A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas • Magan Reviews

book cover for A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas [twitter • website]
First Book in the Series
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s
Pages: 416
Target Audience: Mature Young Adult
Keywords: Faeries, Magic, Fantasy, Beauty and the Beast Retelling
Reading Challenge: Flights of Fantasy with Alexa + Rachel

Summary: After Feyre unknowingly breaks the treaty between humans and Faeries, she’s faced with the choice of living in Prythian away from her family for the rest of her life with the Faeries or dying to pay penance for the wolf she killed. She doesn’t know that her choice will lead her to love, luxury, danger, and longing.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses

Gardens. Woods. Masks. Meadow. Danger.

This is what Sarah J. Maas’ work does to me: It makes my imagination burst and absolutely come alive. My goal was to find a few images that would maybe scratch the surface of what types of scenes were cinematically running through my mind, but Sarah’s writing is just so, so much more. There’s depth and detail and emotion and clarity. But best and most of all, there’s passion that courses through Sarah’s writing. It’s obvious she doesn’t rush a story for publication purposes; she mulls over all the details and intricacies until everything is so beautifully, wonderfully balanced.

I have a confession though. I was so nervous that I wouldn’t love A Court of Thorns and Roses as much as I love her Throne of Glass series. Well, false. The way this Beauty and the Beast retelling made my inner child resurface and blossom into something new and amazing as an adult (because let’s be honest, the connection between Feyre and Tamlin is …phew, steamy) was incredible. It gave me so much to relate to, even as a person who doesn’t read a ton of fantasy and often has a hard time getting absorbed in the world.

Feyre is a poor, young impoverished woman. Since her family’s fortune disappeared and her mother passed away, Feyre’s been solely responsible for making sure her disabled father and two heads-in-the-clouds sisters have food to eat and clothes on their back. She daily puts herself in danger’s way, but is extremely under-appreciated and often overlooked. One day as she’s hunting in the woods, freezing and exhausted, she has to make the decision to kill a wolf that’s threatening to hunt the deer she’s had her eye on. She’s hunted down by another giant beast because she’s broken a treaty between the humans and the Faeries. Her choice is either to live with the beast in Prythian on the other side of the wall that will forever separate her from her family, or die. She chooses to go.

In Prythian she takes up residence with Tamlin, the beast who claimed her from her home. He’s a shape-shifter, but mostly lives in his Faerie form, not all that unlike humans, but with curved ears, and a very attractive physique. Tamlin’s home (i.e. mansion) is a luxurious, spacious, and peaceful haven from the life Feyre knows back home. She’s torn between leaving her family behind (How will they survive?) and embracing the luxury of Prythian’s Spring Court.

Tamlin is frequently protecting the land, easily disturbed by Feyre’s abrasive attitude, and is extraordinarily giving even though he doesn’t have to be (and often, Feyre doesn’t seem to deserve his generosity). Lucien is Tamlin’s right hand man with a lot of gumption, a hot temper, a crazy sense of humor, and is very protective of Tamlin, leaving him very cautious around Feyre.

Feyre and Tamlin are essentially enemies. They’ve been brought up to hate one another. For nearly 500 years, it’s been Faeries versus humans.

Sarah J. Maas made me love everything about this childhood fairy tale all over again. I loved Feyre’s story — the escape from her depravity and meeting Tamlin, who pulls her out of her miserable fate to something so much more. Knowing what to expect, but with added elements of the scenery, haunting Attor and other creatures, and the brutal separation that leads the two lovebirds back together really gave A Court of Thorns and Roses its own identity.

And plus, how much more fun is it to read a grownup Beauty and the Beast retelling with super hot, steamy, sexy scenes? Sign me up for more of Tamlin and Feyre’s story, please.

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Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge

An early copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Blog Tour: Ally Condie on Naming Characters in Atlantia

book cover for atlantia by ally condie

Atlantia by Ally Condie (website | twitter)
See also my review of Crossed by Ally Condie
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Children’s
Pages: 368
Target Audience: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: underwater city, dystopia, broken world, young adult fantasy
Format Read: Arc received from the Publisher. (Thank you!

