Wednesday, June 10, 2015

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

Title: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) 

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 3 Stars

It's no secret that Sarah J. Maas just doesn't do it for me. Her debut Thrones of Glass fell seriously short of impressive--for me, that is--and though I have regarded her fans with a degree of jealousy (seriously, no one wants to joins the Sarah J. Maas bandwagon more than I), I still remained skeptical about her latest, A Court of Thorns and Roses. When the masses praise Maas (see what I did there?), their recommendations rarely apply to me. With ACoTaR, however, I admit that this is far superior to Throne of Glass in every way. Not only has Maas's prose improved, but her plot, her world-building, and her characters are more lively and entertaining than ever. Still, though ACoTaR has jump-started her into the hearts of many readers, I'm afraid there is still no room for her in mine.

A Court of Thorns and Roses reads much like a re-telling of the beloved fable, "Beauty and the Beast." And, at first, I loved it. I was head-over-heels for Feyre, the youngest of three sisters who has learned to hunt and feed her feeble family. I waited in breathless anticipation as it was pain-stakingly revealed that Feyre had broken the laws of the land by killing one of the Fey, under disguise of a wolf, and would be whisked away from her home and family to live out the remainder of her life with Tamlin, whose friend she killed. And then, just when it seemed I had arrived at my favorite part of this well-known tale--when Beauty falls in love with the Beast--I had the rug pulled out from underneath me.

You see, Tamlin is no Beast. Tamlin, despite the mask melded to his face, despite the fact that he and his kingdom are under a curse, is a Beauty. And Feyre, too, is a Beauty. Who ever heard of "Beauty and the Beauty"? The crux of "Beauty and the Beast" lies in the magic--the sheer magic--of having a young, capable, intelligent, beautiful woman find something to love in a snarling, grotesque beast. Tamlin, however, is hot. I wouldn't take much of an issue with this--after all, the "Beast" of Marillier's Heart's Blood is a strikingly good-looking man--but at least Marillier's "Beast" is snarling and rude, contemptuous and unapproachable. Tamlin is kind--sweet, even--and is eager to please Feyre. In fact, Tamlin goes above and beyond--ensuring that her family is taken care of, bringing her paints, showing her the hidden beauties of his kingdom--to make Feyre happy. Neither the reader nor Feyre have to work to love Tamlin. It's a foregone conclusion from the moment he transforms from his temporary bestial form to his ethereal self.

Having read Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty, which pushes the boundaries of the "Beauty and the Beast" re-telling with a prickly heroine and a truly horrendous hero, I found ACoTaR to be tame, dull, and boring, even, in its romance. From the hype surrounding this novel, its eye-catching cover, and the synopsis that promised so much more I think my expectations were higher than they should have been. I really thought this was going to be more along the vein of Cruel Beauty than a New Adult novel in a fantasy setting. (And, for those of you on the fence about this, I highly recommend Cruel Beauty as an alternative.)

I find next to nothing compelling about an easy love story. It was well-written, I'll give it that, and I find immense potential in the world Maas has created, not to mention the secondary characters whose personalities are far more complex than that of Feyre or Tamlin, but I just didn't swoon at this romance. Is it fan-your-face hot? Absolutely! But the type of slow-burn, butterflies-in-your-stomach, giddy sensation that accompanies a well-written "Beauty and the Beast" tale was simply missing. Moreover, Mass knows this love story is too easy; she knows that it needs more of a challenge. So, the entire second-half of the novel, that's exactly what she does--introduce a few more thorns into this bed of roses. What I really enjoyed about the second-half of the novel is the fact that we, as the reader, finally feel the stakes at hand. We begin to question and worry and tense up at the thought that these two may not make it through, after all.

But, despite that, I much prefer a novel where the tension stems from the romance between the two leads--the plausibility of it, the question of whether or not it will finally come to fruition--than anything else. Moreover, I have my own plethora of spoiler-y issues with the second-half, namely from the way Feyre is treated as a woman. Nevertheless, I will not hesitate to admit that ACoTaR is compulsively readable and though this wasn't the re-telling I wanted it to be, I'm hoping that the sequel--an original, and not a re-telling, from my understanding--will pull me deeper into this world and its characters. For now, I'll wave the Sarah J. Maas bandwagon a disappointed goodbye.


  1. The reviews for this one are quite mixed. I have the first 2 books of her other series but I still need to read them so I think I'll first start with that.

  2. I read your review days ago on GoodReads and I agree with pretty much everything. BUT. I wasn't able to finish the book. There was a HUGE deal breaker for me right around the middle (with the fae girl) that ruined the whole thing and made me stop reading instantly. I wish I'd been warned. That's not the sort of thing I can stand and I never would have picked it up. That aside, though, she doesn't do it for me either.

