Wednesday, August 5, 2015

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

I really need to read more these days. I feel like things have been turned on their head because Taylor is reading books and I'm watching TV. He's reading Red Rising and the rest of the books in the series after I basically told him to read them or else and he is loving them. I knew it. Such good books for guys and we've been having some lovely discussions about themes and characters.

But I digress.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first book in a new series by Sarah J. Maas of Throne of Glass fame. This one is definitely different though from that series though. This is another retelling of Beauty and the Beast but in a way that doesn't make me want to throw things and run through the streets screaming. I mean, I think we're all sick to death of the traditional story line and this book takes a different spin on it. 

Alright, before I get distracted again, I want to talk about the cover. While it is a lovely idea, I'm sick to death of black and red covers. Sometimes, they work for me but those tend to be a bit more subtle. I get that black and red are supposed to be the dangerous scary sort of combination but I wish that authors and publishers would mix it up a bit. It's all we see now! Please, I'm begging you. Some other color combination. Use orange. Use green. I'd die a happy woman if you used purple. CHANGE IT UP.

Feyre is a survivor and always has been. She doesn't remember much of the luxury her family used to live in but she does know how to aim a bow and take care of her kills. She knows that she has to work hard or her family will starve and knows equally as well that she will get neither help nor praise for her efforts. Her sisters were used to being taken care of and nothing has changed much there. Her father sees himself as a worthless cripple even though with a little effort, he could get a job. So that's why Feyre is out in the woods, alone, hunting a deer when the biggest wolf she has ever seen stalks into her life. She had heard stories of faeries turning into animals and kills the beast, not knowing what repercussions may follow. Feyre then finds herself spirited away to the land of Faeries and curses where danger not only comes in the form of her captors, but also what lurks in the woodland.

So in the beginning, we have a bit of a Cinderella situation going on. I mean, her sisters are pretty horrible. 
If you haven't seen this version of Cinderella, you're seriously missing out
They used to be a well respected family with money and power but their father lost all of their money and these girls haven't quite gotten over that. They prance around their little town like they are the best thing that ever happened to it because they were brought up with silver spoons in their mouths. Feyre never really experienced all that so she has a bit more humility. You end up hoping that something horrible happens to her sisters because they are the bullies that you always hate in life and literature. You want them to have to work and struggle when they don't seem to initially.

"Nesta cocked her head. I'd seen predators use that movement before. I sometimes wondered if her unrelenting steel would have helped us better survive - thrive, even - if she hadn't been so preoccupied with out lost status."

Moving on though to the actual fairy tale part of all of this. Feyre, in retribution for what she has done, is dragged off through the woods to live in an enchanted faerie castle with a terrifying male who seems to be lacking in the social skills department. Feyre has been told all her life to be scared of faeries. That they're wicked and they control the land and could unleash all sorts of hell on it. But this mysterious masked man isn't all thorns and snarling. And neither is his companion Lucien. 

So Tamlin (big scary fae) and Lucien and everybody else in this particular faerie realm is under some sort of curse. Tamlin and Lucien are both High Fae which means while they are handsome and powerful, they are cursed to wear masks that they cannot remove. But beyond that, both are incredibly attractive. Feyre finds herself being drawn in more and more to Tamlin, her captor, and can no longer see him as the enemy. And then...everything goes to hell in a hand basket.

The fairy tale aspect of this works really well in my opinion. It is definitely Beauty and the Beast but the beast has more personality and charm than the one we always associate with. You get to see into his mind more and understand his pain. And Feyre is more than just a Belle character. She can't read but she is an artist. She paints and tries to make the world a more beautiful place than her reality. She is bitter and cynical and all of the things that would naturally happen if you were left to fend for yourself with nobody's help. The magic works. The curse works. It all is great for me. 

And it's funny! I had some laugh out loud moments in it and the writing is actually pretty good. There's a nice balance between humor, dialogue, world building and introspection.

"He also said that you like being brushed, and if I'm a clever girl, I might train you with treats"

And it's sexy. It's so easy to try to tame fairy tales because it's what we grew up with as kids and we don't want to see them corrupted. But there's some definite tension going on here and Feyre is a mature woman. She is open and honest with herself and isn't some wilting violet. And Tamlin isn't either. He's possessive and dominant. He is fully aware of his sex appeal but he doesn't use it as a weapon. Once he gets over his supremely awkward stage, he is charming and the perfect gentleman most of the time. But when he gets pushed, he has this dark and alluring side that Feyre can't resist. 

"He took my hands. His callused fingers, strong and sturdy, were gentle as he lifted my bleeding hand to his mouth and kissed my palm. As if that were answer enough."

The biggest issue I had with this book, besides the cover, is the ending. And I'm not going to spoil anything for you but it felt a bit rushed sometimes. It had a Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire feel to it and it left me wanting more. The rest of the book had been done so well with all of the world building and character development that the ending just didn't live up to it. It felt like the author was searching for a conclusion. I'm not saying it was terrible but it was just not as good as the rest of the book. 

I will be reading the next one but I hope it builds more. The first book has established a wonderful world and an interesting plot. I desperately hope that the next one lives up to its legacy.

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