Summary (from Goodreads):Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

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Author Ally Condie is hanging out on Rather Be Reading today to discuss the importance of the names she selected in ATLANTIA. I don’t know about you guys, but I always, always want more information about an author’s thought process. Ally so carefully chose each of the names and it really makes my heart sing to learn these details. The whole world just comes alive a little bit more! I’ll be posting my official review later this week, but for now, I want you guys to say hello to Ally and get swept away by a few details in her upcoming release, ATLANTIA!

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AllyCondie_credit Erin SummerillWriting Atlantia was a little different from writing my other books. While I always like the names to have meaning (Cassia, Ky, and Xander’s names are all significant to their characters), this time, I wanted the names to connect with water somehow. Because the city of Atlantia is underwater, I felt sure that this connection would occur to the people naming their children Below.

I came up with Rio and Bay’s names very early on in the process—I have to know my main character’s name, or I have a hard time writing. I knew that Rio and Bay’s mother would have thought very carefully and given them names with great meaning. And, since they are twins, I wanted their names to tie together in a significant way but also sound/look very different. Rio is Spanish for river, and a bay is a body of water forming an indentation of the shoreline (and yes, I just got that definition from the dictionary). 😉 Without being too spoiler-y, I think Rio’s mother knew very much what she was doing (and what she hoped for) when she named her daughters after bodies of water that touch both the land and the sea.

The next set of sister names I chose were those of Rio and Bay’s mother, Oceana, and her sister, Maire. Since Oceana was the leader of Atlantia, I wanted her to have a grand, encompassing, womanly name. Oceana means from the sea, and I loved the sound of it. For Maire, I wanted something a bit sharper, a little different. I looked for other names that meant ocean or water, and when I found Maire—which has two meanings (of the sea or bitter), I knew that I’d found the right fit for this particular character. The dual meanings reflect well the dual nature of Maire’s character.

The boys in the story also have names that connect with water. While True’s first name has an obvious meaning (and one that is very connected to his character), it’s his last name, Beck, that reflects the water connection. A beck is a brook, or a swiftly running stream. And that felt right for True and his role in the story. Fen Cardiff, the other main boy in the story, has a name that means marsh—land covered in water. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but that has a connection with what happens to Fen in the book as well.

As for naming the city itself, I wanted a name that reflected Atlantis—the lost underwater city of legend—but that sounded more feminine, since the main characters in this book are strong women (I also didn’t want to be tied too tightly to the legends of Atlantis and the preconceptions people have about an Atlantis story). So I changed the ending of the word slightly. I had no idea at the time that we would name the book Atlantia (I always called it Rio, which I knew we couldn’t keep for obvious reasons—the movie, etc.) but I think the fact that it sounded right made my editor think of it as the name for the novel, and I was happy to agree.

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Thank you so much, Ally, for stopping by Rather Be Reading!
Friends, ATLANTIA is such a fun read. It was so nice to disappear into a world so
different than what I’ve been reading lately. Add this one to your TBRs!

Add ATLANTIA to Goodreads | Pre-Order from Amazon | Pre-order from Barnes & Noble

team above ally condie atlantia

And join us on Team Above — who would want to live underwater anyway? A few reasons why above is better: SUNSHINE, sand, fresh air, STARS, and um, history. I can’t imagine living below water where — don’t you think it would feel like living in a snow globe?

Estelle: Shelve It (5/13/2012)

weekly feature focusing on the books we bought, borrowed, and received from publishers

Ah! I’m so late! Hope you all had a great weekend! I have a special guest star in this video!

Netgalley

Friendship Bread by Darien Gee (5/1/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
What I Didn’t Say by Keary Taylor (5/11/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Summer Nights by Susan Mallery (6/19/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Starring Me by Krista McGee (7/10/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Kissing Shakespeare by Pamela Mingle (8/14/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon
Intentions by Deborah Heiligmann (8/14/2012) — Goodreads | Amazon

Bought

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson — Goodreads | Amazon

Recents reads

Lovestruck Summer by Melissa C. Walker — Goodreads | Amazon
Dream Factory by Brad Barkley & Heather Hepler — Goodreads | Amazon

On the blog this week:

Was I enchanted by Enchanted by Alethea Kontis?
Some adult fiction books that caught my eye!
I don’t think you can tell just how much Magan loved Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. 😉
A great meme by Broke & Bookish on favorite book quotes.
Ice cream, family, and some serious heartbreak were found in See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles.

