Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Number of Books: 3
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Target Age Group: Adult
*Review contains spoilers
I usually don’t think I am going to like a hyped up book series, but I finished the ACOTAR books pleasantly surprised and I definitely had a book hangover after finishing the 3rd book. I know there is a novella following the last book but I know its not essential to the overall series which is why I am not including it.
I am not going to go into a huge synopsis of this series because it is so big and has so much story to it. I will summarize the first book in my own words but will link a synopsis to the other two stories. I could write an entire summary on each book and have it be its own blog post. But seeing as I want to give my review (my own thoughts and opinions), I don’t want to waste space by writing up summaries. If you are reading this, odds are you have already read the series yourself.
BOOK 1- A Court of Thorns and Roses
Our main protagonist, Feyre, lives in the fictional world on a continent called Pyrethian. This is a world that has a variety of creatures on it including faeries and humans. The faeries and humans are separated by an invisible but powerful wall. In the Fae lands, there are 7 different areas, called courts. 4 are divided by the seasons, and the other 3 are solar courts. These courts are ruled by High Lords that are also High Fae (a very powerful type of fairy).
The humans fear the fairies and are taught to stay away. This is due to an ancient war that happened centuries ago in which faeries kept humans as slaves. The humans rebelled and some fairies and allied with them. The humans won and a treaty was signed, separating the humans from the fairies with the magical wall. In addition, the enemy fairies separated themselves on an island across from Pyrithian called, Hybern.
In the first book, Feyre is a 19 year old human living in poverty with her father and 2 sisters, Nesta and Elaine. Feyre is the provider for her family because she is the only one who has taught herself how to hunt.
One evening, she spots a giant wolf in her lands. She knows it may be a fairy but kills it anyway because her family would starve otherwise. Later that evening, a large beast comes to their hut and demands that Feyre come with him in exchange for the fairy life she took.
She learns the fae’s name is Tamlin and that he is the High Lord of the Spring Court. He is kind to her and she eventually lets her walls down. She also strikes up a friendship with Tamlin’s right hand man, Lucian. Feyre learns that Tamlin and his people are cursed by an evil fae from Hybern called Amarantha. All of the courts are under her control. Tamlin and Feyre fall in love. He is increasingly protective over Feyre and tries to keep her identity hidden.
Feyre finds herself in various dangerous situations in which she always somehow finds a way out of. She discovers various creatures and learns which ones are dangerous and which ones are not.
Another High Lord, Rhysand, who serves Amarantha, finds out about Feyre. Tamlin sends her back to the human lands to protect her. Feyre returns to the fae lands to fight along side Tamlin but finds that his entire court has been kidnapped by Amarantha.
Feyre charges to Under the Mountain to find Tamlin and profess her love for him (and to save him). She finds him by Amarantha’s side. He must pretend not to care about her for if he does show that he cares, Amarantha will go to great lengths to see Feyre suffer.
Amarantha challenges Feyre with a riddle. If she can solve the riddle, she will let the fae people of Pyrithian go free. In addition, Amarantha offers Feyre to complete 3 challenges to set them free. Feyre agrees and comes close to death several times. Rhys seems to be the enemy but he helps keep her alive until the very end. He makes a bargain with her at one point which requires Feyre to spend a week with Rhysand in The Night Court once a month. Feyre finishes all 3 challenges and at the very last moment, solves the riddle. Furious, Amarantha kills Feyre.
Tamlin and Rhysand kill Amarantha in return. The 7 High Lords give Feyre a piece of their power to bring Feyre back to life. She awakens as a Fairy and she and Tamlin return to the Spring Court to live happily ever after.
Book 2- A Court of Mist and Fury
Read Synopsis Here–CONTAINS SPOILERS
Book 3- A Court of Wings and Ruin
Read Synopsis Here– CONTAINS SPOILERS
I am saying this strictly as a reader. I am not a story writer myself, so I do not feel that I can critique the specifics of Maas’s writing style. From my perspective, this was written well. I am not a high fantasy reader but the world the author created was easy to understand and was not bogged down by overly descriptive poetic stylings (I’m looking at you Laini Taylor).
As someone who needs more plot/story than fluffy writing, I appreciated this. Maas really hones her style in the second and third book. I felt each character was distinctly different and had their own voice because of how Maas writes. This is a huge reason why I liked the books so much.
On a side note, I think it is interesting that I tried to read The Assassin’s Blade by Maas and didn’t love it. I am very skeptical about Throne of Glass series even though I love the ACOTAR series.
As I said above, I think Sarah J. Maas writes her characters really well. They each had a distinct personality. I would get butterflies when Rhys spoke, a warm feeling when Feyre was interacting with Lucian, and ice in my veins when The King of Hybern had dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, I felt there was plenty of it even though it was told through Feyre’s perspective.
I will say that I was annoyed in the first book when Feyre was overly dramatic about her plainness. The Plain Jane trope is one that I loathe.
Amarantha was such a good villian. She was written in such a creepy way that it could give you nightmares. These were not half assed characters. They were all fully developed and fine tuned.
I have heard some criticism on how Tamlin’s character took too much of a dramatic turn in the second book. But I tend to disagree. I dive into why in the next section.
