Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Release Date: May 5th 2015
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Fantasy, (possibly a retelling-ish)
Audio: 16 hours and 8 minutes
Reader: Jennifer Ikeda
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.
My First Thoughts:
In all of my readings I have yet to find a book that retells or uses the elements of Beauty in the Beast well enough for me to enjoy. Yes, I have read Crimson Beauty and I will be posting that scathing review at some point. Anyways, I decided to give this book a shot because I’ve enjoyed Sarah J. Maas’s writing in her other series and I love original lore faeries (not Tinker Bells). I just so happen to also be doing a lot of driving, with visiting back home and my boyfriend, so I finally decided to get audiobooks to listen to during the long road trips. This was the longest audio that I could find that I also wanted to read, so two birds with one stone.
Overall this book was pretty fun and beautifully written. While I didn’t fall in love with this book as hard, or as quickly, as her other series Maas did a wonderful job reeling me into this story. As I have said before, up until this book I had yet to read a story that really impressed me by using the themes from the original Beauty in the Beast. This book, by far, is the best compared to all the failures that I have read in the past, and let me explain.
First, this book never proclaimed to be a fairytale retelling of Beauty in the Beast. Once a book advertises that it’s a reimagining of a story, no matter what fairytale it is, you are guaranteed to upset a lot of fans of the original fairytales or the Disney versions. Disney was never the masterminds of their popular Disney Princesses, their stories came from all over the world from centuries before Walt Disney was ever even an embryo. However, these versions of the fairytales are what young readers are most familiar with, so many retellings will only retell the Disney version of the story, angering fans of the originals and angering other readers by their lack of originality. On the flip side, books the retell the original gruesome stories recorded a few centuries ago anger fans of the Disney films because the books are vastly different from what they were expecting. The Lesson: Don’t market a story as a retelling, in the end someone is always upset. A Court of Thorns and Roses never advertised that it was a retelling, but used some of the themes from The Beauty in the Beast, which in my opinion, allowed many readers, including myself, the ability to identify it as a totally different story.
Now, what themes from The Beauty in the Beast can be found in A Court of Thorns and Roses you may ask? Well the biggest is the forced imprisonment of the heroine Feyre. Her imprisonment is through no fault of her family, like in many previous stories, instead it’s her own punishment for a crime she committed. Now, I was a little disappointed that there was no mention of Stockholm syndrome, however, I was happy that it was not love at first sight and that the relationship within the story was a slow burn. Another major theme borrowed from the fairytale was the heroine’s ability to see past the superficial characteristics of “The Beast” and fall in love with his personality and who he was as a person. The last major element that the story used was the idea of a “curse” that transformed the love interest into the “beast”. However, I was rather impressed with how Maas used this theme but made it into her own thing. She ‘cursed’ her love interest, who already had natural beast-like characteristics, by magically fusing a mask to his face, allowing Feyre to see only the bottom half of his face. And the ‘curse’ the Maas crafted was a very clever one that wasn’t the easiest to guess at before she revealed all aspects of the curse to her readers, and there was no cliché idea of using a beautiful plant to count down the days until the curse was permanent. Other than those three major themes, the rest of the similarities that I found with the original were rather minor.
The rest of the story was brilliantly crafted by Sarah J. Maas. I loved how she started using faeries in her original series, Throne of Glass, and I was absolutely giddy with the faeries she used in this story. Many ‘fey’ that popular books use nowadays are very elfish or Disney Tinker Bell, some cases their a little larger. However, Maas uses faeries that are very similar to the ones found in Celtic and other Old European folklore. Her faeries are very animalistic, some being highly majestic while others being the things of nightmares. It was a lot of fun to try and imagine what these faeries looked like as she described them to us, and each species had their own unique characteristic and caste. I loved how dark the story got in places without being too terribly gruesome in the imagery and how she kept true to the relationships between the humans and the fey from the old legends.
