Audiobook Rant-View: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s (May 5, 2015)
Tiara’s Rating: 1 of 5 stars
This is awkward.
This book is problematic. Your fav is problematic.
Thanks for the term “rant-view,” Wendy. 😉
This contains spoilers, so turn back now if you plan to read this book or just don’t want to see me ranting.
Side Note to Parents: This book is published by a children’s line. This is ABSOLUTELY not for children, though. The following is an example of problems I’ve had on many sites. Notice that the age range for this kids section is 0-10. The second book in this series (along with many other YA series I wouldn’t allow my 7-year-old to read) are included in the kids section. So be vigilant, parents.
After hearing about Sarah Maas’ books from many people including friends and other bloggers, I figured I’d stop resisting and give one of her novels a try. However, I wanted to start with something different than the usual books I see everyone reading, which seems to be Throne of Glass. I picked this book up during an Audible sale and sort of let it bake on my TBR pile, but queued it up when my romance book club chose this as its read. I am ashamed to admit that I voted for as well.
While I had some issues with this book in the beginning, I thought it was well-written, and I liked that it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and the Ballad of Tam Lin (even the main male character is named Tamlin, get it?). I thought I could be forgiving, though. I pledged to be kinder to Young Adult (New Adult, whatever you want to call this trash) Fantasy books this year after all. Also, I loved Beauty and the Beast as a kid, and I thought I was getting this.
In fact, this book started out with that, but then it went downhill from there, especially around the last third of the book. I’m too agitated with this book to be bothered with summing this book up in my own words, so have a Goodreads description:
|When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.
I was about halfway into this book when I realized something.
Feyre begins this book with agency. She’s the daughter of a family that has squandered its fortune. Before her mother dies, a mother who couldn’t be bothered with her children, she makes Feyre promise to look after the remaining members of her family. Feyre was nine when she made this promise. She has an older sister, a younger sister, and a father, but her mother made a nine-year-old promise to take care of the family. It’s a promise that Feyre clings to ridiculously because promises mean something in this world, except we’re never actually shown anything that backs this claim up other than Feyre saying this. Anyway, to keep to this promise, Feyre learns to hunt and take care of her ungrateful family whose reasoning for being shit is they knew Feyre would take care of them. This life has made Feyre hard and cynical, and those were things I actually liked about her character. I won’t say that her agency is taken away from her completely during the course of the story, but it is crippled significantly by the direction Maas chooses to take with the love interests.
This book exemplifies all the issues that I have with romantic relationships in young adult fantasy books and why I tend to keep away from the genre. Up to the moment I read this book, the one of the worst love interests I’d encountered in this genre was Kerrick from Maria V. Snyder’s Touch of Power, and you know what? I still gave that book 3 stars. I gave a book that featured an Asshole Love Interest who starved the main female character, tied the main female character to a tree in the cold, and tried to walk the main female character to exhaustion 3 stars. I was pained to give this even 1 star. Think on that.
The Asshole Love Interest is one that I often struggle with in YA fantasy where I don’t struggle as much in other genres, even other YA books, because in this medium they’re often given excuses to act in the worst way possible and not actually atone for their actions. In fact, the main female character and readers are often asked to sympathize with these characters and their behavior, and this book took that to a very disturbing extreme. In general, I don’t have a problem with the Asshole Love Interest (I mean, I married my Asshole Love Interest, and we’ve been together 16 years), but there’s a fine line between being a sexy Asshole Love Interest and being a gross Asshole Love Interest. Tamlin is not the Asshole Love Interest of this book, even though he has his moments, and I was actually grateful for a relationship that seemed fairly healthy with a few hiccups because there’s not enough of those in books. It’s not until the introduction of another possible male love interest, Rhysand, that things go from a bit problematic at times to outright gross.
Feyre being slipped the equivalent of a date rape drug by Rhys and paraded around in see-through clothing (with a painted body nonetheless, so he can know when someone touches her) while being made to entertain Rhys in front of Tamlin is not okay. Keeping her drugged out of her mind for days is not okay. Being branded and robbed of her privacy is not okay. Being told that all the gross things she had to endure was a way of saving her and she should be grateful is not okay. None of this is okay, and it’s not sexy. And these are just a couple of examples. Tamlin is not excluded from gross behavior even though he was far less likely to engage in it. He seemed to have some issues with the word “no.” Thinking to herself that she does want Tamlin does not negate the verbal “no” she gives him during a scene after the rave party. He is not a mind reader, and “no” is not a negotiable phrase. The book coming from her point of view where she thinks she may enjoy some things while she absolutely despises others does not make any of this okay.
Aside from the date rape drug, there are hundreds of ways that Maas could’ve made some of these things actually “sexy with a hint of conflict” without writing them the way she did. There’s plenty of stories featuring similar things where consent works into the story without breaking whatever fantasy element she’s going for here. She does have plenty of sensual moments between Feyre/Tamlin and even a few between Feyre/Rhys, but the overall feel of this is just disgusting. To top it all off, Feyre isn’t allowed many avenues to express any genuine dissatisfaction with her treatment other than some throwaway statements here and that that she eventually bites back because BIG SCARY FAE PEOPLE, but yet she’ll ask a million mindless questions and not care if she pisses off the BIG SCARY FAE PEOPLE. Neither does any real remorse ever factor in. You know what a normal person would say to their tormentor if they told them they drugged them and treated them like a toy for their own good? “Get bent, you stupid son-of-a-bitch.” You know what Feyre says? She hugs the guy and thanks him or something. I can’t even. I won’t even with this series.
This book borders on sexual battery at the least. This is sexual abuse/misconduct no matter how you try to pretty it up as “sexy.” There’s a reason we continue to have open dialogue about problematic topics in literature such as this that seems to praise the kind of gross behavior that devalues its characters and readers. Am I saying that you have to stop reading your fav? No. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out your fav is being reprehensible instead of glorifying it or trying to ignore it happened. I’m not going to chew you out for your high ratings of this book because I have favs, too, that are problematic. Favs can be problematic, too. Just acknowledge it when they are. Don’t pretend it’s not happening or acknowledge it’s happening, but then turn into an apologist for the problems.
Compound all this with the fact that Maas pulled a total Twilight by having Feyre become a fae. She wasn’t good enough as a human, so let’s not allow her to be that anymore. This can only work if she’s fae, amirite? Any good feelings I had about the book were effectively decimated by the ending of the book. I’ll still concede that Maas has a way with words. The only truly good thing about this book, other than her way with words, was the narration, which I loved. Jennifer Ikeda’s reading is probably a huge reason why I didn’t just give this up around the 75% mark. Other than that, this book is the absolute worst when it could’ve been the absolute best thing I read this year.