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

Before I go into heavy detail in this book review of ACOTAR, I just want to say, BookTok made me do it. It was a real fiasco. But it wasn’t all that bad. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a popular series among young adults, and even adults like it but since the author’s deemed “problematic” and some readers even massively attacked her, I gave this series a try to forge my opinion.

(Review contains spoilers.)

Book review of ACOTAR by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of A Court of Thorns and Roses
A Court of Thorns and Roses official cover art

My rating: ★★★ (3/5)

Summary: Feyre is a 19-year-old who lives with a disabled father and her two older sisters. They crawl into debt and poverty after her merchant father lost his fortune in a risky investment. Feyre’s older sisters cannot provide for her, and so Feyre often goes hunting for their next meal. On one particular occasion, Feyre kills a wolf preying on the same dinner as her, but it turns out the wolf was the sentinel of a faerie, Tamlin. Because the faerie demands retribution, Feyre ends up across the wall separating the faeries from the Mortal Lands.

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Audience: Young Adult/New Adult

Themes/potential trigger warnings: captivity, mental and physical abuse, forced murder

A Wobbly Plot

Whoever said this book had hints of Buffy and Game of Thrones either didn’t read the book or didn’t watch the TV series they mentioned.

ACOTAR didn’t grip me at all for at least 20-something chapters. I was unimpressed with the map. It’s the UK or Reverse Westeros, with a wall that is virtually useless since faeries can walk through it and even the main character, Feyre, crossed it within a couple of days.

The story is, allegedly, a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but it’s nothing like it (which I don’t mind). There are still quite some scenes that are very Disney-like, for example, when Tamlin offers his gallery to Feyre, the way the Beast gifted Belle the library. Or, when there’s a singing tree, like in Pocahontas. I’d say, 2/3 of this book are filler episodes of an anime.

The scenes where there’s supposed to be some sort of character development are lacking; Feyre has endless monologues and assumes Tamlin’s thoughts and behavior. Every opportunity to write some tension between the two protagonists feels wasted in favor of Feyre’s unfounded paranoia and obsession with stealing knives she never puts to use.

I also have a problem with the romantic plot. We are to believe that Tamlin and Feyre’s relationship is the depiction of “true love,” the type of love that breaks a curse and frees an entire kingdom. However, the lack of interaction between the two minimizes this aspect of the book. Not to mention that it’s a little upsetting that she seems to have the hots for the Hades of the situation the moment he appears (looking at you, Rhysand). Again, it’s hard to buy the romantic subplot when the main character appears so fickle.

And the riddle? I solved the riddle without even trying hard. I don’t see the point of having riddles if you can figure out the answer before the main character does. Even Harry Potter riddles were a tad more complicated, and that’s a series for children.

An Entertaining Read

This book took me back to when I was a teen reading a lot of fanfictions (and I don’t mean this in a bad way, quite the contrary). It’s a simple story, with simple characters, and sometimes you just need a light read in the evening. As much as I don’t particularly sympathize with Feyre or Tamlin, I enjoyed every scene with either Lucien, Nesta, or Rhysand. Lucien and Rhysand carried the book with ease and I think it’s because those two behave more maturely and act like they’re at least three steps ahead of everyone.

The cast is for now pretty reduced, so I can’t voice my thoughts on the “lack of diversity” everybody speaks of. But for now, I don’t see any problem. This is a book full of Celtic legends and myths, so I don’t expect every color of the rainbow for the characters’ looks.

I will read the rest of the series when I have the time, and I hope the rumors are true and that this series gets better.

On a side note no, this book is not “spicy.” Beware of book reviews of ACOTAR that claim it is because there are maybe two or three scenes that refer to slapping monkeys, and they’re censored.

Horrible Writing, Absent Editing

I may sound harsh in my book review of ACOTAR but the author’s writing is nothing spectacular, at least in this installment. All Tamlin can do is “prowl,” and Feyre’s emotions always happen in her mouth (dried up/watered/dried up/watered)… Until she develops some sort of IBS and her emotions then happen in her bowels. It’s a little weird to read; the vocabulary sounds like the author chose it for a very young audience. However, the themes of this book are for more mature readers. I suspect the editor and the publisher didn’t know what they wanted from Maas.

The overall style is immature. Overused words, everyone is always “loosing a breath,” and when the characters talk, they don’t sound like they’re in a fantasy setting. They use bows and knives and hunt to survive. Yet, they sound like they’re straight out of high school. You’d expect a book published by a major publishing house to hire editors who would point out such things.

I also highly disapprove of the first-person narrative here. It makes Feyre very unlikeable and some sort of self-insert character. Also, the rest of the cast could’ve used a bit more development, especially Tamlin. The first-person narrative would’ve made a bit more sense if it induced more world-building but honestly, aside from a questionable stardust pool, I don’t recall any feature that made me go, “Wow, that looks cool.” There wasn’t any well-rounded system mentioned either; we know there are courts in Prythian, and a treaty with the human realm, and… Yes. That’s pretty much it. A case of, “Well, it’s always been this way, so…”

Commitment? None.

It’s a shame that there is no commitment from the author on several aspects. No commitment to world-building, romantic interest development, the fairy tale retelling… Every time we get a glimpse of something, the author backpedals and switches in favor of something else. The time frame for those switches is too short, not to mention the motivation behind the characters’ actions, particularly those of the “villains” is often wobbly. Why did the evil general-slash-evil-queen even bother giving Feyre three trials and a bonus riddle? Usually, in fairy tales, the villain has something to gain from it, but I reckon here it was for the sadistic bonus points.

The positive note for me will always be side characters that propel the story. I liked Lucien’s character a lot, so for a book that technically wasn’t my jam, it did okay.

Read my review of the sequel, A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOMAF), here!