A Court of Thorns and Roses suffered from problems similar to Throne of Glass. The characters had lackluster moments. the plot dragged in sections and some of the solutions to the main characters challenges felt too easy. Frankly, the last pages of the book saved it. No one can deny that Sarah J. Maas write action well. Those scenes made the book worth while. They also, in part, explained why so many of the previous obstacles Feyre overcame were so simple. Part of me just felt relieved that the author explained it; the other part of me felt it didn’t completely excuse the ease with which Feyre did almost everything.
Plot & Writing:
Gosh, like Throne of Glass there is so much wish fulfillment. The other characters love Feyre almost instantly, even though she killed their friend. This is given few sentences of explanation at the end, but Maas just doesn’t quite pull it off. It’s not enough. Moreover, the characters consistently give her information the moment she asks (this also functions as a not-so-well-hidden infodump). Maas justifies this in the end too, but she does not justify Feyre’s ability to use that information with relative ease. The tension leading up to the big bad was overshadowed by scenes where Feyre paints, and goes to rituals she’s been forbidden from, and dives into springs, and spends days ‘hunting’ (it is revealed she actually hates hunting). During those scenes, Feyre could have spent so much time using her smarts to figure out information she was freely given.
Simply put, the main character isn’t present for most of the real action in the book, and when she is the tension snaps because of her abilities or she is immediately saved and scolded for her foolishnees. In fact, Feyre hardly faces any true obstacles (no tragic backstory does not count) until the very end.
The end hinged on a Feyre completing three tasks or answering a riddle. The riddle was painfully simple. Now, I could understand not being able to think straight because of the impending doom hanging over your head or, hey, not being able to remember the parts of the riddle (it was long!), but Maas didn’t try either of those explanations. No, she remembers it perfectly. She doesn’t struggle to think about it because of panic. She just can’t figure it out. Nevertheless, the end highlights some of Feyre’s best qualities. She is truly resourceful, brave, even clever during the trials and I hope we see more of that Feyre in the second book.
Sarah J. Maas’ biggest weakness lies in character development. She doesn’t leave enough crumbs to lead the reader through their development. They, therefore, feel like they have flipped personalities or shed some of what made them essential. Characters almost never feel more than one thing in any moment. Either they hate someone or they love someone.
Tamlin, the beast, wasn’t convincing. A few growls and random attacks do not a beast make. His erratic behavior is not explained until the end and, indeed, it hardly registers with the other characters at all. Except for Feyre, but I’m not sure her reactions are much better. She oscillates between fear and love and anger and sympathy, but not in a convincing way. Much of her fear is derived from thinking about how powerful her captor is. Maas’ chosen method of bringing the characters closer is for Tamlin to reveal his tragic past.
Like others have noted, Feyre is presented as a strategic thinker, but this is undercut by some of her more foolish choices and the ease with which she achieves everything. Again, telling us characters are complex because of something in their past does not actually make them so. The author must demonstrate it.
There were several moments when I wanted to shout where is your editor. Many of the characters surrounding Feyre functioned to prop her up. Her sister’s behavior emphasizes Feyre’s strength and virtue. Lucien’s behavior underscores Feyre’s own witty remarks. Maas uses Alis to demonstrate her selflessness. Some of them get extra layers slapped onto them at the end, but I struggled to hold on to those layers because the sudden addition felt jarring.
A final character introduced in the end, of the bad-boy archetype variety, offers some of the complexity many of the other characters are sorely missing. Unfortunately, Feyre’s reaction to some of his more questionable decisions is steeped in the same inconsistency and development problems as before. Like Tamlin, this character’s worst actions are excused In Feyre’s mind because of his intentions. I’m not buying it.
The strength of this book should have its foundations in the romance– after all it is sold as a romance book– yet, I felt next to nothing about the main pair.
I have heard the next book improves upon these problems a great deal, but I’m not sure if I’ll pick it up.