Rating: ☕☕☕ (3/5)
Where do I even begin?
As someone who was not at all impressed by Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass, I was extremely reluctant to pick up this series, especially given the fact that it received the same amount of hype that Throne of Glass did–a book I did not enjoy at all. For this reason, I had very low expectations when my best friend forced me to read ACOTAR (you know you gotta read a book when your BFF says “read this book or friendship over”).
And well…surprise, surprise, I once again have the unpopular opinion.
The first thing that I want to mention is that this book is set in an incredibly beautiful world, and the way the writer portrayed this world and made this world come to life is beyond amazing. If you want to know what powerful world building is, then you should definitely read this book, if only to understand how it is done. World building is very important for any fantasy novel, but it’s rare for me to find a book where the writer so skillfully crafts the world that you can practically see this imaginary world right in front of you. Books transport you to different places, yes, but not all books can make you forget the reality you are living in the way A Court of Thorns and Roses can. And as someone who emphasizes a lot on world building in fantasy, the world of Prythian (the land of the faeries) is the only reason why I decided to finish this book and pick up the sequel.
Note how I stressed that the world building is the only reason why I am continuing with the series.
Now this is where I start ranting about all the things that I hated about this book. Lets start with what pissed me off the most: our supposedly badass, strong, female protagonist, Feyre.
Feyre suffers from what I am starting to call The Strong Female Syndrome. She has excellent surviving skills, she can fight like it’s no one’s business, she is funny, she is witty, she is observant, she looks after her family and is protective of them and would give up anything for them. She is also neglected and to an extent, emotionally abused by said family. But none of these things make me hate her. In fact, these are things that should have made me admire her, except for the fact that she is stereotyped (as many “strong females” are these days) by a few not-so-admirable things, the first of many, is her hypocrisy.
In the very beginning of the book, we see her resenting her eldest sister Nesta, for not caring about their crippled father. In the very next paragraph, we see her, Feyre, resenting her own crippled and traumatized father for not trying whatever he could do to look after them, to feed them or care for them. Now, I understand that someone who was forced to do dangerous, bone breaking tasks at the age of fourteen does have the right to be resentful about her situation and may even place blame on those who do not deserve it (it is not right, but it is understandable). But that’s not what I am pointing out here. I am pointing out the double standard when she accuses Nesta of being hearltess for hating their father for not looking after them, when Feyre herself does the same. And we see this hypocrisy several times in different circumstances throughout the book with different characters and different situations. I won’t include the examples in this review because this review is already nearly 1000 words, so instead them I’ll talk more about them in details in this Saturday’s Stray Thoughts post (a bi weekly discussion post feature), but bottom line is: I understand the need to make characters have one or more flaws, but these days majority of strong female leads have the exact same commendable qualities (silver tongue, sarcastic, great at combat) and the exact same imperfections (ill tempered, full of vitriol, punches first and asks questions later). It’s becoming a stereotype that needs to be broken, because people are multi-faceted. You do not have to fit yourself into a certain type of mold to be considered strong.
Now let’s move on to our supposedly oh-so-swoon-worthy love interest Tamlin. Majority of the readers who are done with the second book detest him, while those still reading the first book adore him and practically squeal whenever Chapter 27 comes up in coversation, but to be perfectly honest, while I didn’t hate Tamlin, his relationship with Feyre made me extremely uncomfortable. While I can’t say I noticed any abuse, his dominating behavior towards Feyre, coupled with the fact that Feyre was his prisoner and completely at his mercy, raised many red flags in my mind when they began their relationship. I couldn’t help but feel as though it was more Stockholm Syndrome than actual love, especially because there wasn’t any reason behind them falling in love, and that made me especially uncomfortable during some of the more intimate scenes between them. And while I have no problem seeing Stockholm Syndrome in a book, I do believe it is something that should be acknowledged as opposed to being treated as a normal love story.
Other than Feyre being annoying and the relationship in the book being problematic, there were many things in this book that I truly loved. The supporting characters, the cultures and customs of the Fae, the world of Prythian and ofcourse–our evil, hateful villain–all of them made reading this book fairly enjoyable but only after reaching the 70% mark. The final showdown between Feyre and the antagonist remains my favorite scene throughout the entire book and it almost made up for all the other things that this book lacked.
To put it simply: A Court of Thorns and Roses is a book worth giving a try, and I am definitely going to continue with the series because I am very intrigued by the plot and I want to see where Mass goes with it, but it’s really not worthy of all the hype it has received.