  3. Throne of Glass fell short for me as well Keertana, but I have to admit to absolutely loving the rest of the series. Once I read the prequel novellas and understood Celaena a little better, I got addicted ;-) Sorry this one still wasn't as strong as you wished it to be, but I'm glad the second half was a win for you!

  4. Even though this doesn't seem to be a favorite, even among hard core Maas fans, I still want to give it a try. Great honest review!

  5. Hm... I have yet to read her other series but I do have them on my wishlist. I think I'll pass on this one unless it picks up by the second book. I agree with you about the Hodge book so I think I'd feel the same way here.

  6. I don't think Maas will ever be an author for me, just because she creates romantic tension in a way I absolutely cannot stand. :/ I hate to say, since she has a legion of fans, but I'm not going to force myself through a book I'm pretty sure will only frustrate me.
    I had planned on giving this one a try, until I heard that there's every possibility of a love triangle in the next book. For shame!
    I'm glad you were able to have a little bit more success with her latest! I'm definitely curious to see what book 2 will be like...
    Lovely review, lady!

  7. YES KEERTANA, THANK YOU FOR THIS. You take the words right out of my mouth. I feel this was a decent story, but it wasn't mind-blowing either, you know? There was just something missing from it that I can't quite put my finger on. And your observations about Tamlin and the plot in general. Thank you for sharing this and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

  8. I've never read anything by this author. I've heard some good things about this one, but I don't know...your review has me a bit wary. I'd have to check it out from the library or something if I did ever read it.

  9. Ah, Keertana. I'm sorry that all of Maas' novels have disappointed you thus far! Personally, I'm on the Maas bandwagon, and I recently read ACOTAR as well. I loved it to death, and after reading your review, I still love it - but I can completely see where you're going. It's interesting that you point out "Beauty and the Beauty", because you're absolutely right. However, I'm guessing that Maas says it's loosely based off of "Beauty and the Beast", and I guess the only "beast" part is Tamlin's shapeshifting form into a literal beast/wolf. I haven't read Cruel Beauty, but I'm guessing that retelling stays truer to the original than ACOTAR does. Additionally, at least Maas is aware that the romance is easy! I really enjoyed the second half of the story with the tension at an all-time high, but yes yes yes, I know what you're talking about when you say how Feyre is treated: disgustingly. I'm really curious about Rhys' character and his motives.

    Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts, and even though you're not going to be touching a Maas book for awhile, I really appreciate your review!! Wonderfully written, as always.


  10. I feel like we should give each other a virtual high five. Sigh.

  11. Keertana, it's SO intriguing to see your thoughts on this book! I definitely thought this novel was FAR too over-hyped as well, which is why I found the first part so ridiculously underwhelming.

    I totally agree with you on the romance thing. I thought it was pretty easy as well, and I enjoyed it, in that way you mentioned. Also, the fact that the entirety of the first half of the novel is sooo focused on building up this romance (which you're right, was pretty easy) was extremely dull to me. Which is precisely why I liked it when Feyre was starting to get tested (and I think I understand what you're referencing to with the whole how she was treated as a woman thing... I didn't appreciate that either).

    I think one of the reasons I liked this novel so much more than you did was because I didn't even know this was supposed to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I mean, I had an inkling of an idea that it was supposed to be a retelling, but I had no clue as to which story. I think that was actually a benefit for me, since I wasn't really expecting anything of that kind from the story and romance. I totally see how those expectations really affected your love for the romance, though. Also, I'm totally going to have to check out Cruel Beauty!!

    I'm glad you're still going to try the sequel, Keertana. I think that it's going to better than this first novel, simply because of the consequences of everything that's happened. I'm excited for a lot more depth with the secondary characters (Rhys <33) and to see how Feyre manages everything.

    Gorgeous, fantastically eloquent review as always! <3

  12. I feel exactly the same way about Sarah J Maas' books, really want to love them due to gorgeous covers and the dedicated fandom - but after reading the books I can't muster the enthusiasm.

  13. I've been seeing so many mixed reviews so far for this book, but I think I'll take a shot at it next time I go to the library! I personally like books that retell fairy tales, so I would like to recommend a book for ya, i don't know if you would like it or not but Entwined by Heather Dixon is by far one of my favorite reads! & So thanks for the review!! :)


I love hearing from my readers and I read, reply, and appreciate every one of the comments I receive!(: If you're a fellow blogger, please leave a link to your blog - I'd love to drop by!

Unfortunately, this is now an award-free blog. I simply do not have the time to respond and forward on the award, but I truly appreciate the nomination regardless.