Sarah J Maas was recommended to me by my uni friend Tamsin, and I decided to start reading ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ first. Overall I enjoyed the novel, but there were a few things that niggled at me while reading it.
I loooved the setting – Maas did this really well through out. I loved the cold despair of Feyre’s village, I loved the medieval fairy tale simplicity of Prythian, and I especially loved the dark dangerous setting Under the Mountain. This last section of the book I absolutely adored – Amarantha was beautifully evil. I really loved the ending, as it shows us that Feyre was not vulnerable to mortal wounds.
I did enjoy this novel, but there were a few things that stuck out like a sore thumb. When Feyre murders the faerie in her home woods, and Tamlin comes to take her away to his court for breaking the treaty – giving her the option of immediate death or living out the rest of her life in Prythian, really grated on me as a reader. If she had just murdered his friend, wouldn’t he just murder her where she stood and not take pity on her lack of wealth? There were a few coincidences like this through out the novel that annoyed me, because they were just too convenient. Of course there was a reason for these coincidences which make sense when you read more of the novel, but earlier in the book these really annoyed me as a reader. I’m glad they didn’t annoy me enough to stop reading, which could happen with some readers. As annoying as these coincidences were, you could also tell that Maas had more to explain about them through out the narrative.
There were some sexist overtones to some bits of the novel – how Feyre is expected to act like a lady and do lady things – but I didn’t let this bother me too much because Maas also worked hard to create the image of Feyre as a warrior, despite being far weaker than the Fae. This was why I loved the Under the Mountain section of the novel especially, because this image of Feyre was in her element here. I squirmed when reading one section in particular filled with dresses and high society and all lady like manner of things, because it is such an old fashioned ideal and clashes completely with who Feyre is meant to be as a character. The other thing that annoyed me was the ridiculously awkward sex scene – it was written with such ridiculous flowery language trying to avoid using concrete words to explain what was going on that it just read in such a cringey way. The romance between Tamlin and Feyre was a bit awkward in places as well – there were points where it felt like they didn’t quite gel together, but that might just have been my interpretation. It seemed to be all about Tamlin, and not much about Feyre – such as she calls him ‘my’ High Lord, implying that she was his property. Little things like that which annoyed me. Especially in the final conflict, Feyre is the one facing all the challenges while Tamlin just sits back and watches it all happen. Hm.
Maas plants plenty of seeds for her further two novels in this series, and I’m intrigued to see where she takes her narrative. I liked Feyre as a character, and I liked that Maas designed her unable to read, though her dialect jarred with this plot point. She uses such a variety of larger words that this was quite a contrast – claiming that she had been so young when her father lost his fortune that they couldn’t afford nor cared to educate her to the same standard as her sisters, but if she can use these more complex words she would surely have had some kind of education. Some of Maas’ words of choice to describe Tamlin’s actions jarred a bit as well, but I’m guessing this was to make him seem more animalistic than a sophisticated character. I loved Lucien and Rhysand’s characters in particular, and actually loved how dark and bitter Amarantha was. She reminded me of a more modern Miss Havisham, but didn’t let her misfortune (in this case what happened to her sister) dictate who she was as a person – she fought back, even though she still uses it to define her actions in some ways, she doesn’t sit back and waste away in a sulk – she gets shit done.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this novel when I first started reading it, but as soon as the plot started to fall into place and the earlier niggles made sense, I really enjoyed the story. Parts of the convenient plot points did feel a bit like Maas had a clear idea of where she wanted to go with her narrative, and focused so hard on getting there that the earlier half of the novel didn’t fall into place as smoothly as the latter half of the novel does. I don’t think this would be a novel for younger readers, because of the terrible sex scene (seriously, just write ‘orgasm’, it’s not going to weird your readers out as much as writing ‘cresting over the edge’ does) and the violence later on in the story. I would give it a 4/5, and am hoping to read the sequel next.