Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I read an early copy of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas because I wanted to be sure I would feel comfortable putting it in my young adult collection, since in some places it has been marketed as “new adult” even though it is published by Bloomsbury Children’s. I’m also reading a lot of so-called “new adult” titles in preparation for a presentation I’m doing with another librarian at YALSA’s Symposium this fall. I didn’t anticipate enjoying this novel, because I wasn’t a fan of Throne of Glass, but I went into it with an open mind.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
: May 5, 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s
Source: ARC from publisher
ISBN: 9781619634442
Genre: young adult fantasy, fairy tales, retellings
FindGoodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: 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.

a court of thorns and roses

My thoughts:

I might be the odd one out on this title, but I thought this book was terrible.

A supposedly steamy “new adult” fairy tale retelling that blends elements of fairy tales Tam Lin and Beauty and the Beast, the end result is, in my opinion, a decidedly un-sexy awkward mix of fairy tale tropes without anything imaginative or subversive about it.

Feyre is pretty much the exact same character readers met in Throne of Glass. Like Celaena, she’s self-absorbed even when she’s trying to be magnanimous. Like Celaena, her actions lack motivation. Like Celaena, she doesn’t think logically. She’s reckless and headstrong to such an extreme it stretches believability. I can’t buy a character who doesn’t seem to have an instinct for self-preservation. I don’t require that characters be likeable, but they do have to make some sort of sense as a person.

Characterization wasn’t my only issue with this novel, however. The pacing is glacial. It isn’t until three-fourths through the book that there’s any action, and then plot is so predictable it’s boring. When the action really starts, so much backstory is revealed through an enormous infodump that outlines the rest of the story, killing any suspense. The structure is clumsy in a way I might overlook in a debut, but from an author whose pumping out books at the speed that Sarah J. Maas is, it’s unforgivable.

But let’ be honest. Most people will read this for the romance. So let’s talk about it.

::::::spoiler warning:::::::

The relationship between Tam Lin and Feyre follows the same trajectory as the typical new adult novel. A gruff, violent, but ultimately misunderstood man rescues but also deceives a young woman into a situation in which they can form a relationship. Despite several obvious warnings, the young woman finds herself falling for him. Then, the man finds himself unable to control his growing passion, and pushes himself on the woman in a possessive act with dubious consent, and it is portrayed as “hot.”

It’s all very rape-y.

So are a lot of fairy tales, but I like my retellings to be reimaginings, not just rehashings.

The sex scenes aren’t so explicit I that I won’t put this in my library’s young adult collection. The relationship dynamic is problematic, but so are lots of romantic relationships in popular young adult books.

Bottom line: for me, this book failed on all fronts. That isn’t to say I don’t think it will find fans, and I know lots of people will enjoy it. Everyone has different taste, and I respect that. This wasn’t the book for me, and I won’t be trying any more Sarah J. Maas books in the future.

Second opinions:

Book Addict’s Guide: “The characters in this book were just phenomenal and the dynamic between each and every one of them was fantastic. Each character is so carefully crafted and it was fascinating to see just how entwined all of their stories were.”

Kirkus: “The plot is not without its occasional weak moments, most notably a late exposition dump and a too-easy final riddle. Nevertheless, the sexual tension and deadly action are well-supported by Maas’ expertly drawn, multidimensional characters and their nuanced interpersonal dynamics.”

School Library Journal: “This retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Tam Lin” (with elements from ancient Greek mythology thrown in) has a strong focus on Feyre’s physical attraction to Tamlin, but characters lacking in dimension detract from Feyre’s strengths as a capable but rash heroine. Uneven pacing includes a slow start followed by a game-changing information dump, and then a more action- and less romance-filled second half. VERDICT A weak fantasy with strong romance elements.”

9 thoughts on “Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

  1. I’ve been debating about this book. One of my good friends really loves Sarah’s other series, but every time I try to read Throne of Glass I can’t get passed the first opening paragraph because…like so bad…

    I’m not shocked by this, and I’m glad I won’t pick it up now. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favs, so I tend to give those retellings a true just to see how it goes. Will avoid this one now :)

  2. I couldn’t agree more with you on this one Molly! My review is posting later this week (aside from the SLJ one) and as you said I found the pacing and premise rather dull. The romance such as it was continues to frustrate me no end. I don’t mind that people enjoyed it but I just wish there was a more balanced discussion of the deeply troubling aspects of the romance here.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one. I like plenty of problematic stories, and sometimes even poorly written books can be damn entertaining, but this one just failed on all fronts for me. And yeah, the romance did trouble me. Even though SJM went to great pains to show that Feyre was into it all, it never really examined her rationale for the attraction or how she processed it. It wasn’t that I’m a prude or that I don’t believe that someone can’t enjoy a love interest acting possessive or biting her — but there’s a context to it or some reflection that I think was missing from that particular scene/encounter.

      1. I’ve also been playing in my mind with imagining it if the roles were reversed and the female character were the “aggressor” or whatever you’d call it and I just can’t find a way that it’s not an assault framed as being sexy.

  3. I am currently reading this to decide if it should go in our teen collection or if I should purchase it for our adults. I like the book but don’t love it but then I am not a fan of fairy fiction (though I slogged through the Julie Kagawa series and others). I think Feyre is a frustrating character and so is Tamlin. I’d say the “steamy” scenes fall in between what is normally seen in teen fiction and what is portrayed in fiction for adults. I think adults who read romance novels may find the romantic scenes in this book to be boring in comparison.

    1. I think each community is different and it could very well do better in adult some places.

      My favorite fairy book is THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black.

  4. Thanks for writing this! I am currently reading this title as well, had been hoping to finish it before today to write my review but looks like it will be more like tomorrow. I am not impressed, but not unimpressed either if that makes sense. I have yet to read Throne of Glass, but it is on my list….that massive list!

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