We will preface this review by saying that we were really excited to read a A Court of Thorns and Roses, because we knew that it was a cross over of a Beauty and the Beast retelling and faery fiction, and unfortunately hype can sometimes heighten expectations, which can be a bad thing. Something we weren’t expecting was how easily this book fits into the New Adult genre so is definitely unsuitable for younger readers that may just want to read whatever else Sarah J. Maas has written.
Feyre was disappointing. Celaena from Throne of Glass is said to be a kick-ass protagonist; Feyre had her moments, but it certainly wasn’t consistent. Her passivity could be attributed to the fairytale retelling element, but considering the book opened with Feyre mercilessly killing a wolf her overall development was unsatisfactory. She was stereotypical of the genre as a protagonist who wouldn’t follow instructions and let her heart get in the way of sensibility.
Tamlin, on the other hand, was far more intriguing. Battling between being gentlemanly and feral he seemed to have a split-personality disorder – which can again be attributed to his ‘Beast’ parallels. He underestimated Feyre’s ability to protect herself – a pet peeve – but seemed to have her best interests at heart.
Other than that the minor characters were effectively as a vehicle for backstory. Some of the characters roles will only become clear in the subsequent novels.
The whole story was mainly structured around the romance. It was hard to gauge whether it was insta-love, because an indefinite amount of time passed between Feyre arriving at the estate and the ending. (We think it happens over the period of two seasons.) Both characters were very sexualised, something we weren’t anticipating from our knowledge of the Disney movie. This led to a heated romance that is typically found in NA rather than YA.
Beauty and Beast: this plot took a while to emerge, however once it was further explained we could see how it had been subtly woven into the story from the beginning. The backstory of how Tamlin became the Beast, and how his servants were also affected, due to the ‘witch character’ was original, and coupled nicely with the faery setting.
Faery: We were surprised how quickly Maas’ faeries disregarded the foundations of faery folklore eg. iron, truth-telling, and the court structure. Instead there were seven courts, which seemed excessive since only two played a major role in the story. Maas’ take on faeries was certainly innovative and stood out from other faery novels.
Other: There were echoes of the Cinderella story, and also the myth of Cupid and Psyche, which dominated the later thirty per cent. This use of fairytales we can only expect to be continued in the rest of the series, and we’re interested to know what other tales will be retold.
The beginning of the novel was incredibly slow. The pacing overall was inconsistent, with most of the action happening in the final third. Our interest in the story piqued once the romance had settled. A Court of Thorns and Roses seemed to just set up the backstory for the characters and the fairytale and the enemy for the next book. The story may have benefitted from being in third person to gain Tamlin’s point of view as dramatic irony was missing, which made the final revelation seem forced.
Overall, we’ve given A Court of Thorns and Roses 3 stars. The use of retelling was successful and although we were familiar with the fairytale the plot didn’t feel predictable. However, Feyre was a frustrating narrator, and we often questioned her decisions. The backstory was told in chunks of information overload, and we didn’t enjoy the novel as much as we though we would due to the fact we couldn’t invest in the story until half way through. From ending, which was rather conclusive, we have no idea what could happen in the sequel. There are a few loose ends so we’re still interested in continuing with Feyre’s story!