Sunday, September 27, 2015

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

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
Hardcover, 432 pages
Bloomsbury USA Children's
May 5, 2015
Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retellings, New Adult Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Source: Target

Book Synopsis:  A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

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 had been eagerly looking forward to reading this novel for several months now, as it's been featured -- and praised -- on many blogs, not to mention Goodreads and Amazon. So when I saw it in the book section of a Target store I recently went to, I grabbed it right away!

I was immediately enchanted as I dove into the story. Maas has a wonderfully evocative prose style; the reader has no problem imagining the fascinating world she has created. The suspension of disbelief -- the bane of every fiction writer -- was quite easy for this reader, as I know it has been for other readers of this novel, judging from all the rave reviews.

As a sample of this author's beautiful writing, I present the following gem, which I found on page 3:

"Once it had been second nature to savor the contrast of new grass against dark, tilled soil, or an amethyst brooch nestled in folds of emerald silk; once I'd dreamed and breathed and thought in color and light and shape."

This is the voice of the 19-year-old narrator, Feyre, who is a sensitive artist. She's also a skilled hunter, and her family's sole means of support, as she not only brings food home, but also sells the skins of the animals she hunts. She's strong, resourceful and courageous, as well, so of course, I immediately liked her! The fact that she's an artist also appealed to me, as I studied art in college myself. I can therefore appreciate the richness of her descriptions, the way she perceives things. Her senses are keenly alive. Naturally, this quality is also extremely useful to her in hunting.

Tamlin, the Beast in the story, is a shapeshifting Fae. When he first appears in the narrative, he's formidable and frightening, although Feyre courageously faces him. She had killed a wolf that turned out to be one of Tamlin's Fae friends. As punishment, she must go to Prythian, the country of the Fae, to remain there for the rest of her life.  

Once he's taken her over the wall, into the magical land of Prythian, and installed her in his manor, Feyre slowly begins to get to know Tamlin. She discovers that he is as sensitive as she is, that underneath his apparently fierce exterior lies a soul tormented by his past, as well as by a strange curse that he can't tell her about.

It was beautiful to see how Feyre began to let down her defenses, how she discovered that not all the Fae were cruel, conquering monsters. It was beautiful to see how she began to relate to them as fellow creatures in the world at large. Thus, the author has woven the theme of prejudice into this magical tale.

Tamlin also begins to see beyond his own assumptions and judgments of human beings. He begins to see Feyre (and her name is, of course, very appropriate for the story) as someone who feels just as deeply as he does, someone who has a beautiful, compassionate soul. 

Their love story is full of poignant incidents, moments of heartfelt understanding, and humor, as well. I also liked the fact that they both relate to each other as equals, even though Feyre is human, and therefore, does not have Tamlin's magical powers. Although, at the beginning of the story, he does have an overbearing attitude toward her, he comes to realize that she's not the type of woman to be ordered around. In fact, she comes to prove herself a skillful warrior later on in the book.

What I really like about Feyre is that she's such a well-rounded protagonist. She's brave and doesn't hesitate to fight for what and who she loves. She's also very independent. Furthermore, she's a very sensitive person, a very competent artist, and a passionate woman.

Tamlin is a perfect match for Feyre. He does appreciate art; the walls of his manor are covered with masterpieces of Fae paintings. And he is just as passionate as Feyre, just as courageous and fierce when fighting for his people.

I also loved Lucien, who is Tamlin's assistant, and second-in-command. He is basically Tamlin's sidekick. The two are really very good friends, having been through a lot together.He has a wry sense of humor, and is really a softie underneath his gruff exterior. He initially distrusts Feyre, but later on, becomes very fond and even protective of her, although of course Feyre doesn't really need much protection, feisty as she is.

As for Feyre's family, I must confess to disliking one of her sisters, Nesta, at first. It wasn't until much later in the story that it became clear that she wasn't as shallow and selfish as she initially seemed to be. Still, I never could relate to her much. Elain, the other sister, was much more to my liking. She, like Feyre, is a kind, sensitive soul. Although she's not an artist, she does have a green thumb. Anyone who loves gardening has got to be a kind person, I think.

Feyre's father is someone to feel really sorry for. He is a cripple, and is thus unable to support his family. He had once been a rich merchant, but then lost his fortune. I felt so bad for him.... 

As I stated above, Maas's prose style is just beautiful! Her descriptions are vivid, detailed, and put the reader right into the story, with all senses (and, at times, even the sense of smell) fully engaged. There's such richness in the flowing, poetic rhythms of her writing!

In spite of all the positives I've mentioned, I am not giving this novel the five stars I was sure it deserved when I began to read it. This might seem pretty strange, considering everything I stated above, but I have good reasons for my rating.

The first thing that struck me, even as I began to get to know Feyre and her family, was that this was not really a Young Adult novel, as I had thought, due to all the advertising proclaiming it as such. Paradoxically, it did sound like a YA novel; the characters all came across as the type you would encounter in a novel from that genre. But then there were some details and events that you would never find in a YA novel. One of these was the somewhat graphic sex scene at one point, as well as the fact that Feyre is already experienced in this area. Female protagonists in YA novels are usually not, and, if they do acquire this experience during the telling of the story, the authors very subtly allude to it.

