A Court of Thorns and Roses: An Ending Done Right

There is nothing more satisfying for me as a reader then reaching the end of a book that has a fist-pumping ending.

A book where every single character gets an ending that resonates with their trajectory. There aren’t any outstanding “what the heck just happened?” questions floating around in your mind. And usually there’s a supremely satisfying “happily ever after” that leaves my blood singing with a reader’s high that lasts for at least 12 hours. This feeling is multiplied when you get through a series. Will the ending fulfill every dream you’ve had for the thousands of pages you’ve consumed? Or will it be a fiery ball of “meh”?

So much rides on that last book of a series. It can change how you frame all the preceding books or cement its place in your reading hall of fame. When a series is building toward a conclusion, I can give it a little leeway in terms of shaky world building, flat characters, or weird plot twists because you trust the author will make everything come out right. Rarely is that the case.

A young adult series that seriously impressed me is Sarah J. Maas’ “A Court of Thorns and Roses” trilogy. The first book is a little shaky, but the emotional payout of the final book of the trilogy is well worth reading through the lackluster opening.

YA novels have a bad rap with adult readers, and there are definitely books that play into those stereotypes. In fact, the first book, “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” checks almost all of my least favorite YA tropes: hazy love triangle, overly dramatic characters, love at first sight, every character is beautiful. On top of that, it’s also a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” a fairy tale which has become immensely popular in YA over the last few years.

I had pretty much written off the rest of the series as being awful, but after reading more of Maas’ work (check out the “Throne of Glass” series), I shrugged, said “what the heck” and picked up “A Court of Mist and Fury.” I’m glad I did. While the first book was a trite and lack luster fairy tale adaptation, the second and third books give up on politely fitting into a “retelling,” and Maas hits her stride building a fascinating and complete fantasy world.

While the world building is solid, I think my favorite part about this series is the evolution of main character Feyre from love-struck, no personality, fairy tale victim to a totally self-sufficient commander of her own fate. Sure, there is an underlying romance, and of course there’s some overwrought relationship drama, but unlike other YA heroines, Feyre has actual character development and graduates from cardboard cutout to fully realized, multi-dimensional heroine. She becomes a character you root for, and even in a book full of a great supporting cast, her growth and development keeps her at the top of the characters you care about in the novels.

Maas also does an excellent job of subtly subverting the “Beauty and the Beast” mythology. Although I will love Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” until the end of time, as a rational adult and feminist I acknowledge there are problems with the storyline. No matter which way you look at it, there is a very blatant disparity in power. Can such a huge inequality between characters lead to a loving relationship with equality between partners? “A Court of Mist and Fury” explores what happens after the “happily ever after” and paints a realistic portrait of a relationship based on coercion.

A Court of Wings and Ruin” is the final book in the series, and although you’ll have to get through more than 800 pages to get there, I found the final novel to be the jewel of Maas’ trilogy. Remember all that gibberish about a reader’s high? This book has it in spades. I was so happy with how the series turned out, and even happier that I stuck through the first book to get there.

Maas’ command of plot, characterization, and world building brings about a satisfying finish that I couldn’t get enough of. So if you’re looking for a fantasy series that won’t let you down in the end, come down to the library and check out the “Court of Thorns and Roses” series. You’ll be thanking me for all the endorphins as you get your very own reader’s high.

— Lauren Taylor is a youth services assistant at the Lawrence Public Library.