It’s been a long while since I devoured books like I devoured these ones. The series has been recommended to me a few times, but I never got around to reading them. Last week, Amazon had a special. And, well. Here we are.
It doesn’t hurt that this series is New Adult (it certainly isn’t YA, people. There’s a disclaimer about content stuff on the back) and, since I recently learned that A Study of Ash & Smoke is also NA, I want to read more NA books.
Anyway, Sarah J. Maas gives us Feyre, the protagonist and narrator of A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. She’s a human girl who gives everything to keep her family from starving, and then shit goes down.
Big arse disclaimer here–THERE WILL BE MAJOR SPOILERS in this post. Do not read if you want to find out stuff for yourself. Also, this may read more as a discussion than a review, hence the ‘my thoughts’ part in the title.
Please also keep in mind that these are all my own honest opinions. I still loved the books, love the story, and I mean no disrespect to the author.
First of all, let’s talk about the characters.
I love Feyre. She falls into that category of strong, but still questions, still has emotional responses. She knows what needs to be done, does it, and actually deals with the consequences in the aftermath. I admire that.
I also admire that she never gives up on her family, even when they’ve given up on her so completely. And on each other. I love that she must hunt, but that the hunt itself pains her. I didn’t have this information in the first book, we learn later that she cried over the first rabbit she’d had to kill to feed her family. The way she’s written makes this fact clear though, even before we know everything about her. Feyre doesn’t always like what she must do to keep her family alive, but she still does it. She’ll sacrifice to save, even if it means killing in cold blood.
But the thing I admire most about her is that she’ll also do what she must to save herself. Not only physically, but emotionally. She’s strong enough to leave when many people would have stayed.
The first book has a strong fairy-tale vibe, which is different from the other two. There are definite Cinderella aspects, obvious Beauty and the Beast influences. So, I knew what to expect in terms of story. Or I thought I did. 🤣
Despite knowing early on Tamlin was the Beast character (quite literally, actually) I disliked him from the get-go.
I wasn’t taken by his sexiness or the forced good-guy act, because unlike Beast, there was no humanising moment in any of his scenes (for me, at least). I kept wondering when he was going to turn on Feyre, or show his true nature. It was obvious that he struggled with an insane temper, and if we’re being totally honest about the whole thing, he abused Feyre from the very beginning. As he abused Lucien and all of his court, always playing his controlling nature down as ‘protecting them’. He’s not a very honest character, he’s rather manipulative. A trait I could have forgiven if his character grew in any way.
But he didn’t. When he finally told Feyre he loved her, only to ship her back home, he still did it as a way to control her. Again, I could have forgiven all of this if the shit Under the Mountain didn’t go down. He didn’t even once try to encourage her, help her in any way, while she was giving everything to save him. Why? So Amarantha wouldn’t know what was the worst torture he had to withstand. Admirable.
For the majority of the first part of the book, I found myself hoping Lucien would take Feyre and run, and I didn’t particularly connect with him either. He was the lackey. In all honesty, I never even saw him as the friend Feyre later found in him. To me, he was just a glorified bodyguard, too afraid to do anything remotely decent unless his keeper said so.
But I would have stomached Feyre and Lucien, until Rhysand showed up at Calanmai.
I actually said aloud to my husband that Rhysand is the reason I don’t like love triangles, because I always end up rooting for the non-mainstream guy. Surprise surprise to me when it turned out Rhys is the mainstream guy. Folks, I adored this twist in the book. Seriously loved it.
It’s no secret that I have a thing for the cocky-confident sort. I love that character who will send you to hell with a smile and seductive whisper. Rhys is that character and so much more. He’s calculating, but never manipulative. Free choice is kind of his thing. And he can take a joke, which is so much more than I can say for Tamlin. 😛
But okay, what I appreciated more than anything about Rhysand is his kindness. Despite his suave exterior, despite the games he plays, he is Sam Gamgee. Loyal, always willing to help, always there when you need him. Rhys is the ‘can’t carry it, but I will carry you’ guy. Even in the first book, before we know who he really is, this kindness shines through. He doesn’t need to help Feyre Under the Mountain (okay, he does, but we don’t yet know) but he puts himself in danger constantly to help her.
The more we get to know him, the more his Samwise the Brave essence shines through. And just like Sam, Rhysand is cemented thoroughly as my favourite character in this series.
And it’s also no surprise that his little family makes up the rest of my favourite characters in the book. They have warmth, depth, and motivations that some of the other characters lack sometimes (please put down your pitchforks). I love Mor, Amren, Azriel and Cassian. I love the dynamic, the trust, the way they get under each other skins, the bantering. Maybe I love the bantering above all.
Meanwhile, I don’t get Nesta or Elaine, I’m sorry. I don’t understand the one’s wide-eyed innocence when the world has dealt her such a rotten hand. I don’t get why she doesn’t even have a sliver of cynicism when they’re slowly starving to death, and especially when she grew up with a sister like Nesta.
And I also don’t get why Nesta continually treats everyone around her like crap, save Elaine. It would have been great if her redemption arc amounted to something, but I don’t feel that it really did. She has zero growth. One or two moments of grudging kindness don’t mean she’s been redeemed. And while Feyre is willing to leave Tamlin’s abuse, I don’t really get why she withstands Nesta’s. Especially after she’s found a close unit that really loves and supports her.
But okay, this is already a long post and we haven’t even spoke about the story. The first book was good. The twists at the end seriously surprised me, especially when Feyre actually killed those innocent Fae.
The second book is my favourite in the trilogy. The character growth, relationships built, revelations–all of it was fabulous. Maas certainly knows how to write a slow burn.
And while I loved the third book, I was a little disappointed in the end, if we’re being completely honest. Two major characters die, only to be resurrected? I think bringing them back to life diminishes their sacrifice. Also, if I’ve spent half an hour crying because my darling sweet baby just passed on, only to yank him back to life two pages later, Imma be upset. All of those tears in vain. 😛
Another little thing that disappointed me is the loose ends. We don’t have all the answers by the end of the third book, not by a long shot. I could have accepted that until I learned this is a trilogy, not a series. There’s going to be a tie in trilogy as far as the internet tells me, so we’ll have to wait and see about those answers.
There is a novella that continues after the events of the third book, but reviews online have been so varied that I’m uncertain if I’ll buy it. I’ll let you know.
What I loved about this series:
- A spotlight is cast on sexual abuse, especially when it comes to Rhysand’s past. I seriously appreciate this. It’s not a topic often discussed, but regardless of gender, sexual abuse is a horrible real thing. It happens. And we need to be able to talk about it and its results more often.
- Feyre walks away from an abusive relationship. She doesn’t stay because she loves him–and she does, despite it all–but she’s strong enough to recognise when she needs to get out. Another topic that needs more discussion.
- When she needs it, she has true friends who help her. The family she finds is certainly better than the family she’s born into.
- This series shows PTSD better than most stories I’ve read. I really appreciate the fact that life-altering events aren’t simply skimmed over, but are really dissected and portrayed in all its ugliness, all its anger, and later all its acceptance.
- Not everyone gets a happy ending. Things don’t just click into place, just like in real life.
All in all, the writing is easy to get into, the story is good, and I’d recommend this to lovers of fantasy any day. Meanwhile, I’ll just be here in my corner, quietly waiting to read more about Rhys. 😛