Many cultures have the “marriage to a beast” type tales – intended as warnings and preparations for arranged marriages for children and as a bit dirtier stories for adults. “La Belle et la Bête” (Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, 1740) is perhaps the heart of the most commonly known tale, but it was influenced by earlier stories like ”Cupid and Pysche” (2nd century AD) and “The Pig King” (1550).
Sarah J. Maas pulls from the more familiar “Beauty and the Beast” as well as “Little Broomstick”, “The Summer and Winter Garden”, “The White Wolf” and other folklore and fairytales in creating her A Court of Thorns and Roses. Those who grew up with Disney quickly recognize the “tale as old as time” backdrop to this grown-up fantastical fantasy retelling of a childhood classic. But Feyre is no Belle – she is an illiterate huntress. Her inability to read is a crucial part of this retelling, and it would have been cleverly done but for the timing – Feyre was 11 when her life changed and 14 when they ran out of money. Her diction marks her as high class to the fairies. She shouldn’t have been illiterate based on those circumstances, but she needed to be to accomplish what Maas was seeking to accomplish.
Feyre made a vow to her dying mother that she would take care of her two older sisters (one sweet, and one more wicked as seen in the variations). After her father loses their money, she has to hunt for their survival. She kills a wolf and a beastly figure demands she pay for her crimes. As punishment, Feyre is whisked away to the fairylands where she learns the hideous beast who’d taken her as payment for the life of his friend is a fairy, and a High Fae at that. With him, she learns that things are not always as they seem and chaos rumbles, ready to explode.
Will a human help a fae? Will a fae admits he needs her? Can they save both of their worlds before everything is ripped to shreds? And how far will Rhys’s redemption arc take him?
It’s a satisfying read, and I intend to finish the trilogy. Knowing the ancient variations, I imagine her sisters, especially Nesta, will show back up in a time of conflict.