A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas was recently recommended to me, and shortly thereafter I started seeing people raving about it all over social media. I’m not usually a series person—not because I don’t enjoy them (when I get into them I get REALLY in), but just because it always feels like a huge time commitment. I struggle with such things, but I haven’t been doing much else these days so I figured I might as well give it a try.
I ended up reading the whole series on my Kindle, which was a first for me. I’ll probably do a separate post about the merits of ebooks vs. paper books, so for now I’ll just say I enjoyed the Kindle experience more than I anticipated.
Reading ACOTAR turned out to be a great life decision, and I’ll go through my thoughts on each book in some detail below. There will be spoilers so if you haven’t read it yet and you plan to:
I personally didn’t see some of the twists coming and would be super disappointed if I had known ahead of time. Consider this your fair warning.
For fellow enjoyers of the series—carry on!
A Court of Thorns and Roses
I didn’t have much idea what to expect going into the first book; I read a brief description beforehand that said it was a twist on Beauty and the Beast, and I love me some fairy tales so I was intrigued enough. This one took me the longest to read, probably because all the setup made it fairly easy to take breaks.
I enjoyed Feyre’s journey through the wall that separated humans from faeries and into Tamlin’s Spring Court, the shenanigans she got into with Lucien, the dangers she faced head-on, and her budding love life (thanks to the Beauty and the Beast comparison I predicted her romance with Tamlin); but I wasn’t fully hooked until about 3/4 of the way through.
Once Feyre found out about Amarantha, the High Lords’ powers being stolen, and Tamlin’s curse and she went to save him from Under the Mountain, I got INTO IT. Her bargain and trials had me unable to put the book down because I had to know what was going to happen next. I loved how strong of a character she was, while still having flaws and weaknesses and relying on the people around her.
The moment that Amarantha ordered Feyre to start stabbing innocent Fae children for her final trial is the one that stuck out to me the most because I didn’t see it coming. I was certain she would figure out the answer to the riddle before she had to kill anyone, and I was almost rolling my eyes at the thought.
But… she didn’t. And… she made the impossible choice to stab them through their hearts. It was unexpectedly dark and violent, leaving her guilt-ridden and utterly broken, even after she was killed and brought back to life as High Fae. Her body was new, yet her soul remained the same—blackened by what she’d done.
It was brilliant.
At the end I thought the book had a really decent story. It was predictable in good ways, surprising in even better ways, and I was ready to find out what would be coming next. At 4:30am (after staying up all night to finish the book), I immediately bought the next one.
A Court of Mist and Fury
This quickly become one of my favorite will-they-won’t-they stories possibly of all time.
It started with Feyre getting ready to marry Tamlin, which was not at all surprising considering the events of the last book. What was surprising was the way the book had just fast-forwarded to the wedding preparations with no fanfare or excitement. There was a brief recap of the proposal but it felt empty. I remember wishing there had been a little bit more lead up to her MARRIAGE.
Feyre was clearly unhappy, waking up every night and getting sick from recurring nightmares, but Tamlin never asked her how she was doing, never tried to talk to her. They didn’t speak of their experiences Under the Mountain, and she believed it was because they both needed time to heal in their own ways. Somewhat fair I supposed, though not boding well for a healthy relationship.
BUT THEN! As she was walking down the aisle to marry Tamlin, she realized she couldn’t do it and was internally begging for someone to help her, get her out of it. I had a sneaking suspicion I knew who was going to save the day—
He popped in, stopping the wedding and demanding that she honor the bargain she made with him Under the Mountain to go spend a week with him at his Night Court every month. That was when it started to dawn on me that perhaps I liked him for Feyre better. Perhaps Tamlin was a big idiot jerk and Rhys actually cared for her a lot, despite his aloof and arrogant attitude.
By the time Tamlin locked Feyre in the house, Rhys rescued her once again, and she made the decision to stay with him for good, I was 100% on the Rhys train and practically squealing with delight.
The rest of the book was basically Feyre healing while trying to figure out her feelings for Rhys and how he felt about her in return, interspersed with mini adventures. It was such a fun read. There is something about a girl realizing that the mediocre guy she’s with isn’t actually what she wants; that she deserves to be happy instead of settling for what’s convenient or changing herself (looking at you Twilight); putting into words what was wrong before and then making the decision to go after happiness… ugh just inject that crap right into my veins.
Then I found out that she was actually Rhysand’s mate (explaining the strength of their ever-present bond) and he told her the whole story of dreaming about her long before he ever met her; mentally sending her an image of the night sky that she then obliviously painted; risking his life just to see her once; looking out for her as best he could Under the Mountain; saving her life; letting her go so she could be happy; saving her and repairing her some more. I died. I was dead. I’ve never been so satisfied to see a couple finally get together.
