BOOK REVIEW: A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES / AUTHOR: SARAH J. MAAS / PUBLISHER: AMAZON MEDIA / RELEASE DATE: MAY 7TH
As punishment for mistakenly killing a faerie in animal form, teenage hunter Feyre is taken to the Spring Court of the High Fae to spend the remainder of her days as their prisoner. However, the faeries she encounters turn out to be far from the vicious killers she grew up believing them to be (and oddly all have their faces hidden by masks they cannot remove), while her feelings for her captor slowly grow from contempt to attraction. But this is not her only problem; a growing blight is slowly consuming the realms of the faeries, and unless it is stopped, the world of humans will be next.
So, a young woman is spirited away to a magical estate ruled over by a reclusive noble cursed along with his entire entourage, and despite the best efforts of both they begin to fall for each other. As you may have already surmised, there’s a heavy Beauty and the Beast vibe to proceedings (Feyre even has two elder sisters who treat her dismissively and a father who was formerly a wealthy merchant but lost his fortune at sea), but the story is ultimately far more than a mere iteration of the classic tale.
The Beast aspect of Feyre’s abductor Tamlin’s nature is both physical (shapeshifting into a nightmarish animal hybrid for hunting) and from his temperament (an uncompromising and occasionally violent fighter). He remains something of an enigma for much of the story, his insular personality creating a wall around his true thoughts and feelings that make him difficult to relate to. While it’s certainly plausible that a man raised to be warrior rather than a ruler would fall for the rough pragmatism of a huntress far more easily than some pretty primped princess, Tamlin’s taciturn nature prevents any insight into what precisely it is about Feyre that has so enchanted him, and thus his attraction to her is difficult to get a proper read on. Feyre’s desire for him comes from his treatment of her as a worthwhile person, as well as more than a little raw animalistic lust, and the change in her attitude towards him is gradual enough to never feel forced.
However, the romance is only one aspect of the story; also significant is the slow revelation of the truth behind the mysterious blight plaguing the fae lands. The story is shrouded in such mystery that the history of what is actually going remains largely hidden, and as a result the villains of the tale remain somewhat nebulous up until the last third of the book or so. When they do arrive, things lurch forward in an entirely new and far less meandering direction, and the latter part of Feyre’s role of romantic heroine comes into the fore.
A typical pitfall of stories featuring the Fair Folk sees authors unable to stop banging on about the otherworldly beauty of the fae, often to the detriment of any accompanying imagery relating to anything else. However, while Maas certainly takes the opportunity to revel in descriptions of just what finely sculpted specimens of the male form Tamlin and his second-in-command Lucian are, she never does it to excess, and the mix of physical beauty and formidable intimidation of the fae is matched only by those very same aspects forming the world they inhabit.
While A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first in a trilogy, it’s also a complete story concluding with a genuine resolution. The way is left open for further plots to be generated by doubtlessly recurring characters – dark and seductive, the lot of them – meaning Feyre has many adventures and temptations ahead of her.
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