What bothered me more than anything else, though, was the inclusion of some very graphically violent scenes, toward the last third of the novel. While I admired Feyre's courage and brilliant resourcefulness in this part of the book, I did not like the very sordid, even gross details involved. They almost made me sick to my stomach, quite honestly.

At one point, one of the characters is forced to perform a very evil action, one that I find completely unnecessary to the plot. Perhaps Maas included this scene in order to make it very obvious to the reader that her villain is capable of anything, without remorse. However, by that point, the villain's ruthlessness and total lack of compassion were more than evident to the reader, so, again, I felt this scene was not needed. Quite frankly, it was totally revolting, and I stopped reading, right then and there. When I had calmed down a little, I returned to finish the book, but it was several days later.

Another problem I had with this novel had to do with a character named Rhys. I hated the way he manipulated Feyre, the way he treated her, as if she were his property and sexual plaything. Heck, I hated HIM. This is another reason I would label this book as New Adult, instead of Young Adult. I might even go as far as to say that it's really a book for adult readers.

I would nevertheless recommend this novel to all fantasy romance fans, with the warning that it's not a Young Adult novel. Instead, it definitely falls into the genre of New Adult Fiction or adult fiction. The plot, characters, and writing are brilliant, but there are scenes and events that are more appropriate for the over-18 crowd, as well as those with strong stomachs.

I still really like this book, and might even re-read it at some point in the future. Still, I can't give it five stars, nor can I say that I love it, as I was very disappointed with certain parts of it toward the end. However, this novel deserves at least four stars. Anything less would clearly be unfair. This is a quality book, in spite of its and this quality deserves to be recognized.

This was my very first Sarah J. Maas novel, and it might be my last, although I do like her writing style and world-building. I am really interested in seeing how she handles her YA novels, though, so perhaps I'll try one of them sometime in the future.


Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series (Queen of Shadows, Book 4, was released in September 2015), as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (Book 1 was out 5/5/15).

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she's not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.



  1. Yay finally the review is up! Been waiting for this review ๐Ÿ˜Š

    May I ask what is the difference between New Adult and Young Adult?
    But this book seems really good!!!!! I haven't read it but I just know it is lol!
    I really can't wait to buy and read this book as well as Throne of Glass series ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

    Thankyou for the review!

  2. Hi, Vania!

    Oh, I'm so glad you're happy to see the review! I had some trouble writing it, but I finally did it!

    The New Adult genre is a pretty recent one. This is actually the first book in that genre that I've read. From what I've seen on other blogs, this genre is similar to the Young Adult genre, but has more mature themes. YA books don't usually contain sex scenes, for instance. If sex is mentioned, it's just mentioned, but there's no actual scene describing what went on between the guy and the girl in the book. Also, YA books don't have many bad words. However, I started reading "Vampire Academy" last night, and found the "F word" on one page. And this is a YA novel!

    Another thing about YA books is that they don't have very detailed violent scenes. In ACOTAR, it gets pretty bad toward the end.

    Don't get me wrong -- I still really like this book. But I don't love it. And I was expecting to love it.

    Actually, I think it's ironic that the New Adult genre is named "New Adult". I don't see why they don't just say that these are adult books. Maybe it's because they read like YA. But anyway, they definitely contain more mature themes that are more suitable for 18+ readers.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the review! You're very welcome for it! And thanks for the great, thought-provoking comment!! : )

  3. I am so excited to start this book! You and I have discussed this one before, and I'm happy to read your final thoughts. Even though you had some disappointment, I'm relieved you continued it after taking a little time away and that you still liked the rest enough to give it four stars. I think this is going to be a great book for me, and I can't wait to be able to discuss it with you further. I am so in love with this cover and synopsis. Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite fairy tale, and I can't wait to see what this re-telling is like. I very much appreciate your insight as I now know this is definitely not one for Mckenzie to read on her own. Another beautiful and thoughtful review!

  4. Hi, Michele!

    This is definitely a well-written and absorbing story, and it's a real shame that, towards the end, there were some things I found objectionable. They were totally unnecessary, too, in my honest opinion.

    I am a HUGE fan of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale myself, so of course I was immediately attracted to this one! And yes, that cover is STUNNING. The characters are VERY compelling, as well! Feyre is such a strong heroine, yet, she's a sensitive artist, too. And Tamlin!! Well, you will really love Tamlin! 'Nuff said! Lol.

    I felt I had to point out that this is absolutely NOT a Young Adult novel. I don't know why it was marketed that way. In fact, I'm now thinking that it might not even be a New Adult novel, but simply an adult novel. That's because of the darkness, etc., toward the end.

    I really could not give this book less than four stars, because it's SO well-written and plotted! But Mckenzie should definitely not read it on her own -- at least, until she's much older.

    Thanks for the compliment on my review, and for your overall GREAT comment!! : )

  5. Great post! This book looked amazing and your review makes me want to read it even more!

    1. Hi, there!

      I'm glad you enjoyed my review! Yes, this book is indeed amazing, even with the plot elements that disturbed me. I do recommend it, for but for those 18 and over.

      Thanks so much for the nice comment!! : )


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