So much to discuss. So little time. Let’s go.
As I am just letting all my thoughts flow out I can’t guarantee that there won’t be spoilers. Bottom line- I rated it 3 stars because I found flaws in Sarah’s writing, and did not like the way characters were developed- in fact, I found a lot of them displayed traits that I could have done without. That being said, if you enjoy sky high levels of sexual tension, a swoon worthy love interest and an intense ending, this may just be the YA- no, NEW ADULT- book for you. Come back when you’ve read it!
SPOILERS FROM HERE ONWARDS
I read A Court of Thorns and Roses back when it was released last year, and adored the intricate world that Maas built. I felt that the plot was well paced, I loved the idea of a beauty and the beast retelling, and Feyre was everything I wanted in a protagonist. Also, I was a year younger, I basically rated every YA a 5 stars, and my taste was, shall we say, not very refined. The point I’m trying to make is that a lot of my feelings on ACOTAR would be different had I read it later. Don’t get me wrong, I think Maas did what she does best and created this epic fantasy with so much room for exploration, which is why I love her Throne of Glass series so much. However, my issue with the ACOTAR series is the characters.
When reading ACOTAR, I completely fell for the character of Tamlin. I felt that he was charming, gorgeous, mysterious, you name the adjective, and ‘shipped’ Feylin like crazy *cringes*. So I’m sure you can imagine my shock when only a few chapters in, abusive undertones to their relationship could already be seen. This change in character, leading to Tamlin’s possessive hold on Feyre seemed so out of the blue to me that I had to do some research to see if I was the only one seeing this. Having watched several reviews of the 2 books and talking to friends, many have argued that hints of the abuse and darker side of Tamlin’s character are already apparent in ACOTAR, which is why I plan on rereading it very soon to see if my perception of the novel has changed.
That being said, I think it is understandable that many like me did not expect this change in dynamics between Feyre and Tamlin, primarily because throughout the first book, Feyre is completely smitten for her fae lord. In fact, it could even be said that the entire plot of ACOTAR revolves around her love for him. She LITERALLY sacrifices her life, killing others in the process to protect his. Yep, I’d say they’re pretty tight. (Also, let’s not forget all the very graphic sex a few pages into ACOMAF. Who’d have thought she’d change love interests so quickly.) I can completely respect Feyre’s decision to escape from Tamlin’s court after he tries to lock her up, and appreciate Maas giving her the independence to end the relationship. However, what I struggle to understand is the change of heart regarding Rhys. Recap to book 1, where Feyre seems to absolutely DESPISE Rhysand. She is disgusted at the way he flaunts her in front of Tamlin, and at the bond and deal she is forced into. This carries on into the beginning of ACOMAF, where once again we see Feyre’s disgust at having to spend a week with him. Yet when she makes the decision to join the Night Court permanently, she soon finds herself attached to Rhysand, High Lord, and epitome of all things good. What?? I just wish Feyre’s change of heart hadn’t been so sudden, and more of a gradual thing.
I get it- Rhysand had to act a certain way in the first book because Amarantha had him under her control, and Tamlin may be suffering from PTSD to explain for him being a total scumbag at the start of book 2, but I couldn’t help but feel like Maas was manipulating the reader to feel a certain way about her characters. Manipulating may sound like a strong word, but I truly felt that had she not written some of the things I am about to mention, I would have enjoyed this book so much more.
The most irritating aspect, character wise, was the endless comparisons made between Rhysand and Tamlin. I felt that at every point possible, Tamlin was depicted as a monster, even when unnecessary to the plot, if only to prove a point, whereas Rhys was put in a shining light. Examples of the comparisons, inspired by a goodreads review I read: Tamlin is obsessed with hierarchy but Rhys is only family driven; Tamlin wants to lock Feyre up but Rhys wants to set her free. In no way am I saying that Tamlin should be sympathised with, because what he does is clearly wrong. I just think that Maas writes about Rhys in this overwhelmingly positive light, and to me as a reader it felt forced. Sadly, I think this utter annihilation of a love interest is common in her books, and anyone who has read Crown of Midnight will know what I am referring to. To me, this is all screaming ‘SHIP FEYRE WITH RHYS’ and I think this change of heart in Feyre could have been dealt with in a more natural way. People break up all the time; the extent that was gone to to break the Feyre-Tamlin ship worked, but felt once again unnecessary. I’m sure that some people will have found that this was central to the plot and to Feyre’s character development, and I see where that opinion is coming from, but personally, this was not an enjoyable thing to read.
