Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses

Feyre and her family are living in poverty. Her father used to be a successful merchant, but disaster struck, leaving their debts unpaid and her father grievously attacked and disabled. Feyre is her family's only source of income, so she hunts to provide for them. One fateful day, she finds a huge wolf in the woods about to attack her quarry. She chooses to kill the wolf and the deer to sell the pelt and eat the venison over a couple weeks. Things seem to finally be looking up until a faerie in wolf form named Tamlin bursts into their house demanding recompense for the murder of his friend. Feyre has two choices: either be executed or go to live in the faerie land of Prythian for the rest of her life. Of course she chooses life, but faeries are inhuman, cruel, and horrible creatures who used to enslave and use humans as playthings. Feyre braces herself for torture, enslavement, or just incarceration, but Tamlin proves to the opposite of her expectations. As they develop a relationship, it becomes clear that all is not well in Prythian. A blight that has robbed the faeries of most of their power is moving towards the human realm, posing a threat to everything and everyone. Can a weak mortal like Feyre help save her world?

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that subverts a lot of the expectations of the fairy tale while staying true to the spirit of the story. Our Beauty is Feyre who is unlike any iteration of the character I've read or seen. She is pretty joyless, but not outright bitter. Her family needs someone to step up and get the money and food necessary to survive. Feyre is a pragmatist willing to do whatever it takes no matter how it effects her personal happiness. She has the strength and determination to hone her skills in hunting and other important skills even though she doesn't enjoy them. When she moved to Prythian, she became almost a different person. She was suddenly without direction. Her family was taken care of and she didn't need to do anything anymore, so she loosened up a bit. She focused her energy at first at trying to escape, but realized her family is better off with her there as the faeries provide for them. So then she learns and hones more unnecessary skills that she actually enjoys like learning to read and painting. She starts to tell jokes and actually get to know the faeries, who she has considered flatly evil and dangerous creatures her entire life. Her outlook completely changes and she starts to fall in love with Tamlin, the Beast. Despite some superficial changes, the core Feyre is basically the same. Later in the story, she also takes on momentous tasks to attempt to save her love and her friends despite prolonged suffering.

Tamlin, our Beast, is a mix of sensitive and callous. He was raised to be a warrior to survive his world while his true interests were in music and the arts. War and hardship have been such a part of his life that it's easy for him to forget who he is outside of all of that. He has to present a hard shell and make difficult decisions to succeed as a ruler in Prythian, but he changes as Feyre does. Both become more sensitive and learn something about each other and the culture they come from which causes both to shed their prejudices. The romance develops organically and over a large chunk of the book. That part does move a little slow, but if it were any faster, Feyre's actions at the end simply wouldn't make sense. It takes a lot of time to completely change your outlook on something that's been hammered into your head since birth. Also, I LOVE the way sexuality is treated in the novel. Feyre is very matter of fact and comfortable with herself. She had one partner in the human world who she liked but didn't love. For both of them, it was a convenient escape from their respective hardships, a spot of joy among all the misery. With Tamlin, things are more fiery and passionate because of love. I like that both sides are portrayed as positive instead of having a preachy message against different types of sexual relationships.

The book is lengthy and goes through a lot of different changes. It almost feels like it's multiple books in one due to the changes in location and tone. I read it in about 2 days because I had to know what happened next. Sarah J. Maas knows how to construct a book and I was invested from the first chapter. The fairy tale aspects are handled very well. The general story line is similar with the curse being the most obviously Beauty and the Beast aspect, but the story is free to move into past the plot of the fairy tale. I also enjoyed all the different types of faeries shown, mostly of the horrific variety. The ending is satisfying and at the same time leaves some loose ends that make me want to read the next book immediately. In the time before the next book comes out, I'll be reading all of her other books.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Misty said...

"She is pretty joyless, but not outright bitter." YES. I loved that. It felt really true to her situation, and kept her from being a cloying, sugary sweet fairy tale heroine.
And agreed about reading Maas' other books in the wait for #2. She drew me in fully and quickly, and I need it.

(Your captcha just made me choose pictures of cake...)