ARC Review | A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

4.5 cupcakes

“For a moment, I wished I had it in me to feel remorse for the dead thing. But this was the forest, and it was winter.”

Aside from the Wicked Lovely series, I haven’t had much luck with faery stories. However, because it’s Sarah J. Maas and I’m still not completely over all of the feels that Heir of Fire gave me, I just had to giveA Court of Thorns and Roses a try – and I’m very glad to say that I absolutely loved it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses is a retelling of both Beauty and the Beast (but not the Disney-fied version) and Tam Lin, a tale that I’m only vaguely familiar with because of The Decembersists’ Hazards of Love album and Tithe. My lack of familiarity with the source material did not dampen my reading experience, though; in fact, many of what I perceived to be twists and turns in the story would have been less unpredictable had I skimmed the Wikipedia article beforehand.

This is very much a character-driven story, and I absolutely loved how the slow pace allowed the relationships between Feyre and the fey to develop. Feyre’s character arc, in particular, is a thing of beauty: she goes from a prickly, reserved, cold young woman to someone who slowly lets down her guard. She’s had an incredibly difficult life, so seeing Feyre’s reactions to being treated kindly by the fae she was raised to fear and experiencing moments of joy was a large part of what really sold me on this story.

It’s not a Sarah J. Maas novel without at least one swoon-worthy boy, and in the case of A Court of Thorns and Roses, there are three: Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court; Lucien, his snarky courtier; and Rhysand, the dark and intriguing anti-hero / High Lord of the Night Court. While I’m 100% on board with the relationship progression (hate-to-love is kind of my favourite), I’m also surprisingly okay with the potential for a love triangle. I guess that goes to show just how wonderfully crafted these boys and their chemistry were.

Overall, A Court of Thorns and Roses was a very strong start to a new fantasy series. It’s dark, seductive, and magical, with all the sexy faery boys. As with the Throne of Glass series, I’m sure that the following books will be even better, so I can’t wait to see where Feyre’s story will go.

I received an ARC from Bloomsbury USA and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Waiting On Wednesday (December 3)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, which has an expected publication date of May 5, 2015.

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

As I’m sure you all know by now, the Throne of Glass series is one of my favourites, so I was ridiculously excited to see that Sarah J. Maas was releasing a new series! Not only is the cover absolutely gorgeous, but it’s a retelling of one of my favourite fairytales (Beauty and the Beast) with my favourite paranormal component (faeries) and some really neat Scottish lore (Tam Lin).

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

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Review | Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy.

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

4.5 cupcakes

“She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.”

Heir of Fire is quite different from its predecessors. For starters, it’s huge; at 565 pages, it was a bit of a workout carrying this book around. As a result, the pacing was rather slow at times, so I found it difficult to initially become absorbed into the story. While retrospect shows that every scene was important, some felt out of place and disjointed from the common narrative thread (especially those involving Manon, the witch who was heir to the Ironteeth clan). The last ~150 pages, though, were perfectly paced, taking me on an emotional roller coaster ride that I still haven’t recovered from.

A good portion of the book was devoted to further developing the stunning, magical world that Maas has created. I loved reading about Celaena’s training, the Fae and the demi-Fae, the folktales regarding Queen Maeve, and the creepy creatures that you could find in the dark. All of these were laid out in so much detail, prompting me to compare it to Game of Thrones on several occasions.

Celaena’s history is laid bare through flashbacks and dreams, lending a great deal of sympathy to her character. She undergoes a tremendous amount of growth as she contends with her many demons, and my heart broke so many times for all that she has been through.

All of our other beloved characters are just as broken and lost as she is: Chaol is struggling with the consequences of his actions, and Dorian is struggling to control his magic. Added to this mix are several new characters: the Fae prince, Rowan; a bloodthirsty Ironteeth witch named Manon; and Aedion, Aelin’s cousin and General in the North. While these additions made for many changes in perspective, it led to the perfect balance between magic and background information/politics.

There was very little romance present in Heir of Fire. While I would have liked my Chaolena ship to have been in full force, I appreciated that Celaena needed to be able to love herself before any romantic relationships could occur.

Overall, Heir of Fire was a very strong addition to the Throne of Glass series. It’s beautifully written and magical, and I’m excited (but also terrified) to see where the story goes from here.

Review | The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

5 cupcakes

“She was fire, she was darkness, she was dust and blood and shadow.”

The Assassin’s Blade is easily my favourite book in the Throne of Glass series. I had initially read the set of e-novellas before starting the series, which I definitely recommend doing; they lend so much depth to Celaena’s character. They’re just as powerful when you know the continuation of Celaena’s story in Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, though, as you can see how the events in this collection shape her actions and the person that she is today.

