This is the first book in a YA series I’d been curious about for a while. (Eagle-eyed – or really-good-memory-having – readers of the blog may recall that I thought I was requesting this book from the Yarmouth library back at the end of 2017, only to be severely disappointed.)
A Court of Thorns and Roses was available on one of my Saturday library jaunts, so I picked it up. I’m pretty sure I read it fairly quickly; but, I did not note down any quotes except for three pages of backstory, because somehow I knew that if I didn’t at least write that down, I’d never remember it.
(Didn’t keep me from noting the characters’ names or anything … *eyeroll emoji*)
The basic premise of this book is a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s … I mean, it was okay. It was very young adult, I thought, in that it was trying so hard to be adult about things.
Our story takes place in a country called Prythian, which is divided into 8 realms – the 7 courts of the Faerie, and then the human world. The humans and faeries are at a very tentative peace – basically, the humans are allowed to live in the section of land granted to them by the faeries, and should they decide to rebel the entire human race (in that area) will be wiped out. Many of the humans cower from the faerie race, but there are two other factions – those that hate the faeries for sequestering the humans, and another, smaller, cult group of people who worship the faeries, hoping to be taken to one of their courts for the chance at a better life.
Our narrator is Feyre (pronounced “Fay-reh”, as best as I can tell – look, I got this from the library, I didn’t take notes; I know I should’ve taken at least a picture of the pronunciation list in the back but I didn’t, and you’re the one who’s going to have to get over it), the youngest daughter in a family of two elder sisters and a disabled father. So it’s up to Feyre to provide for the family – she sneaks into the forest and surrounding areas … to … to hunt …
So at the beginning of the book, Feyre is hunting, and happens upon a wolf. And she can tell, somehow, that it’s not an ordinary wolf – that it’s a faerie in disguise as a wolf. Or maybe, she’s afraid that it is a faerie in disguise, but the thought of not taking her shot (with a bow and arrow, I mean seriously, does Sarah J. Maas owe Suzanne Collins any royalties?) and missing out on all that tasty wolf meat and/or selling the pelt in the market forces her to aim for the wolf’s eye.
Anyway. At the end of the day, the wolf was a faerie. And within, like, 24 hours, a very angry faerie is pounding on their door, seeking recompense for the death of his cohort. And faeries subscribe to the eye-for-an-eye type of justice.
But after seeing the sad family, the faerie Tamlin recalls a codicil in the Treaty the faeries signed with the humans – instead of death, the debt can be repaid by bringing the culprit back to his court on the other side of the wall. And that’s how Feyre ends up in the Spring Court, Tamlin’s home base.
So these faeries – they all wear masquerade masks on their face. As far as I can tell, the faeries are all of human form, except for these masks literally melded onto their face. Feyre is told it’s the result of a magic blight, sweeping the land. And that wolf/faerie that Feyre killed? Was out searching the human world for cure.
It takes a while, but Feyre eventually softens towards the faerie race, and Tamlin in particular. She is forced to eat dinner with Tamlin and his friend, Lucien, but Lucien also takes Feyre riding and lets her explore the countryside a bit. When Tamlin learns that Feyre really likes painting, he provides her with access to the galleries in his mansion so she can practice her art.
Over the summer, she finds herself actually falling for Tamlin. But this is also where the plot starts to deviate from the strict, Beauty and the Beast retelling – because as Feyre falls for Tamlin, she learns that the seven courts of the Prythia (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Dawn, Day and Night) (I think) are controlled by a faerie named Amarantha, and she’s trying to get Tamlin fully into her clutches.
Let’s say Feyre’s been at Tamlin’s court for about seven months. (I have no idea if I’m right, just go with me on this.) They’ve shared a lot of romantic moments – he’s brought her to a couple of Faerie events and ceremonies, and I’m pretty sure they’ve slept together at least once. And then something happens (no, I can’t remember what the triggering event is, leave me alone), and Tamlin decides that Feyre’s debt has been repaid, so she can go back to living with her family, and don’t come back, have fun!
Feyre doesn’t want to go – she feels that something bad is going to happen, and she wants to stay, but Tamlin won’t let her.
