I'm a Sarah J. Maas hipster, by which I mean that I liked her before it was cool to like her, back when she had a real doorstop of a book called Queen of Glass posted on Fictionpress.com. That doorstop is now the best-selling Throne of Glass series. After reading the first one, I found that I didn't like it as much as I had the original draft, which was much darker (at least in my memory) and, while A Court of Thorns and Roses looked beautiful, I was leery about reading it because I didn't want to be disappointed again. But then a friend read it and gave it four stars, and so up to the top of my list it went. And was I disappointed? No. No I was not.
The plot follows Feyre, a human girl who is spirited off to the faerie realm of Prythian after she kills a faerie wolf one winter day. In Prythian, she lives on the estate of Tamlin, a High Fae lord with the power of shapeshifting into the form of a beast. Feyre aches to return to her village and her family, whom she promised to care for, but slowly becomes sucked into the world of Prythian and into Tamlin's life. But when a magical blight threatens Prythian and everything beyond it, Feyre is both terribly out of her depth and the world's only hope for stopping the blight before it destroys everything.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is supposedly based off of Beauty and the Beast, and I can see that; however, I think it falls in more closely with another fairytale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, which features a more active heroine. In fact, Thorns and Roses reminded me of a lot of my favorite books: the faerie world, so beautiful and terrible, of Holly Black's Tithe, the overall plot structure of Dennis L. McKiernan's Once Upon a Winter's Night (STRONG resemblance there), the same "mortal falls in love with immensely powerful immortal" vibe as N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and an overall feel like that of Kristin Cashore's Graceling and Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns. This was a very good thing, because it meant I really liked this book. Did I absolutely love it? Well...not quite. For most of the book, I did. But I felt like the ending left something to be desired. It's obviously sequel-bait, and I have a nasty feeling that Maas is setting up the future books to include a love triangle, which I feel doesn't work well with the dynamic established in Thorns and Roses. I found the plot setup and writing truly lovely, but that ending makes me dock a star. I don't like eyeing future books with apprehension because of the way one ended, and that's exactly what happened here. I don't feel like this quite ranked up there with Graceling and Girl of Fire and Thorns, but it was certainly very, very good.
4 stars out of 5.