Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury

After months of hearing about how great this series was, I finally caved in March. I heard Celebrate Books was doing a special box for the next book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, and I figured that if I liked this series, I would want that box, and it would probably sell out fast. So I ordered A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury, read ACOTAR in two days, and immediately ordered the box. I’ve now also finished ACOMAF, so it’s time to write a review. I’m trying not to spoil anything specific, but I can’t avoid giving minor hints to things that happen in the books. I’m staying as vague as possible though!

First of all I’d like to note that, though this is a young adult series, there is some sex, gore and violence that isn’t suitable for younger readers. I’d say ACOTAR is PG13, but only just, and ACOMAF has some rather explicit sex scenes that push the rating to 15 and up. That’s just my personal opinion though, and I think some people (especially Americans) might put the age limits a bit higher. But hey, I’m Dutch.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads synopsis: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My rating: 4 stars

Review: When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was pretty sure this was not going to be my thing. It sounded cliche and much too romance-y. And, well, it kind of is. It’s a classic Beauty and the Beast type romance – it actually is a retelling of the fairy tale – with the addition of faeries, magic and a large-scale conflict you might expect in any fantasy story. Somehow, I still loved it.

There were things that bothered me in Maas’s writing style, overused phrases and descriptions that were just a little over the top, but despite that, the book drew me in. As I said, I finished it in only two days, one of which consisted almost entirely of reading in bed. I just couldn’t stop! My expectations were low, because a Beauty and the Beast romance is not easy to pull off in a believable way. But Maas took her time and I went along with every word. There were a few things in the romance itself that bothered me, but the sequel does a good job in addressing those.

The bigger story of a larger-than-life conflict threatening to destroy the kingdom is also not the most original, but again, it was pulled off well. I also liked that the book doesn’t end on a major cliffhanger; you could only read this book and be happy with the ending, without having to read the next one. There are things left unexplained, a threat of more danger to come, and a new storyline introduced, but the plot of this book is completed, which makes it a lot easier to decide whether you want to keep going with the series or not. If you’re interested in what comes next, you’ll pick up the sequel; if this is enough for you, that’s okay too.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

(No synopsis because that would spoil the first book!)

My rating: 4 stars

Review: I was very excited to start this book, because I wanted to know more about Rhysand. I think just about anyone has heard at least some spoilers about him, but I’m not going to mention them here in case you managed to miss all that. All I’ll say is Rhysand is a character that was introduced in the previous book as a not-so-good-guy, and he gets a much bigger role in this book.

The story starts of a bit slower than ACOTAR, but it picked up soon enough. I loved how it dwelled on Feyre’s mental struggles caused by everything she went through in the previous book. Those things are glossed over more often than I would like, so I’m happy a popular YA series like this one doesn’t make that mistake. As I mentioned before, the sequel also addresses a few concerns I had about the romance between Tamlin and Feyre. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything yet, but this made me very happy as well. Too many YA series feature and romanticise abusive relationships or excuse abusive behaviour. Here, it is actually seen as a problem. I hope that the next book will stay on the good path regarding these issues.

In ACOMAF, an even bigger threat to Prythian and the rest of the world is discovered. Once again the story is a mix of romance and high-stakes, save-the-world fantasy. Once again, the romance didn’t bother me (as it often does) and the whole world-saving thing kept my interest. This time, the ending is more of a cliffhanger than in the first book, as the larger plot endangering the whole world (or at least a large part of it, I’m not entirely sure) is unfolded. You can see what happens in ACOTAR as a prelude to this plot. I finished ACOMAF very quickly as well, though not in two days. The ending made me very happy I waited this long to read it, because now I don’t have to wait for the sequel as long…

A few negative notes

As I mentioned above, a few things about Sarah J. Maas’s writing annoyed me. Some were just sloppy writing, phrases that were overused. Some the kind of over the top descriptions I had expected in a fantasy series like this. The things that bothered me the most were these:

  • The use of ‘male’ and ‘female’ when describing fae, instead of ‘man’ and ‘woman’. At first it seemed natural, given that Feyre hated the fae and regared them as monsters. Later it just seemed weird.
  • The use of ‘male’ as an adjective. I have no idea what it is supposed to mean. What the hell is a ‘male smile’?
  • The sex scenes that were just a little too long. They start out fine, which is a big compliment coming from someone who hates sex scenes, but then.. they just.. keep.. going… and I get bored. I don’t think sex scenes are supposed to be boring.
  • It’s all very straight. No one even seems to think about the possibility of anyone not being straight. I mean, I knew ACOTAR is about a romance between a man and a woman, but can we just have at least one gay side character? Preferably more, but, you know. I’ll settle for one, just to battle the heteronormativity.

A few spoilery notes

[SPOILERS in italics.]

So, I love Rhysand. Who doesn’t. Just thought I’d get that out of the way. The things that bothered me in ACOTAR were Tamlin’s behaviour that could be a little too possessive, a little too aggressive and he either didn’t apologise, or apologised too late. The fact that that was all addressed in ACOMAF made me so happy, and Rhysand’s take on it all made me love him so much.

Something I liked a little less was the whole idea around the mating bond where the couple is so frenzied all they want to do is have sex with each other and fight other people. The whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way, because 1) sex is not the most important part of a relationship and 2) jealousy (and fighting because of it) isn’t sexy and it’s not some primal thing all men suffer from. Note that Feyre didn’t feel like beating up anyone when they’d just accepted the mating bond. It also comes awfully close to the overprotectiveness she ran away from with Tamlin, even if it’s not actually something Rhysand would normally do. I just think the whole ‘primal rage’ thing is kind of stupid.

[END SPOILERS.]

Have you read these books or are you planning to read them? What are your thoughts?

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