If you know much about fantasy, you’ve likely heard of Sarah J Maas. She’s made a name for herself in the fantasy genre over the past decade-plus for smashing out some well-received female-led fantasy series. One of her more successful is the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. The first book in the series is of the same name – but is it any good?
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I posted A Court of Thorns and Roses to my Instagram stories, asking if anybody read it and what their thoughts were there was mostly positive things but also some comments on how it was just “fae smut” which had me going in very hesitant. As we know, I have a real fear of books that try too hard to include a romance but instead just include one person swooning over another because they’re good-looking. Forewarning, there is a lot of that in this book, but there are also some slightly interesting fantasy elements that saved it a bit.
A Court of Thorns and Roses plot – 4/5
In a quick summary of A Court of Thorns and Roses: Feyre, unappreciated by her family is taken away by Fae after she kills one of their brethren. She then must live with them (oh how terrible). Eventually ends up falling for one of them and then she ends up having to save their entire kingdom.
I’ll be honest with you, the first half of this book was utter poo. Absolutely nothing happened of any real interest; all that happened was the main character, Feyre, spent every waking moment talking about and thinking about this good-looking fae she’s just met who she can only see the top-half of anyway.
Throughout the first 200 pages or so, I kept thinking: nothing interesting has actually happened. Yes, some moments have gone by that I could later describe as plot moments but none of them would anybody go “ooh, that sounds juicy”. So I was really switching off at this point. Plus the downright shallowness of the main character and her feeling of “falling in love” with this man she doesn’t know just because he was broad shoulder and a good jawline were really putting me off.
However, once you’re used to her obsessing over him and come to the realisation that it may be reciprocated (not a spoiler as that’s as guaranteed as the fact the sun rises and sets every day) and Maas focuses more on the world she’s trying to build, the villains she’s looking to bring in and realises there is the potential to make a genuinely interesting fantasy book here, it does really ramp up.
The latter third of the book is constant action, new, genuinely interesting characters get pulled in and lives are put on the line. Does it all feel a bit “right, I want to get this book finished, let’s make some actual stuff start happening”? Kind of. But also, it needed it and it did add a lot to a rather dull story up to that point.
This is definitely one of those books you don’t want to DNF halfway through.
A Court of Thorns and Roses characters – 3/5
I must again touch on some of my frustrations with A Court of Thorns and Roses. I have read Sarah J Maas’ A Throne of Glass series before (I might have to reread for the blog as it was a long time ago) and I didn’t feel like those books suffered from the same problem. Feyre is a girl from a small town where she’s essentially the breadwinner for her family and isn’t appreciated. Very quickly she’s taken away by Fae and forced to live with them. Very oddly, they decide she isn’t imprisoned and can basically live a normal life there. However, Feyre realises the guy that caught her is actually a beautiful human being and so spends the next 400 pages or so noting the different ways in which he’s beautiful.
There was a certain element of this book that annoyed me. If the same roles were reversed and a male author wrote about a female and constantly described them by their physical features and their best assets, I’d have just as little respect and feel just as put off as I was here. This, for me, made Feyre seem far more shallow than necessary from the beginning. However, other than this trait, she’s a very strong-willed, talented and witty person who could old the book on her own.
The main love interest has the personality of a fish and didn’t make me fall in love with him at all. That’s all I can really say about him.
Lucien is an interesting character. He holds resentment towards Feyre for killing their brethren (as he rightfully should) and so constantly teases her, is often mean to her and standoffish. However, his character arc is one of the more satisfying and makes me hope he’s in the later books rather than Tamlin who, as aforementioned, was dull as dishwater.
In the final third of the book, a new villain is introduced who I honestly think is the best character in the whole book. She’s pure evil and actually brings some excitement to an otherwise rather bland set of people and…. faeries.
A Court of Thorns and Roses summary – 3/5
I contended between two different ratings for A Court of Thorns and Roses, but this is what I went within the end. I think the shallowness of the main character and some of the writing and the utterly dull first half was only saved by the fantastic final third, the brilliant new villain introduced and the story actually turning away from the really boring love story that no one really cared was taking place.