Sarah J Maas is one of those authors that seems to be talked about (either super hyped or absolutely hated) by pretty much every booktuber/bookstagrammer I see on my social media feeds. Her YA fantasy is so embedded in online book culture that I've felt totally behind for not having read her books (or V E Schwab's, or Cassandra Clare's, or Suzanne Collins' *grits teeth*).
I just also wanted to clarify that the book was gifted to me as a PR sample (and I'll be getting each of the next in the series' once a month eeek) with no obligation to post this, or anything in particular. I just ended up enjoying it way more than I ever thought I would!
A Court of Thorns and Roses is set in a fantasy world where humans live on one side of a border, and magical folk called fae on the other. Feyre and her family live close to the border and fear what's on the other side. Impoverished, with her mother dead and father unable and unwilling to source food and money for them, Feyre hunts to keep her and her sisters alive. When she kills the biggest wolf she's ever seen, she doesn't realise it's fae. That is until a great beast comes and seizes her for her crimes, drugging her and taking her back to his kingdom.
There she learns to fear the fae more than she ever did before. Her captor Tamlin is a High Lord of the Spring Court, and as part of her punishment for taking fae life she must spend the rest of her life in fae lands. However, she also learns to admire them and sympathise with them. She cannot leave the grounds, but must do everything she can to keep her family safe, as well as herself in the face of Tamlin and his court who are all much more powerful than her. When war starts to threaten the lands, she must decide whether to help the fae that kept her captive (and safe), or accept her mortal fate and try to return to her family.
I really REALLY loved this. It's almost a spin on Beauty and the Beast: girl gets captured by beast, hates him, gradually learns to sympathise with him and ultimately is attracted to him. Maas is great at both describing beautiful scenery and putting in actually well done smut. I could almost imagine what the Spring Court looked like, and there was no point at which the book moved too slowly, which I often find with certain fantasy books that do a lot of world building (*cough* George R R Martin *cough*).
Feyre's a character I enjoyed watching progress: she's human and knows this makes her weaker than anyone else around her, but she's feisty and absolutely holds her own. The other key characters in the book are all also very interesting: Tamlin's got a sad past hinted at in the book, making you want to understand him better; his right-hand man Lucien is missing an eye (as well as a lot of patience), and gives Feyre the bit of drama that she wants; Amarantha's a mysterious force for a lot of the book, wreaking destruction behind the scenes; and then we have malicious Rhysand, a high lord from another court. The book was jam-packed with beautiful world building, action and I just wanted to know more and more about every single character. Having now started the second book in the series, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have another massive book hangover, just like I did with this one!