A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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Our Score

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is categorized as a Young Adult fantasy by its publisher.  However, it should be classified as New Adult based on the age of its protagonist (19), sexual content, and graphic violence. 

I was on the fence about giving this book a two-star review or a three-star review; however, in our star rating description (on the Home page), a three-star review must be “a decent read.” Based on the content, I do not think it meets that criterion.  In good conscience, I cannot recommend this book. 

Synopsis​

Feyre is a young, human woman who kills a wolf while attempting to find food for her starving family. She soon discovers that she killed (and skinned) a faerie in disguise, and the cost of her unwitting crime is her life—life in the faerie world of Prythian as the property of Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court. And it goes downhill from there.

It’s not that the world-building isn’t superb. The writing is far above par. But what’s billed as being a “. . . blend of action, romance, and witty banter as well as a sexier, edgier tone” by the School Library Journal is, in retrospect, a pandering slosh through unbelievable attraction and unexciting action.

Maas, the beloved author of The Throne of Glass series, seems to be laboring to make it work in this uninspiring book. This is Twilight meets Beauty and the Beast, set in the cruel and sadistic world of the legend of Tamlin. All the elements are there: the (much) older supernatural male and the (crazily attractive) young female who spark off one another the moment they meet; the curse only the female can break; the cruel faerie queen; Lumiere—Lucien—the witty matchmaker; Alis, the helpful housekeeper; and finally, there is Rhysand, the Jacob wannabe.

Pros:

Maas is a master world-builder.  Wow. As a writer and editor, I appreciate the luxurious prose.

The cover is pretty. Love the map.

The main character is loyal to a fault for the first half of the book. I could al-most like Feyre at the beginning of the tale, but then she loses her way.

Cons:

Feyre establishes her street cred as a sexually-active young woman by acknowledging her casual rolls in the hay with a local man when she needs to escape reality. This relationship is entirely meaningless in the scope of the story and trite, like an item that must be marked off a characterization checklist: “Main character must not be a virgin.” Check.

Her first “sexual” encounter with Tamlin is after he has taken part in a rite of spring (um, I’m trying to keep it PG) and comes back to the mansion all crazy. He bites her on the neck, and the reader is supposed to think it’s hot. Smashing a woman against the wall and biting her is assault. This is very disappointing in any book, but especially so in a book marketed to teen girls. Bloomsbury USA Children cannot claim otherwise; as of this writing, the novel is #19 on Amazon in Books>Teens>Romance> Fantasy.

Yes, Tamlin and Feyre eventually get together in bed. He’s so five-hundred-plus-years-old, and she’s so nineteen. To be absolutely fair, she (spoiler) is no longer a human when this takes place, though they’ve been diggin’ each beforehand.

Tamlin and Feyre are not as likable as the sidekick, Lucien, or even the ruffian, Rhysand. About that checklist: “Make main characters likable.” If you are going to write a kick-butt heroine, she cannot also be too stupid to live. If you are going to write a swoon-worthy hero, he cannot be abusive or controlling. Not ever.

The High Lords, including Tamlin, are practically gods (little g) with powers beyond imagination. They are immortal (mostly). As is common in faerie tales, the faeries in this story are amoral creatures, doing whatever seems best at the time. Tamlin is considered a Goody Two-Shoes by his peers.

The crisis of curse and cruelty takes place in Queen Amarantha’s court, and it goes on forever. Maas holds nothing back, churning out one hundred pages of torture and sexual innuendo. Again, the frail human is somehow the key to defeating the evil queen. The girl is also seemingly irresistible to male faeries. Why? I kept thinking of Bella in Twilight and her effect on an entire school of boys. Talk about fantasy!

Later, to save her life, Feyre strikes a deal with another High Lord, Rhysand, to stay with him one week every month for the rest of her life. His expectations are obvious. I suppose she has to “pay up” in Book 2, but that doesn’t matter to me since I won’t be reading it.

Kirkus Reviews wrote, “Sexy and romantic.” Sexy? Too much so. Romantic? Nah.  And that’s too bad because I’m a sucker for romance.

This book contains so much violence that I cannot list it here.

Also, there is language in the book that is not appropriate for its intended audience.

Finally, at the last showdown, Feyre has an ah-ha moment that is outrageously contrived.  The resolution relies entirely on deus ex machina, a suddenly revealed fact about Tamlin (the god, in this case) that saves the day.

Personal Thoughts

Sadly, this book does not live up to the author’s reputation.  I wanted to like it. I was predisposed to love it. But I had to force myself to finish it so I could write this review. Not recommended.

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Kathrese McKee
Kathrese McKee writes YA epic adventure fantasy for anyone who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is an author, speaker, teacher, and editor. Visit her at www.kathresemckee.com.

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