My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What’s better than Disney’s animated version of Beauty and the Beast?
Nothing. The answer is NOTHING, you fool. (Sorry Emma Watson, that goes for your live-action version too…)
But what can be almost, nearly, kinda as good? ACOTAR. That’s What.
I wasn’t expecting much. In fact, when this book first came out, I was working at a public library where I found myself amused by the cover, but immediately put off by the title. I don’t know why but I thought it was just trying too hard to be Game of Thrones with fairies mixed in. So I had simply stored the book away on the fantasy shelf, like I was paid to do, and never gave it a second glance. Then fast forward two years later, and I found a titillating excerpt from it’s sequel, ACOMAF. I put away my silly first impression, and decided I had to buy the first book, just so I could get to that amazing excerpt of the second book.
Boy did Sarah J. Maas prove me wrong. Just goes to show, you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover (Disclaimer: I actually do take cover art into high consideration for any book, especially fantasy/sci-fi because it sets a distinct tone for the world building, whether the author likes it or not).
Plot & World Building
The story hooked me from the beginning because we really get into the thick of things with our protagonist, Feyre, right from the start. She breaks an ancient treaty, Tamlin busts into her home to take her away, and then we’re off to Prythian, land of the fae. This plot is really easy to follow, especially with all of the parallels to Beauty and the Beast. The simplicity worked well with the first person narrative, since there was a lot of deception and intrigue that Maas injected into the story for Feyre to figure out. I liked trying to guess when Tamlin was telling the truth, and when he seemed to be leaving hints for Feyre to break his curse. Unfortunately, the curse plot line was sort of weak and never pulled me in as much as I wanted it to. This was where Beauty and the Beast succeeded, and ACOTAR failed. Feyre wasn’t really concerned about the curse until the very end, and this made the tension/romance between her and Tamlin seem a little forced (more on that later). I wanted to slowly unravel the curse inside Tamlin’s home, like a well-spun Agatha Christie mystery. But while Feyre is gifted in hunting, she lacks talent solving riddles and being empathetic (HUGE BLOW TO HER CHARACTER, more later). There were a few pages of light background story, but they didn’t really give me enough world building. You can feel the bitterness and the torment she has living in such a depraved state with her siblings and father, but you don’t feel the fae world. I wanted to be taken away into a land of robust trees, dazzling magic spells, and lurking beasts. And while I did get some, it wasn’t enough to help me see the world. I had to google fan art to see what an Attor looked like and that helped, but I shouldn’t have to do that. But despite it’s lack in a true world, I enjoyed the flow of the story, and how quickly we got from one conflict to the next.
Feyre & Tamlin
I absolutely loved Feyre in the beginning. She seemed strong willed, stubborn, bitter, and willing to admit when she was afraid. That is a true test of a well-rounded female character. I was happy to see she didn’t like her sisters, and was disappointed in her dad. Not every trio of sisters get along, and I was happy to see that dose of reality in Maas’ writing. And I even enjoyed Feyre’s shortcomings–like the fact that she couldn’t read! I thought that was really interesting. But my problem with Feyre was her total lack of empathy. She couldn’t tell her sister Nesta actually was a good person deep down. She couldn’t pick up on any of Tamlin’s signals. And she just didn’t seem to care about the mystery enough to do some real digging. I understand that her primary concern was escape, but I think if would have made her character a little more interesting, especially after she developed feelings for Tamlin, to have this unrelenting curiosity about the curse. The only time she really started to dig deep was when she met the Suriel who gave her a a hint about her future with Tamlin. Come on, girl, be a little more clever than that. I wish she was desperate to do something like learn to read as opposed to day-dreaming about painting Tamlin. Ultimately, she’s better than most heroines, although I could use a little more cleverness.
Now as for Tamlin. I really enjoyed his brooding character in the beginning. He seemed domineering but kind, and I liked that juxtaposition to Feyre’s sassy attitude. Tamlin’s only downfall was his lack of drive. He didn’t seem to be driven by the curse in a way that was haunting. I think he should have morphed into a beast more often in the middle of conversations and outbursts. It seemed just to be a sexual tension outlet in which was predictable and boring at best. He was also not a very clever boy. When you compare him to Rhysand, Tamlin’s intelligence does not even compete. You’re cursed. Fight back. Figure out the best way possible to play the game. Get your hands dirty! That’s what made Tamlin inferior to Rhysand, who was willing to do all of those things. I think we all know where this competition is headed…
I can’t talk about the romance between Tamlin and Feyre. You’ll just have to read it yourself. I can say that I enjoyed their chemistry, but so much deception was going on that it was hard for me to believe how genuine it all was. The sequel will have to open my eyes to that. The sex scenes were well written and not written for the sake of sex, so that was good… (Also, I don’t understand why this book is in the Teen Fantasy section at Barnes and Noble…It was pretty adult to me…)
-How did Feyre vomit into a toilet, and then flush….????????? Totally didn’t think there were things like that in this world, so I was taken out of the fantasy from things like that.
-If I hear another word about a character “clicking their tongue”, I’m going to scream.
I gave this a 4/5 because while I couldn’t put it down, the world building needed some minor work. And Feyre could be a little more clever. And Tam too. Final word: Rhysand.