Friday, July 10, 2015

[Review] A Court of Thorns and Roses (#1) by Sarah J. Maas

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(#1, A Court of Thorns and Roses)
A Court of Thorns and Roses | Untitled

Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 05/05/2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 419
Source: Bought
Genre: YA - fantasy (16+)

Violence | Sexual ContentProfanity
My Rating:
Tantalisingly swoonworthy

My thoughts

How do I express exactly what and how I feel for this book? Okay, let's start with this simple and undeniable fact: I am a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas' books. I think her storytelling is on point, her writing style is lovely and eloquent and effective, her use of dialogue, tension, suspense, conflict and astute development of her characters just work perfectly together, grabs me in the heart every single time, leaving me gasping, emotionally spent from the experience. Her grasp on the human condition translates perfectly into her heroines. I loved Celaena's (Throne of Glass series) rough edges, her will to live above all else and her vulnerabilities. I absolutely love that she empowers her female characters, gives them roles that matter and feel real and they are never the same as when we first met them. That is the mark that a truly magical thing has taken place in your story: your characters have undergone irrevocable changes. 

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a loose fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast involving an ancient war between faeries and humans. It is a heart-wrenching story about love, family, survival, power and humanity. It follows 19-year-old Feyre’s journey as she is plucked from her miserable impoverished home in the mortal lands after she plunges an ash arrow into a wolf during one of her hunts, not knowing that it was actually a faerie. Unknowingly she has broken an age-old vow made between the two, but instead of killing her there and then Tamlin, an influential and powerful faerie, has decided to take her into the Faerie Realms, into the Spring Court where he resides. There Feyre learns more about the war and her sort-of captors, and finds out there is more to Tamlin than he’s letting on… and maybe she holds the key to saving her family from devastation.

Feyre is another great heroine addition to YA fiction. She has a beautiful sense of loyalty and duty towards her family and loved ones. Her dying mother’s last words ended with a binding promise: she must protect her family at any cost. The family is cast out into poverty; Feyre resorts to hunting for their keep. Even after she is taken to the Faerie realm much of her thoughts and decisions are driven by her loyalty to her family. She constantly keeps them in her thoughts, and worries about them often. I love this trait of hers to no end. You can tell that she would do whatever it takes to keep her family safe. She is stubborn, strong-willed, determined, opinionated, intelligent. There are times where her impulsiveness puts her in danger, but, admirably, she gives everything her all.

Tamlin, the “beast”, is obviously the love interest. I don’t even really know how to describe him because I don’t want to spoil too much. Well, he’s more important and influential than he initially let on, and within him he holds immense power. This deals him a great deal of grief and worry, but Feyre is there and somehow in amongst the chaos they fall in love. I adored the slow-burning romance that begins to surface between the two. Maas seems to have an unmatched talent in writing true relationships that grow and develop in a series of amusing dialogue and beautiful, real moments. Their chemistry is unbelievable; it was incredibly difficult to turn away when I was reading any scene that focused on just the two of them. (Warning: some of the scenes get a bit steamy!) While this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling it is not just a love story, though it does take on a majority of the plot. For some reason I didn’t mind it. Tamlin is quite controlling, but it is all for her good (so that she doesn’t get herself killed). On one level it sort of irritated me because she would always go against what he said anyway and he would have to save her, but on another level I like that Feyre doesn’t just submit to him completely (even though she probably should).

One of the things I love most about good fantasy novels/series is the world building. Good fantasy writers will take time to gradually reveal this new world to the reader. This is only the first book in the series so we have only just scratched the surface. The Faerie Realms have been divided up into seven courts: spring, summer, autumn, winter, dawn, day and night. Much of the book takes place in the Spring Court, a land that lives in a perpetual springtime, but its residents had the misfortune of wearing masks when the Blight occurred. From that moment on, anyone from the Spring Court permanently wears a mask. We do not know what the Blight is, or why the war started, but eventually we are privy to the shocking truths. I could not stop reading!

