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.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTR) is based on the Scottish Ballad “Tam Lin,” and echoes of similarities to Beauty and the Beast. ACOTR is set in a realm that is divided between human and faeries, and Maas brings us to both worlds through her main character Feyre. Feyre is a 19–year–old human fighting off starvation and fighting for survival in the cold, harsh lands which are her home. When Feyre kills a wolf, her life is changed forever; she did not kill a wolf, but instead killed a Faerie, and now she must pay the life debt by leaving her family behind to live out the remainder of her days in the Fae lands belonging to her captor, Tamlin.
“We need hope as much as we need bread and meat… We need hope, or else we cannot endure.”
I initially thought ACOTR was very slow and I almost gave up on it; Maas does not reveal the real conflict of the book for almost 130 pages (unless you are already familiar with the Scottish Ballad). But nevertheless, I persisted and I was hugely rewarded! The pace gradually increased, creating a wondrously complex story full of passion. By the end, I could not put it down! ACOTR was my first buddy read with my friend Jenny, and I totally went off schedule, cheated, and read ahead by several days because I couldn’t wait to finish the book! Sorry Jenny!
Even though I enjoyed ACOTR so much and I couldn’t put it down, I can only give it three stars. Overall I liked the story, the characters, and the complex world. However, I had some fairly major issues with the book. My biggest complaint was the pacing of the book – not everyone is going to be willing to read 130 pages of build-up before they get solid information about the true conflict of the book, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the Scottish Ballad that is is based upon. The world building was also a little weak; the devices Maas used to explain the history of the realm, the faeries, and the magic fell short at times and for a large chunk of the book, Maas left her readers in the dark. The payoff is great, if you have the patience to keep reading. Some key characters were flat and two-dimensional for the majority of the book – I’m looking at you Tamlin; your homeboy Lucien outshone you at times.
However, all that being said, I really have to give credit where credit is due; Maas definitely found her stride a little more than halfway into the book. There are moments and scenes in the second half of the book that have stuck with me for days after finishing the book. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.
I also want to give Maas credit for not only writing in some steamy sex scenes (they’re awesome!) but for also creating a sex positive world.
“His lips were smooth against my skin, his breath warm, and my knees buckled as he lifted my other hand to his mouth and kissed it too. Kissed it carefully – in a way that made my heart begin pounding in my core, between my legs.”
Our heroine Feyre is not a virgin, there is no real stigma attached to premarital sex, and it seems as though all of our characters are aware of the difference between sex and love. I loved this! I am so tired of female characters, particularly in young adult novels, playing the role of the innocent virgin who gets swept off their feet by their one true love; that’s not realistic and I love Maas for creating such a strong sex-positive heroine.
As a first time reader of Maas, I have to say that her writing style, although slow to begin with, is amazing and beautiful.
“‘Human,’ it said, and its voice was at once one and many, old and young, beautiful and grotesque. My bowels turned watery.”
Maas finished off ACOTR by conquering a vibrant world full of magically complex conflict and wonderfully imagined characters that will carry you into the second book of the series.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Jenny O’s Thoughts:
I have mixed feelings about the first installment of Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series. It took me a while to become accustomed to her writing style and the action was slow moving at first, but I started to be quite invested in it by the end.
Like many other readers, the pacing of the novel was an issue for me. The first few chapters were decent, but the next two thirds of the book crept by. Maas struggled to create action and world building simultaneously, to the detriment of both. In the last third of the book, however, the action picked up and the faerie court really came to life.
The characters themselves are the strongest part of this story and it’s clear that Maas is fond of them. Feyre was an interesting lead character. There were parts of her that I really enjoyed — her determination and her ability to face down the difficult trials in her life — and other parts that I have struggled with. It’s not until the last section of the book that she feels like a full, consistent protagonist. I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of her character as the series progresses.
Lucien and Rhysand, as well as the myriad other secondary faeries and family members, helped to fill out the world Maas created. They brought life into the story and added moments of both levity and clarity when the plot felt like it was dragging.
Tamlin himself was not my favorite — he lacked depth and felt two-dimensional in his personality and reactions. For someone who was supposed to be the romantic interest, I found him bland. It was only on rare occasions that he even had chemistry with Feyre (although when he did, it was excellent). Overall though, the antagonist had better chemistry with her. His friendship with Lucien is what saves him from being too unsympathetic and flat. He clearly values that relationship, and if you’re friends with someone as great as Lucien, you can’t be all bad.
As a fan of the original ballad of Tam Lin, as well as being familiar with Beauty and the Beast (both of which served as inspiration for this novel), I had misgivings about the story. In the end I was mostly won over by the characters of this story, and the promise of action and intrigue to come.
If this book was a standalone, it would have been closer to 2.5 stars for me. As it is, I can feel the potential in both the writing and the story arc of the series so I’ve rated this volume a 3.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (May 5, 2015)
Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fiction, Fairy Tale, Romance, Action & Adventure
Purchase your copy here.
Author: Sarah J. Maas