If you’ve been around any book lovers on social media in the last minute, you have seen a post or two about Sarah J Maas and her trio of series: Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and most recently Crescent City. The general consensus amongst Bookstagrammers is that these series are swoon-worthy, fandom-worthy, and praiseworthy. There are some naysayers amongst the group, and the best series is up for debate, but overall, these series are popular to the max.
I am fully entrenched in the SJM camp, mostly because of my love for A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR). This was the first SJM series I read, and while I love Throne of Glass (Celaena and Rowan forever) and think Crescent City is well-worth the read, ACOTAR will always have my heart. Here’s why I love this series so much.
A Retelling of the Best Kind
ACOTAR begins as a retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. There are plenty of references to this much-beloved tale in the first book, from which the series draws its name. We meet our protagonist, Feyre Archeron, as she’s trying to feed her father and two sisters after years of hardship and poverty, into which the family was thrust when her merchant father wrongly hinged all his fortune on a ship full of riches and paid for it with a crippling beating from his creditors. That loss, along with the tenuous treaty between the human world and the Faerie who live across the border (The Wall), have left the Archeron family in a wooden shack where Feyre takes on all the responsibilities for her family as her father has regressed into depression and her sisters, Nesta and Elain, are still mourning their life of riches.
In desperation, Feyre becomes a huntress and in a moment of fear and opportunity, she kills a wolf in the forest beyond the wall. That wolf pelt will feed her family, she knows, but she sees something unique in the wolf’s eyes before she makes the kill. This is where the story begins, and Feyre quickly learns that her kill would not be without repayment when a monstrous beast breaks into the Archeron cabin in the middle of the night. He terrifies the family as he demands to know who killed the wolf. Feyre, as she has done so many times before, sacrifices herself to protect her father and sisters. The beast insists she become his prisoner, and he takes her into the Faerie world beyond The Wall.
This is classic Beauty and the Beast inspiration, and I am here for all of it. The beast – named Tamlin – whisks Feyre to a mysterious castle where he shifts back into his Fae form, complete with a mask welded to his face. Tamlin is High Lord of the Spring Court, a brooding High Fae who protects his lands with mystery and passion. As the original BATB story goes, the Beauty melts the Beast’s cold exterior, but in ACOTAR, it is Tamlin’s wooing that eventually breaks Feyre’s apprehension.
Feyre faces kidnappings and challenges within a High Fae’s nightmare court as we meet Amarantha, a former general and now self-proclaimed Queen of Prythian, the Faerie realm. Amarantha is cruelly evil against her subjects Under the Mountain, and presents Feyre with three challenges to free Tamlin, who is now imprisoned by the Queen. From this adventure to those in the next four books, the story expands from a retelling of BATB and into an epic story of love, found family, war, and magic. It is glorious, and please read it!
As the story grows beyond Book 1, the depth of the characters grows and becomes more intimate. When I first read the series and then re-read it, I found my love for the characters deepening because no one is who they seem at first, each has a backstory, and each acts with a passion to reach their goals. Here are four of my favorite characters, although I could go on about many more. (Note: This is where I’ll be spilling a few spoilers for the series.)
- Feyre: She loves her family (biological and found), will sacrifice herself, and doesn’t know how much she can accomplish. She is full of fire and love, but she is much more. She feels deeply and puts herself in danger to protect others; she’s flawed and guilt-ridden because she can’t eliminate all pain. Her guilt pushes her to fight against evil, and she does it with a beautiful partner next to her.
- Rhysand: At first meeting, this half-Fae, half-Illyrian High Lord is the typical bad boy with a heart of gold. He sacrificed himself to Amarantha’s court to protect the people of Velaris, his Night Court home. Like Feyre, he feels a deep sense of responsibility for his people and is willing to do anything to protect his citizens, his found family (The Inner Circle), and his mate, Feyre. He is overprotective in many ways, but he believes in Feyre’s power more than she does herself.
- Morrigan: This magnetic siren of a High Fae woman is Rhysand’s cousin and a member of the Inner Circle. She is sexy and flirtatious, but she uses those traits to hide the painful past that exists because her father feared her immense power so much that he sold her in marriage to a son of the High Lord of the Autumn Court. Morrigan fought the marriage and was punished, but she escaped to the sanctuary of the Inner Circle and will fight to the death to save them.
- Azriel: This Illyrian warrior is mysterious, literally cloaked in shadows that swarm around his massive wingspan as he watches everything. He and Rhysand met in the Illyrian war camp when they were children sent there to train, joining together with Cassian, another one of my favorite Illyrians. Azriel is the spy shadowsinger of the Inner Circle, and he remains silent most of the time, but once he has something to say, people listen. He is haunted by his past and even shy, pining for Morrigan and then Elain. While he may be one of the most lethal of the Inner Circle, he is also one of the most gentle characters in ACOTAR.
There are so many more characters I could talk about: Cassian, Manon, Nesta, and more. But I’ll stop to transition to the third reason I love this series.
The World Building of Prythian
This was my first venture into High Fae fantasy, and I had no idea how much I loved it. SJM does an amazing job of world-building throughout the series. The unique characters, the settings across the nine Courts of the Prythian realm, the monsters, and the lore that lives in the background of these stories is just so intriguing and fantastically described.
Reading an ACOTAR book is like being whisked away into a technicolor world of intrigue, romance, violence, and magic. It’s a world that I am here for. If you want a deeply descriptive book, illustrative of a fully fleshed-out story and history for all characters, then this is the series for you.
I hope these three reasons will be enough to encourage you to read the ACOTAR series in its entirety, or at least give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.