Sarah J. Maas is a hugely popular young adult fantasy author who has been churning out thick novels in two long-running series. I read and fell in love with her first series (still unfinished) which most of you are probably familiar with – the Throne of Glass series. I soon discovered that her second series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, was winning even more acclaim. As always, I had to wait until at least three were out so that I could do a back-to-back read. But I am wondering – am I the last person to start this first book in the series? I find the sheer number of reviews already posted positively astonishing. Bloomsbury USA Childrens | May, 2015 | Hardcover | 416 pp
Feyre is the youngest of three sisters in a village just on the border between the human world and the world of the fae. They live in abject poverty, a humiliating plunge from lofty societal position they once had before their father’s fall from grace. The family would have starved to death if it wasn’t for Feyre, a huntress out of necessity.
The story opens with a hungry Feyre, out in the woods trying to find something to kill for food when she spots a doe. But she’s not the only predator in the vicinity. A large wolf is stalking her prey. She knows that fae can shapeshift, and killing a faerie would be disastrous for her family (it’s against the treaty), but her family is starving, she hates the fae, and it’s probably not fae at all. She arms herself with an arrow made from wood that can stop fae from healing (just in case), and takes the shot. It was a good day for her. She earned deer meat and a wolf pelt.
Only – it wasn’t a wolf.
The magic of a broken treaty leads another faerie in wolf shape to the door of Feyre’s household. He demands payment in accordance with the human and fae treaty – a life for a life. But he gives her two options – be torn to shreds then and there, or be brought to the world of the fae to live out her existence as a prisoner. To shield her family from seeing her gruesome death, she goes with the fae and toward a fate unknown.
The faerie lands are broken up into courts, and Feyre is brought to a beautiful, opulent home in the Spring Court, the very first court just over the wall dividing the human and faerie realms. Her wolf-like captor transforms into a masked man of impeccable manors and Feyre is treated as a royal guest rather than a captive slave, much to her astonishment. There, she is provided for with glamorous dresses, sumptuous food, freedom to roam the grounds, and the supplies needed for her to engage in her favorite pastime: painting. But it’s not all roses and butterflies. She also encounters deadly creatures of the forest, companions in the grand home intent on seeing her falter and quite possibly die, and she learns of a terrible scourge that is affecting the fae lands and their magic.
Her hatred for the fae slowly recedes as she learns the true history of the human and faerie wars and as she warms to Tamlin, her faerie captor and high lord of the Spring Court. But the whole truth of why she is there and why she is treated in such a regal fashion is hidden from her until the very last minute, until is is already too late. Something is threatening the Spring Court and the human world as well. Something that threatens the treaty and the peace between worlds – and the family she left behind.
I admittedly felt compelled to roll my eyes at first. When Feyre is first brought to the Spring Court and turned into a guest while lesser fae waited on her hand and foot, I thought it absurd. Why on earth would this High Lord bring his friend’s murderer to his home as punishment only to lavish her with riches and splendor? It didn’t make any sense – unless … do I see the signs? … a rose … a beast … a beast who is trying very hard to charm our heroine … a masked court under some sort of enchantment … wait a minute … it’s … it’s … it’s Beauty and the Beast. I did not know this was a retelling going in. And what a glorious retelling it is.
Although Feyre is a huntress, she had only been so out of complete necessity. She’s not the type of she-warrior found in Maas’ Throne of Glass series and is, in fact, quite the opposite. This character is more relatable, more down to earth. And she’s terrified to be in the faerie lands at first, with all of the unknowns. Unlike Belle from Beauty and the Beast, she’s a not a reader. She doesn’t even know how to read. But when shown the great library for the first time, she’s thrilled. Perhaps she could teach herself? But like Belle, she does have a hobby. Instead of reading, it’s painting. And when provided the tools to indulge in her hobby, she’s as enthusiastic as Belle was when shown the library.
When Feyre finally discover the truth, it’s too late. But that doesn’t stop her from trying to right what had been wrong. It all leads up to a finale that will make you cringe and scream and curse the author’s name. Now that’s good stuff.
A Court of Thorns and Roses
by Sarah J. Maas