From the publisher:
She stole a life. Now she must pay with her heart.
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only 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 over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
I’ve spent the past week gorging myself on the complete works of Sarah J. Maas. Needless to say, Throne of Glass is one of the best fantasy series I have ever read. I simply couldn’t stop reading until I got every single published instalment out of my system (there’s six so far if you include the series’s prequel novellas, which I so obviously do). Indeed, calling the series alarmingly addictive– and highly badass– would be putting things lightly. It seems, however, that even the greats don’t hit it out of the park every single time. To my utter disappointment, I’m afraid that there is simply no parallel universe in which A Court of Thorns and Roses is anything but a very garrulous, very stupefying thorn in my side.
My foremost problem with the novel happens to be its protagonist: I simply don’t like Feyre. There’s no other way to put it. Remorseless and whiny, she spends the vast majority of her ample time complaining about her life’s general state of affairs and preening herself on her apparent moral high ground. What does she actually do all day that makes me mad as a March hare? you might ask. The answer is elementary, really: she spends her time sitting on her ass like a glorified medieval trophy wife. In other words: she paints. While her big, strong boyfriend prowls the grounds, risking his life for the collective safety, while her peers are off battling the “blight” that imperils their very world, Feyre stays shuttered inside, all art and no spine.
She doesn’t even bother to inconvenience herself by accepting a certain someone’s many pointed offers to teach her poor, misguided soul to read. It seems that she’s far too busy making snarky remarks towards anyone who is remotely kind to her, and being ungrateful towards any characters who continuously save her worthless hide, to waste any time at all ameliorating her illiterate self. You’ll have to forgive me if, as a reader, I take this as a rather grave offense.
What’s more is that Feyre foolishly endangers her life quite frequently, I would say. And this would not be a transgression in and of itself– if there’s one vice I understand, it’s living your life with reckless abandon– were it not for her refusal to fight back against whichever rapscallion currently has her in their clutches. Because where would be the reason in resisting? Those fairies are so big and evil, she wouldn’t stand a chance, anyway! Evidently, if you are looking for even one whit of Celeana Sardothien in A Court of Thorns and Roses, prepare to look further. You will find no hellcats here.
Her love interest, our darling Tamlin, is really no better. Standoffish and arrogant, he communicates mainly by serial grunting. But of course, he and Feyre will fall in love. (Didn’t you know that this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and thus that true love would conquer all?) The spray tan romance was further enhanced by the little hitch involving Tamlin being a beast in absolutely no conceivable way, except perhaps if we are counting that endearing charm. To the contrary, we are subjected to multiple wordy descriptions of his irresistible good looks and lengthy reveries concerning the upper half of his face, concealed at all times by a magic mask.
A Court of Thorns and Roses even encloses numerous plot holes, which I in no way expected from the illustrious Sarah J. Maas. I’ll give you only one example– my favourite– which I feel easily typifies the novel as a whole: despite being magically knocked out every time she’s made the journey previously, Feyre is somehow able to find her way back to her beloved’s enchanted mansion without thought or difficulty, and all this in a matter of sentences.
My recommendation: turn back while you still can. Avoid A Court of Thorns and Roses at all costs. This is a romance masquerading as fantasy with nothing to anchor it to singular fiction save a handful of good fight scenes and some very tautly stretched fairy lore. And the best part? It’s rife with names impossible to pronounce except by means of a pronunciation guide inconveniently located at the end of the novel which, chances are, you won’t even know exists until you’re slamming closed the back cover and hurling the book across the room. 1.4/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.
I’m not usually one for fantasies. I mean, sure, Kristin Cashore rocked my world, but as far as world building will go I’m a far happier campier with a juicy dystopian than anything else. With all of its rave reviews, though, I was quick to order Throne of Glass from my local Barnes and Noble– and I’m happy to say that it lived up to its reputation.
Celeana Sardothien will either impress you to no end or rub you the wrong way. Thankfully, my experience was closer to the former. Her country’s deadliest assassin, Celeana enters a power hungry king’s frivolous contest in the hopes to win back her freedom. As seen in this competition, she has all of the nerve that comes with her commendably fatal reputation, though the walk she walks doesn’t come close to living up to the talk she talks. Despite this incongruity, I loved Celeana’s arrogance; so what if there’s a small gap between her abilities and her bragging? She was definitely a nice change from the typical “woe is me, I have low self esteem” YA protagonist. I like my heroines confident, and I like them cocky. Especially if afore-mentioned cockiness is delivered with deliciously witty insults, a bonus which Celeana did not fail to distribute in abundance.
I’ve heard that Celeana’s true (and skilled) colours shine through in Throne of Glass‘s novella prequels, The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld, and The Assassin and the Empire. Assuming that this is true, I cannot wait to read them and uncover more Celeana’s murderous past. Yes, you might say that I’ve tasted blood… and I want more.
Like any good fantasy I’ve ever read, Throne of Glass‘s world building was spot on. Corrupt royal family? Check. Needless slaughter and painful genocide? Check. A history that you’re not sure you want to know? Check. Magical woodland creatures that no longer frolic in their corner woods? Check. And there you have it, folks: all of the ingredients necessary to win me over.
Throne of Glass‘s tragic flaw lies in its predictability. Although I tried to steer myself in other directions, thinking “this can’t be the evil villain; it’s too obvious”, I figured out the culpable of the contestants’ horrible murders on page one. I understand that Ms. Maas first wrote this novel when she was sixteen, but there’s no need for juvenility, is there? Moreover, Celeana’s inner debating on the goings-on around her actually turned out to be more dramatic irony than anything else; the truth became obvious to the reader long before Celeana’s pretty little mind caught on. This slowed the novel’s pacing and left me with the general urge to bang my head against my four-hundred page hardcover in the hopes that losing brain cells might make the plot twists less obvious. Again: a little subtlety can go a long way.
All in all, Throne of Glass was superb. Not superb enough to rival Graceling‘s grandeur, of course, but we can’t all be Katsa, can we? 3.9/5 stars.
I’ll keep you posted,