As usual the writing was brilliant. Maas has a unique way of continuously drawing others into her books with deftly written passages that strongly resonate within the reader. There is a good balance between description and action. The words seem to flow down the page, absorbingly, captivatingly, like poetry. She manages to bring humour into her books with apparent ease; on more than one occasion I grinned to myself by something amusing that had been said or done by a character or two. I could read her writing for ever. She just always manages to get it right.

Supporting characters were few and far between. I personally don’t do well with a huge cast of characters, so this suited me well. There’s Lucien who would go to the end of the world and back for Tamlin as his second-in-command as well as best friend. Lucien, with the red hair and a missing eye, immensely gruff and antisocial. Rhysand from the Night Court simultaneously pursues Feyre whilst degrading her for being a human. Obviously the rational side of me is against the idea of the two as a couple, but their exchanges were excruciatingly, irrefutably entertaining. Lastly there is Amarantha. But I’m not going to mention her in any amount of detail at all.

The climax was completely gripping. I read the last 70-100 pages whilst at work on night shift, and for the final chapters I WOULD NOT GET OUT OF MY SEAT FOR ANYTHING. I’m grateful that my colleague took the hint and stopped talking to me during this time, nor did she nag me to get up and attend to my patients (I swear they were okay!). The ending did feel slightly rushed, and I do feel that there should have been more of a reaction from the main character, but there is lots of room to elaborate in the next book. With the way things are left by the end of this book I cannot wait to see what happens next! I can only imagine just how much more of the world and characters we will get to see.

It’s kind of funny—I loved this book immensely, but I can also relate to this review that harshly critiques this very same book. I will not defend it from anything that this reviewer has said. It is quite romance-heavy and if you don’t indulge in it you may very well find the book to be a struggle to get through. Normally romance books and I clash, but every so often I’m just in the mood and it’s just right and I become attached. So while I agree somewhat with what was said by Tatum I can also say that I adored this book and am looking forward to reading the next instalment in the series.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is an exciting and fresh addition to YA fantasy fiction. This ‘Beauty and the Beast’ retelling is sure to entice and captivate the hearts and minds of existing Sarah J. Maas fans and fantasy/faerie fans alike. The romance between Feyre and Tamlin was steamy and never boring. Maas’ expert storytelling and vast world building will have readers glued to the page. I was completely under her spell and am now left to impatiently wait for the second book to find out what happens next!


First line: The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.


"'And do you... love anyone else?' Tamlin said through clenched teeth.
     A laugh burst out of me, tinged with hysteria. 'No.' I looked between them. Nonsense. These lethal, immortal beings really had nothing better to do than this? 'Is this really what you care to know about me? If I find you more handsome than human men, and if I have a man back home? Why bother to ask at all, when I'll be stuck here for the rest of my life?' (65)

"'A swim sounds delightful.'
     I didn't allow time for second-guessing. And I took no small amount of pride in the fact that my fingers didn't tremble once as I removed my boots, then unbuttoned my tunic and pants and shucked them onto the grass. My undergarments were modest enough that I wasn't showing much,...
     Slowly, so slowly, his eyes roved down, then up. As if he were studying every inch, every curve of me. And even though I wore my ivory underthings, that gaze alone stripped me bare....

"'Don't feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.' He stepped closer, releasing one of my hands to tuck the rose I'd plucked behind my ear....
     I couldn't stop myself from pushing.
'Why--why do any of this?'
     He leaned in closer, so close that I had to tip my head back to see him. 'Because your human joy fascinates me--the way you experience things, in your life span, so wildly and deeply and all at once, is . . . entrancing. I'm drawn to it, even when I know I shouldn't be, even when I try not to be.' (172)

"'He's playing a dangerous game, though,' Lucien said, slipping out the door. 'We all are.' (353)

Sarah J. Maas' Pinterest board for ACoTaR

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

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