Back in 2018, I wrote my first spoiler-free review of the entire Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas (you can read my initial review here). However, since posting that review, Sarah J. Maas released the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight, and another book in the series, A Court of Silver Flames, with two more novels planned. After rereading some of the books in the series, and reading the newest additions, I thought it was time to update my initial review. If you would like to see individual reviews on books in this series, I will include them at the bottom of this post.
A Court of Thorns and Roses, often referred to as ACOTAR, was a popular series on the Booktube community and is now a popular series within the BookTok community. ACOTAR seems to be a polarizing series: people either absolutely love it or hate it. Personally, ACOTAR is one of my favorite series and one that I find myself rereading time and time again. While it is a series that I enjoy, taking a step back, I can see stand-out aspects of the series compared to aspects which needs to be improved. Here are my spoiler-free thoughts on the series as a whole:
A Court of Thorns and Roses follows Feyre Archeron, a poor hunter, who kills a faerie disguised as a wolf in the woods. To pay for her actions, Feyre is taken back to the fae lands where she must live with her cursed captor. The original A Court of Thorns and roses (ACOTAR) series is comprised of three books, told primarily from the perspective of Feyre with a couple chapters in the final book told from another perspective. The novella in the series, A Court of Frost and Starlight, follows several characters from the original series around Winter Solstice. A Court of Silver Flames follows Nesta Archeron, Feyre’s sister, after she overcomes trauma which occurs in the previous novels and trains to find three valuable objects.
One aspect of where Sarah J. Maas always excels is the characters. Maas consistently creates interesting, likeable, and complex characters which stick with readers long after reading. A common trope present in novels by Maas is the found family trope and the ACOTAR series is no exception. By the end of the novels, readers truly feel like they are part of the family which she has created.
Since the series is so lengthy, readers get to learn a lot about many characters within the novel, not just the narrators. Some of the characters in these books are hundreds of years old and Maas gives enough of their backstories to make their personalities and complex relationships understandable. That being said, there are a lot of characters and backstories involved throughout the series, which can be overwhelming and difficult to remember. There are some characters and relationship which I’ve looked up videos on in order to understand better.
That being said, there is definitely some debate surrounding characters, particularly in the novella and the final book published so far, A Court of Silver Flames. Nesta, the main character, is a very polarizing character: people seem to either love her or hate her, so if you are in the latter camp, you may not love reading an entire book about her. Personally, A Court of Silver Flames was one of my favorite books in the series due to Nesta’s character development, so this wasn’t a hinderance to me. Additionally, some well-loved characters seem to make choices that are very inconsistent with their behavior in previous books, which really infuriates some readers.
The World Building
Similar to feeling like you a part of the family after reading ACOTAR, you also feel fully immersed in the world in which the story takes place. If you think of other popular series where people divided themselves into “factions” or “houses,” ACOTAR has a similar feel. Instead of factions or houses, the faerie world is divided into courts which are defined by different times of day (such as the Night Court) or seasons of the year (such as the Spring Court). This makes it a little bit easier for readers to keep track of how different courts operate, the powers often associated with a specific court, and the people associated with that court. Like with characters, there are many intricate details of courts and their histories sprinkled throughout the series, so it helps to have a way to categorize the information.
That being said, Maas is also known for a lot of info dumping at the beginning of the series and ACOTAR is no exception. While it is easier to keep track of information on the places in the world as the series goes on, it is definitely a lot to work through in the first book of the series. In my original review, I mentioned how I actually DNF’ed the first book in the series at around 40% of the book before I picked it up again because I felt like there wasn’t much action which occurred in the story. The world-building in novels by Maas can be difficult to push through at first, but the payoff for me is worth it to continue.
When it comes to writing, people love or hate Sarah J. Maas. If you are on BookTok, you have probably seen the jokes about a character picking lint off of his clothes or characters detailing their bathroom issues. There are always comments about territorial male fae, and in this book, many discussions about their wing spans. I would love to see the word count for how many ties mate is used throughout ACOTAR. Sarah J. Maas has some phrases which appear frequently throughout her books, some of which are cringe-y. When I see discussions around her writing, people tend to either love or hate her writing. Personally, the repeated phrases in this series aren’t make it or break it for loving the series. However, if if this is something that annoys you, then you might not personally enjoy the writing style used within this series.
