Have you ever read a book that resonated with you so much you wish you'd been the one to write it? That's what happened with the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy.
I was a little late to the party on this one. I bought ACOTAR because I found it on a list of beauty and the beast re-tellings on Goodreads (I'm a sucker for those!) but I have to admit, it sat on my bookcase for a long time before I picked it up.
But when I did, I didn't put it down until I'd finished it - then promptly ordered the other two.
*Spoilers ahead. Don't say I didn't warn you!*
I'll admit - It wasn't love at first chapter. I struggled to relate to the quiet, ruthless Feyre, despite realising early on that she was that way because of her need to protect her family. But as Feyre's character was revealed to me, slowly, over the course of the book, as I watched her grow and change, watched her react to the situations she was forced into, I grew to love her, to root for her, and to cheer for her.
As a writer myself, I know exactly how hard it is to create such vivid, well-rounded characters. To allow them to react in ways that are true to life, and human. Feyre has her strengths, but she also has her weaknesses, and Sarah J Maas not only gives Feyre simple, human flaws, but she has her suffer consequences because of them, address them head on, and grow as a person because of it.
And it wasn't just Feyre. Every character in the main story-arc was just as well rounded, just as realistic, as lifelike.
All except one.
I adored Tamlin, at first. He was the epitome of the white knight – her fairy-prince, rescuing Feyre and her family from the poverty, the misery, that her father had put them in, whisking her away to his Court of Eternal Spring and giving her everything she desired.
He was mysterious, brooding, gentle and kind. His beastly (remember the theme) side came courtesy of his shape-shifting abilities, and sexy-as-hell desire for Feyre. He even wore a mask - stuck to his face by an evil queen, of course - had a tragic backstory, and a wise-cracking side-kick. What could be more perfect than that?
But that is what I love about Sarah J Maas. She takes those fairy-tales - such well-loved, treasured stories of our childhood - and she flips them on their heads.
I didn’t even see it coming, it started so slowly. An odd turn of phrase here, a strange reaction there – but by the end of ACOTAR, everything about Tamlin disgusted me, from his simpering submission to the Queen, down to his inability to get off his arse and fight.
Even the fact that he loved Feyre as hard as he did couldn’t sway my hatred, as she endured pain and humiliation, trials and torment – and he did nothing. Not a single thing.
The control-freak aspect, I could have dealt with. It a flaw, but it’s real. The overbearing territorial protection, I could manage. It was his love for her, that made him this way. I could even cope with the fact that he did nothing to help her during the trials, knowing that he was under the Queens control, and she would have likely made it so much worse for all of them if he had.
But what I couldn’t deal with, was the fact that he got away with it.
By the end of the book, after Feyre had given up all she had, had suffered more than anyone ever should, after she had been healed, helped, and brought back to life by SOMEONE ELSE…
Feyre dropped into Tamlin’s arms, and all was forgiven.
I’m fairly certain I actually growled at this point, furious at the author, who had, up until that point, left me in awe. How could she do this? After everything we’d been through?
It was at that point that I placed a furious order to Amazon - each click of the mouse it took to have the next books shipped out, more angry than the last. I had to know how it played out.
Would Tamlin change his controlling ways, and begin the long journey to redemption he so needed? Would Feyre see him for the beast he truly was, and leave him for dust?
Or would that SOMEONE ELSE get involved, now his interesting new connection to Feyre could come into play?
I almost missed the first time Feyre met Rhysand. Almost chalked it up to a nameless face at a party.
Almost, but not quite.
There was something about Rhysand that left me intrigued - and more than the obvious bad-boy / dark-prince oozing sex-appeal that I always, ALWAYS fall for.
I don’t know if it was the fact that he saved Feyre from the things intending her harm, the fact that we didn’t discover his name, or the fact that the encounter was so brief, but when he turned up later on, I was thrilled.
He was the exact opposite to Tamlin, in every way. The things he put Feyre through under the mountain, the way he seemed to find amusement in her pain, made me … dislike him (not hate – he was far, far to sexy to hate.) But by the end, I was intrigued, if not enamoured.
Despite his insistence that everything he did to help Feyre was for his own gain, for his own release from the chains of Amarantha, I never quite believed him, never quite accepted that he truly felt nothing for Feyre, and found myself hoping that he would make Feyre honour the bargain she struck with him - that I would get to know more about this dark prince who left me so curious.
A Court of Mist and Fury was going to be an interesting read…