A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Bloomsbury Children's; 2015. 416 pages. Ebook.
I don't know how Sarah J. Maas does it, but I haven fallen in love with every single thing that I have read by that woman. After reading all of the currently published Throne of Glass books, (minus Assassin's Blade, but including Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire), I'll be honest and say that I was a little worried that it would be too similar and the characters would have too many overlapping traits. Thankfully, however, it turned out to be a perfectly unique, innovative story that contains just as many magical elements, but in entirely new ways.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) is, at its core, a fairy tale retelling; it contains elements of the well-loved Beauty and Beast story, but in a very loose, dark, and twisted sort of way. ACOTAR tells the story of a woman named Feyre who accidentally kills a member of the fae one day while hunting, and is then forced to repay her debt by living in a Prythian court, where she is watched over by two fae known as Tamlin and Lucien. While living in her new world, she learns the struggles and secrets of the fae, and slowly begins to warm to her captors, all the while becoming caught up the political turmoil of Prythian.
The two biggest factors that I think are what made this book so successful were the wonderful combination of characters and setting. While this book does contain some pretty intense action, the bigger emphasis was placed on the relationships between characters, as well as individual character development. Feyre, for instance is a strong woman who is fiercely loyal to her family, despite her often negative feelings towards them. Throughout the entire novel, she is the one taking care of her family, while in return her family acts as if they could not care less about her. Her sisters are useless; Feyre must hunt and provide for her family while they sit at home and carelessly throw away any extra money that she makes on frivolous items. Thankfully, by the end of the novel Maas allows us to see more sides of the sisters' personalities, which helps us to both understand their actions and see how they can change. Although Feyre is not a weak character in the slightest, she enters the house of Tamlin as an rather innocent, naive person. She has only ever heard myths and tales about the fae, which leads her to believe that that is how all fae act; she is, as we soon found, quite wrong. As she adapts to her new living situation, she begins to learn more her 'hosts,' as well as the lives and struggles of the fae as well.
Moving on to Tamlin... Where to start? Tamlin is such a unique and interesting character; I was immediately intrigued by his actions and words. His demeanor is reminiscent of your typical 'charming captor' trope, but it was also very different. When he first meets Feyre, he is in his fae form and acts rather frightening and harsh, but we are soon able to learn that he isn't really a truly cruel person at all. It was curious to watch as he struggled to be nice and charming at times, but then naturally charming at others, such as when he takes Feyre to a lovely little lake to enjoy the Spring Court's weather. His relationship with Feyre is slow to start, but soon takes off with fiery speed. What begins as a rather mutual dislike (or hatred, one could argue) soon turns into a passion that cannot be stopped. The chemistry between the two is spot on, and completely obvious.
Lucien and Rhysand are the last two main characters that I would like to discuss. Lucien comes across as talkative and honest man who isn't really afraid to say what he thinks. He's like the charming, teasing older brother that may be distant and brutal at times, but is ultimately someone you care deeply for. He has faced great tragedy and upset in his life, and he uses that to fuel his everyday existence and strive for revenge against Amarantha. Where Lucien is a somewhat lighter, honest-but-friendly character, Rhysand is a much darker, deadly sort of person. He is suave and immensely persuasive. He is incredibly tricky, and his power is deadly, which quickly instills fear in Feyre. While he is seen as an enemy, he is also a form of an ally, aiding Feyre when she needs it the most. Rhysand was another character that was extremely intriguing to me. How far would he go to help Feyre fight against Amarantha? How does he really feel about the current situations occurring in his world, and how does he truly feel about Feyre and Tamlin? These are all questions that I hope will be answered in forthcoming books.
Maas has deposited all of these wonderful character in a land called Prythian, made up of various courts of fae, which are currently be ruled by a terribly and delightfully wicked fae known as Amarantha, a perfectly evil villain with an intriguing backstory. I loved this setting. Maas' fantasy world contains many of the same elements of other fantasy worlds, such as the poor peasants struggling to survive, frightened by the mythical tales they've been told their entire lives, and lands separated by magic and non-magic, it is still entirely unique and magical in its overall imagining. I enjoyed the various glimpses at faery traditions, other members of the fae, and the variety of beasts that inhabit the land, such as the Naga, Attor, Bogge, and Suriel. Every element brought even more fantasy and excitement into the story.
Overall, I highly recommend ACOTAR. For me, the sign of a good book is when I constantly have a desire to read it. If I'm not reading it and I'm dying to pick it up and lose myself in the pages, I know it's a winner. A Court of Thorns and Roses left me constantly longing to pick it up at every moment. The characters, setting, and storyline were perfect, and for all of those reasons, combined with the sheer enjoyment it brought me, I am giving ACOTAR a lovely five stars. It earned every single one.
If you like A Court of Thorns and Roses, you might also like:
Thrones of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.