Man, I had fun with this series! I wanted to read ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ by Sarah J. Maas because firstly I love her writing, but mainly because I was intrigued as to how a series with a blatant love triangle could garner such positive reviews of said triangle… a love triangle is like a death knell to most books.
So how did this one not only keep readers happy, but have them cheering for the new guy?
I had to read ACOTAR and find out.
I didn’t expect to then have to read the next one. And the one after that.
I didn’t expect to not just enjoy the series, but to be impressed with the messages it was sending.
I want to talk about two things here.
- How Maas sets the scene at the start of ACOTAR
- How the love triangle totally redeemed itself in my eyes.
The start – absolutely not what you’re told to do
I’m serious here. I write a lot of first person, and I struggle with that thing I’m always told – that you have to introduce your MC as quickly as you can. Age and name. Bam bam.
That’s really hard without your narrator sounding like an absolute goon. There are good ways to do it, and bad ways. Bad ways include dreadful conversations on the first page like, ‘Rebecca McWhatsername, try to act like you’re actually 16 and three-quarters.’ Or terrible monologues from MCs about birthdates that are completely foreign to their actual voice.
Then, there is Maas’ way to do it. Which is, to not do it.
Feyre’s name isn’t mentioned until Page 10. And I gave up rereading to try and find her age. It’s not clear in the first few chapters, except that she’s quite a bit older than eleven.
How does this work?
Because we read blurbs, people. And the blurb tells us her name. And it’s YA so we know she’s a teenager of some sort. So, I think we read and we trust. Because the start is honest and reels us in. (Because it isn’t filled with corny attempts to tell us things…)
In ‘Obernewtyn’ we don’t know Elspeth’s name until Chapter 2. Katniss’ name doesn’t come up for six pages in ‘The Hunger Games’. It’s ten pages before Tris is named in ‘Divergent’. I could go on. I can’t believe I missed this all these years.
So I’m going to stop agonising about telling my reader the MC’s deets, and instead let the MC talk for themselves. Naturally.
The actually acceptable love triangle.
The more I read, the more I become aware of what standards our YA books are telling girls they should accept. Nasty guy? He can redeem himself by telling us his deep dark secret that excuses all the aggressive domineering crap he did to the girl. The girl, of course, should keep mooning over him all the way through.
That’s not healthy people.
Nor is the romance in ACOTAR. Tamlin is at times aggressive and overbearing. It didn’t gel with me. Leaving a bruise? That isn’t something to celebrate, and her being stupid by leaving her room even after she’s been told 400 times not to doesn’t excuse his actions. Then we find out he needs Feyre to fall in love with him to save the day, and I added “manipulative” to his list of qualities.
And then he does sweet FA to help her Under the Mountain? I was totally not wanting them to be reunited in the end.
All hail Rhysand, who respects her for her strengths, doesn’t feel less by letting her be who she is, and doesn’t force his own agenda. He ain’t perfect, but he’s one of the best empowering love interests I’ve read for a while. I was so put off by Tamlin, if I hadn’t known from various spoilers that Rhys was on his way, I wouldn’t have read on in the series.
I’m glad I did. It’s fun! Feyre grows as a character in a fab way in this series. I recommend it highly if you love to dive into fantasy and faerie like I do.
Have you read it? Do you agree with me?
3 thoughts on “The spiky issue of positive relationship role models in YA – the clever ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’”
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I’ve read this series and I really liked it. I agree with everything you wrote here. I am actually shocked that I never realised the fact that the books that actually captivate me from the very start, are the ones where we don’t get all of the information about the MC on the 1st page (usually in a very weird and cringy way). I prefer books where the internal monologue feels very natural. For example, I finished Shatter Me a couple of days ago. I never read blurbs so I had no idea what is the MC’s name until I was 20-30 pages into the book. And I didn’t know what she looks like until I was halfway done with the story.
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I actually read one manuscript where it took about 3 chapters to realise the MC was a boy not a girl! But then, being a MS it had no blurb 😉
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