As the title suggests, this is the SPOILER rant review of A Court of Thorns and Roses. Therefore, if you have not read this book or just don’t have time to put up with my extensive ramblings, I suggest you go to my shorter NON-SPOILER review here.
Also, if you have read this book and loved it, I might also suggest you leave, because man, am I going to town on this book today. You have been forewarned. 🙂
Time to spill the tea. What did I dislike about this book?
Aggravating thing #1: Over-the-top prose.
First off, Sarah J. Maas’ writing is incredibly hyperbolic. I often use this term to describe unnecessarily dramatic narratives, but in this case, I mean the writing itself is literally hyperbolic: commas and dashes are used excessively as the author seems incapable of stringing a coherent sentence together, and most of these sentences are run-ons in order to make it seem like something dramatic is building up when it actually is not.
Furthermore, this book lacks sentence variety. I kid you not, you can open up to any page in this book and nearly ever other sentence will be a dramatic action or reaction. “I gasped.” “I clutched my heart.” “He smirked.” “My gut dropped.” “His eyes flickered.” “I moaned.” “I looked away.” The writing lacks subtlety, and if people were to behave this way in real life, they would look ridiculous as they’d be twitching all the time.
Verdict: Poor pacing, choppy phrasing, lack of sentence variety, an excess of run-ons. All crutches of an incompetent writer, and it was suffocating to read.
Lazy thing #2: Fuzzy plot and world-building.
I was aware going in that this was going to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but I got more Twilight vibes than anything else. Bestial love interest arrives in the nick of time to rescue a helpless heroine, heroine offers herself up to the villain to get bashed up in the process, she sheds her humanity and becomes immortal in the end, etcetera.
Now if this plot had been supported by any original elements, I would not have minded such familiar tropes. However, the world-building is vague and lazy, the plot meandered for the first 75% of this book, and there were so many ex-machinas that I was yawning.
Verdict: There are very few stakes or tension to this book contrary to what the hyperbolic prose and reactions of these characters are telling you, and I found it very difficult to visualize these settings beyond a few fuzzy, minimal details.
Annoying thing #3: Is Feyre arrogant, stupid, or suicidal?
All of the above. Feyre sees her father in the dead of night through the window, then follows him outside without any regard for the fact it might be a trick. Then immediately after being told not to go chasing after this all-knowing monster that no one’s managed to catch before (they all got shredded in the attempt), Feyre is arrogant enough to believe she can be the one to catch it. Which she does. Somehow. Ex-machina alert.
Also, Feyre is bewilderingly resistant to any modicum of wisdom or advice people have for her, and it got to the point where she was fighting everything: Tamlin would ask her politely to sit down, she’d cling to the walls. He’d ask her not to do something that’s dangerous, she’d go ahead and do it. Feyre refused to listen to anyone.
Verdict: Feyre came off looking stupid. Not because she throws herself into danger all the time, but because she never reflects on her mistakes. She blatantly disregards words of advice, and such arrogance was incredibly unattractive to me.
Sketchy thing #3: What the heck is Tamlin all about?
Many seem to regard Tamlin as this abusive rapist, but he never took it that far in my opinion. My issue with him is the fact that he never acknowledged Feyre’s suffering Under the Mountain. The first time that they see each other again, he has on this poker face as though he’s been brainwashed, yet he’s able to show initiative when he later tries to have sex with her. I don’t understand why he’s so blase about Feyre being in this degrading situation if he had the free will to at the very least protest it; it’s only after that she dies that he finds the rage in him to kill the villain, and that is RIDICULOUS.
Also, let’s talk about Tamlin’s questionable plan in the first place. He sits back for nearly 50 years, not doing a thing to get a human girl to come and live with him, yet his plan is for a servant to get killed on his behalf so he can come and claim the girl who shot him? Wow, such disregard for people who work for him…this was sketchy as hell.
Verdict: I don’t get Tamlin. Did the author actually intend for this guy to appear so stiff, wishy-washy, and manipulative? What in the world befuddled Feyre to go crazy over him? (Cough, Stockholm Syndrome! Cough, hormones!)
Ex-machina thing #4: The villain’s laughable incompetency.
The villain offers a riddle to Feyre that will free her if she solves it, but right from the first line of the riddle, it took me less than half a second to guess the answer: it was ridiculously obvious and cheesy to the point that it simply made me laugh.
Also, ex-machinas. There is a point in this book where the villain mistakes a girl (Claire) for Feyre and burns her alive, yet when the real Feyre arrives in front of her, the villain suddenly decides to give Feyre a sporting chance, and it made no sense. The villain had won everything at this point (power, Tamlin, etc.), so for her to put everything on the line with no payout whatsoever was one of this book’s greatest ex-machinas for me.
Not to mention, why the huge time gap between tasks? Didn’t the villain want to resolve this quickly? Did she want to give Feyre time to recover? Or was it just so we could squeeze another few sexually degrading scenarios out of Feyre? (Probably that.)
