A Beauty and the Beast retelling, with a dark heart and main character with amazing strength and devotion. Faeries and a dark force that threatens the mortal world. What more could you want from a fantasy read?
Today on the blog I’ll be reviewing A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas. This is fantasy novel published by Bloomsbury in the Young Adult/ New Adult genre. Throughout this blog post you will see photos of the two sequels to A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin. I’ll also be discussing some of the topics that typically come up with this series, including the place of sex in the young adult genre.
What is A Court of Thorns and Roses about?
When Feyre kills a wolf in the woods she thinks only of the survival its death will mean for her impoverished family. However, the death of the wolf will bring greater consequences than she ever intended.
Dragged to a magical kingdom in payment for killing something so precious Feyre’s survival will depend on her ability to get along with her captor. A masked fae who seems to hold as many secrets as his court.
As Feyre’s feelings for her captor develop she must learn to navigate the dangers of the fae kingdom. She must break the curse around the man whom she loves or face a dangerous world. Alone.
What I liked about A Court of Thorns and Roses?
Fayre (pronounced Fay-Ruh) has an admirable devotion to her family despite their flaws. The dynamic with her sisters is interesting. I disliked Nesta and Elain because of their treatment of their youngest sister. She provides for them in their poverty and is at best ignored, at worse treated with contempt.
However, as the book and the series continued I found myself reconsidering how I viewed several characters within the book. This demonstrates the complexity of character within this series. There isn’t necessarily ‘good’ or ‘bad’ characters, but rather a host of morally grey characters.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, this series, especially the first book is inspired in part by Beauty and the Beast. There does seem to be market saturation at the moment with Beauty and the Beast retellings. There has been a number of beauty and the beast novels and films over the last few years. Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses stands out for me amongst this crowd for a few reasons.
- She takes the classic figure of Belle and changes her completely. No damsel in distress here. Maas also does something really interesting with Belle’s love of reading. This distinguishes her from the other retellings we’ve had in recent years.
- This story doesn’t just rely on Beauty and the Beast but also a number of other folk lore tales. Elements from these stories have been taken and truly transformed to tell a new story, powerful in its own right.
The romance in this book was certainly interesting. A word of warning, this book although marketed as young adult fiction contains explicit sex scenes. I’ll talk a little bit more to this point in my next section.
As a whole I thought the romance within the book series was entertaining, and showed flawed characters who develop over time.
The series explores to a certain extent abusive relationships, though this isn’t made as clear in A Court of Thorns and Roses as in the second book A court of Mist and Fury, and the third book A court of Wings and Ruin.
What I liked least about A Court of Thorns and Roses
There is a love triangle within this series which I generally find tiresome within the romance trope. I know there are other readers who find this something they seek out in their reads! There’s nothing wrong with enjoying that in a novel. It’s just personal preference that I do not.
My primary issue with the A Court of Thorns and Roses is one that you may have come across in relation to this series before. I don’t believe this book should have been marketed as young adult fiction.
This is because of the explicitness of the sexual acts within the book. While I do not think the book is necessarily a bad book for having those scenes within it, I think it changes who the audience of the book is.
Young adult fiction is generally defined as being for those as young as twelve years old up to eighteen years old. This series opens up a can of worms when it comes to whether or not sexual scenes should be in books marketed and written for this age range. There is a big difference in the sexual maturity of a twelve year old, versus an eighteen year old.
We are beginning to ask questions of young adult fiction that were not asked years ago. Questions like: Why is it okay for violence to be described in young adult fiction, but not sex? This is an interesting, and important question to ask when approaching any book. Young adult fiction or not. It’s good that these conversations are beginning.
In essence, I believe it comes down to how we view sex in society. We do not view teens as sexual beings for the most part. Sexual education can vary widely between schools, and families. Most of us would probably be very uncomfortable sitting through a sex scene in a movie with our grandparents.
Sex in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s what can be done with it that is. The role of fiction is not to educate teenagers about sex. As Youtuber Francina Simone that I found recently said (when discussing A Court of Thorns and Roses) “Teens need to understand what a healthy sexual relationship is, before they engage it in media“.
I agree. While there are teens out there who will not have had those conversations with a trusted adult, explicit sex does not belong in young adult fiction for the risk it takes in exposing young teens to sensitive topics prematurely. A Court of Thorns and Roses should not be read by young teens that the young adult genre is primarily marketed to. In my opinion anyway (you’re welcome to disagree with me, life would be dull if we always agreed!).
If you want to watch Simona’s full video on this topic click here.
Because of the controversy of A Court of Thorns and Roses you will find it in some stores in the young adult section, in others it is only in the adult fantasy section. Whilst the publishers have claimed that the book is ‘New Adult’ (for 19-30 year olds) that is a genre that hasn’t really established or distinguished itself from the young adult genre. There is no ‘new adult’ section in the bookstore – so where do we shelve books like this?
Recommendation and final thoughts
We delved into some deep questions today, and hopefully you didn’t find it too off putting! This book is about far far more than the sexual relationships within it. It is an action packed adventure with a strong heroine. It asks questions about love, loyalty, perseverance and sacrifice.
I really enjoyed this book, but I would not recommend it to younger audiences. Adults who enjoy fantasy based romance will find this a thrilling read. I’m interested to check out the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas which will bridge the gap between this series and future books set in the same world. I may also check out her Throne of Glass series which is an adult fantasy series.
Have you read any Sarah J Maas books, what did you think of them? What was your last fantasy read?
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