Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses
Summary: Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
I had heard about this series a few times in the YA literary circles but hesitated to pick it up because I really couldn’t finish Maas’s Throne of Glass. While I was at my Barnes and Noble to pick up another book, I made a friend who highly recommended this book series after we’d bonded over our love for Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles. I bought the book on the spot and started reading it that night. I was surprised by the readability of this book. Before I knew it, I was one hundred pages in and could barely put the book down.
I’ll start with the characters. Most of the time, I feel as though YA heroines are rather insufferable. I find that they are false, pretending to be a hero when, in reality, they are dependent on the men around them. Feyre is very clearly her own person. She learns to hunt early on in order to protect her family who has fallen from grace. But, we learn very quickly that Feyre has one fatal weakness; she’s illiterate. What was most successful about Maas’s characterization of Feyre was that she is not falsely modest. She acknowledges that she has shortcomings but she does everything she can to overcome them. She also develops a questionable moral compass, which makes her fun to read. The whole story is based about a world that doesn’t exist and what makes Feyre’s story successful is that Feyre is truly relatable. She isn’t perfect but she fights for what she loves and overcomes her self-doubt, but that doesn’t mean she suddenly learns to read. These weaknesses don’t just magically disappear; they become a part of her that she learns to live with. This is especially apparent in her romance with Tamlin. Tamlin is a High Lord; he is seemingly better than her, yet, she comes to understand that he loves her despite feeling as though she is less than nothing. This is an element that is often overlooked in YA series because the author becomes obsessed with trying to make the heroine perfect; the point that an author should be trying to make is that nobody is perfect, but that doesn’t automatically mean that the heroine has to depend on a male. This is why Feyre’s portrayal ultimately struck me as very feminist.
Another big part of Feyre’s personality is that she is so wrapped up in taking care of others. There is a particularly moving scene between Feyre and Tamlin that highlights a theme that I think is important for many young readers: I found him carefully studying me, his lips in a thin line. “Has anyone ever taken care of you?” he asked quietly.
“No.” I’d long since stopped feeling sorry for myself about it. This spoke volumes about Feyre’s personality but also highlighted the idea of losing yourself in others. Feyre had nothing that was hers; everything she owned belonged to her family and therefore she became a slave to their needs. The irony is that when she goes to live with Tamlin, she finds more freedom in being away from her family than she ever did with them. This doesn’t mean that Feyre forgets her family, another realistic character trait. She is constantly worrying about them because she has never really known another way. Feyre doesn’t truly learn who she is until Tamlin shows her. This commentary on the power of love was effective because there are no restrictions. She is allowed to explore everything she’s truly passionate about which allows her to blossom (Which is fitting because she’s brought to the Spring Court, Spring being a common reference to growth)
Feyre and Tamlin’s relationship is another thing that made this story compelling. Their love is not overwhelming. It’s not an instantaneous love, though it is obvious. It’s moving because they both find themselves growing from it and they are equally devoted to each other, which is ultimately shown by the sacrifices they continue to make throughout the story. I also appreciated how even the power distribution between the two of them was. Feyre had her own quiet strength while Tamlin was the epitome of brute force. Despite this, they both fight for each other and there’s no expectations of each other. They just love each other.
On to the plotline. I read many criticisms of the slow moving plotline, but I’ll argue that for the first half (or so) this is primarily a story of two people falling in love. This doesn’t happen overnight, especially when Feyre was as distrustful of the Fae as she was portrayed to be. I think that Maas took her time to make the love story believable. It wouldn’t have worked if they had fallen in love at first sight because for what Feyre does for him in the latter half of the book, they had to be deeply in love. The second half of the book was also my favorite half and the half that prevented me from studying for my biology exam. Feyre is not well-read. I harp on this fact because if she was, the entire second half of the book would be reduced to a few pages. Feyre is brave and that’s why the second half of the book, all the way up to the conclusion (which is obvious if you listen (read?) to the words of the characters) is effective. She doesn’t remain strong throughout the whole thing, but she falls apart and then is reminded of what she’s fighting for. She wants to give up, but she doesn’t. This persistence makes her a good role model and brings across another theme: fight for what you love. If you read this, the story becomes much more adventure-driven in the second half of the book and provides for two redemption arcs (but I’ll let you guys figure out who).
There are many other characters in this book, which leads to my one criticism. Feyre and Armarantha (the antagonist: a power hungry symbol of a grief) are the two prominent women in this book. For such a feminist portrayal of Feyre, the rest of the female characters seem to come and go without much of an impact. Feyre’s sisters are meant to be catalysts for the story but I felt as though Maas didn’t set up the story for them to grow. Their personalities shift in Feyre’s mindset to demonstrate her growth, but Maas keeps them blind instead of providing them with some tangible role. I would’ve liked to see them around more, but I also understand that they served the purpose that Maas had envisioned. I do think that Feyre conveniently made friends with many attractive men, some (Lucien, Rhysand) of whom would have easily been women and had the same impact.
In conclusion, I find this book to be written for Feyre. It’s a love story to finding yourself even if it comes in the form of a fantastical novel. It’s also a testament to the power of the human mind, especially when it’s supposed to pale in comparison to the faeries. It’s a read that will captivate you and transport you to the Spring Courts, where maybe you’ll stumble upon a few horrifying creatures but ultimately will find yourself marveling at the blossoming of the world around you.
TLDR: A story that holds you within its pages while giving you Feyre’s bow, Lucien’s metal eye, and Tamlin’s claws so that you can follow the story as an extra in the story of one of the most brave and persistent heroines in YA literary circles.