So you’re considering picking up the fantasy series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, but you aren’t sure what to expect. I’m sharing my totally honest thoughts.
I’ll admit, I feel a little ballsy as I post this article. The fandom for this particular series is incredibly strong and I received a lot of poking and prodding from the bookstagram community when I first joined because I made it clear that I hadn’t read all the books. I will state right now that I have read the first novel three times. And I hate it. But please, don’t click off this page quite yet (even if you’re a massive Maas fan). I have a lot more to say about these books and I’d like for everyone – Feysand lovers and ACOTAR newbies alike – to read this.
With the release of A Court of Silver Flames in 2021, I felt it was appropriate to share this particular article. It was a new direction and yet my opinions of the series remain the same. Let me tell you why…
Let’s start at the beginning (a proper place to start, eh?)
Before getting into my personal opinions, I think you should know that the trigger/content warning is as follows for the entire series: domestic, sexual, emotional, and physical abuse, PTSD, anxiety, depression, graphic sexual sequences, little-to-no diversity, graphic violence, and death. In addition, there will be *SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*.
I picked up A Court of Thorns and Roses for the first time not long after its release in 2015. After reading Wicked Lovely and The Iron Fey, along with plenty of other faerie stories, I was really looking forward to something new and different. The author had already grown increasingly popular because of Throne of Glass and I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I started the book with an open mind and it took extreme effort to even complete it.
We’re introduced to our protagonist, Feyre (pronounced “fay-ruh”), a less-than-exciting teenager with a horrible home life who gets pulled into a fantastical world she didn’t ask to join. It is absolutely a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but without a creative spin at all (unless you consider sex “creative”). Her captor (and savior?), Tamlin, is a beast in every sense of the word, but you get the feeling that there’s more to him than meets the eye – just not in a good way. Their relationship is as toxic as it gets. It’s the ultimate definition of “bully love” and it makes me cringe just thinking about it.
By the end of the book, we’ve met Rhysand, a total jackass and playboy who sexualizes and abuses Feyre – while somehow still saving her from ultimate demise. The story ends with you thinking you might like Tamlin and hate Rhysand. Meanwhile, our “leading lady,” Feyre, is a limp noodle who mostly lets everyone else do the work for her. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, there’s plenty of really graphic sexual content throughout the book. This series should never have been categorized as young adult. Though it is now considered an adult novel, I will continue to yell from the rooftops that this series is not acceptable if you are under 18 years old. The primary reason for that is the fact that it portrays romance that is not healthy in any way and as someone who personally walked through more than one abusive relationship, I can see all the tells in this book that make it seem “romantic” even though it is full of toxicity.
A couple of years later, I attempted to read the book again, thinking maybe with time and maturity, I would enjoy it more. I didn’t even finish it. After that, I pretty much just resigned myself to not liking the series and not having any desire to continue. What’s the point of reading more books if the first one was that awful? However, when I joined bookstagram and realized it was the number one fandom, I knew I had to at least attempt to read it again in order to see what the hype was all about. It was like nails on a chalkboard trying to get through that first book again. I didn’t think it was possible to hate it more, but I did.
Then I reached A Court of Mist and Fury. At this point, I pretty much expected to loathe ACOMAF. I heard it was even more smutty than the first book (like, how was that even possible?) and assumed that was the primary reason others enjoyed it. Well, I was wrong. Not about the smut, there was plenty of it towards the end of the book, but about the content being pointless. This was where my opinions waver.
Rather than finding myself angry with Feyre and even more frustrated with Tamlin and Rhysand, we got some serious character development in this book. It’s confirmed that Tamlin really is horrible in every way, shape, and form. However, Rhysand was apparently faking his jackass/playboy lifestyle and he’s actually a “decent person.” (There’s a reason for those quotations). He rescues Feyre from her abusive relationship and helps her work through PTSD and severe anxiety due to what she encountered in the first book. What completely baffled me was how we were just supposed to move on from the fact that he sexually and emotionally abused her for an extended period of time! Yes, I get that he “isn’t really a bad guy” but it still didn’t give him a single right to treat Feyre in that way – no matter how important his cover was. It gives the impression that it’s alright for someone to be abusive if they’re doing it for a “good reason.” This is hands down the number one reason I will never recommend this series – even if I did enjoy one book out of five.
Ultimately, Feyre grows to be a stronger woman and by the end of the book, she became a character I didn’t hate. She maintains her newfound strength through the following book, A Court of Wings and Ruin. If we’re looking past my previous marks against the story, there is one thing to note about Rhysand and Feyre’s relationship that most people dislike and I actually appreciated. Some may find it frustrating that a lot of her character progression is due to Rhys holding her up. However, from the standpoint of someone who has severe anxiety and PTSD (along with several other mental health challenges and a past in sexual abuse), having someone by your side, boosting you up, but also not coddling you, is super important. I felt as though that’s exactly how their relationship functioned in ACOMAF and I appreciated it.
As we moved on to A Court of Wings and Ruin, we get more time with the secondary characters. Up until this point, they really were just that: secondary. In this novel, they became necessary. I will say that while this book moved at a bit of a slower pace, it did a good job working its way up to an emotional climax with a too-perfect ending.
Now I need to be brutally honest: I hate Nesta. She’s Feyre’s sister who was turned Fae against her will. She’s bitter and resentful and absolutely horrible to Feyre and literally everyone else. She always has been, even prior to being changed without permission (which is often why she’s given a free pass on being a completely abusive b*tch). She treats everyone terribly, and honestly, she has zero excuses (Feyre could have been just as cruel, after everything she went through). Nesta carries this attitude on into the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I truly cannot stand her.
In fact, for those who have experienced familial or emotional abuse, I want to extend a warning: She is the main character in this new extension of the series and while I hoped she would have a great character arc at some point, after reading A Court of Silver Flames I can confirm that I still hate Nesta and that, if anything, I became entirely more frustrated with this series after finishing the newest novel. She’s truly wicked and the writing makes it appear as though we should be sorry for her, rather than finding her behavior abhorrent.
I clearly think this series comes with a lot of promise, and it is very entertaining as a whole, but there are also some seriously problematic themes without a single content warning. So, before you dive head-first into A Court of Thorns and Roses, please be aware of this.