Author: Sarah J. Maas
Overall Rating: 4/5
Spicy Rating: 2/5
The first book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, harkens back to childhood nostalgia from the start with the book at different points feeling reminiscent of the Hunger Games, Beauty and the Beast, or the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. It takes you down a meandering path of love and heartbreak through ancient curses and the experiences of mortality amongst the magical realm of the Fae, who with all of their powers are powerless against the evil that they face. Will Feyre, a mortal girl with no powers of her own, be able to save the realm of Prythian from the grasp of Amarantha?
The novel starts as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, where Feyre is taking care of her family which consists of her father, and her sisters Elain and Nesta. The first couple of chapters were eerily similar to that of the Hunger Games with Feyre Archeron roaming into the woods, which very few other people enter because wandering is dangerous in this world, and she hunts and kills the wild game in order to feed her family with her weapon of choice being a bow and arrows. After the first couple of chapters, it departs from this initial similarity to the Hunger Games when she kills the wrong creature and a Fae male in an animal form storms into her home and kidnaps her in retribution as the consequence of her killing his friend. It’s at this point that the book becomes a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and Feyre begins to fall in love with the Fae male that stole her away, Tamlin, when she realizes that very little of what she knew about the Fae lands of Prythian and the creatures that live within its borders is true.
She becomes entangled with the politics of the Spring Court and discovers only too late that she is the only one that might be able to break an ancient curse. She must face a number of deadly trials, alone, mortal, without magic, and with no one on her side, in order to free the Fae from the ancient curse and from Amarantha.
While facing the three deadly trials that Amarantha demands Under the Mountain, Feyre is wounded and nearly dies, but Rhysand offers her a deal much like the trap that Hades laid for Persephone in tempting her to eat the pomegranate seeds, and in exchange, she must return to the Underworld for half the year. Rhysand heals her and brands her with a tattoo that marks their deal on her skin, for one week of every month of the rest of her life she will be with him in his kingdom, the Night Court.
The two romances that unfold around Feyre, that with Tamlin which is akin to Beauty and the Beast, and that with Rhysand which is akin to that of Hades and Persephone, share a number of similarities, as do the characters themselves, and so I beg the question, are Tamlin and Rhysand really so different? In both stories, the male love interest kidnaps the female love interest through coercion, and in both Tamlin and Rhysand’s deals, she is coerced to agree to join them in their homes with her only other option being death.
In the depiction of Tamlin and Feyre’s romance, the details are so similar to the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. At one point, he returns from killing a monstrous creature and is wounded, Feyre binds his wounds and the scene gives me epic levels of nostalgia remembering Belle nursing the Beast’s wounds after he saved her from the wolves. Between having a curse that can only be ended when a woman falls in love with Tamlin despite his being disguised as a beast, being unable to tell her what’s really happening, and all of his subjects being put under the same curse, the beginning of the novel is a truly paralleled depiction of Beauty and the Beast.
Personally, I was not a fan of how quickly their romance unfolded because it felt rushed. Especially for an enemies to lovers romance the events that brought them together seemed jammed together and they went from a hostile and distrustful relationship to true love without really being able to talk about what’s going on because of the curse. Calanmai also threw me for a loop because everyone refused to tell Feyre what was going on, and she wanders over not realizing how much danger she’s put herself in.
Tamlin was extremely controlling and hostile from the start which were major red flags and made me dislike his character upon first meeting him. While he does warm to her and their relationship grows because of it, the limitations to their being able to communicate due to the curse do not account for everything that Tamlin hides from her, lies about, or just fails to communicate in general which could have helped to protect her. One such instance is how he hid the events of Calanmai and expected her obedience from him demanding that she stay in the house, which she doesn’t follow and puts herself in danger because he refused to tell her what was going on as if she’s a child. I did really like it when he learned what she liked and made an effort to give her those things such as giving her as many painting supplies as she needed and providing from her family across the wall. When he eventually sends her home to protect her even though he knew she was the only one that could break his curse, I knew that he loved her for who she was and would sacrifice his own happiness for her. It’s because of these last choices to sacrifice his own happiness and his own life for her that I grew so attached to Tamlin in this book and I was incredibly emotional about what was happening to them Under the Mountain when she returns to try and save him.
Feyre and Rhysand’s relationship begins on Calanmai, not that she has realized it yet. It is at this point that she has wandered away from the safety of the Spring Court castle and is threatened by three Fae creatures and Rhysand saves her and encourages her to find safety back where she belongs, much like a devil in the shadows. He comes to the castle and threatens Tamlin and Lucien and in trying to frighten them both he makes himself out to be a monster. When Feyre returns to Prythian and goes Under the Mountain she is injured during the first trial and Rhysand offers her a deal which she has no other choice but to accept. He helps her in many ways, but these ways are also twisted such as by parading her around drunk and practically naked as a way to “claim” her. This isn’t some chivalrous beginning to a relationship and it’s not supposed to be. Their relationship is tenuous, and it is only on the basis of both of them wanting and needing Feyre to survive.
When Feyre goes on to defeat Amarantha, undoing the curse upon the realm and freeing all whose magic she trapped but dying in the process only to be brought back by the seven High Lords of Prythian as an immortal herself, thus casting this deal between Feyre and Rhysand in immortality, only solidifies the similarity to the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. The symmetricity of her spending a quarter of her life in Spring and the rest in the “Court of Nightmares,” with its eerily similar imagery to that of the Underworld, is not lost on me.
While the romances of this novel are spun from fairytales that filled me, as the reader, with nostalgia but also which are themselves giant banners of red and whose male love interests are morally grey and questionable choices, Feyre’s strength still remains a central pillar of the novel. She is a badass from the very beginning, taking on the responsibility of feeding her family when no one else did and risking her life and her freedom to save her love and her friends and to protect the realm from the danger she didn’t even realize it was in, and doing all of this while she is powerless. She amazes the Fae and drives Amarantha to fury, she is a strong female protagonist all on her own, with the intelligence and skill to trap dangerous mythical creatures that most wouldn’t stand a chance against. She empathizes with the Fae, realizing that they have more in common than what her prior prejudice would have let her believe. She outwits and outmaneuvers the fae who have grown so entwined and attached to their powers that they are unaware of how it is to struggle for survival without them.
I may not have loved the male love interests in this novel, but I loved Feyre all the way.
If you enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series you might also enjoy the Throne of Glass Series, the Crescent City Series, the From Blood and Ash Trilogy, The Folk of the Air Trilogy (also known as the Cruel Prince Trilogy), the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and its follow-up the Six of Crows Duology, the Serpent and Dove Trilogy, and The Shadows Between Us.
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