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Saturday, April 4, 2015

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

Don't forget, we've got a Fairy Tale Fortnight giveaway of this book going on right now! Make sure to stop by and enter, or comment on this review & earn extra entires!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
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Fantasy, 416 pages
Expected publication: May 5th 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's
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.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!


I've mentioned a few times that I've been in a strange reading funk for months now, where I'm really struggling to concentrate on what I'm reading, and stick to one book. It's a pretty serious case of Ooh, Shiny Syndrome, so even when I've been really enjoying a book, I've found myself setting it down in favor of giving something else a try (and then liking that, too, and yet putting it down for something shiny, in its turn). It's like some weird avid reader's-version of an auto-immune disease: my TBR is attacking itself*... Though there has been the odd book that has broken through this happy-reader's malaise, they've been few and far between, and for the love of all things bookishly holy, praise pen-and-ink, this was one of them.

I fell into this story, face-first and whole-heartedly. It's likely a case of the right book at the right time, and who knows how I'd feel about it years down the line, but right now, it gave me exactly what I needed; I'd read it before falling asleep at night, and pick it up again first thing in the morning. The story and the writing flow beautifully, and it has a cast and world I connected to and wanted to explore. I liked basically all of the characters (good, bad, and indifferent), and how they interacted with each other, and I liked that in nearly all of them, there was gray area to explore. They very rarely fall into the trap of being perfect (and perfectly boring), and characters that you think are probably going to stay one dimensional don't —they are explored and become dynamic as Feyre herself grows and learns more about herself and how to let people in and see them for who they really are. I'm VERY eager to see what becomes of some characters in particular, in future books (Rhys, and surprisingly, Nesta, spring to mind), and I may have already begun calculating the days until ARCs of book 2 are likely to become available...

That's not to say it's wholly without flaws (is there such a thing?); it's a little too on the nose where the curse is concerned, for instance. It's all laid out very specifically, which makes it seem contrived (and also makes me question the relationship more than I'd have liked to), and I find that in general, curses and prophesies that are a little more ambiguous in their terms tend to lead to more nuance and interesting interpretations, and more general believability, when they come into play. But things like this (which were minimal and infrequent, honestly), are very much outweighed by the things this book got right. To that end, I love love love LOVE how sexuality is dealt with in this. I always hesitate to talk about presentations of sex being "empowering" because it can sometimes sound belittling and just sort... I don't know,  of over the top, I guess? But I really can't think of a better descriptor for Feyre's relationship with sex, and Maas' presentation of it. Feyre is fully comfortable with herself, sexually, and the entire approoach is very mature and thought out without taking away any of the sizzle — and sizzle it does, in doses, but without every sliding into being cheesy or tawdry. The relationship is built believably, and Feyre's sexuality is natural and VERY well done, feminist in the best way. I was consistently happy with how the entire thing played out, and how much agency Feyre has (another buzzword I hesitate to use), especially in a storyline such as this one. I really have to tip my hat (fun point of fact, I am actually wearing a hat right now) to Maas for this.

I thought the fairy tale inspiration was nicely handled, too. It's there, with lots of little easter eggs for those who are looking, but it's not heavy-handed, and doesn't overpower the story. It remains its own thing, a complete fantasy novel on its own, but with a sort of comfortingly familiar feel to it, as a result of being a retelling. Overall, there's really good balance to the story, both as something complete of itself, and as part of something larger; A Court of Thorns and Roses has a good story arc all its own, but also good build up for what's in store for the rest of the series. It left me satisfied, but also wanting more, which is exactly what a book should do — it's basically just well done and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, and I'm eager to see where it goes!


*I should not have to clarify this, but it's the internet, so I feel like I'm probably going to have to: This is a silly, hyperblic comparison, some may even go so far as to call it a joke, and no it is not meant to make light of those who have autoimmune diseases. Or those who've literally had their to-be-read piles turn on them and attack them. [moment of silence] Many papercuts were had that day.
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18 comments:

  1. Oh man I do that too! I always pick up a book and say I'm going to read this one and then I go well maybe I'll finish this one first. It's quite annoying! I'm really really excited to read this book! I haven't read any of Maas's other books but I think I'm going to have to pick up her other series! I'm loving all these authors who are doing retellings but doing them in a way that is so completely new without losing the essence of the story! I am currently reading The Lunar Chronicals series and I just absolutely love Marissa's take on old stories!

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    1. The Lunar Chronicles is FABULOUS. =D

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  2. i absolutely loved this! It's my new favourite book of all time!!
    Booknerdigans.com

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  3. Sounds like a great story, Beauty and the Beast is a favorite, then mix in Faries. I am hooked.

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  4. Contrived is a negative for me, but I still want to read it!

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    1. Though the plot does hinge on it in a way, it's honestly such a small mention that I found it easy to brush aside, and just would pretend it was more ambiguous when it came up. lol!

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  5. I have heard a lot about Sarah J. Maas, but I have not read one of her books. I think this one would be fun to start with since it has a fairy tale theme to it.

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  6. I'm really looking forward to this series for so many reasons. One, I think SJM improves with each book she writes. I wasn't overly fond of Throne of Glass, but I've enjoyed every book in the series more than the last. This sounds like she is continuing the streak (and what a GREAT pattern to have, right?). Two, I really love Beauty and the Beast. I know the story can be so problematic, but it really does sound like she has navigated those waters really well. To hear that the Feyre has agency is such a relief. I also like it when authors can handle sex and sexuality well and the scene's tone matches what the rest of the story has set up. (Certain books call for the fade to black vagueness, and some call for more detail - the need really is dictated by the rest of the book, in my opinion). The more I hear about ACOTAR, the more excited I am, and that's just great!

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    1. I think that is absolutely right, yes. This would have suffered a bit from a fade to black. Feyre's had it hard, and she NEEDS to have, not only her moments of escape, but the openness and boldness of WANTING, of wanting and doing something for her, just because she desires it. It really was the right choice for the story, and just well done and needed in general, I think.
      And I know BatB is problematic, but I don't think anyone can ever talk me out of my love for it, or for any other tales that follow the BatB / Cupid & Psyche template. It's one of the first stories I ever fell in love with, and it's always gonna own a corner of my heart.

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  7. This sounds like such a great book :)

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  8. Added it to the ever growing TBR list. Love fairy tales and just discovered your blog. Thanks for sharing the fairy tale treasure.

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  9. I fell in love with SJM's writing from Throne of Glass and love watching her series grow more epic. I love that there are female friendships and femininity isn't treated as weak. She's a true feminist! :)

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  10. So excited to hear that this book is just as good as TOG! I am glad to hear the Fairy Tale retelling aspect worked out

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  11. You had mentioned that the story and the writing flow beautifully, that is one thing that I always enjoy about Sarah's books. The way she can weave a story always leaves you wanting more. It sounds like an amazing book and cant wait to get my hands on it!

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  12. This review makes me want to read it even more! So excited for it to come out.

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  13. HaHa I love that you point out the whole curse thing. I too was in a book funk leading up to this book and fell head over heels into this story. I couldn't stop talking about it and told my husband about it. He immediately questioned the curse. He kinda laughed at the whole specifics of it all.

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    1. I mean, it just makes it so silly, especially in what is an otherwise strong book.

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