When she gets to her family, she is slightly shocked to learn that they are no longer poor. They have a fancy house and hang out with the other rich people in the human land. Her bitchy eldest sister, whose name escapes me, knows that something was up, but can’t figure it out. But when Feyre hears some gossip about a family she knew – and whose name she used as an alias when she ran into Amarantha – was mysteriously murdered, she knows that by remaining with her family, she puts them in danger. She tells her eldest sister as much as she can, and swears her to secrecy – just that if the sister hears gossip about a war between the faeries or something else horrifying, she is to take their father and middle sister as far away as possible.
Feyre manages to sneak back to the Spring Court, somehow, and runs into her former chambermaid, Alis (pronounced like Alice). And here’s where we learn about The Curse:
Essentially, Amarantha had a big hard-on for Tamlin, and hated that he didn’t want to rule the entire faerie land with her together as king and queen. Amarantha also harbors a huge hatred for the human race, because her sister fell in love with a human man, who then killed her (I think). So Tamlin, in resisting Amarantha’s latest attempt at seduction, spits in her face and says that he’d rather marry a human than her, and if a human was good enough for her sister it should be good enough for him.
So Amarantha gives him forty-nine years (why? who knows) to marry a human girl. But not just any human girl – a human girl with ice in her veins, who has killed a faerie out of sheer hatred. And because humans are attracted to beautiful people, Amarantha cursed Tamlin and all his subjects to have their masquerade masks melded to their face (because this all happened at a masquerade; how thoughtful).
It turns out all that shit about the Treaty was just a pretense to get Feyre to come back to the Spring Court with Tamlin. He was trying to break the curse, because it was getting close to the deadline. And when the deadline was up, Tamlin would be forced to rule alongside Amarantha.
There’s some crying from Alis about how stupid it was that Tamlin sent Feyre back to her family with only like, three days to go to the deadline, so now all the faeries are back Under the Mountain (an actual, capitalized place in this book) with Amarantha.
So Feyre is determined to go and rescue Tamlin, because that’s what Beauty needs to do to save the Beast, right?
Once there, Feyre is given three tasks that she needs to survive – or, if not, just answer Amarantha’s riddle. But she can’t figure it out right away, so down to the prison she goes, waiting for her tasks. And on one of them, she has to have one of Amarantha’s lackeys help her, because a) the lackey (Rhysand) doesn’t actually like Amarantha, but b) he uses this opportunity to get Feyre to agree to stay with him in the Night Court (?) for a week every month. It may be longer, can’t remember, don’t care.
So at the end of the novel, Feyre is able to answer Amarantha’s riddle, which breaks the spell Tamlin was under and he murders Amarantha toot suite, and the masks are all able to come off of the other faeries and everyone lives happily ever after – except of course they don’t, because a) this is a Young Adult series, and b) the next book is going to create some sort of love triangle between Feyre, Tamlin and Rhysand and with that knowledge I’m very whatever.
I did not enjoy this book as much as I hoped I would. I enjoy retellings of fairy tales, and I don’t necessarily mind when they stray from the path of the well-known plotline. But I thought there was too much going on, and I also felt like the mere introduction of Rhysand into the plot was only there to create a possible love triangle, and – young adult authors, no, you don’t need to do that anymore, really, I mean it, let the struggle be something else besides another person.
Also, I have to give a shout-out to My Dear Friend Sarah, who wanted to rate this book only one star, because based on the placement of the words on the cover, she read the title as “Court A Thorns Of Roses And”.
As for the Guster Reading Challenge: I’m going to go with “Demons” off of Goldfly. Not only because “Demons” is for reading a book that features an evil entity or someone with evil intent; but also because at Gusterfest this year, Ryan (the lead singer of Guster) pretty much admitted that the band can play their old stuff without even thinking – “‘Demons’, yeah, but to be honest I’m checking my email in my head”, and to me, that sums up this book wonderfully: sure, there’s stuff going on, but it’s so mediocre that I’m not really paying attention anymore.
Grade for A Court Of Thorns And Roses: 1 star