A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas • contains 416 pages • published May 5, 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's Books, Bloomsbury Publishing • classified as Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult • obtained through purchase • read as paperback • shelve on Goodreads
Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price.
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
Thinking about A Court of Thorns and Roses evokes a whole range of emotions in me — all negative. Of the books I’ve read this year, only The Miniaturist received a lower rating from me. After accounting for all my variables (prose, characterisation, plot, depth, originality, impact & voice), my final rating is a measly 0.857 out of 5. Rounded up that means 1 star.
Originality Left Me Cold
A Court of Thorns and Roses lacked any semblance of originality. It supposedly is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Sales pitches didn’t mention Cinderella. They had a gross omission of Twilight too. With all the enthusiastic title comparisons on book covers that love to invoke the name of popular books, you would’ve thought they’d care to mention something along the lines of, “The next Twilight…” That would’ve aptly warned me to stay away.
The originality for retellings lies in how artfully fairytales are reimagined. A Court of Thorns and Roses was a very bland version of stitched together stories. The fae were basically Twilight vampires 2.0 and the beast had a ridiculous mask melded to his face. Feyre’s name made my eyes roll. She was human and for all the fear that all the mortals had of the fae, her name was almost fairy?
Glimpses of Cinderella emerged as Feyre’s sister and father relied on her to do everything. She took care of their household, fed them and found ways to make ends meet. Later on in the courts of Amarantha she was made to clean an impossibly dirty floor and to sort lentils by a fireplace. Beauty and the Beast fell flat as Tamlin was a generally tame beast (besides the “romantic” abuse I will get to later) and his lackey Lucien had more fire in him.
Furthermore, when Amarantha told Feyre the riddle, I knew immediately that the answer would be Love. It’s such a cliché, I hardly even mulled over the meaning of each line. It was a big fat duh but Feyre couldn’t read, so she probably didn’t know much of romance tropes either. Such a shame. Part of what made Belle in Beauty and the Beast so endearing to me was her love for books.
In the beginning, I thought A Court of Thorns and Roses would have a lot to offer. Feyre was a huntress, for crying out loud! What did she hunt? A wolf who was about to attack a deer she wanted. Scary stuff! Except, it was too easy and she didn’t even question it. After that she was swept away as punishment for killing a disguised fae and gained an easy life. It was lavish and comfortable, she had the best food she’d ever tasted and her family was suddenly taken care of. Oh, such punishment!
With the initial conflict out of the way, I suppose the aim was to develop Feyre’s romantic feelings for Lucien, nay Tamlin! See, Feyre developing feelings for Lucien would’ve made a slight bit more sense. There were some sparks. Between Tamlin and Feyre was little besides the author’s force. Authors have power over their characters but with some imagination, they become independent as the author writes. In this case, the characters didn’t get to live out their feelings on the pages of A Court of Thorns and Roses. They were marionettes caught up in tangled strings.
Most of the time, the High Fae Lord, Tamlin, was this brooding creature that had such forced conversations with Feyre, I wondered if he even wanted to talk to her. His emissary who only tolerated Feyre had more engaging exchanges with Feyre. At least Lucien existed. Had it been just Tamlin and Feyre, I can’t imagine how much more boredom the story would’ve elicited in me.
Two-thirds of A Court of Thorns and Roses was spent lying in wait, Feyre half-heartedly plotting her escape, and mysterious talks about the blight. The blight that wasn’t. The blight that was a misnomer and thus wasn’t a disease. The blight that actually was the curse.
Amarantha’s appearance to claim Tamlin and his court injected some conflict into A Court of Thorns and Roses again. The sequence of events involving her were so densely packed into the closing chapters, it made the plot teeter over. The balance wasn’t there. There need to be significant plot points in books to keep me interested. In the case of A Court of Thorns and Roses, these plot points were left near the exit, neglecting most of the book.
Abuse Isn’t Sexy
Apparently the High Fae Lord is this super sexy and irresistible love interest who was mysterious in his brooding yet oh so shy and therefore desirable. Not to mention that behind his mask, he was perfectly hot. I’m rarely swept off my feet by romance but that description is all well and dandy and I can accept that this draws a lot of readers. What I can’t accept is when it’s a veneer for an otherwise abusive character.
One might argue that in terms of violence towards Feyre, Rhysand was much worse than Tamlin. Some couples might even be into biting each others’ necks. If Feyre fantasised over Tamlin’s less than gentle touch and yearned for him to do so much more to her, then that’s her deal. The difference between Rhysand and Tamlin is that Rhysand was clearly painted as the villain, though he had vested interests in protecting her. Tamlin was the good guy who wanted Feyre to be safe and sent her away in the face of danger.
