I’ve been talking about these books since I started reading A Court of Thorns and Roses back in April/May. I’ve now successfully read the full series twice, and listened to the audiobooks for all three over countless hours at work. I feel as though I’ve had enough time to stew over just what has me so obsessed with these books and why you should be too! With three more full-length, spin-off books coming, and two novellas, I’m going to get this out of the way so that I can talk spoilers and theories soon. This book has replaced my top three spots in my top ten books of all time list and I’m so happy to finally share my end of series thoughts with you.
For background, before I deep dive into my thoughts, I’m going to give the book descriptions with publication date and cover so that if you decide to read these yourself you’ll have some information to guide you on your journey. As always, I recommend reading these yourself before you read past the first book description, or any of my related material on the topic. I would hate for you to be spoiled on such a brilliant series. If you’ve read the books and you’d like to read my individual reviews for all three, you’ll be able to find those attached to each book description.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR #1)
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.
Review for A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR #1) can be found here.
A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR #2)
Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.
With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.
Review for A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR #2) can be found here.
A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOTAR #3)
A nightmare, I’d told Tamlin. I was the nightmare.
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.
Review for A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOTAR #3) can be found here.
All three books will be covered below, but before I get to that I’d like to offer a warning. If you, the reader, struggles with mature content, sexual abuse, or abusive relationships, this is the time to leave as I’ll be discussing all of these things and how they impacted my opinions on the trilogy.
When I picked A Court of Thorns and Roses up for the first time, it was not at all what I had anticipated. I had been told, on good authority, that this was strictly a Beauty and the Beast retelling. It turned out to be much, much more. There is so much depth and perspective in these books, on all manner of mature topics. So much so, that I was surprised that this book had been placed in the Young Adult section. And that it continues to be placed there shocks me. It is very New Adult, and covers mature themes that I’m not sure I would have understood as someone emerging into Young Adult as a thirteen or fourteen year old. For those of you who don’t know, “New Adult” is the sub-category being given to books where the targeted audience is 18-30. Most of the time, the characters in these novels often reflect the age of the intended audience, and the content delivered in the book is meant for a more mature audience.
Fantasy is my preferred genre, as I like an escape from my everyday life. High Fantasy is my poison of choice, and this delivered everything I would expect of an Adult Fiction Fantasy book. Sarah J. Maas’s writing reminds me of Tolkien or George R. R. Martin. ACOTAR specifically has a very Game of Thrones aspect to it. To have a High Fantasy book with an incredibly strong female lead, who is portrayed as imperfect and flawed but a born leader, was fantastic. A female character partnered with a male character who is a feminist! What a win for High Fantasy!
The first thing I noticed about the series was that it was written like a book for adults. In Young Adult fiction, authors (not all, but a great many) tend to “write down” for the assumed intelligence of their readers. They have loose language, sub-par plots, and often relationships that are unhealthy. Sarah J. Maas has worked beautifully to make sure that no such thing happens in her books. The audience is treated like mature adults, who have a complex understanding of relationships, consent, and abusive situations. She also writes characters as she intends them to be seen. You don’t lust after the abuser; instead, you hope that character gets the help they need.
The first issue that is dealt with phenomenally is poverty. Feyre, our leading lady, was born into a wealthy family who eventually fell from grace. She, her sisters, and her father have been living in poverty ever since and Feyre is the sole provider for her family. It was wonderful to see this play out in a book, as in most real life cases, poverty is thrust upon the poor by unfortunate circumstance or being directly born into poverty. Feyre is a unique case in that most people who live below the wall have always been poor, as a result of being freed from slavery and the war that followed, resulting in a mass exodus from the area above the wall. The humans, in this world, were refugees who countless generations later are still dealing with the aftermath of a conflict.
The book also deals with the imprisonment and likelihood of people in these situations to get dragged into other unfortunate situations, due to their poverty. Feyre kills a wolf to feed and cloth her family. As retribution for this act, Feyre is removed from her family and taken across the wall, leaving her family to starve. The fact that this happened with someone in a low to no-income situation, who also happened to be female, very much echoes modern day situations seen across the globe. She continues to be put through these situations until an opportunity to help her family and move into a different economic class-status changes her chances in life.
