I had tried Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series a few years ago and couldn’t get into it. But this series is everywhere, and everyone gushes about how great it is, so finally I decided to give it a try. Let me preface the rest of what I have to say with the fact that I stop reading books that don’t hold my attention, and I don’t review those I don’t finish—so the fact that I finished this one at all means something. However…
The plot, until about 2/3 through the book, is basically a blend of Beauty and the Beast (it reminded me quite a bit of Hunted, a good retelling of the classic), Cinderella, and Twilight: Feyre is born to a wealthy merchant who loses all his money and becomes poor. She has two sisters, one of whom is cruel and the other is sweet but selfish. Her mother dies, her father doesn’t really try to help them survive, and so Feyre learns to hunt and keeps them alive. One day she kills a wolf that turns out to be a fairy (they live just near the wall that separates them from the fairy realm.) The fairy law demands a life for a life: but instead of taking Feyre’s life, the fairy who claims her instead takes her back to his realm and allows her to live with him in unimaginable luxury, as a guest at his table and with leisure time to do whatever her heart desires, while he also promises to care for her family far better than she ever was able to do herself. (So wait…how is this supposed to be a punishment? It’s sort of explained at the end of the book, but for the majority it made no sense at all, and I don’t know why Feyre never wondered this herself.)
Turns out that the fairy whom she goes to live with is a cursed High Fae Lord, called Tamlin. Like Belle, Feyre is locked in the castle with the cursed beast—Tamlin even has a beast form—whose curse can only be broken by falling in love with a human and earning her love in return. Like Bella in Twilight, the majority of the book involves Feyre checking out Tamlin’s rippling muscles, and thinking of herself as clumsy and unattractive by comparison—though he of course finds her irresistible. (I always wondered about mortal/immortal romances. She’s 19. He’s been alive for at least centuries. Age isn’t JUST how you look, so shouldn’t he find a human 19-year-old unbearably immature? Particularly because she is: she’s constantly getting offended at the slightest perceived insult, just for the sake of conflict during all those chapters when nothing else happens, I’m sure. But he describes her frequent, barely provoked outbursts as “passionate.”) Also, there are some pretty descriptive sex scenes. I thought that was reserved for adult novels… but I guess it’s happening in YA now too, sadly.
As in Twilight, the last third of the book is a rescue operation, and here it became more a blend of The Hunger Games (forced glamour on parade, in between deadly tasks) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the tasks themselves). The rules of the world changed depending on what the author needed to happen, and the end was very, very Twilight. But I guess it couldn’t have ended any other way.
Overall, I did a lot of eye-rolling, and yet for some reason, I kept listening. I had a hard time putting my finger on why: I mean, I didn’t particularly like Feyre, and Tamlin was basically just Edward from Twilight: your perfect, gorgeous immortal, hopelessly in love with an otherwise unremarkable human teenager. I think the reason I kept going had to do with the world, more than anything else: I loved Maas’s description of the fairy realm—the glamour, the clothes, the impossibly beautiful gardens and forest glens and countryside. And I liked all the stories mentioned above that she emulated, even though I thought this version was a much poorer rendition of all of them. I probably won’t continue the series, but I might give the Throne of Glass series one more try (on Audible this time: audiobooks tend to hold my attention better than paperbacks, because I can do other things at the same time).
My rating: ** 1/2