning Josephine’s review – I’ll check it out; I’d love to hear a similar opinion.

      Definitely pick it up though! You might really enjoy it and that’d be cool. I hope when you read it, you’ll enjoy it more than I do.

  8. Absolutely agree with you with the problematic aspects — I cannot believe that people actually think this is okay?!? I mean, Rhysand and Tamlin and Feyre are all wonderfully complex characters but SOMEHOW they were thrown together in a flat love triangle that I did not care for at ALL. But yes, I agree that it’s so cool NA fantasy exists!

    PS: Lucien is definitely fab.

  9. Oh no! I haven’t read this book yet (or any of Maas work for that matter) but I had no idea this was a new adult fantasy. I’m sorry that it was on the lackluster side for you, Chooi! But at least it was sometimes entertaining. But that’s really too bad about the romance-I think that’s a really important element for NA lit. Oh well!

  10. I completely agree with you 110%. I was a bit disappointed with this as well, and for the same reason as you – mostly because of how inauthentic Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship was. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    (Also, out of curiosity: are you planning on reading the sequel?)

  11. Oh man, I felt like we read completely two different books! Now that I look back at it, I could see where there would be exploitation of the relationship, but I kind of felt, at the time that Tamlin was respectful towards her. I loved how sexy it was and how it took a darker turn and the fantasy NA. Thanks for sharing your thoughts cw! Do you think you’ll read the sequel?

    • Thank you Jeann! I really wish I liked it, but after Twilight, I believe I’ve become more critical of questionable, vague relationships. There were moments where I felt enamoured by Tamlin (don’t get me wrong!) but some parts made me sideeye and I couldn’t see past it. :”(

      I definitely will! I’m very interested to see where the story goes because I feel like ACOTAR was the tip of the iceberg, if you know what I mean? The series can go anywhere and I want to see how it goes. C:

  12. OOOOh, this reminds me I that I actually need to read this book at some point. I’ve been putting it off for a while due to all of the mixed reviews… I hate not being able to come to a conclusion about titles like these which are quite widely discussed in the community so I should have done it much sooner. Although saying that, forced and problematic relationships of the characters as you put it make me quite nervous to read it now..

    I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way the hype had presented it, but your review of it was incredible and has definitely prompted me to read the book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the next one – I hope you like it more!

    • Hi Ola!

      Thanks so much! Oh, I hope you like the book though. I don’t like disliking books, so I genuinely hope you enjoy it. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts about the book though – let me know what you think when you finish!? Maybe we can discuss!!

      • I hope I enjoy it too, one of my friends has been ranting about how good it is, I NEED TO GET MY OWN OPINION. I will make sure to let you know once I read it – I’d love to discuss!

  13. Great review on ACOTAR! Completely agree with everything you said! I rated this a 3 stars when it should have been 2 stars. The only things I liked was the writing style, as it was good, Lucien and the world building (in a way). Yes, the whole plot seemed to revolved around the romance. I did not understand why Feyre and Tamlin liked each other either. It just seemed they only liked each other because they’re both attractive and it lacked chemistry. Another thing that bugged me was that its a retelling of Beauty and the Beast – Tamlin is not even a beast, he’s this attractive fae which really ironic.

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