It’s hard to spend a decent period of time on YA bookstagram and avoid encountering A Court of Thorns and Roses or any one of its sequels – A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight. I read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series before I discovered bookstagram, after they were recommended to me by a friend at university. She spent a decent half hour before lab class gushing over the second in the series, assuring me of something I’d never found to be true – that the sequel was better than the original. Of course, I had to read them.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling, following Feyre, the daughter of a merchant who has fallen on tough times. After accidentally hunting and killing a shape-shifting Fae male she is whisked away to the Spring Court, where she learns of a dangerous enemy threatening the Fae.
I first read A Court of Thorns and Roses before the third in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin was released. After borrowing the first two novels from the library, I sat down one night and devoured them, like I hadn’t devoured anything since The Hunger Games in high school (I read all the Hunger Games books in one night while I was reduced to lying on my bed trying to ignore the awful stinging of a bull ant that lasted all night). While A Court of Thorns and Roses was an entertaining and relatively quick read, I intentionally sped through it to the sequel, because I was promised to be in awe.
A Court of Thorns and Roses has peculiar pacing. It’s relatively character driven for the first two-thirds of the novel, which can often feel like it’s moving at a slow pace. Though marketed as a young adult fantasy, A Court of Thorns and Roses is heavy on the romance, which I didn’t mind, even though I’m not particularly fond of romance, but it’s something I make a point to avoid, so in a way it was almost refreshing, and definitely a novelty.
I did have some issues with the romance, however – the main love interest, Tamlin, exhibited some problematic behaviour that’s all too familiar in the YA world. Tamlin’s controlling tendencies were disguised as legitimate concerns for human Feyre’s safety in a world of stronger, magical Fae. I would have rather seen Tamlin encourage Feyre to grow and to equip her with knowledge, instead of locking her in his charming mansion and hoping she’ll be okay with it.
Also, it must be noted that some members of marginalised communities have objected to the portrayal of (and lack of) LGBTQ+ and people of colour in these books. Although the problematic representation is not unique to A Court of Thorns and Roses it’s important to be aware of these issues. As I’m not a POC or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t personally speak on this issue, but there are many great discussion on this topic throughout the bookish community.
A major highlight of A Court of Thorns and Roses was the purely entertaining nature of the book. I think this is one of my favourite things about fantasy novels, especially when they’re well done, though they might provide commentary on the world, and have moral and ethical worth, they are, at their core, fantastical, entertaining stories. I found it easy to get lost in the world of Fae, and the few Beauty and the Beast elements that popped their head out here and there were refreshing and enchanting. Mass writes villains in a decadent and enthralling way, they’re dangerous, witty, and awful – best of all, they know it.
Throughout A Court of Thorns and Roses I spied a few things that I hope will be explored in the rest of the series, some characters I once thought ill of seem to be more morally grey than I first assumed, and I feel like there’s a whole, deep backstory that’s itching to weave its way into the narrative. Overall, I felt that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a solid beginning, laying an intriguing foundation for a promising series.
I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.