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
Published: May 5, 2015 by Bloomsbury Children’s
Source: ARC from publisher
Genre: young adult fantasy, fairy tales, retellings
Find: Goodreads | 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.
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.
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.
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.”