I was completely heartbroken at the end of the book when I thought the King of Hybern actually severed their mating bond, thanks to Tamlin and his meddling betrayal. I was laying in bed and I sat up like NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. YOU DO NOT GET TO TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME. That tragedy quickly resolved itself thankfully, but Maas did a good job scaring the cheese outta me.
My critique that became apparent with this book was her (occasionally glaring) grammatical errors and her tendency to overuse certain words/phrases. One that stuck out to me in particular was her use of the word “selected” when a character chose something, usually an outfit. I don’t know why the word bothers me so much, but after the third or fourth time I read “the clothing I selected,” or “she selected,” I started wincing. It’s such an awkward word to use on repeat.
There were other descriptors that got tedious after a while, and despite the mature content, the lack of variation in her writing style made the book feel a bit juvenile. That said, I enjoyed the story enough that I didn’t let those things bother me too much, and certainly didn’t let them stop me from powering onto the next book.
A Court of Wings and Ruin
And now we go to war. The underlying themes of inequality, oppression, and slavery throughout the previous books became the central conflict in this one, with our heroes fighting to create a better world in which all faeries and humans could coexist as equals.
They didn’t quite get there because the road to that kind of thing is a long one. Maas did a good job capturing that yes, it’s about winning the war, but it certainly doesn’t end there and there will be so much more work to do beyond that. Overthrowing heirarchies and getting people to set aside bias and prejudice does not happen overnight.
I spent much of this book enjoying Rhys and Feyre’s new relationship, being annoyed at Nesta, and wondering who was going to die by the end. Feyre really came into her own as the new (first) High Lady of the Night Court, and Rhys regarding/respecting her as his complete equal never got old. She did a few dumb things which I think he should have gotten mad at her for and he didn’t, but at least Mor took on that role and yelled at her a little.
Magic as a depleting resource in need of recharges was a good concept that helped balance out the fighting and made battles feel exhausting, like a true effort instead of everyone just casually waving their hands to fulfill every need. No one was too OP, not even the most powerful High Lord ever.
I liked the use of the terrifying monsters from dungeons and basements as part of the hero army. They were less effective fighters than I wanted, but that was part of the beauty of the story— there were a lot of lows that brought the kind of despair that keeps a reader engaged and determined to reach the next high, and there were enough highs to make that determination worthwhile.
I mourned the Suriel and Feyre’s father and even the Carver a little bit, but when Rhysand died I had tears streaming down my face. I knew he’d come back somehow because I accidentally read the description of the next book, but Maas wrote Feyre’s pain so effectively I couldn’t help but feel it in that moment. It was beautifully done.
I was torn about Amren also coming back—it felt vaguely unrealistic that every major character survived after such a big deal was made about the probability of losing people, but I also didn’t mind because I hate when characters I love die. And by the end I loved them all. Enough secondary characters died that I still felt loss, so it was okay to spare the best ones. Not everything has to be a tragedy.
I hesitated buying the next book because I knew it would be my last until January when the new one comes out… and then after 5 minutes I was over it and clicking the “buy” button.
A Court of Frost and Starlight
I guess this was a novella, not a full novel, since it was about 1/3 as long as the others. It was a quick read and a nice follow-up to the war; what everyone had been up to since, how they were all coping (or not coping), and some of what was going on throughout the land since the wall had come down.
It felt a lot more lighthearted than the other books, centering mostly around the Winter Solstice celebration, with the biggest conflicts being Nesta’s refusal to participate in life and the rumors of unrest in the Illyrian war camps.
I got somewhat annoyed at both Feyre and Rhysand for how they treated Lucien and Tamlin respectively. Feyre was unnecessarily rude to Lucien, and Rhys went out of his way to taunt an already despondent Tamlin. Yes, he was a jerk, but he had already lost everything and was living with the consequences of his decisions. Not to mention he had just saved both of their lives. Rubbing salt in the wound was bad form bro.
As miffed as I was, I was also relieved to see some character flaws. Perfection is obnoxious, and it’s important for characters to have realistic problems and occasionally act on human nature in order to keep them relatable.
There wasn’t much to this book, and that was fine with me. It was a neat snapshot of normal life for the characters, a break from all the constant tension, and it did the job of setting up for future plot lines. A short and sweet temporary end.
All in all, I have thoroughly enjoyed this entire series so far. There were some minor issues, but even so I appreciated having the opportunity to look at a piece of work and take notes that I will be able to use in my own future writing.
The story, character development, world building, plot structure, and pacing all made up for any criticisms and then some. I took a chance and ended up being able to lose myself in this incredible, intricate world. I was absorbed in the story to the point where all I wanted to do was keep reading; it only took me about 2 weeks to read them all—the first week was ACOTAR, the second week was… all the other 3.
It was a much-needed respite from reality. For that and everything else I loved about it, I give it an 8.5/10.
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