Nevertheless, I liked Rhysand in this book and I think this opinion is shared with the majority of people who read ACOMAF. He is nothing short of prince charming, impresses us all with his devotion to his people, is witty, and sweeps us all off our feet. However, there was a certain darkness to him in ACOTAR which I would have loved to have seen explored; his character arc here fell a bit flat for me.
Something that made me a bit uncomfortable when reading were the contradictions I found in the text. Feyre leaves Tamlin because she hates being trapped, and Rhys provides this so called freedom that she desires. However, certain lines popped up where the exact same possessiveness could be seen- ‘she’s mine‘ – (it must be a fae lord thing?) Yes, you can say that this possessiveness is actually just his love and lust for Feyre coming through and yes, he obviously wants her to have freedom, but to that I’d argue that Tamlin did exactly the same in ACOTAR- excusing his want to control her with his love towards her. Of course, Rhys is written in such a way that we excuse this behaviour; when he does it it’s ok because he really loves her and is a great guy. Right? Well. It made me a little uncomfortable.
I am just about done with talking about the characters, and would like to briefly address the plot. As always, I loved the setting and the exploration of the different courts. Do I think it needed all 626 pages? Not so much. When I first finished, my first thoughts was that, hey, I didn’t like the characters but the plot was quite good. On further reflection, I think the aspect of the plot that drew me in was the building relationship between Rhys and Feyre, but then again, that’s more character development than plot. The plot itself felt a little feeble to make way for Feyre’s internal struggle- in essence, the story is: Feyre escapes from the abusive master/fiance, joins the Rhysand posse, they look for some kind of object, destroy a cauldron, something else, something to do with the king, Tamlin betrays someone- whAT? Basically, I felt that a lot of small things were happening, but weren’t memorable in themselves because the reader is made to be so focused on the characters. It was only the final twist with Tamlin’s betrayal where plot really took off and I found myself not being able to put the book down. I may be wrong about this, because I read this book when my exams were mid swing and so perhaps I wasn’t able to appreciate the storyline to its fullest. If so, apologies.
FINALLY the last thing I would like to talk about is the writing, technically speaking. If you follow me on twitter you will have seen my many tweets about the punctuation, which honestly just irritated me to no end. Basically, turn to any page of the novel and you will find an excess of ellipses and hyphens. Once I picked up on this about halfway through, I couldn’t stop noticing the extent to which these are used (Chapter 54, 113 hyphens and ellipses-… yes I counted). They are predominantly used in the heightened scenes, especially in dialogue, to create tension between characters. Let me just add my 2 cents-
ABUSING THE USE OF DASHES DOES NOT CREATE TENSION WHEN USED 1000000 TIMES.
I am surprised that editors did not cut down on these, because honestly, it just made the writing feel a bit sloppy. I think that this is a lot more common than you’d think- a few of my favourite books are made less great in my eyes because of this aspect and I wish writers would stop doing this.
I think I have just about touched all bases of the novel that I wanted to address. A little disclaimer moment- I am aware that a lot of people will disagree with me on this one because this book has a 4.77 on Goodreads and the majority of my twitter timeline seem to adore it. Though this review may make it seem like it, I did NOT hate this book. I will read the final in the trilogy, because I am interested to see where the characters go and to see the world explored. I enjoyed a lot of the side characters like Mor and Cassian, and loved hearing stories of their past. I think the reason that perhaps this review was so harsh was because I have heard numerous people say that this is one of the best YA books out there, as well as the best release of 2016 even though it’s only June. Honestly, I’m happy for you that you found a book you love so much, but I had to address the problems I saw in it because a lot of what I read didn’t sit right with me.
I hope you won’t see this review as a rant, or as a trashing of the book. I have tried to justify all my opinions and to keep things respectful, so would appreciate it if that were mutual.
End of review. Practically an essay. Man, writing is hard, so kudos to people like Sarah J Maas who can bang out a 600 page fantasy every year.
Please tell me your thoughts on the book, good or bad, as I would love to hear everyone’s opinions and why they felt that way. Also, if anything I said was factually incorrect, let me know and I can change it 🙂
Thanks for reading!