Over the course of these novellas, which are set before the events in Throne of Glass, Celaena undergoes a tremendous amount of growth. It was thoroughly enjoyable watching her transformation from an arrogant assassin who blindly follows orders to someone who makes decisions based on her moral centre, placing her compassion for others fully on display. My favourite part, though, was watching her develop tentative relationships, especially her hate-to-love relationship with Sam Cortland, a rival assassin. Even though I knew it was going to completely crush my heart when I got to The Assassin and the Empire.

The Assassin’s Blade also gives readers a better feel for the world that Celaena inhabits. While much of Throne of Glass was spent in the castle, The Assassin’s Blade takes readers all across the continent: from Skull’s Bay to the Red Desert, so many elements of this world were open for exploration.

Overall, The Assassin’s Blade is a wonderfully written introduction to the world that Sarah J. Maas has created, and I highly, highly recommend giving it a read.

Book Review: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

My Rating: 5 cupcakes

Crown of Midnight is the perfect example of how a second book should be written. It (thankfully) doesn’t fall victim to the dreaded “second book syndrome,” and manages to be even better than its predecessor, Throne of Glass.

In my review for Throne of Glass I mentioned that there were some aspects that could use improvement, namely that there should be more scenes showing Celeana as a kickass assassin. This issue was certainly addressed in Crown of Midnight. While Celeana does fawn over gorgeous dresses and read a lot of books, we also get to see more of her darker side — and it is certainly a sight to behold. Celeana isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty and her dresses stained with blood, and by the end of the book you certainly understand why she’s a force to be reckoned with.

As with Throne of Glass the two leading men in Crown of Midnight continued to steal (and, at times, break) my heart. Unlike Throne of Glass there isn’t too much of a love triangle here; while both Dorian and Chaol have feelings for Celeana, she makes a choice and sticks with it. Of course, despite sweet pillow talk and a lovely broom cupboard scene, this relationship is not without complications, and I can’t wait to see where Maas takes it next.

The plot of the novel is a whirlwind from start to finish: between magic, political intrigue, death, and unexpected twists and turns, Crown of Midnight is incredibly difficult to put down. While I had guessed one of the major reveals early on, it still caused me to feel ALL the emotions – and that, my friends, is the mark of an excellent book.

Overall, Crown of Midnight is a captivating, emotional ride that will leave you breathless and wanting more. I’m so excited to see where the series will go from here!

Teaser Tuesday (September 3)

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Teaser Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Should Be Reading, which asks you to grab your current read, open to a random page, and share two teaser sentences.

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This week’s teaser comes from Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas.

An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.

After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.

Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.

Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?

“An icy, endless rage swept through her. wiping away everything except the plan that she could see with brutal clarity. The killing calm, Arobynn Hamel had once called it. Even he had not realized just how calm she could get when she went over the edge.
If they wanted Adarlan’s Assassin, they’d get her.
And Wyrd help them when she arrived.” – page 215

1b2

Leave a comment with your teasers or a link to your Teaser Tuesday post in the comments below.
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Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

1After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

Before reading Throne of Glass, I highly recommend reading the prequel novellas (which are wonderful!) as they’re referenced throughout the book and will give you a greater appreciation and understanding of Celaena’s character.

Celaena is easily one of my favourite female protagonists. As Adarlan’s assassin, she is strong, sarcastic, willful, and can easily plan a successful escape or murder without a second thought. However, she’s also incredibly vain, loves to dress up and attend parties, and is a voracious reader. This contradiction of sorts underscores one of my favourite points, that being feminine doesn’t make you weak, and made me love Celaena even more.

Following the current trend in YA books, there is a love triangle in Throne of Glass featuring Chaol, the stoic Captain of the Guard, and the flirtatious Crown Prince Dorian. Normally I dislike love triangles, but this case proved to be an exception. Both Chaol and Dorian are loyal companions with likeable qualities who are determined to see Celaena emerge victorious in the competition. The third-person narrative shifts between Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian’s perspectives, allowing us to objectively see the romance from all sides and giving us a better understanding of their personalities and motivations. (That being said, I do have my favourite love interest, though I won’t mention who, so hopefully the odds will be in my favour on that count).

Alongside the action-filled contest to find the King’s Champion, mentions of magic, the Fae, murder, court politics and empire building helped create a gripping plot filled with mystery and intrigue. My only complaint is that there were many points where the events of the competition were glossed over in favour of scenes that involved either the love triangle or Celaena reading in the library; it would have been nice to see more of her skills as opposed to just hearing about them.

Overall, I really enjoyed Throne of Glass, and will be waiting (not so) patiently for Crown of Midnight to be released.