Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars 

*This is a TBRChallenge review, there will be spoilers, I don't spoil everything but enough, because I treat these reviews as a bookclub discussion. 

September is my Random Number Generator month and what a doozy it picked out for me. I'm also playing Halloween Bingo and read this for the Monster square (fae monsters galore in this) and since Tamlin is a shapeshifter, he can turn into a animal beast, it also worked for this month's TBRChallenge – Animals. A triple threat read! 

But despite his size, he looked like a wolf, moved like a wolf. Animal, I reassured myself. Just an animal. 

This takes place in a Medieval-ish fantasy land where Fae live in the land called Prythian and five hundred years ago a war was waged between Fae and human until a Treaty was signed and a wall put up between the lands. The wall is not supposed to be crossed. Human Feyre is out hunting when she sees a wolf, that she thinks could possibly be Fae. Feyre doesn't have good feelings towards the Fae as they are rumored to be monsters and deceivers and knowing how much the pelt will bring in for her family, she kills the wolf, who seems to just let her. Feyre's family has been in poverty for eight years when her father's merchant business went belly up. Her father mopes around and her two sisters Nesta and Elain are either too busy being bitter and hateful (Nesta) or a little head in the clouds (Elain). So the hunting and work all falls to Feyre, who would actually like to just paint all day, because of a promise she made to her mother on her mother's deathbed to take care of the family. 

The beast had to be as large as a horse, and while his body was somewhat feline, his head was distinctly wolfish. I didn't know what to make of the curled, elk-like horns that protruded from his head. But lion or hound or elk, there was no doubting the damage his black, dagger like claws and yellow fangs could inflict. 

After killing the wolf, a monstrous fae shows up raging at Feyre's home and demanding to know who killed his friend. Feyre owns up to it and the beast claims that due to the Treaty, he can kill Feyre in retaliation or force her to go back to Prythian with him to live out her days. The beast forces her to come back to his home and we learn that the beast is Tamlin, a High Fae and the High Lord of the Spring Court. There are seven Fae courts, link the seasons and day and night. This all happens in the beginning ten percent and I couldn't help feeling the world wasn't quite flushed out enough for me to fully grasped what was going on. This seems to be by design, though. The story is all told from Feyre's point-of-view, the reader only knows what she does and as she spends more time with Tamlin and his emissary, Lucien, she and the reader begin to realize that the full story isn't being told. Tamlin and Lucien constantly wear golden masks on the top half of their faces. They tell her that a Blight has infected the land diminishing fae power and cursed the fae of the Spring Court to forever wear the masquerade masks they had been wearing the night of a ball 49 years ago. Monster fae, puca, bogge, suriel, nagga, etc. are starting to creep out of their own lands and reek havoc on the seven courts. 

“I smelled you,” he breathed, his painted chest rising and falling so close to mine. “I searched for you, and you weren't there.” 

After Feyre captures a suriel, gets some more information about Tamlin, and then Tamlin has to save her from some other monster fae, her instant hatred of him starts to shift, around 35%. We get them starting to talk more and Feyre starts painting. (Does this painting thing of Feyre's come back later in the series? Otherwise it felt kind of pointless?) Their friendship and attraction starts to grow. The fae have a holiday celebration that includes Tamlin needed to bang someone so crops grow (ok, what man made up this holiday??? lol) and the sexual heat/attraction grows between the two. So does the questions Feyre has, she starts to eavesdrop and hear some things being said between Tamlin and Lucien that don't totally make sense. 

“My wings,” the faerie choked out, his glossy black eyes wide and staring at nothing. “She took my wings.” 

Tamlin comes back one night with a gravely injured fae and this was the best scene in the book, written visually stunning and I felt the heightened emotion of Tamlin's pain and anger along with with Feyre's confusion and finally seeing the fae as more than just monsters. 
“Lucien,” Tamlin said, quiet command. But Lucien kept gaping at the fae's ruined back, at the stumps, his metal eye narrowing and widening, narrowing and widening. He backed up a step. And another. And then vomited in a potted plant before sprinting from the room. The faerie twisted again and I held tight, my arms shaking with the effort. His injuries must have weakened him greatly if I could keep him pinned. 
“Please,” I breathed. “Please hold still.” 
“She took my wings,” the faerie sobbed. “She took them.” 
“I know,” I murmured, my fingers aching. “I know.” 
Tamlin touched the rag to one of the stumps, and the faerie screamed so loudly that my senses guttered, sending me staggering back. He tried to rise but his arms buckled, and he collapsed face-first onto the table again. 

After this scene is when Feyre really starts to question what is going on and who “She” could be. 

“Tell me there's some way to help you,” I breathed. “With the masks, with whatever threat has taken so much of your power. Tell me, just tell me what I can do to help you.” 
“A human wishes to help a faerie?” 

