Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, NA, Paranormal
Source: Bought it
Goodreads | Purchase
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!
Warning: this review contains untagged spoilers and unpopular opinions. Read at your own risk!
Oh dear. I am so, so sad to be writing this review. You see, I love Sarah J. Maas. As in, love. Her Throne of Glass series gets more heartbreaking with every book and I’d dare call it one of my favourite series. Naturally, I was extremely excited for A Court of Thorns and Roses, so much so that I preordered it, which I almost never do. As soon as it got to my house, I dove in. And it really was an addictive read. However, I’m really disappointed with just about everything. So yeah, it’s time for an unpopular opinion, because despite this book’s addictiveness I really didn’t like it.
The beginning was strong. I enjoyed Feyre and her stubbornness and I was ready for this. The writing was lush and imaginative, and I was immediately sucked into the story. But after that, things went downhill quickly. I can’t promise you this review will be very coherent, but I’m going to try to explain my thoughts the best I can.
My first problem was that I’m just not down with the romance. I’ve seen a lot of people shipping this like nobody’s business, but I just couldn’t. My main problem with this romance (aside from the fact that I thought Tamlin was boring – sorry!) is that it felt abusive to me. Of course this is a pretty bold claim to make, so let me give you some examples to try and make clear what all this is about. The thing is, I felt that the ‘chemistry’ between Tamlin and Feyre was supposed to excuse a couple of things. But, because I’m me, I couldn’t really look past those things. There’s a scene where Tamlin ‘gives himself’ to magic and does some kind of strangle sex ritual etc etc, and when he comes home he sees Feyre. He grabs her.
“Let go,” I said as evenly as I could, but his claws punched out, imbedding in the wood above my hands. Still riding the magic, he was half-wild.
So to me that sounds like she doesn’t really want to be this near him, yes? She also points out that she “couldn’t escape” a few sentences later. She tells him she doesn’t want this, yet he doesn’t let her go, then bites her neck.
I couldn’t move […] He didn’t pierce my flesh, but rather bit to keep me pinned. […] “Don’t ever disobey me again,” he said.
I’m sorry, but I couldn’t get past this. Yes, after a while she was into it when he started kissing her neck, but she clearly told him to let go and that she didn’t want this. I don’t care if he’s drunk on magic, he should have listened to her. From this point on, I found I just couldn’t ship this.
Then later, they get together and have sex. This I don’t mind – in fact, I found the idea of NA Fantasy really refreshing and loved that about this book. But again, I found it problematic. They start getting it on, and then at some point Tamlin utters one of my most-hated lines ever:
“If we keep going, I won’t be able to stop at all.”
How about no? I get it, it’s supposed to sound sexy and full of want, but I just found it extremely problematic. I was discussing this with Ellis (Paper Riot) and she made some excellent points, like: what if you start feeling unwell of change your mind? That’s exactly the problem I had with it – he basically tells her that if she decided she doesn’t want to go any further he’ll rape her. Wow, so romantic.
Also – and this is just a minor thing but I found it funny – try to read that sex scene without laughing when you imagine Tamlin with his mask. I can’t say I think someone going down on you while wearing a mask would feel exceptionally nice. Conveniently, this isn’t mentioned, but come on, surely that would chafe.
My next issue was when Feyre returns to Prythian to go to Amarantha, but before I get to that I will say that I loved the family dynamics. I have a problem with many relationships within this book, but the familial ones aren’t among them. I adored the depth Maas gave all these characters, especially Nesta. I thought that was really well done and I hope we get to see more of Feyre’s family in the sequels.
But then Feyre goes to Amarantha with this whole “I would die for you Tamlin” mindset (which I have never loved in any book. I get that it was necessary for the plot to work but I feel like their relationship should have developed so much more before I’d find that believable), and this is where the rest of my problems lie. Now, I liked what the plot did here because things got REAL and it was just very explosive in general. However, we are introduced to Rhysand. I’ll admit, he intruiged me. He intruiged me a lot – he was so many things, you could see him as both victim and villain and I liked that complexity. But then, he starts doing unforgivable things.
He makes this deal with Feyre, basically enslaving her. (Ellis also pointed out what a plot hole this was, because enslaving humans/High Fae is very much illegal and also why everyone hated Amarantha in the first place.) Basically, she’s forced to spend a week of every month with Rhysand. That’s a quarter of her life. I’m sorry, but yes, that’s enslavement to me. And of course you could argue that she chose to make the deal, but her other choice was quite literally death. So she makes the deal with Rhys and he marks her as his.
Then, he starts taking her to parties and drugging her. He FORCES her to drink faerie wine, which, as Ellis pointed out once again (she was really on point), basically does the same as roofie-ing someone. He. Drugged. Her. Then let her dance for him and made her sit in his lap and whatnot. I’m sorry, that’s problematic right there. He forces her to wear see-through clothing she isn’t comfortable in. He tells her she belongs to him. He, like Tamlin, holds her still so she can’t escape and licks her cheek.
His only claim to innocence, as Rhys says himself, is that he never touched Feyre inappropiately. At least that counts for something, right? Well… Maybe if he’d done that because he, I don’t know, respected her rights or something. But it turns out that the only reason he didn’t molest or rape her is so Tamlin wouldn’t get angry with him. I’m getting angrier and angrier writing this review. That’s really problematic. Throughout the whole book, Feyre is treated as being someone’s ‘property’ and nobody, except maybe Lucien, has any kind of decency. I could maybe have excused this if somewhere, anywhere it was said that this was typical Faerie-behavior and indeed problematic. Instead, I felt the book condoned it because of “sexiness”, and that is something I just cannot get behind.
Rhys tries to redeem himself by trying to kill Amarantha, but he really only did it so he would be portrayed a hero in the history books (isn’t he a charmer), and I have to say that by that point I was done anyway.
Then, Feyre gets turned.
They turn Feyre into a High Fae. Without asking her whether she even wanted that. Everyone just assumes that Fae are so much better than humans, and so everyone will surely want to be Fae, right? This, in my eyes, wasn’t just cliché but also problematic. Aside from the huge Twilight-vibe I got from it (I’ll die for you then get turned into the same sort of thing you are!), what kind of message is this? I actually was looking forward to how their relationship was going to work – surely there would be some interesting dynamics with her being human and his being Fae. But all of this was cleanly swiped off the table by that decision to turn Feyre. So I guess the message basically is that you need to change yourself in order to be with the one you love. Excuse my language, but that’s bullshit. Not only did it ruin the only thing I found interesting about their relationship, what kind of message is this? I’m sure it wasn’t intended as such, but I find it problematic.
And don’t even get me started on that riddle – I guessed the answer straightaway. That, too, is pretty much overdone because love is always the answer when it comes to this sort of thing.
Don’t get me wrong – there were definitely things about this book I liked. I loved that Feyre was illiterate, because I thought it was refreshing and really fit her circumstances. I thought the writing was gorgeous, as I’ve come to expect of Maas by now. I loved Feyre’s stubbornness and her family. Maas knows how to write intruiging characters and interesting dynamics. I really, really wish I would have loved this book more. Writing this review makes me really sad, because I was so prepared to gush over this. And, of course, I’d like to make clear that I am not trying to bring anyone who did love this down, or trying to criticize fans of this book. Really, I wish I was among you guys. I was fully prepared to fangirl, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
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