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T5W: Favourite ‘Unlikeable’ Protagonists

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is unlikeable protagonists. I personally love a brilliant villain, but it can be difficult to have a good unlikeable protagonist. You have to take someone with serious flaws and make readers see some light in them. It’s difficult to do, and sometimes a ‘good’ unlikeable protagonist just becomes someone that you can’t stand, and the balance between flaws and strengths is lost. Here’s a list of examples where I think it’s been done right.

1. Naondel – Maria Turtschaninoff

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I couldn’t just pick one of Naondel’s many narrators, but something that I think Turtschaninoff did really well was craft really complex characters. All of the women that narrate this novel are out to save their own skin, and largely remain so for most of the novel. They are selfish and ambitious out of need and form few friendships and bonds between them. However, you come to love them as characters because their lives and thoughts are so well presented and you see their distinct personalities coming together when they realise they should not be enemies any longer.

2. Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

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I chose the protagonist of the early books in the Throne of Glass series over that of the later books because Celaena was everything that I enjoy in an unlikeable protagonist. I loved how she toed the line between hero and villain. She was dangerous, a threat to everyone and not afraid to show it, proud of her strength and skill, scheming, and powerful, but at the same time we saw gentler sides to her. We saw her both as an assassin and as a friend, lover, and protector. While some people simply love Celaena, I actually often toe the line between love and hate in these books, especially in the later books. There are moments where I love her sassiness, her wit, and the double sides to her character, and there are other moments where I feel tired of it, and want her to just pick the a side, good or bad. I guess that’s what makes her such an intriguing protagonist.

3. Eva from We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver

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Eva is far from a likeable character because of her crude honesty. She is completely open about not having wanted her first child Kevin, about her dislike for him as a child and uneasiness around him, about her resenting many of the choices that she allowed herself to be talked into by her husband. We learn that her son Kevin killed seven students and two adults in a massacre at his school, and we see Eva visiting him in prison and even preparing her house for his return, taking extra care to ensure he will be comfortable. Throughout the novel, I wasn’t ever quite sure about Eva, and I definitely felt uneasy reading this novel, but it was an unfamiliar feeling that I actually really enjoyed.

4. Cersei Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire – George R.R. Martin

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I always get weird looks for saying that Cersei is one of my favourite characters in this series, but she is just the epitome of a great villain. What I love about Cersei, and about the characterisation in this series generally, is that you always see the characters’ motives for their actions. Cersei is undeniably selfish and cruel, but you also know that she does the things she does to protect her family. I also think she’s a fascinating character in how scheming she is and how she is one of the most dangerous characters in the series without being a warrior in the typical sense.

5. Pip – Great Expectations from Charles Dickens

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Reading this novel, I actually actively disliked Pip. I thought he was selfish and couldn’t see past his own desires, he was ungrateful to his uncle, and narrow-minded. I hated how he treated those who had helped him, and how quickly he seemed to forget all about him. However, it all fits into the story well, as it is about growing up and learning valuable lessons, which Pip definitely does. He learns that the things he had thought were wrong, and comes to realise the errors of his ways.

Do you like an unlikeable protagonist? How many flaws is too many flaws?

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T5W: Fandoms You Are No Longer In

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is about fandoms that you used to be incredibly invested in and no longer are. This was a bit difficult for me, because I spent most of my childhood thinking about Harry Potter, and to be honest, I still do. I think part of the reason why I haven’t left many fandoms is that I only recently returned to YA books, and so most of the books that I read as a teenager were actually adult books that I am still into, like the ASOIAF series.

Although there aren’t many fandoms that I’ve left behind, I have thought back extra hard to remember what authors and books I really loved and devoted a lot of time to, so here goes!

1. Twilight – Stephenie Meyer

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I think most people around my age had a ‘Twilight phase’, or are still huge fans of the series. Mine lasted for about two years. I read the books twice through, if I remember correctly, and watched the first film countless times. I never watched the films after the third, and haven’t read any of the subsequent releases after the first series. It was a lot of fun for a teenage girl reading her first real fantasy romance novel, but I didn’t remain impressed for long.