I really didn’t know what to think of any of her characters at first, even the main ones, because they were all a bit rough in the beginning. However, over time Maas really fleshed them out and gave each of them distinguishing characteristics. One thing that I have noticed with Maas’s other series, is that she doesn’t just show character development in her main characters, a lot of the minor characters have taken great strides as well and this book isn’t an exception. The biggest character development that I saw, and that surprised me, was actually with one of her minor characters that ended up having a profound effect on Feyre. A lot of stories that I have read mainly focus on the main cast, which is perfectly fine because minor characters are usually made to be static and contrasting to the major characters. However, I’m always impressed when an author shows growth with their minor characters, whether they’re in a series or a single book, because they stick out better in our minds. Granted, a lot of characters stayed a bit static but Sarah J. Maas has at least another book to round those characters out if she wanted too.
The story itself was really fascinating to listen to. The author did a wonderful job building the story’s world, giving it some geography, lore, and history as well. Not only did she create a human world, but also a faerie world that included its own beliefs and traditions. A major development in the story even surrounded a celebration that was loosely similar to some of the old Celtic traditions. And a lot of the last part of the book played into some of the fey traditions and characteristics. Maas created two vastly different worlds that were only separated by a magic wall, one with the diluted traditions of the other. One thing that I noticed, that I found to be rather loud, was that the more animalistic of the two societies was also the most religious and bound by honor.
I didn’t really have a lot to say about the characters themselves like I normally do, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting. For instance, I fell in love with Feyre because she wasn’t a dandelion of a heroine, but a self-supported woman that was strong while not being too haughty to ask for help. The interactions between the characters were a lot of fun to listen to, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was how Maas really fleshed some of them out, even the more minor characters.
I labeled this as a New Adult book because Feyre is a lot older than a lot of Young Adult heroines. She also goes through a different stage of life and general obstacles that a lot of Young Adult books don’t get into right away. Also, the book has sex, which is occurring more often in newer YA books, however, this story goes into more detail but not as much as Adult books. It’s nothing major, but it was really awkward when I arrived to that scene while driving back to school one weekend. My face got rather hot and I was thankful no one was in the car with me.
If you really enjoy reading fantasy, especially with more old traditional faeries, then this book may be a lot of fun for you. The romance is a slow burn, once it gets going though it speeds up a bit, but not enough to make you sick. There is sex, but not a lot, so you’ve been warned. The story is also a bit darker in some places, just because the faeries are usually rather dark and cruel themselves. The world building in the story is rather thorough for the first book in a series, so if you enjoy reading the history and lore that influences the characters then you’re in for a treat. And if you’re looking for a book that isn’t necessarily a fairytale retelling, but still uses the themes from a popular fairytale then this book is right up your alley. Also, if you enjoyed Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, then you may enjoy this story as well. While A Court of Thorns and Roses is a different story from her original series, there are many similarities in writing style and story telling that I loved from the latter in the former.
I really enjoyed listening to this book. I haven’t been read to in a while so it was weird and disorienting at first, but I got into the swing of things pretty quickly. This story was great to listen to while taking long drives or doing a bunch of house work, just because it’s so long. Jennifer Ikeda did a fantastic job trying to capture the personalities of each character as they spoke. While it was hard for me, personally, to distinguish between the various male roles at first, she did a fantastic job fleshing out the characters with her voice.
Personally, I did not enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed Maas’s first book, Throne of Glass. However, on its own, A Court of Thorns and Roses was captivating once the story picked up. I was fascinated by the lore she created and the faerie lore that she used, specifically naming some of the more common fey species. I enjoyed listening to the story and its characters, how they changed and interacted. I also enjoyed the mystery in the book. Maas liked to leave little bread crumbs until the big reveal, some of the mystery and riddles I was able to solve, other caught me by surprise though. All in all, a fantastic fantasy that combines the word of Faeries and some of the elements from The Beauty and the Beast.