In light of such a comparison, Tamlin does come across as the good guy. However, what didn’t sit well with me was the threat of rape with the excuse of magic. This was one of the reasons I complained to Maraia about A Court of Thorns and Roses. As she rightly pointed out, how is that any different than [being] under the influence of alcohol? Alcohol and drugs aren’t an excuse. Yet magic here supposedly made everything okay. That’s downright repulsive.
“‘Tonight, Tam will allow… great and terrible magic to enter his body,’ Lucien said, staring at the distant fires. ‘The magic will seize control of his mind, his body, his soul, and turn him into the Hunter. It will fail him with his sole purpose: to find the Maiden. From their coupling, […]'” (p.193)
To make matters worse, Feyre was so willing to give herself to Tamlin. She didn’t care that she knew better, that she should hate Tamlin. All that didn’t matter because she found him so attractive. After finding a Maiden who was a faery, he went on to search for Feyre. When he found her, he claimed he was mad with desire for her.
“‘She asked me not to be gentle with her, either,’ he snarled, his teeth bright in the moonlight. He brought his lips to my ear. ‘I would’ve been gentle with you, though.” I shuddered as I closed my eyes. Every inch of my body went taut as his words echoed through me. ‘I would have had you moaning my name throughout it all. And I would have taken a very, very long time, Feyre.’ He said my name like a caress, and his hot breath tickled my ear. My back arched slightly.” (p.196)
This was followed by Tamlin pinning Feyre down even though she initially pushed him away. Her disagreement, “Why I should I want someone’s leftovers?” didn’t matter. That’s a prime example of a woman denying a man’s sexual advances and him taking liberties with her anyway. That isn’t right and yet in this case I got the sense that the reader too was supposed to be taken in by this sexy beast. This made me exceedingly angry. So much for the hot romance set against the realm of fantasy in A Court of Thorns and Roses; it was abuse!
Linguistically A Court of Thorns and Roses also left a lot to be desired. There were awkward sentence structures that didn’t make sense. I reread a few of those repeatedly but couldn’t make heads or tails of them and moved on. I wasn’t all that invested in A Court of Thorns and Roses anyway. It was a chore dragging myself through it. Still, I was determined to give it a chance because it’s been praised to the heavens. Plus, it was my July Epic Recs book.
As I read on, one particular word stood out me: purr. First Feyre thought, “something in his soft tone made me want to purr.” (p.282) That phrase got to me so much, I updated on Goodreads, Something about this phrase made me want to shred the page. Then Lucien purred so often when he spoke, I couldn’t wrap my head around him not being the love interest. Alas, his purrs weren’t laced with desire as Feyre’s were. His purrs were meant to be angry. I couldn’t picture that. Unless that’s the new word for growl.
What I’m also curious about is how often the term whore appeared in A Court of Thorns and Roses. I read the paperback edition, so I couldn’t do a quick search to find out. If someone reading this owns the ebook, could you please check for me? I’d really like to know.
I Wish Feyre Had Died
When it came down to the three tasks, I actively wished for Feyre to die. However, I knew that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a fairytale retelling and so would have to be resolved with some form of a happy ending. Nonetheless, the tasks were the most entertaining parts of the entire book. Tension finally emerged. Sadly, the rest of A Court of Thorns and Roses had hardly any at all.
I’m sure you can imagine my delight when Feyre did die. That would’ve been such a plot twist. Unfortunately, Feyre was resurrected. In regaining her life, she became a High Fae. At that point I was beyond done with A Court of Thorns and Roses. Turning the protagonist into the creature that her lover was had Twilight written all over it and that irked me. At least the transformation was hardly wrought in pain. Though I must concede, the out of body experience did add a nice touch.
All in all, I do have to say that my disdain towards A Court of Thorns and Roses was also coloured by personal dislikes. I have little tolerance for romance between humans and mythical creatures, particularly if these creatures are centuries old and immortal.
