Tag Archives: fairytales

A Court of Thorns and Roses–series review

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I’ve been reading Sarah J. Maas’s other high fantasy series, Throne of Glass, for the past couple of years and I have been a frequent and enthusiastic reader of Young Adult (and adult) fantasy for many years. For some time now though, I’ve been out of the habit of reading what is usually my first pick, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I needed to live somewhere else for awhile—in the world of murder mystery thrillers, period romance, and memoir (the bulk of what I’ve read this summer). However, I decided to end my summer reading by trying out Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series. And at first, I was skeptical. The very first book, eponymous to the series, seemed to be a retelling of two tales very dear and very familiar to me: The Ballad of Tam Lin and Beauty and the Beast. In other words, the first book did not wow me….until. Until our protagonist Feyre finds herself biting off more than she can chew—like young Janet from the Ballad she tries to save her beloved (Tamlin, in this instance) from the evil faerie queen, in this case Amarantha, in her horrible “court” (really just underground caverns where all the High Lords and other fae of Prythian are held captive) aptly named Under the Mountain.

It’s there, I think, that the story really begins for me. Feyre is tested, finds herself an unexpected ally in the High Lord of the Night Court, supposedly Amarantha’s right hand man and lover. It is Under the Mountain that Feyre changes—from vulnerable, young, pretty girl to now a major player in the world of the High Fae.

She returns “home” with Tamlin after the ordeal, only to find herself so unrecognizable, so altered, that she begins to realize her love for Tamlin, the safety he stood for and represented while she was human, did not survive her transformation. It is in the second book in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, that she finds her place, her voice, and her strength at the Night Court with her former ally/enemy, Rhysand. The second book is nearly entirely dedicated to the relationship between Rhysand and Feyre, and Feyre’s realization that she does not love Tamlin…does not want the fairytale wedding with him or the role of being his safe, tame, pampered, and mostly ignored wife. The second book also provides a backdrop for the third, A Court of Wings and Ruin, which deals with the consequences of Feyre’s sisters also having been turned from human to fae, and the every looming war from Amarantha’s former master, the insidious King of Hybern—an island off the coast of Prythian that refused to yield any land to humans and is now bent on world domination (sorry Ireland).

Before I go further with my thoughts on the series, I will just say this. I haven’t been drawn into a story or a world in the way that this one drew me in in a very long time. The Court of Thorns and Roses series was a reminder—why I love books and why I love fantasy books in particular. For all its flaws—and there were many (constant phrase repetition—i.e. “clanged through me,” just made my inner editor cringe, also—she still didn’t escape the Big War Between Good and Evil trope that has been written into the ground by fantasy authors by now)—I really and truly could not put these books down. I haven’t read an actual series of books all the way through like this in a long time. Usually I am fine with putting a bit of space between the first book and the second. However, that just wasn’t an option here. Both the first and second books left me wanting more. The third ended on a note that made me wish that any continuing books in this world won’t center on our hero and heroine—that Rhysand and Feyre can have their adventures in peace.

One thing I will say for this series is that I’m not entirely sure I would classify it as Young Adult. It is sold in the Young Adult section and certainly labeled YA at the library. And that is fine—I think I probably would have enjoyed the series as a teenager. However, Feyre’s challenges and issues that she faces trying to end a relationship maturely, how to react to that person when they do not handle it well…I think this might belong to the newer, more slippery category of New Adult.

In any case—whether it is incorrectly categorized or not, I definitely recommend this series to readers who enjoy fantasy and romance. Even though I think some of the mechanics of the language could be improved, I have to hand it to Maas that she really does create a marvelous and monstrous world that I definitely want to return to by re-reading this series at some point in the future.

 

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Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

Crimson Bound Cover

“What did you mean when you said the path of needles, not the path of pins?”
He remembers what I said. The realization slid through her, terrifying and sweet at once. He thinks of me when we are apart. “Something my aunt told me once. She said that you always have to choose between the path of needles and the path of pins. When a dress is torn, you know, you can just pin it up, or you can take the time to sew it together. That’s what it means. The quick and easy way, or the painful way that works.” ~Rosamund Hodge (p. 10)

