In a land with segregated mortal and faery realms, 19-year-old Feyre hunts to supports her older sisters and their disabled father. When her materialistic mother died years ago, Feyre promised she would look after the family. She’s managed to keep her promise, even after the family had to move out of their manor house and into a small cottage due to financial trouble. On one of her hunts, Feyre kills a large wolf and later sells his pelt to a mercenary, bringing home a nice sack of money. The family’s success is short-lived, as a beast forces his way into their home later that night demanding retribution for the death of the wolf, who was his friend. Feyre and her family are terrified because the beast is a faerie, one of the magical beings who gave mortals a meager piece of land on the island the humans and fae inhabit, while the faeries rule over their own nation, Prythian. Legend and lore has painted Prythian and faeries as human-killing villains, though some humans still worship the High Fae as gods. The beast offers Feyre a choice to repay him for the life she took: death, or spending the rest of her days in Prythian. Feyre chooses the latter, hoping she’ll find a way to escape and return to her family.
When they reach the beast’s sprawling estate, he morphs from his beast form into his humanoid faerie form. Feyre learns his name is Tamlin, and meets his friend Lucien, and her own maid, Alis. All of the faeries wear masks (Alis, a bird; Lucien, a fox; Tamlin, golden leaves) due to a sickness that has held Prythian in its grip for nearly 50 years. Feyre is a reluctant houseguest, shocked she’s not being treated like a prisoner but still wary of her captor. He can force her to sit still and bind her when she poses a threat, but tells her she can spend her days however she pleases with the warning that danger awaits if she leaves the grounds of the estate. Feyre’s only interest lies in plotting her escape.
As time passes Feyre strikes up a friendship with her captors as she proves her mettle to them. Lucien and Tamlin have to intervene when Feyre’s adventurous nature puts her in danger in the faerie realm, but they grow to admire her courage. Feyre finds out the tales about faeries are falsified and exaggerated. Tamlin confides that he’s glamoured her family into thinking she’s nursing an elderly, rich aunt, and he has sent them money supposedly from their “sick aunt.” Knowing her family is well provided for and living comfortably, Feyre is finally able to stop obsessing over returning home and starts to soak in the environment of Tamlin’s estate. She devotes time to her painting hobby, explores the grounds of Tamlin’s estate, and even gets to see some beautiful parts of the faerie realm with Tamlin, who grows fond of her.
Just as Feyre is feeling more comfortable in Prythian, she finds not everything is as it seems. Tamlin has glamoured her sight so she can only see certain faeries because he didn’t want to frighten her when she first arrived. The “blight” affecting Prythian that curses its inhabitants with their masks is barely discussed around Feyre, and there seems to be much more to the story than what Feyre knows. There is an ever-looming threat to Tamlin and his court, as well as troubles in other faerie courts. Tamlin still has to take part in cultural faerie rites that could put Feyre in danger. Despite all the troubles around her, Feyre falls in love with Tamlin. As soon as she realizes her feelings, Tamlin hurriedly sends her back to her village for her own safety as threats against him begin to surmount. Will Feyre settle back into life in her village, or will the intrigues of Prythian and her love for Tamlin send her right back into danger?
A few years ago, I added a TON of fairy-tale retellings to my To Be Read list. I always loved fairy-tales and Disney princess movies as a kid and was interested in reading fleshed-out makeovers of these classic stories. I wound up being largely disappointed as the books turned out to be duller than a bootleg faux-Disney movie called Princess Frog. Even though I’d seen positive reactions to A Court of Thorns and Roses, I was hesitant to get my hopes up. I LOVE the cover art, which is another Kiss of Death for me when it comes to books. I should know at this point if I adore the cover of a book, it’s going to turn out to be total shit. Well, this time my fears were unfounded. I really enjoyed this retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It’s grittier and more dangerous than what Belle encounters at the Beast’s mansion, with villains so brutal they make Gaston look like a feminist’s dream husband.
The worldbuilding of Prythian and Feyre’s human village makes the divide between the two realms palpable. Feyre’s village is common and dull, whereas Prythian is mysterious and sparkling. However, you feel the danger that’s constantly warping the edges of Prythian’s idyllic veneer. The history of Prythian and human/faerie relations establish the circumstances allowing this story to take place, and the divisions between the faerie courts make for a multi-layered fantasy realm.
The characters each have a distinct voice, and I particularly enjoyed the icy friendship between independent, adventurous Feyre and languid, sarcastic Lucien. Clever barbs punctuate their conversations, connoting their hesitant respect for each other. Tamlin and Feyre’s romantic feelings take a while to develop as they slowly open up to each other, sharing their greatest fears and troubles with each other (well, as much as they can due to the curse put on Tamlin). It’s not a story of two hot people who are attracted to how hot the other person is. Feyre and Tamlin certainly are physically attracted to each other, but only develop emotions for each other when they are able to share their vulnerabilities. Feyre is a strong woman who has proven she doesn’t need a man, so when she falls in love with Tamlin she’s not falling for his strength and magic, but for his gentleness and kindness. Feyre’s independence and skill allow her to help Tamlin when he most needs it, and propels her through the action and intrigue of the last ten chapters of the novel.
A Court of Thorns and Roses melds together action, adventure, fantasy, and romance into a thrilling fairy-tale.
Rating: 4 out of 5 burgeoning love-hate triangles
2016 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Categories: A Book Based on a Fairy Tale