My interest in the plots of the ACOTAR books varies depending on the books, but is more consistent than other series by the author. While I love the Throne of Glass series, it looks and feels like a completely different series by the end of the book. There are so many plots, so many POVs, and so much information to take in, it can definitely be overwhelming. ACOTAR is the first series by Maas that I read completely, and I would definitely recommend reading it first out of all of her series because it is the easiest to follow plot-wise.
While Throne of Glass has romance, it definitely focuses more on the fantasy elements plot-wise. ACOTAR definitely has a stronger focus on romance than Throne of Glass, with more explicit romantic scenes since the target audience is no longer YA (although ACOTAR was initially categorized as YA). Additionally, because of this change in target audience, there is more graphic violence and language on page than in the Throne of Glass series.
Starting with book one, the plot of ACOTAR is a good set-up for the rest of the series. ACOTAR was initially pitched as a Beauty and the Beast retelling and some of those plot elements are evident within the first book. This book does have a lot of world building in the first half, so action-wise the plot didn’t really pick up until after that point.
A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOMAF) is definitely one of the best plotted books in the series. Sarah J. Maas is like the Taylor Swift of fantasy. She takes small details from past works and builds on them in later works. Readers definitely see a lot of this in the romance plot within this book. Additionally, this book perfectly balances all of the plots: the action, the romance, and the character development. As a result, you want to keep reading to see how the plot will continue to unfold. This book also contains one of the most well-done endings I have seen in a sequel.
A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR) was one of my least favorite books plot-wise in the series. Whereas ACOMAF balanced many of the different plots, this heavily focused on the magic and war elements. Additionally, ACOWAR recycles some previously used plot points. These makes scenes including those elements to be less dramatic from when they were used the first time around.
A Court of Frost and Starlight was definitely my least favorite overall in the series. Plot-wise it does what it was intended to: it brings some more light-hearted stories after a very dark and heavy final novel. Also, it sets up the beginning of the next book in the series. However, there are some things in this book which are just ridiculous and are very cringeworthy.
Finally, A Court of Silver Flames is one of my favorites in the series. At the same time, it is definitely more character-driven that plot-driven. So if you do prefer more plot-driven books, then you may not enjoy this one. Another complaint readers often make for this book that the villain isn’t the most remarkable or involved compared to other books. In my original review of Silver Flames (read it here), I explained how I believe the villain is supposed to be more symbolic in nature, but I can see how people would be expecting a greater villain after reading the original series.
Overall, the pacing of the series is a little inconsistent and can very based on the book. The two books which I moved through the quickest were A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Silver Flames. I felt like these books balanced action, romance, and character development so I wanted to keep reading. A Court of War and Ruin, the third book in the series was the worst paced in my opinion out of the full length novels in the series.
Let’s start off with book one: A Court of Thorns and Roses had a slow start to me, due to the large amount of world building which occurs in the first half of the novel. However, the eventful second half of the novel and the rest of the series is worth the work. The second book in the series, ACOMAF is one of the best paced novels in the series. ACOMAF has a perfect balance of action, romance, and character development which makes it hard to put the book down. The third book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, was my least favorite of the full-length novels. ACOWAR felt like it moved a lot slower, possibly because it leaned more heavily on the magic and war plot lines than the characters and romance for me.
Moving onto the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight. One part of this novella which differs from the previous three books is that readers get more perspectives from different characters. That being said, this overall is the weakest installment of this series, and it just seems to drag on compared to ACOMAF and Silver Flames, which are much longer but more interesting. However, this book does provide what it needs: the set-up for the next full-length novels in the series and more lighthearted stories following the previous novel, which was very dark.
Like I mentioned previously, ACOTAR is series that I love and I find myself picking up again and again. This is a series that whenever a new book is announced, I automatically pre-order the next installment, which isn’t something that I usually do. I recommend the ACOTAR series is you are a fan of fantasy romance books with an interesting cast of characters.
What are some of your must-read series?
Individual Book Reviews: