While I was off on holiday this year, I picked up copies of Sarah J Maas’ other fantasy series, having enjoyed Throne of Glass so much and still having more than a month to go before the release of Empire of Storms (6th September). I’ve also found that it’s tricky to be an online fan of ToG without coming across ACOTAR/ ACOMAF things as well. I’m not generally very bothered by spoilers, and there were a few I had ahead of time for ACOMAF, but I enjoyed these stories regardless.
Structurally, this series bears a lot of similarity to Throne of Glass – the first book is brilliant but as the series develops, the scale of events and characters grows. The geographic perspective of the books also has a similar trajectory – both protagonists make a critical first journey (from Endovier to Rifthold/ from the mortal lands to the Spring Court) and the story initially remains there for some time, but eventually the focus pulls back and throws us into very different parts of the map.
These similarities are by no means a weakness though – they work perfectly for both stories, and within two complex fantastical worlds, this allows for a great deal of world-building. With stories like this which take some time to set themselves up, a lesser writer may struggle to write compelling enough earlier books to keep readers into the next instalment, but Maas has no issue with this because she develops her characters so wholly that they are enough to keep reading for. And once the wheels of the major plot starts turning, I’d applaud anyone who could put them down (and also ask them, confusedly, why?).
A Court of Thorns and Roses
The first book, introducing us to Feyre’s world, to Prythian and to the Spring Court, starts with a Beauty and the Beast premise, and does a brilliant job of sketching Tamlin’s world without immediately offering explanation for it. While I loved a lot of the recognised elements of fantasy here, really what interested me was Feyre. I love that Sarah J Maas continues to not be romantically precious with her protagonists – as in Throne of Glass for Celaena, Feyre’s first experiences in sex and romance are in no way expected to be life-defining. They are just a part of her life, like anything else – not what defines her. By the end of this story though, while I enjoyed it, I was still preferring Throne of Glass as a series…
A Court of Mist and Fury
…and then I read ACOMAF. I’m a little bit in love with this book. The first story reads like a fairytale, while this one becomes more of an epic. Sarah J Maas is very good at unfolding long and complicated stories, and while ACOTAR was fun, this was what I was expecting, really. Feyre finally coming into her own.
My favourite thing about this series was the magnificent character development Feyre undergoes in ‘only’ two books – although that’s still over 1000 pages in this case. Feyre begins the series as a fragile human woman in a world haunted by faeries, who has hunting skills because she has needed them to keep her family alive. Feyre at this point needs and wants protecting – she wants to be removed from the difficulties she has been forced to shoulder by her family and not be the only person who tries. By the end of ACOMAF, Feyre has undergone huge personal upheaval, suffering and discovery, and with all that who and where she needs to be have changed as well.
I would suggest that this is more for the older end of the YA audience, given some of the content, but I absolutely recommend this to fans of fantasy and romance, especially any Throne of Glass fans who need a top up of Sarah J Maas between now and September, with the downside that you will then have to wait until an unannounced date in 2017 for the new installment…