Estelle: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 305
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Fantasy, fairy tales, princes & princesses, family drama
Format read: ARC received from HMH! (Thanks!)

Summary: With hopes of leading an interesting life, Sunday never would have known that befriending a frog in the forest would give her just that. Distraught when her frog disappears, Sunday has no way of knowing that he has transformed back into Prince Rumbold, someone her family is not too fond of. Nor does she know that the announcement of three balls could mean the prince is on the search for her, his one true love.

Even though I mostly read contemporary fiction, I like to think of myself as an open-minded reader. (Hey, I’m finally reading Divergent!) As a huge fan of fairy tales, I thought picking up Enchanted would be a nice way to transition into reading more of the fantasy genre. Based on The Princess and the Frog, one of my favorite stories (I used to love Faerie Tale Theatre’s The Frog Prince too), I couldn’t wait to see how this retelling translated on the page.

Main character Sunday is a writer and a dreamer who meets a frog named Grumble one day in the forest. As they spend more time together (him eager to hear stories of her family), feelings develop, she kisses him and soon he disappears. And here is where the conflict arises. Sunday is heartbroken over her missing frog friend and Grumble is actually Prince Rumbold, an enemy of Sunday’s family. Even though he is aware of this “minor” detail, Rumbold is set on finding Sunday and spending the rest of his life with her.

Love story? Semi, instant love but check! Family drama? Double check!

So here we have a sort of Cinderella story with other well-known tales woven through like Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk, and many others. While it was nice to encounter familiar tales, I’m not sure including all of them was the best choice in a book that already contained a lot of story. The history/secrets of Sunday’s family were one plotline, as well as Rumbold’s own back story which included much drama (and horror) regarding his father, the King. Plus, there were many supporting characters, which at times caused me to flip back through the pages so I could be reminded of who they were and how they connected to the story.

Kontis is a beautiful writer. She has created a majestic world with gorgeous imagery but too much time was spent on developing that background and not enough on the characters. (This also slowed down the pacing of the book and made me feel frustrated as a reader. I wanted to get to the meat of the story.) While I liked Sunday, she wasn’t multi-dimensional. There were only a few times when I felt what she was feeling. (Surprisingly, her affections for Grumble when he was a frog, this unattainable thing, felt very realistic.) Mostly, I would have loved to read more dialogue. When there was dialogue, it was delightful, funny, and quirky, and gave me true insight into these characters. The scenes I truly enjoyed were between Rumbold and his men (the banter was great) and also Sunday and her “brother” Trix. In addition, not enough attention was paid to key moments in the story and the impact was lost, like when Sunday’s aunt rolls into town with revelations about their family and we are told about it in passing afterwards. I wanted to be IN that moment and maybe then I would have felt more linked to these characters and their stories.

I wonder if Enchanted would have worked better as a multi-book series so more time could have been focused on each of Sunday’s siblings (such fascinating stories!) and this later storyline that pops up with Rumbold’s father. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much but I felt this storyline could have been planted from the beginning instead of just appearing toward the end. I feared, even after the book started at a turtle’s pace and maintained it pretty much throughout, that the ending would come too quickly. And it did.

Mostly I feel Kontis’ strengths as a writer were not utilized in the right way and if they had been, I might be writing an entirely different review.

Despite this, Enchanted did a number of things that I liked. In ways it felt like an organic fairy tale – comparable to Ever After where most characters get to really be themselves instead of a figment of what royalty or a princess-to-be should be. Instead of Grumble morphing right back into a strapping young prince, he is weak once he transforms and struggles to get back to where he used to be (although with a nicer heart). Even though it is based on a story (or stories) that most people know, these were details that made Enchanted unique.

Have you read Enchanted? I would love to hear your thoughts and also any other reading suggestions in the fantasy arena.

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