“She stole a life. Now she must pay with her heart.”
By the Cauldron, where to begin?
I should start by saying that I’ve had friends telling me to read this book for quite some time, but unfortunately, the never ending University reading list got in the way. But now I’ve ended my second year and in the midst of planning my dissertation, an opportunity arose. A Court of Thorns and Roses became the perfect source of my primary reading!
The story is a combined re-imaging of Beauty and the Beast and the lesser known Celtic folktale, The Ballad of Tam Lin.
Feyre is a 19 year-old huntress caught in the web of poverty. With the responsibility of taking care of her family, she must hunt down food for the table, or allow herself and her father and sisters to starve. From the beginning her character is strong willed and believable; not a natural born hero, but a decent and noble woman willing to push herself to the limits in the name of her family.
‘The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice. I’d been monitoring the parameters of the thicket for over an hour, and my vantage point in the crook of a tree branch had turned useless. The gusting wind blew thick flurries to sweep away my tracks, but buried along with them any signs of potential quarry.’
Accidental or not, there are echos of Katniss Everdeen in Feyre’s character, but she is by no means a copy. Her motivations and story are different; her promise to her mother to keep her family safe keeps her in Prythian, dreaming for a better life, a life of riches.
She thinks nothing of shooting a wolf to capture its prey. Nor does is faze her to skin it, after all, it’s pelt would bring in a lot more money to her family. Poverty is not for the squeamish.
The forest is a dangerous place and it takes a tough heart to survive it. But, like all mortals, Feyre fears what lingers beyond the borders of the forest, something worse than a wolf…
However, the wolf is not any ordinary wolf, and Feyre’s actions come with a high price to pay.
Maas’ world building is superb; the land of Prythian felt dangerous and believable. The opening of the book in which we are invited into Feyre’s mortal world is dark, the metonymy of gloom. What lingers past the borders of the forest is surprising. Considering how feared it is, I was expecting dungeons and, quite frankly, the epitome of Hell. What I got was something far more beautiful. The Faerie realms.
‘The next afternoon I lay on my back in the grass, savouring the warmth of the sunshine filtering through the canopy of leaves, noting how I might incorporate it into my next painting […] there were no enchantments here – no pools of starlight, no rainbow waterfalls. It was just a grassy glen watched over by a weeping willow, with a clear brook running through it. We lounged in comfortable silence, and I glanced at Tamlin, who dozed beside me. His golden hair and mask glistened against the emerald carpet. The delicate arch of his pointed ears made me pause.’
After the initial refusal from Feyre to accept her imprisonment (an attribute of her stubbornness and sense of hatred towards the immortals who savaged the mortal realms), she seems to fit into the Spring Court, as though she is destined to be there.
It is obvious from their first interaction at the Spring Court that Tamlin will become Feyre’s love interest. She wants to hate him, wants to resist him, but despite herself, her beliefs, she can’t. She’s drawn to him and the pair have a tender yet humorous dynamic. Both strong willed and stubborn, but its one of the factors that invest the reader in their relationship.
With that being said, can a mortal and immortal really succeed?
Plus, there a secrets being kept from Feyre, half truths, segments of unfinished stories, and an ever-looming threat which is being kept from her. Taking a Faerie life should have resulted in Feyre giving her own, but instead, Tamlin offered her freedom; the rest of her life to be lived at his court. But what was his motivation? Tamlin claims to never want to be like his father who kept mortals as slaves, but is this the full story?
And there’s another thing. Despite the stories, Faeries can lie…
I thought each character was complex, each with their own backstory and traits which made them unique and likeable. Signs of their personality are revealed slowly, and they become drawn to each other (despite being enemies) just as the reader becomes drawn to them. Just like the Faerie realms, the main characters are vibrant and mysterious. They drive the story and make you eager for more!
Feyre is hard, driven, yet in a constant battle with her true emotions.
Tamlin is strong, powerful, a force to be reckoned with, yet there is a softer side to his position as High Fae.
Lucien is full of snark. A right bastard really, and yet, he becomes the perfect friend and ally. Without him, the Spring Court would be a far less humorous place.
With that being said, Feyre’s family are far less under-developed, particularly her father. He’s a wimp and I couldn’t take to him. He was reduced to the background, not really playing a part in any of the narrative. However, considering the way Maas has built the rest of the characters, it leads me to wonder whether this is a deliberate attempt to conceal his true nature and position within the story?
Now, putting my enjoyment of the story aside, I should focus a little on my research. I liked how there wasn’t just one species of Faerie, but multiple subordinates such as the Suriel, Attor, Bogge, Puca and Naga. The inclusion of these specialised names shows an attention to the origin of the tales used in the novel. Therefore, despite moving very far away from the true Ballad of Tam Lin, the book was able to retain the beauty and authenticity of the original tale through the use of language.
This along with the Celtic (Wiccan) elements such as Summer Solstice and Calanmai made my enjoyment of the novel and research so much better!
I was late to the party, but I’m so glad I arrived! Can’t wait to see what the next book has in store!
Copyright: Laura Davis © 2018, all rights reserved.