I’m very critical of Beauty and the Beast retellings. I have yet to read one that either lived up to the original or make the classic into something new and exciting. I hesitated on reading A Court of Thorns and Roses, even though I love Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I felt fairly certain it would let me down. Surprisingly, it didn’t. While A Court of Thorns and Roses starts as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, it transforms into something new and lives up to the original. Yes, meeting and surpassing my standard criteria for such a novel.
A Court of Thorns and Roses follows Feyre, a young mortal woman who lives in poverty with her older sisters and ailing father. Her family was once rich, but a bad debt caused them to lose their mansion and possessions. They now reside in a cabin in the woods, not too far from the border that separates the mortal lands from the magical and dangerous fairy lands. Feyre doesn’t have much choice but to stand up and be the provider for her family. One day she is hunting in the woods, and she kills a wolf for food. Unbeknownst to her, this action unleashes a chain reaction of outcomes that will change Feyre’s life forever.
The best way I can describe this book is that it “Inception-izes” the main structure of Beauty and the Beast. That is what really surprised me. It’s something you don’t realize right away, since in the beginning there are only small aspects that are pulled out of Beauty and the Beast, besides the primary romance. After we move over the majority of the main story arc, the book transforms, revisiting past themes yet still going in the new and unexpected direction. A bigger and bolder story emerges for Feyre, and I can’t even begin to fathom where she’ll be taken next, while still managing to keep its retelling status in a way. There’s kind of amazing plotting here.
Furthermore, Maas spins an entirely new world and set of characters. The Fae used to enslave the humans; so there’s a deep-seated animosity between the two species. A peace treaty separated the fae and mortal lands for the past 500 years, but tension is brewing as a small group of fae want to enslave humans once again. Most of the fae aren’t all that bad though as Feyre—grudgingly at first—begins to find out. Feyre may be headstrong and determined like Belle, but Maas decides to give them a few striking differences. Enough to distinguish the two characters very easily.
The story is full of many twists and turns, and just when you think you know how it’s going to play out, you’re totally wrong. For being a retelling, it’s very unpredictable which made it so much fun to read. A Court of Thorns and Roses also has YA-Adult crossover appeal. The romance is sexy, even I was surprised by hot it was. I’m appreciating the fact that many more YA books are displaying a sex-positive message. Sex aside, the romantic heroes (yes, plural kind-of) will have you seriously swooning.
Epic fantasy? Check. Badass heroine? Check. Swoon-worthy dude? Double check. A Court of Thorns and Roses has it all and then some. This is the best Beauty and the Beast retelling I’ve read. It takes the core story and puts its own twist on it, while expanding it in scope and characterization. It’s sexy, complicated, and intriguing, and leaves you–not wanting–needing more.
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is now available wherever books are sold.