In addition to this Feyre also experienced verbal abuse and isolation from the rest of her family after she became the primary caregiver, as they believed she thought she was above them. So when Feyre enters an unhealthy situation, where she will accept any once of affection thrown her way, she took it. And the reader was made aware from the very beginning that this wasn’t healthy. Abuse in a relationship is rarely portrayed well in a Young Adult themed book; Twilight being the perfect example of how not to portray a relationship that is terribly abusive. When Feyre’s partner has uncontrollable fits of rage, we all acknowledge and feel that she is in an abusive relationship and that she isn’t safe. By the time books one and two are finished, readers (especially those in their teens) should be able to recognize an abusive relationship.
Amazingly, this book also teaches teenage/young adult readers about talking to someone about their abusive experience and how to support those experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. In book two, Feyre is surrounded by a group of people who can recognize abuse from personal experience. First, they leave her to sort through her emotions. Then they slowly start to approach her about changing her own habits to healthier alternatives. And when she finally came to them about what was happening, they automatically came to her rescue and cared for her, actively listening and engaging in her story. When Feyre is confined by said abusive partner, this group of people went above and beyond to free her from her confinement. Sarah J. Maas did a superb job in portraying an abusive situation (an unhealthy, dangerous relationship) to young readers, and showing them how to actively combat it, and to help friends or loved ones who had experienced such things themselves.
A huge theme of the books is consent. Consent being permission for something to happen or to do something. I absolutely love that Maas uses two different relationships to compare what active consent should look like. The sexual content in these novels shocked me the first time I picked them up, and now I’m glad for that sexual content. This may sound strange as these books, which have graphic sexual content, are in the Young Adult section in most bookstores. However, there are huge advantages to having them placed here and having teenagers read them. First, most young people don’t understand the concept of consent. We as a society have failed to ensure that all people are taught consent practices and how to know when a situation was not consented to.
When Feyre is with her abusive partner, he doesn’t notice her PTSD. He locks her away and confines her, which is one of her PTSD triggers. He uses her sexually, and she assumed that because he did these things he loved her. When Feyre is with her healthy relationship, he constantly asks her if she is okay. He constantly tells her that if she doesn’t want something (at any point) she can change her mind, or stop. He reassures her daily that she has the right to say no and that no one will oppose her choice. Reading these two situations side-by-side, teenagers and young adults will hopefully gain an understanding (if they do not have one already) of what a healthy, consenting relationship looks like.
Additionally, there is a male character who experienced sexual abuse and sexual slavery. It’s not spoken about often enough that men experience sexual abuse and sex slavery almost as commonly as women. I thought that this topic was handled responsibly and with empathy. I’ve never read a book where this situation was represented and I was happy to finally see the issue getting the YA Fantasy spotlight it needed. There are several main characters who are male who have been abused, and stories like these which normalize men being able to have conversations about their abuse benefit us all.
The trilogy also has amazing Queer representation! I saw many people angry about this topic on Goodreads, which is one of the reasons I picked this series up originally. At first there was the complaint that Sarah J. Maas didn’t write enough diversity into her books, and when she did the complaint was that she was doing it wrong. I wholeheartedly disagree. One of the main characters is a Lesbian but the reader doesn’t find out until the back half of the last book. I’ve seen several people argue that this was her bending to readers demands, but I would instead argue that she treated said character as a normal person. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been friends with someone for years and they’ve told me that their sexuality was Queer orientated 5-10 years into our friendship. “Coming out” in ones own time is entirely subjective. For one person it might take no time at all to come out to their family, while for another it could take decades. I thought that this was a really accurate representation Queer coming out’s, and relationships between straight and queer people.
Due to the fact that this series deals with a variety of mature and diverse topics, and that it’s marketed for Young Adults, made it a sure-fire for my top ten list. When authors speak to their audiences maturely and responsibly, we all win. The fact that Sarah J. Maas wrote a series of books that are High Fantasy, with a wealth of diverse situations and perspectives, is such a blessing. We needed a book like this in the genre, specifically one aimed towards Young Adults. While this book series could have been my favourite purely based on writing, world-building or plot, I loved the fact that Sarah J. Maas used diverse and non-normalized subplots to move the story forward. Conversations about abuse, consent, sex and sexual identity are so important in todays society and in the age group these books are targeted to. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a beautiful series, which needs to be devoured by anyone who can get their hands on it.
Series Rating: 10/10