The Sex Scenes
Anyone who has read this series talks about how steamy is and that it shouldn’t be categorized as YA. I do think the sex is pretty steamy (4 flames) and would probably should be more geared toward adult or new adult, but I do not think that the sex over shadowed the story. The sex scenes were good but they weren’t overly erotic. I think they were steamy enough for what the series encompassed. I feel it is important to have sex in relationship heavy books because it makes the love more believable. This is an other area that I think Maas excelled in. I am aware that some people believe her sex scenes to be terribly written but I don’t see it!
Is It Problematic?
So this is a topic on this series that I really want to address.
Like most people, by the end of book one, I was Team Tamlin. I didn’t even realize there were teams at this point though. Although Tamlin had some red flag behavior, I felt that it was written off as animalistic. Or that he wasn’t really in control during that time he groped her in the hallway after she told him to stop. And besides, after book one, Rhysand was painted as a villain and after all the awful stuff he did to her while Under the Mountain, I couldn’t imagine that Tamlin would be villain as far as relationships go.
So after the first book, Tamlin’s slightly annoying overprotective behavior, became a major issue because he so fearful of losing Feyre again. His fear and his need to protect her to ease his anxiety, does not mask the fact that he was exhibiting some abusive behavior.
See, I agree that this story shows abusive behavior. Abuse is bad. But is it problematic in this story? No it is not. Because we see Feyre explore this relationship and figure out that she needs to get out. The reader watches her journey and the realization that she doesn’t want to be with Tamlin. She discovers that even though she does love him, he is not good for her and the relationship is toxic.
So what about Rhys? Isn’t he a pretty big asshole in the second book and trap her into making a bargain with him (among other things)? A lot of people may see this behavior and say that he is abusive too but Feyre ends up with him, which is problematic and glamorizing abusive relationships.
Through out the second book, I was curious to how Rhy’s behavior would be justified. Like I said, he did some pretty fucked up things Under the Mountain. But Maas addresses this when Rhys bears his soul to Feyre and explains why he was behaving that way. It was game Under the Mountain. He was very much a double agent. When we learn that Rhys knew that Feyre was his mate from the very beginning, before he even met her, I think it is clear that he never intended to hurt her, but to make her think he wanted to hurt her.
Because their real relationship is seen throughout the second and third book. I would not categorize Rhys as misogynistic. In fact, I think Sarah J. Maas goes out of her way to make him the complete opposite of a sexist pig.
“Feyre is High Lady of the Night Court.’ My equal in every way; she would wear my crown, sit on a throne beside mine. Never sidelined, never designated to breeding and parties and child rearing. My queen.”
And just like that, I am complete trash for Rhysand. There was also a quote (that I can’t find now) in which Rhys is threatening someone in Feyre’s honor and at first I’m thinking “hmm it is not Rhys’s style to be the type of guy to come in and kill someone for pissing Feyre off.” BUT THEN he adds that he will gladly watch Feyre destroy the person that disrespected her.
None of that underlining misogynistic thinking from our heart throb, oh no. He knows Feyre will fight her own battles and does not feel compelled to “let” her do anything.
Feyre is surprised at this behavior and needs a constant reminder in the beginning of their relationship that he does not seek to control her like Tamlin did.
This is an other area that I have seen widely criticized of Maas’s work. A lot of people feel that her characters are not diverse enough, the main issue being that they are all white. I understand that a lot of people need representation in the books that they read for it to be considered “good.” I agree that diversity is important and authors should try to incorporate a variety of characters to be inclusive. For me, it is not an end all be all for me when I read a book with a lack of diversity but think it is a valid criticism for those who have that criteria as a priority. I do think Maas tried to amend this later on in the series because a lot of the subsequent characters were not white. She also included LGBTQ characters. I know the point is to have more main characters who are diverse and not sprinkle them to check off a box. I have not read any other of Maas’s books so this could be a bigger issue in her work than I realize.
I really liked that Rhys understood that Feyre was suffering from PTSD after Amarantha tortured her. Tamlin had his own demons to fight and I don’t think he had the mental space or health to help Feyre. I don’t want to excuse him though because Rhys also suffered greatly with Amarantha and he handled Feyre in a much healthier way. Everyone deals with trauma differently though.
I suppose the problem is that Tamlin was selfish and didn’t particularly care that Feye was suffering a great deal. It goes to show that he really was clueless when he locked her inside the home where she had an extreme panic attack. He didn’t care about her. He only cared about keeping her safe for his own selfish reasons. He was willing to risk her mental health and happiness to keep Feyre as a possession. Fortunately, Feyre realized this when Morgan came to get her and bring her to The Night Court.
Even though Tamlin is a shit partner, I do still have a soft spot for him. He is a tortured soul and has not dealt with his issues. I do not want him to be with Feyre. I wish he could see the error in his ways and go on to find someone else to love. My heart kind of cracked a bit when he saved Feyre from The King in ACOWAR. Again, this does not excuse his behavior and I still think Feyre should have left him, But like I said, Sarah J. Maas’s characters are dynamic just like real people.
WOW. This post was a bit all over the place and did not follow my usual review structure. Since it was an entire series review )and this particular series was huge), I wanted to focus on the details that stuck out to me most.
What do you think of ACOTAR? Do you believe it is problematic? I do think this series is a “love it or hate it.” Which camp are you in?