fantasy,  series

A Court of Thorns and Roses: The Series So Far (Spoiler Free!)

I was thinking about writing a review of the third book in the series, A Court of Wings and Ruin, but decided that was too niche and probably not overly helpful anyway. If you’ve read both of the first two books, it’s safe to assume that you’re invested and after the ending of the second, I can’t imagine not wanting to carry on. So instead, I figured I’d go for a few musings on my thoughts on the series so far.

The series is set in a fae world, Prythian, that sits alongside the human world, separated from it by a huge wall. Feyre lives in the human world with her father and two sisters, hunting for food so that they can survive the winter. During one hunting outing, she kills one of the fae in animal form and is swept away to Prythian by the High Lord of the Spring Court. The story that follows is a sprawling one that sees Feyre continuing to fight for survival as Prythian comes under threat and war breaks out.

So let’s start at the beginning. A Court of Thorns and Roses. A colleague leant it to me and said that although the first one was good, it was the second one where things really got going. Expectations appropriately managed, I flew through it. It isn’t perfect and it felt to me as though Sarah J. Maas had perhaps written it some time ago – the writing doesn’t flow quite as well as it does in Maas’ other books and it’s all a bit heavy-handed, especially when it comes to part that’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. For those flaws, it’s still very readable. If there’s one thing that Maas can do almost without fail, it’s write stories that I just want to be reading all of the time. The last third of this one in particular I devoured. I know that some readers find the romantic relationship at the centre of the book problematic and if that’s put you off the series, or if you didn’t like the fairytale retelling element, the next book is so much better and definitely worth giving a shot if you’re on the fence.

It was only a few weeks later that I picked up A Court of Mist and Fury and it’s so bloody good. It’s a fairly chunky book and I read most of it over the space of one weekend. I couldn’t put it down. There are new characters that I loved and the world that the first book hints at is fleshed out, with Feyre travelling to more of the Courts and meeting more of the High Lords. It’s all done gradually and the unravelling of the overarching story arc is well paced. Feyre grows as a character and I loved how the book showed Feyre dealing with the emotional effects from the events of the first book. Too many fantasy series just have their characters go through what would clearly be quite traumatic events only to come out the other side absolutely fine with it all. It doesn’t suffer from ‘Second Book Syndrome’ and it’s a really solid book. One of my favourite books of this year, actually, and nearly a five star read. It would have been five stars for me if there had been slightly less romance but that’s just personal preference. The ending in particular was a real gut punch – I was so invested in it and I went through a whole host of emotions. It was intense and frankly exhausting in a way that I still remember a few months on.

Having just finished the third book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, my enthusiasm waned a little bit in the middle, only to rally towards the end. The tensions in Prythian continue to build and there are huge battles (too many battles for me personally but there you go…) and world changing events but it all feels too drawn out. There are two battles, for example, that span many, many pages and feel very similar. One could have been cut and the book wouldn’t really have lost anything other than some paper. I enjoyed it (and did do some weeping over the ending, prompting an amused/slightly baffled look from my husband) but it took me nearly a month to get through its 700ish pages and towards the end I was bored of it being the book that I was reading. Not bored of reading it, just feeling as though I’d been reading it too long, if that makes sense? Anyway, overall it’s still got plenty that’s good about it and there are some stand out twisty moments but it needed much more editing. I’ve grumbled many times over the fact that what was originally marketed as a trilogy at some point shifted to a “series” but thankfully, this book actually has wrapped up the main plot of the first three. I think my expectation that the threads of the plot would be left loose and dangling at the end of this book actually detracted from my enjoyment; I was annoyed at the events that I felt dawdled because I was convinced that it was just wasting time and filling pages in a story that was supposed to be a trilogy, damn it! I’d even pre-written a ranty paragraph to go into this post when I had about 175 pages to go because I couldn’t see how everything could conclude and I predicted a great, annoying cliffhanger. I was wrong. Over the last three years, I’ve read 9 books written by Sarah J. Maas and this is the first time that I’ve read anything approaching an ending from her. I’m not a huge fan of all of the parts of the ending but there were some that were brilliant and it was an ending so I’ll take that! Enjoy this knowing that you have that coming up.

In May 2018, a “point 5” instalment is released, with book 4 following in 2019 and 5 and 6 presumably coming in 2020 and 2021. I’ll be honest, at this point it feels like Maas is pushing out books to meet a publishing timetable but at least I’ll be picking up the next ones when I want to and not in a resigned way because I feel like I have to drag myself towards any kind of resolution. So do I recommend reading the Court of Thorns and Roses series? Even with my disgruntlement with the third book, yes, I do. There’s enough about it that’s brilliant for me to set aside my grumbling. Apart from some of the last one, they’re absolute page-turners. The characters are particularly wonderful and it’s got just enough darkness that the at times sickly sweet romantic storylines are tempered and don’t become overwhelmingly irritating. And it will give you a pay back that so far the Throne of Glass series is denying us faithful readers by actually concluding stuff. Hurrah indeed.