This is the first novel that I have read by this author and I loved it so much, that I just had to read the next book A Court of Mist and Fury (which I’m still currently in the process of doing). I’ll be honest and say that at first I was a little bit hesitant about reading a fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast that includes fairies. Typically, I would think that this wouldn’t be something that I would be interested in, but Sarah J. Maas really has changed my mind, and I’d be interested in reading more books in the future that are inclusive of fairies! I would say that this is one of my favourite books that I’ve read in awhile mostly because of its gripping plot line and extremely intriguing characters. I also really liked the world-building, the politics, and of course the romance! However, there are some important themes in this novel that I did find somewhat problematic. The book describes the relationship between the mortals and the faeries, these two groups are inherently in conflict and opposition given their historical roots, which creates political problems between the kingdoms. However, the book begins by introducing Feyre the main character and a mortal, hunting in the woods for food and for hides to sell as her family has lost their wealth. She one day kills a wolf, and later she is confronted by a wild beast who demands retribution for taking the life of a faerie (the wolf that she had killed in the woods). Feyre has a choice: Either be killed, or be taken to live in the faerie lands forever. She chooses to leave her family behind and live with Tamlin (a High Fae who once ruled the mortal lands).
In the beginning, it doesn’t really make sense that as a consequence for taking the life of a faerie, that Feyre gets to live in the faerie world, as this world is much more luxurious than what she was used to, living in the mortal lands. However, as the book goes on, all is not what it seems to be, and there’s a subplot that is revealed that clears this up for the readers.
One of the elements that I really liked about this novel, was how thought-out the plot really was. Sarah J. Maas, strategically unravelled the plot in what seemed to be perfect timing. She also took her time describing the world thoroughly, which left the reader with very vivid imagery, which is often not used in many YA novels, as authors tend to be rushing the plot, while failing to maintain description and imagery. However, I would argue that Sarah J. Maas does a good job of combining both.
Though I really enjoyed this book, I think it is important to note some of the criticisms that it has received. As a feminist, there are some crucial points in the novel to highlight as possibly problematic (Warning: Spoilers ahead). The first one is the scene where Tamlin does his Faerie ritual and ends up physically harming Feyre, this was seen by the characters in the novel as Feyre’s fault for not obeying orders to stay in her room, to me this almost seems like victim shaming, and speaks to a greater narrative regarding the normalization of this in our society. Also, the fact that Feyre is Rhysand’s property for one week a month, and he took advantage of her during a time of vulnerability to broker this deal with her, was another problematic point for me in the novel.
Though this book has received both good and bad reviews, and some criticisms regarding the treatment of women, I did overall enjoy it as it was entertaining as well as creative.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars and would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy and romance, and fairytale retellings!
Some of my favourite Quotes from the novel:
“I love you,’ he whispered, and kissed my brow. ‘Thorns and all.”
“We need hope as much as we need bread and meat,” he interrupted, his eyes clear for a rare moment. “We need hope, or else we cannot endure.”
“Against slavery, against tyranny, I would gladly go to my death, no matter whose freedom I was defending.”
“For someone with a heart of stone, yours is certainly soft these days.”