Here’s all you need to know about A Court of Thorns and Roses: it’s a high fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, it moves at a glacial pace, and it probably should not be considered YA.
First, I have to say that this book is an awful lot longer than it needs to be.
Sometimes you want a fantasy series to be sprawling and long just for the sake of it, just so that you can become immersed in that world and those characters. The problem I have with ACOTAR is that it has all the sprawling, needless length of epic fantasy but only about four characters. Feyre spends the entire book in about four locations, of which she sees very little. There was never anything to immerse myself in, just Feyre wandering around an empty manor trying to figure out things the reader already knows.
If it sounds like I was a little bored, that’s because, for the middle third of the book, I was. The primary villain was a bit of a snooze, and the Beauty and the Beast idea gives the reader a pretty good picture of how things will work out in the end. I was, however, fully engaged in the characters and relationships. Feyre is more interesting than she first appears, and the primary relationships (especially those involving the mysterious anti-villain Rhysand and the under-used Lucien) have left me wanting more.
Despite the fact that I was a little bored with much of it, ACOTAR gets three stars primarily because I’m so excited for the next book. While the main plotline has reached a resolution, the characters have been left in precarious positions that I expect will lead to some amusing and exciting drama in the next two books.
I’m a little surprised that this one gets shelved as YA. While Feyre is every inch your prototypical YA protagonist, the book has a muddy darkness that seems a little out-of-place for YA. More importantly, ACOTAR has the most explicit sex scenes I’ve ever seen in YA. These are not your typical teen book sex scenes that blur and fade and become abstract as soon as things become steamy. These are just sex scenes, and for that along I’d probably call ACOTAR New Adult lit. Besides those few scenes, there are regular occurrences of what Hollywood likes to call “adult themes” as well as a decent amount of swearing. Basically, this is not a book to give your eighth-grader, however precocious.
There’s a lot to be troubled by in this book, especially when it comes to the main romantic relationship. I’m going to get a little spoilerey here and tell you that at no point is this a healthy relationship. If you’re reading a Beauty and the Beast story, you have to be prepared for a certain amount of ick, but Tamlin crosses lines that he doesn’t need to for the story to work, and his aggressive, assault-ey treatment of Feyre is often treated as sexy and exciting by Feyre’s inner monologue. Normally, this would be the kind of thing that would sink a book in my estimation, but by the end of the book, I got the feeling that the problems in that relationship were going to be explored further, so I’m withholding judgement until I finish the trilogy.
All in all, ACOTAR was, about half the time, an engaging, surprising read. I’m definitely in for the next two books, if only to see if my reservations will be confirmed.