I don’t care for stories in which women fall in love with their captors. The Stockholm syndrome might be the core of Beauty and the Beast but in a retelling, I’d much rather not have to read about such plights. What made it worse was that in A Court of Thorns and Roses this was completely romanticised. Needless to say, I will not read the sequels. I have no interest in reading what might turn out to be an annoying love triangle anyway.
when i first read ACoTaR i was in love this book had become my favorite and so i bought the 2nd book and refused to read it because i couldn’t stand Feyre not being with Tamlin. When my English teacher said we had to do a reading assignment i knew which book i would chose. As i worked more on the assignment i decided to do some research and boy have my views changed and as of right now i wish i had picked a different book for this assignment later learning what Tamlin does to feyre infuriates me and makes me uncomfortable to even finish this assignment. i own a few other books by the author but im glad i read this because it pointed out issues that i would just not even think about
I get what you’re saying, but the theme of Beaury and the Beast unravels throughout the series. Tamlin is a tool and seen for that in later books. The first book isn’t that amazing, yes, but the rest of the books in the series are great and what I fell in love with
SJM fan says
Also agree with Sophia. Not a huge feminist though really, how many people actually read ACoMaF?!!! It’s way better and I really think that it’s like most series were the first book is okay but not great and the rest are amazing. I think it was your opinion whether or not to like him but at that point the story was just unfolding. As someone who is desperately waiting for the arrival of ACoTaR #3, I very much believe that if you gave it a chance, you could love ACoMaF and, (spoiler alert:) hate Tamlin the tool.
Yes I agree with Sophia. A Court of Mist and Fury is very different from ACOTAR. I would love to see your thoughts on it.
Hello. I found this randomly and I wanna say that it never was about a love triangle. As you said, Tamlin was abusive(I hated him for that). A Court of Mist and Fury is one of the most feminist book ever. You really should give a chance to see how amazing is.
Aentee @ Read at Midnight says
I just discovered your blog via hopping along link ups and I am so in love with i) your photos ii) your site design and iii) your very detailed and fair review of ACOTAR. The book didn’t quite work for me (I think I rated it 3 stars) and I can identify with a lot of your issues with it. I thought the pacing was very off, with the beginning 60% being slow and then the plot advancing to breakneck speed towards the end. I also got very uncomfortable with the undertones of Tamlin and Feyre’s relationships. I also wished SJM took more risks with the plot instead of making Feyre an immortal in the end- she didn’t really end up sacrificing anything, and how am I meant to be invested into any of the future conflicts in the series with such a cop-out move?
Anyway, I am pretty much in love with your site and you have yourself a new stalker haha.
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I missed the spoiler disclaimer at the beginning and was surprised when you started talking about Fayre dying and becoming a High Fae. :)
This was actually a lot less rant-y that I expected. You definitely got the point across, and I hope this review will make others think long and hard about what they are reading.
Amanda @ Nellie and Co. says
I’ve just been reading your review and thought yes to an awful lot of it to be honest. At the time, I rated this higher, but like you, the abuse annoyed me, and I just didn’t fall for Tamlin – there was no personality whatsoever! Sure, I found the Beauty and the Beats cameos exciting and well included, but I don’t know where the story is going either.. It feels very like a standalone, but I just don’t feel the excitement, and I probably won’t continue it, but I’m pleased to say you’re not alone in your none love for this novel. It had A LOT of issues.
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I’m really confused right now. I agree with you in almost every aspect (literally – just a couple of days ago I talked to a friend about ACOTAR and brought up most of the issues you name here), although I don’t mind some of the things as much as you do. Still, how is it possible I ended up giving it 4 stars?! I really have to reconsider that decision.
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Kaylie @ Potterhead Reviews says
After finishing ACOTAR I had the feeling that “oh this was a good book, not Throne of Glass-good though but good” because I was looking at how the story and pacing was. After thinking more about it and reading more reviews on it, I started realizing that there is so much wrong with this book. I guess, in my head, I was trying to deny it because one of my favorite authors wrote it.
When we find out that she was basically set up and the whole thing was a grand scheme set up by Tamlin to get rid of the curse I was kinda like… 1) why would you do that, 2) is this romance even real?! and 3) I would run away from this dude right now, adios bitchachos! But I kept reading. I don’t know, sometimes I get infatuated with the story even if it has a lot of flaws and like I said, I must’ve been in a stage of denial or something.
It’s so weird though, because her other series is like mind blowingly good and basically the complete opposite of what ACOTAR is. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. This story could have been good. I really believe the concept of fae and their courts and curses and whatever could make a brilliant story and I also believe that SJM is capable of writing it but ACOTAR wasn’t it.
I changed my rating of it on Goodreads now because I feel like it doesn’t deserve the 4 stars I gave it anymore. I’m not the kind of person to rate a book below 3 stars that easily so I’m not going to do it because while reading it, I did enjoy it but like you said, there is a lot of stuff in there that’s just wrong and I agree with you. This was a great and detailed review, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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