Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Discussion: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas *Spoilers*

Rating: 2/5
Categorization: YA, New Adult, Romance, Fairy Tale
Length: 416 pages
Plans to Continue the Series: Maybe once the series is complete

Upon finishing this book I felt like I had tons of things to say, but I also had to think about how all of those things would sound together as one comprehensive review.  I knew that most of what I wanted to say in response to this read was negative, yet I did not want my review to be only negative.  This predicament resulted in the writing of a review that took much longer time to formulate than it probably should have.  All that being said, the things i enjoyed about the novel are very simplistic including a fantasy setting, romance, and some interesting places which are journeyed to, while the things i disliked are more complex, so the bulk of this review will still be focused on my critiques of the novel and why it just did not work for me.

I was definitely more disappointed than satisfied with this read.  That was probably partly due to the hype, though this is not the first hyped book which i did not enjoy.  More likely I was disappointed by just how much potential it had.  I feel that if the story had gone in different directions at certain key points I could have really loved it.

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.  If more time and detail was given allowing for the reader to get deeper into  the world building and history, I believe I would have liked the story more.  I also probably would have cared more for the characters.  As the novel stands, I do not feel like I have an understanding of the fairies.  They appear to just be people.  I would have liked to learn what purpose the courts served, and how they deal with immortality.  What are the politics and goals of this non-human race?  I wondered how the magic can be used.  Even how they obtained their magic.  A calendar of their festivals would have been nice too since they apparently put great importance on them.  More detail would have really made a culture spring off the page and a race of non-humans come to life.  I feel like i have preexisting knowledge about different types of Fae from other stories, and folklore in general, and the more that i read into this novel, the more i felt that none of that applied to the Fae in this story.

Instead I feel like I have an endless list of questions distracting me from connecting to the story.  How does the magic work?  The magic was such a huge part of the plot and yet there was not much explanation for it.  Tell me more about the cauldron.  Tell me more about the different courts.  Why do they have different ones?  Are they based off familiar clans?  Ideologies?

It feels strange for me to make that first critique because this novel has been marketed as a fairy tale retelling.  And in a fairy tale the reader does not get world building, and yet the stories are still enjoyable and immersive.  However, fairy tales serve a very different purpose for readers than novels do.  Fairy tales focus on the journey of the main character and the moral which the story is trying to get across.  As this novel is first and foremost a new adult  fantasy novel, it should not be a surprise that I expected more.

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.  For a main protagonist she really did not do anything on her own.   Everything she does throughout the novel she does because she states that she must.  She only kills the wolf because she believes that she must.  She only starts hunting in the first place because if she did not her family would starve.  She is not industrious, or ambitious, or even curious, she is instead completely reactionary.  She has very little sense of self preservation also.

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.  She did not utilize any kind of foresight.

Tamlin was not an interesting main character.  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.  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.

I REALLY disliked the info dump that happens when Fayruh goes back to Tamlin's estate and finds "Mrs. Pots."  I understand that 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 is not curious, and does 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 lasts 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?

Yay Fayruh...

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 problematic to me 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?

The only character that I liked was Lucian.  The story would have benefited from more Lucian.

Read the Synopsis on Goodreads:

Final Thoughts:  This felt more like Greek mythology retelling than Beauty and the Beast.  Specifically the myths of Psyche and Persephone.  Was anyone else bothered by the things I discussed in this review?  Was there anything else you were bothered by?

Thanks for reading!
A disappointed Manda