When Feyre kills a wolf on a hunting trip int he middle of winter, she only thinks of what price the pelt will fetch in the market place. She never guessed that the wolf was actually a faerie, friend of the High Lord of the Spring Court, Tamlin.
In order to compensate for the lost life, Feyre must live in Tamlin’s court, surrounded by the faeries who have historically despised humans. Living in the faerie court is a vast improvement from her life in poverty, and she is assured her family is well taken care of. As she spends more time on the estate, her hatred for faeries morphs into passion for the High Lord.
But a shadow is cast over the land. A blight restricting the use of magic and the appearance of wild dark creatures plagues the faeries—and soon, the land of humans.
Little does Feyre know, she is the key to saving them all.
There were a lot of books that got a lot of hype in 2015, and A Court of Thorns and Roses was one of them.
…I’m not convinced. And it confuses me.
Because A Court of Thorns and Roses is a fantasy retelling of my favourite fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. Because Maas added interesting twists like faerie courts and an illiterate Belle character and the folk tale of Tamlin.
AND YET, I wasn’t thrilled. Actually, I was rather bored.
I can’t necessarily blame the plot, as Maas draws very closely from both Beauty and the Beast and Tamlin, which makes it rather predictable. The second half was definitely more interesting, but the riddle was fairly obvious, and it was irritating that Feyre never figured it out.
But where the book ultimately fails is the romance. And this is so key to the story, that if you fail, then the entire story falls apart. And, sad to say, it did.
This is mainly because of the characters.
Feyre is a strong female lead who I respected as a breadwinner who wanted freedom from her ungrateful family. I even respected her a person with a deep seated hatred for historical tyrants and her growing realization of faeries as individuals rather than a hating mass.
My problem is that her transition from hating faeries to loving Tamlin wasn’t smooth. Rather than a gradual greater understanding, she sort of ping pongs between love and hate before ultimately settling for loving Tamlin. And as this gradual understanding is key to the story of B&B (and the reason why it’s my favourite fairytale), the book ultimately fails as an adaptation for me.
This is also where the romance goes downhill.
Maas does something that I’m starting to see in a lot of fiction, and that is replacing a true emotional connection with physical intimacy and desire. This typically starts out with some tortured, handsome, and socially awkward male lead (i.e. Tamlin) with a few weak scenes to establish some semblance of an emotional connection before the characters decide they want to jump each other.
I admit that I sound sort of bitter, but I’m sick of this sort of romance. And I’ll yield that Maas does try to evoke that emotional relationship between the two leads. The scene in the painting room and with the dying faerie are both good starting points. But they aren’t complete. They start on the premise that Tamlin and Feyre may have a connection more than physical desire, but it’s halted in its tracks before it ever goes anywhere. Beyond that, there are some romantic gestures that are more of a seduction rather than an actual effort to learn more about the romantic interest, and I wasn’t convinced.
Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think Feyre was able to break the curse because she missed the deadline, I think she couldn’t break the curse because she doesn’t actually love him.
This leads me to Rhys, the reason why I probably won’t read the sequel. People are vying for Rhys as end game in this series, and if he is, then I really don’t want to read this series.
Rhys is like Tamlin in many ways: handsome, tortured, and with a difficult past. But he’s also abusive and manipulative. And yes, maybe we don’t know his whole story and maybe he had to objectify Feyre to help them defeat the antagonist, but his actions speak bounds about his moral code. And I’m supposed to excuse his awful behaviour for some crap backstory I’m going to read about in the next novel? No thanks.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is little more than the story of a young woman who is freed from her life of the breadwinner of an ungrateful family to a life of “romantic” manipulation in the political game of faeries.
The only exception I make is for Lucien, who, while having a cliche backstory, had a consistent personality and refreshing character. He hates the situation he’s put in, but he will play along anyways because it’s the only way out. In fact, I feel like his growing friendliness towards Feyre is more genuine than Tamlin’s feelings towards her.
The only aspect where I have no complaints is the merge of Tamlin and B&B. Maas does very well in adding a fey twist to the original fairy tale. I actually prefer it over the original reason for the curse.
Recommendation: Don’t Bother. A Court of Thorns and Roses is probably the first fairy tale adaptation that I’ve outright disliked. It glorifies a relationship based on sexual attraction and manipulation, and strays from the original message of the fairy tale it’s trying to recreate. If you’re looking for fairytale adaptations, find the works of Marissa Meyer and Gail Carson Levine, because this just didn’t do it for me.