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BOOK REVIEW: A Court of Roses & Thorns - Sarah J. Maas

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sarah J Maas made her name when her first novel Throne of Glass, a heroic fantasy for young adults, became a runaway bestseller. She began writing the story when she was only sixteen and posted the first few chapters on FanFiction.Net, where its popularity encouraged her to try and find a publisher. Almost a dozen novels and novellas have followed, many making the New York Times bestseller lists with the series being optioned for a TV series. The story is said to be a loose retelling of Cinderella, with the premise that the heroine is not a down-beaten servant but a highly skilled assassin, who goes to the ball not in the hope of marrying the prince but with the intention of killing him.

A Court of Roses and Thorns is the first in a new series which takes ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as its starting point. I have studied this fairy-tale for some years, and written my own reimagining, and so I was interested to read what Sarah J. Maas did with it.

The story begins when 19-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the snowy woods. She suspects that it may be a shapeshifting faerie from the magical land across the borders, but kills it anyway as she hates the faeries. Then a beast-like creature storms into her house, demanding she pays for her crime. Feyre is taken back to the beast’s home – a huge mansion – where she is kept captive. Gradually, however, she comes to care for the beast (who is really an extremely handsome High Lord of the Fae) as he saves her – and she saves him - from various malevolent forces.

Sarah J. Maas’s writing is vivid and supple, and the world of the Fae is brilliantly evoked. The story is suspenseful and surprising too, with lots of interesting plot twists. My primary concern with the book is the high level of sexual violence. Both Tamlin (the hero) and Rhysand (the dark love complication) are the sort of brooding, dangerous, and overly forceful Alpha men that seem to be so beloved of certain romance novels of late. Their behaviour is controlling, jealous, and obsessive, and the heroine is often kissed, touched and manhandled against her will. I find this a very troubling trend in both fantasy and romance, and worry that young women will come to believe that such behaviour is not only acceptable, but desirable. 

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