Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses Series – Sarah J. Maas

I need to start out with saying I think this series is on the right track for things we need in YA Literature. I loved it. I shamelessly loved it, and I will continue to read it, probably even after the publisher ruins the plot with those added six books they signed.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only 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 over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

So that’s the excerpt from the first book. It’s going to get spoilery from here on out as this is more of a discussion than a real review. The review is: I loved it.

So anyone who’s read the books knows everything goes to shit in the second book and Feyre and Rhysand are mates and DEATH TO TAMLIN… right? Well. While I love Rhysand, and I truly believe he and Feyre were meant to be, and I love where the plot took them, I want to take a little time to argue for Tamlin.

I took to tumblr to get my fill of Feyre x Rhysand fanart and found everyone and their mother talking about how they knew Tamlin was just an abusive relationship from the start and how grotesque he is etc etc -___-

-___-

But let’s talk about Tamlin for a second because there is a very important lesson here that a lot of discussions miss. I just read a point by a tumblr user that pins Tamlin as irredeemable because he killed Rhysand’s family, or idly watched.

Tamlin’s father felt threatened by Rhysand’s court. That was the point. Tamlin’s only fault is that he followed his father. His father told him that, as a king, this is what had to be done to keep their families safe. Tamlin standing on the sideline and watching Rhysand’s mother and sister die was purely a matter of “whose side are you on?”

When a war breaks out, each side thinks they’re on the side of the righteous. No one ever fights a war because they think they’re wrong. We are horrified that Tamlin watched because we love Rhysand. We are on Rhysand’s side. We see him as the righteous leader we would get behind because we are reading through Feyre’s unreliable narrative.

Now, is Tamlin a shitty ass boyfriend? Sure he is. But was it justified? Absolutely. Feyre keeps saying that he stopped trying to woo her after they got engaged. Which might be true. But he was upset and heartbroken when she didn’t break the curse at first. He could have helped her, but maybe he was hurt and outraged by the 50 year curse he had failed to break. He probably blamed himself as well as Feyre.

Now. When they got back to the Spring Court, the boy who lost everything is trying to protect Feyre. The boy who already demonstrated for us how controlling he had learned to be from his father’s fae tradition, is being a dick. Tamlin is a product of his environment. The only problem with Tamlin is that he is ignorant.

Tamlin has feelings. He loves Feyre. He just thinks he is displaying his love, and going to the ends of the earth to help her, to find her, to make up for what he didn’t do under the mountain for her. (Because keep in mind, Tamlin doesn’t know Rhysand the way we do. Tamlin knows the Rhysand of the Court of Nightmares. Please keep that in mind. He knows that Feyre hates Rhysand. He has not seen what we’ve seen.) The problem with Tamlin is that he needs to be taught how to love and Rhysand has already been taught how to love.

Tamlin is a victim of circumstance.

Rhysand is a good person because he has had life experiences that have lead him to understand true empathy and Tamlin is ignorant to that kind of love.

Tamlin is shitty and redeemable. His heart is in the right place.

** Edit**

I got a response here basically stating that Tamlin shouldn’t be excused because he “Doesn’t know any better.” Because he is not a child. And I agree, this is my response:

He has to learn how to behave differently from how he was raised. Tamlin follows the law and does not question it. Because he is an adult it is taking him much longer to learn to question the establishment, where Rhys grew up with that mindset. He didn’t help Feyre because tradition told him not to. Be isn’t someone who doesn’t know any better at all, that is not the point I was trying to make. He is someone who was taught values and truly believes he is on the side of the just. He believes in tradition. But he is willing to change ad displayed in the last scene with Feyre. It’s just taking him a while because he is so old and has grown up with this set of values. I think he’s shitty and I’m glad we got to know Rhys who is undeniably a better character no matter how morally ambiguous he is, but again, Tamlin doesn’t know Rhys as we do.. so if we knew Rhys as Tamlin does, we probably would have acted as Tamlin did. And regarding watching Rhysand family die, again, he thought his father was right. He believed his court was the righteous. It isn’t that he didn’t know better, it’s that this is what he believed to be true and because he believes in tradition, he doesn’t have the mind to question anything.
Tamlin has a lot of learning to do. To be redeemed he has to stop doing things he thinks are right, and start educating himself. I don’t think he has very many unique opinions or ideas. He needs to step outside of tradition and become his own person.

**Edit Edit**

Another user replied “So abuse is excusable under certain circumstances?” and I just thought it was a good part of the discussion to address

My answer for that is:

No, Abuse cannot be justified. But he is not irredeemable because he made decisions based on his past experiences. He was acting in a state of war, trying to keep her safe the only way he knew how based on how his own family was slaughtered in their beds. He tried to keep her safe as he was taught to, and traumatized enough to do, and she left and found a good relationship. He went to find her, not because he wanted to chain her up, but because the last time he saw Rhysand, he was Rhysand of the court of nightmares, the dickhead Rhysand who we know Feyre understands to be a false front. Let us not forget that Rhysand drugged Feyre so she wouldn’t remember him kissing her and grinding on her and having very lewd dancing for all to see. That is how Tamlin remembers him, and that is why he went after Feyre. Tamlin being redeemable does not mean he didn’t do things which are inexcusable. It is up to him to learn from his mistakes. Every character in this book is morally ambiguous and our side in the war determines whose actions are excusable and whose are not.

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