When I finished reading this book I had a lot of thoughts about it, but I also did not want to review it. Most of what I wanted to say was negative, and I prefer to avoid negative reviews here on my blog.
Why? Because my goal here is to promote the stories which I really enjoy and think would be worth your time. (Side note, I give star ratings of everything I read but don't review on Goodreads). Thus, rather than a review of A Court of Thorns and Roses, what we have here is a book discussion.
Let's start with what I liked. The synopsis sounded promising & and the idea of a Beauty & the Beast retelling within a Fae world initially interested me. After finishing it the things I enjoyed are simplistic and not much to write about. I enjoyed the idea of the fantasy setting, having a romantic plot as a crux, and much of the world building hinted at something vast and exciting.
Ultimately, this book just did not do it for me. I would say, in this case, the overarching reason is due to my expectations as a reader not being met. If the story had gone in different directions at certain key points I could have really loved it.
Disconnected From the World
Firstly, I did not feel immersed in this world. The world building was definitely lacking. I can enjoy a fantasy story that has a shallow depth or a smaller scope, but this was not that kind of story. More detail would have really made an ominously beautiful world spring off the page.
There's courts, and wars, and major history. What are the politics and goals of this non-human race? They appear militaristic. I wondered about their magic, immortality, their customs and celebrations. A rough calendar of their festivals would have been nice too since they apparently put great importance on them.
But, details are not given because our main female protagonist apparently doesn't think to ask, leaving the reader with a missed opportunity to invest in the new world.
The lack of detail in this case is specially detrimental because the author is working with two story elements that already exist "Fae" and "The Beauty and the Beast". Readers have expectations about both of those from other stories. Without more world building details, those expectations are used to fill in the gaps, and they don't quite fit this story.
Intention versus Execution
This story had a great potential to be both scary and whimsical. There are evil creatures, morally ambiguous Fae, and a dangerous woodland. Yet, I felt none of that while reading it. The stakes never really felt high enough, even near the end of the story when they should have. The land and its non-humans did not give a sense of other worldliness.
I had a very hard time connecting to Fayruh. Every move she makes is framed as something she must do. So everything beyond her own will. She is not industrious, or ambitious, or even curious. She just reacts to this world. She also has very little sense of self preservation. That would have come across as tough and self-sacrificing if she acted with intention.
It appears the only thing that Fayruh chooses to do on her own is to go out looking for the Suriel. At this point in the story I thought things were going to turn around, and that her character was going to grow. At this time she was curious and wanted answers, but afterwards she just stops looking for answers.
When she is sent away by Tamlin, she just goes away. Utilizing no foresight, satisfying no curiosities. And frustrating this reader.
Tamlin was not an interesting romantic interest. All we get are snippets of his backstory but we never get anything from him directly. He goes on patrol, he likes the flute, he's handsome, and he's a soldier stuck on his estate. I mean, he's also a fairy--but that's easily forgettable.
He might do something exciting during the novel, and Fayruh falls in love with him, but as the reader, I felt no real connection to Tamlin.
That Info Dump
I REALLY disliked the info dump that happens when Fayruh goes back to Tamlin's estate and finds "Mrs. Pots." It was at this point that the whole novel fell apart for me. I understand that point in the story, and that setting, worked well for a plot reveal, however, there should have been some mystery building up to the reveal.
Much of what Fayruh is told at this point could have been things that she found out along the way. But since Fayruh was not curious, and did not ask questions, she did not even wonder what was really going on.
When Fayruh "chooses" to go under the mountain I was not sure what to expect, but a competition that time-skips, lasting months, was definitely not on my radar. Why the most powerful and evil Fae wants to play a game show with Fayruh other than for the sake of plot creation was not clear. And during the first task all I could think of was:
The Alaskan Bull Worm... Why?
The Pacing That Became Book Two
The novel really felt like two novels to me. Once Tamlin tells Fayruh to leave, the story switched completely. Also, in the second half Fayruh's "evil step sister" sounds like she would have been a much more interesting main character.
Night Court sounds like it could be awesome, however, with the lack of world building in this first novel I am not anticipating to learn much about it. I liked that Rhysand tricks Fayruh into a deal and I also liked the idea of the magic tattoo on her arm, but the part with the party just had a terrible rape vibe. And if it was supposed to piss off Tamlin, I am sure there were plenty of other ways to piss off Tamlin. Instead, this plot point pissed off me. Here, once again, Fayruh seems not capable of protecting herself and her status in any sort of way. She is just tossed on the sea through out this novel and paraded around parties.
Fayruh being turned into a Fae at the end of the novel was disappointing because it opens up a whole huge can of Alaskan Bull Worms--questions. Was this always possible? Is she part Fae already? Has this happened in the past? Did the Fae fight about it? Doesn't this kind of solve all the original problems?
This felt more like Greek mythology than Beauty and the Beast. Specifically the myths of Psyche and Persephone.
The only character that I liked was Lucian. The story would have benefited from more Lucian.
Read the Synopsis on Goodreads:
Thanks for reading!