Rachelle is an apprentice to her aunt–a woodwife, a wise woman of the village who weaves charms to keep the Great Forest, the woodspawn, the forestborn, and the Devourer away. But the Devourer is only growing stronger as sunlight is fading from the world and the woodspawn and forestborn attack humans more often. One day Rachelle wanders off the beaten path only to meet a forestborn–inhuman, beautiful, and predatory. She pridefully thinks she can trick him into telling her how to defeat the Devourer. He tells her and also marks her –she has three days to kill another human and become a bloodbound or she will die. She tries to hold out, but on the third day she kills. Rachelle runs away from home and becomes one of the King’s own bloodbound–killing woodspawn that attack people in the city of Rocamadour. Killing the woodspawn to protect humans is her lifeline to redemption. Until she sees the forestborn who marked her–and he tells her that the Devourer is returning soon. Now Rachelle’s only hope is to find the sword that can defeat the Devourer–but first she is assigned to protect and spy on one of the King’s illegitimate children–Armand. A man who is seen by the people as saint because although he was marked by a forestborn, he chose not to kill and instead of dying, only lost his hands. Rachelle hates him–not only because he is an obstacle in the path of her scouring the country for the sword, but he also was able to survive the mark of the forestborn without killing. But there is more to Armand’s story, even if he is partially telling the truth, and Rachelle knows it. Guarding Armand might just lead her to the sword and to finding a way to defeat the Devourer and also exacting revenge on the forestborn who forced her to become a monster.

Crimson Bound is a wonderful, gritty, and glittering retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. It is set in a surreal fantasy world based on 18th century France. The writing is light, fast-paced, and the book is impossible to put down for long. The morality and moral problems of the characters are complex. Erec works particularly well as the wolfish antagonist–t makes it all the worse because he does really love Rachelle in his own, sick, twisted way. Or perhaps it is that he wants to own her and so thinks he loves her.  It reminded me a little bit of the problem of Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park–although Fanny is not a bloodbound killer. In any case, I positively LOVED this book and I would expect no less from the author of Cruel Beauty, which was an instant new favorite. I recommend it–particularly if you plan to read it this fall, while the days are growing darker and Halloween is approaching.

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Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge As you know from some of my previous reviews, sometimes I commit the sin of judging a book by its cover. And in this case, I’m certainly glad I did. The title and the cover itself drew me in. I also happened to purchase my copy from an awesome local bookstore, Book People, where it happened to be on display with a little recommendation card. I don’t remember the exact wording of the card, but I remember that it described Cruel Beauty as being a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with Greek/Roman mythology and the main character is an assassin. I like assassins, I like Greek/Roman mythology, and I LOVE Beauty and the Beast–so I knew immediately I needed to read it.

The description on the card was accurate. This is a story about a girl who has been raised to kill her future husband–The Gentle Lord. The lord of demons. He has been reeking havoc in Arcadia with his twisted bargains and his demons for as long as any of the people can remember. And now Nyx has the opportunity to save all of her people, everyone she loves. But can she move forward with her plan when there is bitterness and hatred in her own heart? And is the lord of demons really so…well…demonic as people believe?

I was enraptured by this book. I read it almost entirely in one night because I simply couldn’t put it down. I had to force myself to finally go to sleep because I had to accomplish things the next day. And after having read the book, the characters have stayed with me. Rosamund Hodge has created beautiful, complex characters in Ignifex and Nyx. I also loved the language and the imagery throughout the book. It is somewhat Howl’s Moving Castle-esque in its descriptions of Ignifex’s castle. In my opinion this is an extremely lovely, complex, and creative retelling of the tale as old as time. The bottom line is, the person who loves you most is the person who sees all parts of yourself, the cruel and the kind, the good and the bad, and still loves you. This is not a new lesson in literature, but one that was newly presented so well in Cruel Beauty. The only obstacle I see for this book is that it might not appeal to those who do not love fantasy or mythology, as it is heavy in both of these things. Another complaint: I kind of wish this had been a book written for adults. Some of the romantic scenes could have gone much, much further. However, if anything I wrote in this review makes it seem the slightest bit intriguing, you must read it–you won’t be sorry!

Also, I’m not sure if he could pull off the snark, but I could totally picture Kit Harrington (of Game of Thrones fame) as the Gentle Lord:

I mean, how could you say no to snuggling with this guy....even if he was the lord of demons?

I mean, how could you say no to snuggling with this guy….even if he was the lord of demons?

Fans of the book Grave Mercy  by Robin LaFevers would most likely also appreciate this novel.

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