Hello! Welcome to my first blog post of 2017. Let me start by saying I will be slowly implementing some changes to The Fourth Month by focussing on the kind of content you really want to read. Right now, I split my blog into three parts: books, food and lifestyle. Lifestyle mostly focuses on shopping independent and cruelty-free. By having such diverse topics and not having a “niche”, I fear that I’m isolating some of you so I’m hoping to change that. I also felt because my topic range was wide, I’ve been finding it difficult to sit down and write blog posts. If you have any comments or ideas, I would love to hear them. Like I said, this will be a slow change (I can barely find the time or energy to write a post) so don’t worry.
Now that’s out of the way, this is my review for the incredibly popular A Court of Thorns and Roses by the formidable author, Sarah J Maas. I apologise for any spoilers – be warned!
Sarah J Maas has become an entity in herself. The blonde bombshell has captured the hearts of Young Adult readers all over the world and, as always, I was slightly reluctant to give into the hype that was everywhere by actually reading one of her books. I finally bought ACOTAR in summer but didn’t actually get round to reading it until November. I was lucky enough to do a placement at Scottish Book Trust where I edited Author’s Confessions videos including about twenty minutes of footage from Sarah J Maas herself (check out the video here) so I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. When I did, I quickly learned that Maas’ writing is as addictive as people say it is but more than slightly problematic. Nevertheless, I engulfed it as quickly as I could whilst juggling university deadlines.
Firstly, I want to get the problems out of the way. I can’t really talk about this book without acknowledging the issues. The issue of domestic and sexual abuse in ACOTAR simply cannot and should not be ignored just because Rhysland is pretty delicious. Yes, Maas tries to explain away Rhysland’s horrific behaviour towards Feyre but the arm-breaking, drugging and lap-dancing just crosses a line and quickly becomes a little too 50 shades for my taste.
Also, in a world with faeries and sexy men with bat wings, is it unreasonable to expect a little range in colour, gender or sexuality? I don’t think so. There’s also the issue of cliches and tropes. Female protagonist? Check! Love triangle? Check! Dystopian fantasy? Check! I also really didn’t like how quickly Feyre falls in love with Tamlin without justification. They go from 0 to 100 very quickly.
Having said all of this, I did enjoy reading ACOTAR. Sarah J Maas has a talent for world-building and storytelling. I don’t typically read fantasy but I absolutely adored diving into the world of Prythian. I fell in love with the magical realms and its creatures. The descriptions of its creatures are intoxicating; you can really visualise the world that Feyre inhabits. As someone who has written fantasy in the past, I’m envious of Maas’ ability to build such rich worlds.
I’m also a big fan of fairytale retellings. This is by no means Angela Carter but I do think Maas puts a unique spin on the story of Beauty and the Beast. It takes on a life of its own and Feyre is anything but a humble and quiet ‘beauty.’ I guess it is important to remember that this is a retelling of a traditional fairytale because it helps understand the themes of kidnapping and abduction…
I mentioned Rhysland’s flaws but I do think he is one of the biggest draws to this series. I had heard about him, and seen some interesting illustrations, long before I even picked up the book so I was nervously awaiting my first encounter with him. I didn’t fall in love with Tamlin, he is a typical Beast character: arrogant and suffocating. Rhysland is arrogant too but I knew as soon as he arrived on the scene that he would provide both the comic relief and the sex appeal. His one-liners often made me laugh out loud and his antagonism but his clear attraction to Feyre from the beginning keeps you hanging on to watch their relationship unfold.
Compared to most YA protagonists, I liked Feyre. She is headstrong and very loyal to her family (although she doesn’t really seem to struggle with abandoning them to live a life of luxury with Tamlin). She also can’t read. Her illiteracy gives her a vulnerability and a tangibility that many YA protagonists don’t possess. I liked that she was intelligent and tenacious without having read Tolstoy or Dickens; it was refreshing. In terms of female characters, Feyre’s sister Nesta is probably my favourite from ACOTAR. She’s hot-headed and tempestuous but unexpectedly fights for her sister in the end.
Overall, yes, ACOTAR seems to divide the Young Adult community because of its troublesome Beauty and the Beast tropes (Stockholm Syndrome and a lot of sexual violence) Ultimately, Maas has created a rich and exciting world full of powerful and mysterious characters who will have you wincing sometimes and in awe at others. I’ve been reading ACOMAF on and off since I finished A Court of Thorns and Roses but I just can’t get my teeth into it. Am I missing something?