A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first installment in an ongoing book series by Manhattan author, Sarah J. Maas. It was first published in 2015. The series has four published books, with another, A Court of Silver Flames , expected to publish in January 2021. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a very dark twist. Nineteen-year-old Feyre’s world is split in two. The immortal faeries to the north are deadly and vicious, while mortals have their own sort of cruelty. The only thing separating the two races is The Wall, an impenetrable force built hundreds of years before. Feyre’s life consists of fighting off crippling poverty and taking care of her family. Everything changes in an instant when she kills a wolf in the woods. A few days later, a beast-like creature claims the wolf and demands retribution, a life for a life. As payment, Feyre is dragged to the violent faerie realms to live the rest of her days as a prisoner. But her captivity quickly becomes more complicated than she ever expected. Feyre makes new friends while she explores the mysterious faerie realm but a dangerous force looms on the horizon and she is tasked with becoming the savior of the faeries. Within the menacing court, she develops an attraction to her captor, Tamlin. But threats loom around every corner, and Feyre has to choose between who she was and who she is becoming. A Court of Thorns and Roses puts an incredible twist on an old fairy tale. It exceeded my expectations and has become one of my favorite series’ this year. I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses an overall score of 4.6 / 5.
One of this book’s strongest aspects was its characters. Maas put so much work into each of them and they don’t just feel like characters in a novel. Each character is so relatable, flawed, and motivated. They all have lives beyond the story and backstories that make sense. They feel real. Arguably one of the best characters is Feyre, the protagonist. From the beginning, Feyre is an intriguing character. She is determined and ambitious. She’s not comfortable playing the hand life dealt to her. She’s a strong female character within a genre that’s overrun with “princesses” or “damsels in distress.” As a character, she’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that sees too little of strong, independent women. What makes Feyre good isn’t just her positive character traits, it’s how dynamic she is. Feyre is not one-dimensional; she’s not a simple Mary-Sue. Oftentimes, her positive traits are counteracted with negative ones. She can be neglectful of her own safety, act without thinking, or hardheaded to a fault. But the negative traits don’t detract from Feyre’s likeability, it makes her seem realistic and dynamic. She makes progress with her bad traits and uses her good ones to her advantage. As a protagonist, Feyre is a strong character. She embodies everything a protagonist should be; dynamic, realistic, and enjoyable. Feyre’s love interest, Tamlin, is also an enjoyable character. He’s not one-dimensional or overly likable. He has an important backstory that influences his decisions and has both good and bad traits. He’s flawed and untraditional. Books with romances can often feel one-dimensional. Love interests often only serve as plot devices for the protagonist, Tamlin isn’t like that. He exists beyond Feyre and has a life of his own. The reader doesn’t always root for Tamlin. He has bad traits and has a dynamic arc, changing throughout the novel. The same goes for his and Feyre’s relationship. It isn’t one-dimensional; the two have issues that their forced to work through. Just because they’re in love, it doesn’t mean that they have an easy relationship. The two are fundamentally different within the book. Tamlin is a faerie and Feyre is a human. The world of Prythian is split and there are real tensions between the two races. Maas makes sure to address these tensions through the main relationship. The reader gets to see how the views of each race affect Tamlin and Feyre. The final major character is Amarantha, the antagonist. Her characterization began long before she was first seen. She was hinted at through the entire novel and built up as a legitimate threat. Maas sprinkled information about her through the book which escalated the stakes. This was great because it made Amarantha more intimidating. Because the audience only gets second-hand accounts of her, Amarantha is more mysterious. The readers don’t have a good grasp of her actions or views until she’s an immediate threat. She also has a definitive impact on the faerie and human worlds. She doesn’t feel like just a challenge that the characters have to overcome, she’s a real threat to the characters and their world. The things that she did had a real effect on the characters. Even after she is eliminated, Amarantha’s influence lives on in the characters she impacted. The most important characters in A Court of Thorns and Roses are excellently written. They’re everything a reader could want in the main cast. One may think that the extensive work put into the main characters could detract from the side characters or that they may have less work put into them because they aren’t the main focus, but Maas doesn’t let that happen. Side characters like Nessa and Lucien aren’t left in the dust. They have similar characterization and work put into them. They have backstories, multiple dimensions, and dynamic character arcs. While the side characters aren’t the main focus, they still feel like relatable people. They aren’t just devices for the story or other characters. Overall, no character got left behind when it came to attention to detail. They were all wonderful and enjoyable so I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses a five out of five when it comes to characters.
Another good aspect of A Court of Thorns and Roses is the plot. Going into the book, I thought it would just be a simple retelling of Beauty and the Beast . Maybe it would have a few twists to make it original, but I thought it was just going to be a general retelling. That’s not what I got, however. A Court of Thorns and Roses was far more original. Readers can see the inspiration the book takes from the original fairy tale, but it takes a far more mature turn. Amarantha is obviously based off of the witch from the original story, but she isn’t a basic retelling. She has her own traits, her own backstory, her own motivations, and her own actions. Amarantha was inspired by the witch, but she isn’t the witch. The same goes for Feyre and Tamlin and their connections to the eponymous characters from Beauty and the Beast . Feyre is based on Beauty but she is more ambitious and rebellious. Tamlin is based on the Beast but he has his own motivations and traits. While A Court of Thorns and Roses is based on another work, it manages to be unique. It doesn’t copy the plot that it’s based on but makes it authentic. Generally, the plot is good and original. The only real criticisms I have for it would be how it occasionally drags on. It the beginning, as the book set up Feyre and Tamlin’s first interaction, I found myself getting distracted and asking, “When is the story going to pick up? When will Feyre and Tamlin meet?”. While I think the beginning was good when it came to setting up the story and giving the readers backstory on Feyre’s life, that was a time when I found myself getting distracted because it took so long to pick up. That was just one example but there were several more similar moments throughout the book where the plot seemed to drag along. Despite that, the plot was surprising and well written enough that I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses a five out of five for the plot.
The setting of A Court of Thorns and Roses was incredibly well done. The world of Prythian was completely unique to the story. Maas created an entirely new world that had its own politics, history, and descriptions. The world was fleshed out and Maas made it feel real. The setting wasn’t surface level and it couldn’t be switched out with another setting (ex. New York City, France, another fantasy world, etc.) and still have the same effect. The setting also had a large effect on the characters. When Feyre leaves the Mortal Lands to live in the Spring Court, it affects her behavior and the story as a whole. Other settings do the same. Under the Mountain makes the characters tenser. They actively change their behavior in response to their setting. The setting is essential to the story. It can’t be easily replaced. I gave the setting in A Court of Thorns and Roses a five out of five.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is more complex than many other young adult fantasy novels. It deals with issues like torture and slavery and how that affects the characters. These issues aren’t overused or used incorrectly within the book. They also aren’t condoned, so they’re used pretty well. The complexity of the novel was a bit unexpected for a YA book because more mature subjects aren’t heavily used in the genre. But overall, the complex issues were well written so I gave it a five out of five.
I didn’t find anything exceptionally interesting with the style of A Court of Thorns and Roses . There was nothing that stood out about the style of the book beyond its deviation from the original Beauty and the Beast story so I gave it a three out of five for complexity.
I gave A Court of Thorns and Roses an overall score of 4.6 / 5. It was a very strong opening to a series. It had a very interesting story and it had plot twists to make it unique. The characters were very well written. They felt relatable and had their personalities that seemed to go beyond the novel. Its plot was unexpected and took a unique look at a classic story. Overall, the book was solid and enjoyable. It’s a great read for fantasy fans. It caters to feminist, fantasy, and fairy tale fans.