Feyre and the reader then learn about a faerie kingdom, Hybern, ruled by a King that hated humans, the whole war thing, and that he was betrayed by The Deceiver. This is all around the halfway point and I felt like it was information that needed to be shared earlier, take out the whole Feyre painting thing get to this quicker. I understand keeping Feyre and thus, the reader in the dark, for the shock/lead up to the reveal of what the Blight really was but after Tamlin sends Feyre back to the human realm because he's afraid for her safety because he now cares for her, the story started to feel very info-dump-y after the 60% mark. 

“I love you,” he whispered, and kissed my brow. “Thorns and all.”

I forgot to mention in the first half Feyre was super worried over her family, how they were going to survive without her and Tamlin told her glamoured them to think she was just off caring for an aunt but he also made it seem like her father's merchant's business made a miraculous recovery and had them living in riches. When Feyre's back, she learns that the glamour didn't work on Nesta and we get some family bonding before Feyre, fairly quickly, admits she loves Tamlin and heads back to Prythian to save him. But his home is ravaged and she learns that he's been taken to Under the Mountain and under Amarantha's power. Amarantha is revealed to be the true villain, she tricked the High Lords and stole most of their power 49 years ago. The info-dump starts info-dumping, we get Amarantha's back story and we learn about the curse Tamlin is under and how Feyre could have saved him. Guilty Feyre decides to enter a deal with Amarantha and if she can solve a riddle, Tamlin and the Spring Court will be instantly free or if Feyre completes three trials she will set all the High Lords free. When I tell you this story was entertaining but a bit messy with it's plot and structure, believe me. Lol. 

“The wolf” Andras had just, stared at me before I killed him. Let me kill him. 

Time doesn't really seem to matter in this part of the story as Amarantha tortures Feyre and we get some of her trials happening whenever the author seems to remember that they need to happen. Mostly, this part seems about adding in the character Rhysand that we've only nominally seen. He's the High Lord of the Night court and mocked for being Amarantha's whore. He's mysterious and seems to be helping Feyre when he can. He also ends up saving her life after she barely survives the first trial but with a deal that tattoos her arm with his mark and that she must spend at least one week a month in the Night Court. Tamlin's around always stone faced and sitting beside Amarantha as she's trying to break him and make him sleep with her too. Anyway, those days and nights Amarantha forgets about the trials, Rhys has Feyre getting drunk and dancing for him and they seem to start to develop their own attraction. 

And I'd become High Fae. 

Finally the last trial happens and Feyre's eavesdropping comes into play and while Amarantha still doesn't seem to be playing fair, during her torturing of Feyre, Feyre realizes the answer to the riddle and breaks the curse with her answer and with Tamlin having his restored power, he kills Amarantha. Yay! After reading the whole story, I do like the world building but it was a little rough to get to it and too much info-dumping and Scooby Doo revealing at the end. The first half needed to be cleaned up in terms of cutting some pointless drag the pace down additives and repetition and maybe working in more of the reveals so they weren't all left until the end. The ending with Feyre in Under the Mountain also needed to be shored up as getting to the trials and competing should have felt more concise, timeline wise. The ending left some threads dangling, High Lords and Prythian aren't settled yet, Feyre's new identity, and there is obviously something going on with Rhys and Feyre. 

Ok, so I just went to read about the next in the series and then subsequent books in the series and WTF. Tamlin turns heel I guess?? What was the point of me reading 300 pgs of Tamlin and Feyre's romance?? It feels like I slogged through just so the series could have a manipulated shock and instead put Rhys and Feyre together. I'll read the next in the series but it's going to have to really do this right for me to like it. Nesta taking on Feyre's tattoo and putting Nesta and Rhys together was right there!!


  1. That's fantasy for you!

    One of the reasons I read so little of it that's not specifically recommended by a romance reader I trust and whose tastes align with mine, is that its conventions and requirements are different from my genre romance reader mindset.

    1. I think if the author hadn't made it seem so for shock value? There was nothing in the 400pgs that didn't make it seem like Tamlin wasn't The One and so all that emotional investment seems for naught?
      I don't know, I haven't read the second so maybe it's pulled off in a way that works but after all the advertising lying (women's fiction masquerading as romance) I can be a bit live wire about bait and switch. The way this book was talked about, I thought it was firmly romance fantasy, so I went in with that mindset.
      I try not to get locked into "conventional" love standards and how that can mess with genre standards but the way Feyre and Tamlin's romance was written here, I can't help feeling lied to since I saw they don't end up together in the series.

    2. I am not familiar with this series at all beyond recognizing the author's name, so I can't comment on specifics; my experience with fantasy widely touted as 'good romance' back in the mid-aughts was less than stellar, hence my caution nowadays in only taking recommendation from people whose tastes I know well.

  2. This author has so many fans defending her work... I confess that I still don't feel interested and along with your review, even less. I mean, if I were to find this at the library I might try it, but I don't feel like spending money on purpose in case my lack of expectations proves right.