A Court of Thorns and Roses

by Sarah J. Maas

Cover Beauty Score: 8 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Feyre learned to become a huntress out of necessity when her family fell into poverty at a young age. When she kills a wolf during a desperate winter, a monstrous faerie from a magical land comes across the border into human territory to claim her as just compensation for the murder of his friend. Feyre soon learns that the beast is Tamlin, a High Lord of the faerie court and his estate and lands hold even more terrible things than himself. Feyre is drawn into their world and begins to see that the faeries may not be all terrible, least of all Tamlin. And there are larger forces at work that threaten to destroy both of their worlds.

My Reaction: Dude. Where did that come from?! My mind is still reeling over this one. I mean, I've never had a book completely turn around for me the way that this one did. The first half of this thing, I was dragging. It felt like I was just reading Throne of Glass (read that review here) all over again. Typical warrior chick gets pointlessly thrown into something weird - we find out she's not as badass as she should be - she has to choose between two dudes - there's a lot of fake-y emotions - blah blah blah... but NO! Right at that halfway mark I realize that the arc we were building to is really not the main arc at all! Well done, Maas, well done.

So let's talk about our main character - Feyre. Despite spending the first few chapters trying to figure out if it was pronounced Fay-er or Fay-ruh, I was pretty into her character from the start. She's ballsy and knows how to fend for herself. Despite being the youngest sister in her family, she's had to provide for everybody since her good-for-nothing dad lost all their money. That was a little cheese ball, not gonna lie. And then we hop right into this weird stuff when Tamlin takes her to his lands. She like immediately loses her fire and becomes all weird and submissive, I felt. There should have been more resistance. If she hated faeries enough to kill one of them (the wolf), then why would she have just been all lah-tee-dah about getting abducted by one? I just feel like the story could have really used some better character background for her... and the current armistice with the faerie world should have been established a little better.

In short - things got off to a rocky start. The whole love story between Fayre and Tamlin felt rushed to me. The connection between them just wasn't there... I didn't feel their fire, really. But as soon as it became apparent to me where the real arc was going to lead, things kind of clicked into place. Like ohhhhh - Maas was trying to get to THIS part. I could 100% tell that she wanted to write Feyre's kick ass story. That's where the meat of this book was.

And don't even get me started on Rhysand. I mean is that one yummy piece of other worldly demon, or what? I mean, sure... Tamlin is Feyre's soul mate, whatever. He's all good and noble and that whole pagan orgy sex ritual thing certainly didn't hurt his appeal, but Rhysand's characterization in this book just blew Tamlin straight out of the water. The minute he came into the page, I was itching to read more of  him. And the scenes Under the Mountain certainly didn't dissapoint. But of course, we all know I'm a sucker for an anti-hero (could this story be any more Thor-Loki?).

And the ending was well thought out and plotted - satisfactory and yet with enough loose ends to really get me salivating for the next one in the series. With how Freye's soul is shattered a bit by her trials, I can really see the potential for a lot of great emotional conflict in the next one, not to mention some serious butt kicking because of a certain something that happened (spoilers!).

Not really sure this book can be considered YA, though. Definitely should be firmly settled in the New Adult category. For anyone who says they don't like romance novels - let's get real. This definitely had some steamy scenes in it. I've literally read romance novels with less sex. One things for certain; older heroines (I mean, should 19 really be considered an "older heroine?!") get to have a lot more fun, if you know what I mean (skip to chapter 21 &27)!

So the real revelation here is that maybe I'm not so pissed off at love triangles. Ok ok... so for Freye there's not much of a choice, really. But I get the feeling book two in the series will present some more complex challenges for her... a reader can only hope!
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Daughter of the Forest

by Juliet Marillier

Cover Beauty Score: 5 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 4 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Sorcha is a young girl who lives in medieval Ireland, during a time when magic and the Fae Folk are still alive and well for the people of Erin. As the seventh daughter of a seventh son, she has always felt a disappointment, although she finds solace in her connection with the spirits of the earth and in her talents as a healer. When her father remarries a mysterious and evil woman, Sorcha and her six brothers are targeted by the woman and she turns all six brothers into swans. Sorcha is told by the Fae that in order to break this curse, she must complete seemingly impossible tasks and travel a path that will be the most difficult of them all.

My Reaction: This book, though. I can't even begin to describe the emotional roller coaster of this thing. I read this book because I thought it was in the YA category, although as I began to read I realized this was really a more classical fantasy than anything else. Despite Sorcha's initial age of 14, the book spans across 4-5 years so she the reader is able to see her mature and grow.

Speaking of growth, let's talk about the character development in this one. Out of this world. There is not a character who does not alter irrevocably throughout this tale. Marillier does an excellent job of plotting out the ways her characters will change on their journeys, particularly Sorcha. Once sheltered and naive, she is forced out of her comfort zone in the worst way imaginable and given some of the most horrendous hurdles to cross. My heart would break for her with each new challenge she faced. As she was given the task of remaining mute until her other tasks were complete, there were parts where as the reader I felt as though I should be just as silent. Her struggles transferred to me, as though I could help her somehow from my end.

That, my friends, is good writing.

And in regards to the writing as a whole, it was excellently done. Marillier obviously knows what she's doing with her words, weaving a tale that felt as reverent as the original Grimm stories. The writing flowed well with great dialogue, although due to the nature of Sorcha's task, there was understandably a lot of internal monologue. The nature of classic fantasy is that the story is long and in depth, which at times I found difficult to get through. The suspense was too much for me to remain patient enough to read a four page description of something. It was torture!

But should we touch on the love triangle here? We all know I despise love triangles... I was not a big fan of the one here, honestly. I didn't see it coming, and once our second hero Red was introduced, I knew he had to be the true choice for Sorcha. Simon would have been good for her, before her trials, but they grew in ways that took them away from their path together. This part was, perhaps, the most difficult for me. I did not feel as though Simon was given enough of a story - enough closure.

So we come to the part where I say this was a great book. However, upon finishing it I am reminded why I stay away from traditional fantasy. I read books to live in worlds that I would enjoy living in. The world in which Sorcha inhabits was dark and difficult and devoid of much laughter. I appreciate her journey and am still in awe of the tribulations she was forced to face, but I would not want to share this journey with her. Ever.

And so I will move on to something happier with my next book choice. Preferably something with less death. And heartache. And general emo-ness.
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