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Court of Thorns and Roses: A Pandora’s Box

Dabney: Haley picked Sarah Maas’s Court of Thorns and Roses for her best Romance Novel of 2015. Here’s what she said about the book:

This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, or perhaps East of the Sun West of the Moon, set in a world where humans live precariously alongside dangerous fae. The world that Maas has built is anything but Happily Ever After. Feyre’s family is on the brink of starvation and poor when she kills what she thinks is a wolf in the woods. That wolf was actually a fae in disguise, and as retribution, Feyre must go live with the High Lord of the Spring Court. The best reason to read this book is Tamlin, the High Lord. He is everything you want in a sexy leading man.

I love the story of East of the Sun West of the Moon and was intrigued. I like romantic fantasy but rarely read it. (So many books. So little time.) I read the book last week and am glad I did. If I had to pick my favorite thing about the book, however, it wouldn’t be Tamlin–more on that later, though.

Haley, what is it about Tamlin you so love?

Haley: I think I liked that he’s supposed to be the gorgeous, powerful High Lord, but he’s kind of awkward. He really doesn’t know how to behave around Feyre when she first comes to stay with him and has to get tips from Lucien. Of course, and not to spoil anything, but I liked the passionate side of him with the whole neck biting scene.

I have noticed that other reviewers preferred Rhysand. Are you in that camp?

Dabney: “fans herself” Who me? Like the bad boy? Never.

I like Tamlin, I do. From the moment you meet him when he comes to collect Fayre from the human side of Prythian, he’s a compelling, compassionate hero. And, many of the things that frustrated me about Tamlin in the book made sense by its end. It’s interesting that in Court of Thorns and Roses there are three heroic men: Tamlin, the burdened High Lord, Lucien, the wise-cracking hot headed best friend, and Rhysand, the best looking man in the book who is, in more than one way, Tamlin’s rival. It’s unusual to have three male leads and just one female lead in a romance. Do you think Ms. Mass pulled it off?

Haley: I do, I think because the three men were all so different. Each was likable and unlikable for their own reasons. Plus, Feyre was tough enough to hold her own with all three of them. Lucien might actually be my favorite of the guys because I enjoyed his banter with Feyre. Rhysand was compelling, but I didn’t understand some of his behavior, so I couldn’t totally like him. His taking Feyre to the parties drugged (again, trying hard not to spoil anything) was strange to me, and I never totally understood the purpose for it.
What drew you to Rhysand?

Dabney: Specifically, I’m drawn to Rhysand as the mate for Feyre, more than I am drawn to her pairing with Tamlin. Tamlin’s feelings for Fayre were presented as a fait accompli. I didn’t know why Tamlin cared so for Feyre. But Rhysand’s interest in Feyre was grounded in very specific things: her looks, her humanness, her strength of will. It’s kind of like the classic Angel/Spike triangle. I’m a bigger Spuffy fan than I am a Bangel fan–although I think the best partner for Buffy was Riley. Rhysand, like Spike, is far more flawed than Tamlin (or Angel). He was more interesting to me.

Haley: I can see what you mean. I wonder if in the second book the series we will get to see more of Tamlin’s flaws. I agree with you about Buffy. Spike was more interesting that Angel. I personally found Angel too melancholy and insufferable.

Were you at all conflicted by Rhysand’s treatment of her during the course of her trials?

Dabney: Yes although I think his behavior saved her life. Had he left her alone I think she’d have been murdered or worse.

Haley: So something I found interesting with Court of Thorns and Roses was that it is categorized as Young Adult, but was far more frank about sexuality than YA is typically permitted to be. I personally loved that Feyre was allowed to embrace her own sexuality and not be guilty about it. Do you think this actually makes it more of a New Adult book (and New Adult Fantasy is something I rarely see)?

Dabney: It reminded me of Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown in terms of its heat. But given that Fayre’s 19 and has supported her family for years, I think it has many of the elements we find in a New Adult book. I think the sex in this book is unusual for a romance of any kind in that sex is fairly divorced from love. What did you think about that aspect of the story?

Haley: I actually really liked it. It seems to rare to see a story where a woman can sleep with someone before meeting the hero at all, let alone do it without it being something regretful. So often in romance we see these women who, maybe aren’t virgins, but have gone some period of time without sex before meeting the hero- who of course rocks their world in bed. I kind of like the idea that Maas is showing that Feyre didn’t have to be going without before in order to make what happens with Tamlin special. Its much more like real life.

Dabney: I also think it’s fascinating that,in some ways, Maas is giving Feyre two lovers to choose between. It makes what happens between her and Tamlin so much more meaningful.

Is there anything else about the book you’d want readers to know about?

Haley: I wasn’t expecting a version of Beauty and the Beast to include the Beauty kicking butt like Feyre ends up doing. She definitely isn’t Disney’s Belle.

Also if anyone has recommendations for Fantasy or Paranormal books like this that might be considered New Adult, I would love to hear them.

Dabney: (note to self: Blog post on New Adult Fantasy romance) Feyre’s definitely a tough girl heroine. And she paints. Which I like a lot.

Haley: I really loved A Court of Thorns and Roses so I’m glad that you liked it. I am looking forward to reading Court of Mist and Fury in May. Maybe we can reconvene and see if we still have our same preferences for Tamlin and Rhysand then.

Dabney: Sounds like a plan!

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