Verdict: You can see the hand of the author virtually paving the way for Feyre to succeed in this book. There is always a loophole or hot dude swooping in to save Feyre at the last minute, and never once did I feel fearful for her plight.
Cringeworthy thing #5: Let’s talk sex scenes.
“A brush of his tongue against the seam of my lips had me opening fully for him, and he swept in, claiming me, branding me.”
Now the one thing I respected about Feyre’s character was that she was sexually independent. She has casual sex in order to vent her frustrations, and I appreciated the message that girls shouldn’t feel ashamed about being in control of their sexuality.
Unfortunately, the portrayal of Tamlin and Feyre’s territorial dynamic largely negated this message for me. Role-playing a dominant-passive dynamic is perfectly acceptable in a consensual relationship, yet sentences like, “Tamlin growled his approval” during Feyre’s throes of passion or laying claim to her pleasure seemed counterproductive to the author’s attempt to make Feyre a sexually independent character.
Verdict: Feyre is presented as this strong and independent heroine, but something always manages to contradict it. Not to mention, the sex scenes are so ridiculously over-the-top, they could’ve fit right into a soft-core erotica slash porn.
Confusing thing #6: Oh, that oh-so-lovely mating ritual scene. Did Tamlin sexually assault Feyre, or was she baiting him?
“He brought his lips to my ear. “I would have been gentle with you, though.” I shuddered as I closed my eyes. Every inch of my body went taut as his words echoed through me. “I would have had you moaning my name throughout it all. And I would have taken a very, very long time, Feyre.”
Let’s face it. Feyre was very hot and bothered by whom Tamlin was having sex with before immediately leaving the safety of her room despite explicit warnings to stay locked in that night, and this is one of the more serious subtext issues in this book: it looks like Feyre rationalized her reasons for leaving the safety of her room as “wanting to get a cookie” when in reality, she wanted a coy excuse to get laid by Tamlin.
Also, talk about mixed messages. Feyre moaning in ecstasy and rubbing up on Tamlin while he was “sexually assaulting” her? Sorry, but people do NOT get horny when they’re being subjected to unwilling groping, so it makes me hesitant to label this as sexual assault when Feyre arguably was enjoying the scenario (as screwed up as it was).
On the other hand, Tamlin had verbal indication from Feyre to back off. One could argue that he was under the influence of the ritual here, but considering that he had the consciousness to pull back with a warning that Feyre should heed his instructions next time, there was no excuse: Feyre might’ve secretly been enjoying his forcefulness, but Tamlin had no verbal indication of this, so he technically did sexually assault her.
Verdict: I feel like this scene can be argued as sexual assault, but also not, and that ambiguity makes me angry. The author is propagating the misconception that sexual assault is a gray area while making Feyre look like she was sending mixed signals as an excuse to get jumped by Tamlin, and that is problematic af.
Degrading thing #7: Rhy being a creep by drugging Feyre and taking advantage of her while she’s high. Ew, ew, ew.
Now this last point is something that is more of a contents issue rather than a technical issue, but I do feel compelled to include it here because Rhys forcing Feyre to take drugs, dressing her in skimpy clothing, painting her entire body, then parading her around like a hunk of meat to be ogled at actually made me feel rather sick to my stomach.
I mean, yes, one can argue that Feyre being taken advantage of is a realistic portrayal of this cruel world, but to me, it just felt like the author was trying to create more excuses to have Feyre sexually interact with more men for no good reason, and it felt gratuitous.
Verdict: The author constantly shoves Feyre into sexually degrading scenarios, and for a book that touts female badassery, it sure likes to humiliate and bring down a strong girl to where she’s eye candy for men and meat for them to conquer.
Bottom line: It’s soooo tone-deaf.
Most of this book’s plot is driven by the fact that the author has no idea what a strong heroine should entail. Sure, a girl should be confident, but that should not equate to being passive-aggressive or arrogant: Feyre behaves as though being self-sufficient means she has the right not to grow from her mistakes, and that really frustrated me.
Also, the most sexually degrading scenes in this book are so non-committal to portraying how horrible they are that it leads me to believe the author is writing with the intention of wish fulfillment, a fantasization slash romanticization of erotica. None of these characters are realistic in any way, and thus it was impossible for me to hold any of these problematic factors to a standard where I could even begin a serious discussion about it.
Simply put, this book is so laughably incompetent, I couldn’t take it seriously. *mic drop*
***Ahem, hi. Thanks for reading. I’ve snapped out of my rage blogging now, so if you were by any chance offended by this review…don’t kill me. 😛 I respect people enjoyment of books, and if you liked this one, I don’t blame you. It’s very addicting, and I inhale-read it too.
***Also to be fair, I did like Lucien and Nesta. They seemed more realistic and nuanced than the rest, and I found myself being able to breathe whenever they entered the scene.
***Lastly, my review of ACOMAF is coming pretty soon, so…hold on to your knickers.