A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is a dark fantasy woven together with elements from Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin. Feyre, a human, is carried off by a monstrous creature the night after she killed a large wolf in the forest. According to a treaty between faeries and humans, she owes her life to the faeries after having killed one of their own. Her captor, Tamlin, spares her but takes her to live on his estate in the faerie realm of Prythian. Tamlin, a shapeshifter and one of the High Fae, provides Feyre every sort of comfort with the understanding that she will not leave. During her stay, she begins to learn of a blight, a magical sickness, that has infected Prythian lands and weakened the powers of the faerie rulers. As Feyre’s loathing of Tamlin evolves into desire and affection, she becomes determined to help fight against the evilness that threatens Prythian and the mortal lands.
Elizabeth Wein’s historical fiction novel, Black Dove, White Raven, is primarily set in 1930s Ethiopia. Through journal entries, stories, and flight logs, the novel tells the story of Emilia and Teo. Although not related by blood, they grow up as sister and brother as they travel throughout 1920s America with their stunt pilot mothers, the White Raven and the Black Dove. Teo’s mother, Delia, dreams of moving to Ethiopia to raise her son in a land where he will not face discrimination for the color of his skin. After Delia is killed in a plane accident, Emilia’s mother immigrates to Ethiopia with the children. Their peaceful lives on a cooperative coffee farm are interrupted by the threat of an Italian invasion, and Ethiopia, the only African nation to have not been colonized, finds itself at war. Separated, Emilia, Teo, and Momma must each play a role to defend the country they call home and find one another.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is an engaging story, but not without faults. I found the lyrical descriptions of the faerie world to be a bit much at times to the point of distracting me from the plot. I also thought the effects of the magical blight were inconsistent. Even with his limited powers, Tamlin was able to shapeshift, make items appear and disappear at will, and create illusions. However, he could not remove masquerade masks from his face and those of his court (the image of which I found quite amusing and not beautiful and romantic as Maas probably intended). Finally, as I read, I continually questioned the motivations of the characters and their unnatural actions, particularly Tamlin’s. Why did he spare Feyre’s life and treat her so well when she had killed his friend? Why did he divulge so many private concerns when he barely knew her? Explanations of the characters’ motivations finally made an appearance two-thirds of the way through the book and redeemed my faith in the story.
I had previously read Black Dove, White Raven and was not particularly eager to pick it up again. Although it is well-written and covers a piece of little known history, I did not find it gripping. I typically enjoy historical fiction, but I did not connect with the characters enough to care about them. Also, I did not find any distinction between Emilia’s and Teo’s voices, both of whom take turns narrating the story through their entries and logs.
The two books I read were drastically different, in genre, writing style, tone, and so much more. Although I would say Black Dove, White Raven has a higher literary value than A Court of Thorns and Roses, teens (and I) are more likely to devour a decently-written, yet engaging, story than a well-written one that does not interest the reader. Black Dove, White Raven is not without value, but because A Court of Thorns and Roses is, in my opinion, more appealing, I determine it to be the winner!
WINNER: A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES BY SARAH J. MAAS
Reviewed by Jennie Fidler, Geneva Public Library District