2. A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket 

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This is a throwback way into my childhood. I read these books as a child and absolutely loved them. When the Netflix adaptation came out recently I vividly remembered hours spent poring over details in the book, trying to discover who killed the Baudelaire parents and what the VFD really meant. When the book finished, I imagined what the Baudelaire children would go on to do and where it would go on. I wrote emails to Lemony Snicket and got a suitably witty and pessimistic response.

3. Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

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This is quite a recent ‘throwback’, or not much of a throwback at all. My experiences with the Throne of Glass novels has been a whirlwind. I started reading these books about a year and a half ago, and went from loving them, delving right into Celaena’s character and the world of Sarah J Maas, and by the time I read Empire of Storms, eagerly picking up my copy on release day, I realised that I was just reading the books because I wanted to see what happened and not because I was really enjoying it anymore. I will still read the subsequent books, but basically just because I feel invested in the story.

4. Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

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I was scrolling through upcoming events at a local bookshop recently and noticed a Derek Lady event for the release of the latest instalment of this series and it all came flooding back. I loved these books while I was at school, but I only read a couple. I don’t know how or why I ever decided to stop reading this book series about a skeleton man in a trench coat with a female teen assistant. It’s like a gory horror version of Doctor Who! Even over ten years since I started it, it still sounds appealing, but with ten books in the series, I think it’s a bit much to sign up for.

5. Percy Jackson & the Olympians – Rick Riordan

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My best friend introduced me to this series and I devoured my way through her copy of the books. I still recall, with a broken heart, how my school wouldn’t let us miss our English lesson to attend a Rick Riordan event with our librarian, but how she got us signed copies of his latest book.

This post was a lot of fun! I had forgotten about some of these series (particularly the last two) until I went through my goodreads account and remembered how much I had loved them. Are there any fandoms that you were a part of but then drifted away from? Do you remember why, or do you think you could still go back into that fandom like before?

 

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T5W: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s topic is books that would make good video games. I’m not much of a gamer, but I’ve picked books that were filled with action and problem-solving from start to end. Here we go!

1. Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton

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There is so much travelling, running, fighting, and sneaking around in this book that it made me feel a little bit like I was in a video game! I felt like I was jumping off trains and trekking through the desert with Amani, and I really think the adrenaline of this book would translate well into a video game. The landscapes are great, and I can imagine little mini-games with the different magical creatures and powers.

2. Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

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I think that the first book in this series would make such a great game because of the tournament that Celaena is a part of. The game would include her training so that she is the best of the other candidates, the tournament itself, as well as the underlying mysteries around the palace, like when she discovers the secret tunnel in her room. Celaena would make a great video game protagonist because she is smart, adventurous, and completely badass. The location of the palace would work so well in a video game as well, and I would love to be able to explore all its different corridors and rooms.

3. Maresi –  Maria Turtschaninoff 

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When I read this book, I loved reading about the simple lives of the women in the Red Abbey. I imagine that this came would be less action-packed than my previous two choices, and instead would be a chilled out simulation game. We would play the role of a new arrival, learning the ropes around the Abbey, helping with chores and tasks, with the harvest and learning new skills. Then, we would become a novice and even a sister. Maybe this sort of game isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it might sound a bit boring to some, but I grew up playing Sims and the Red Abbey sounded great to me, so I would love it!

4. Red Rising – Pierce Brown

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There is so much to this world that I would love a chance to really be a part of it. Maybe we could be young Golds at the Institute, or a rebel infiltrator like Darrow, leading warships in space.

5. A Song of Ice and Fire – George RR Martin

A Game of Thrones

Okay, this is a bit of a cop-out, because I actually played a ASOIAF game once on my phone but didn’t get very far because my phone was too crappy to handle it. The graphics were so great, and you got to decide what house you were in, whether you were rich or poor, and make different choices along the way. The world in these books is so diverse that it really would need to be a story that you craft yourself, whether you want to be leading an army into battle like Jaime or Robb Stark, a schemer like Littlefinger, royalty like Cersei or just someone trying to get by like Sansa.

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T5W: Favourite Angsty Romances

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is Favourite Angsty Romances, so without further ado, let’s jump right in!

1. Gus and Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

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I don’t think you can get much more angsty than John Green generally, and especially not this novel. While I think Looking For Alaska is definitely much more angsty, the romance in this novel captured my heart from the start. Gus and Hazel are so cute, and I’m sure you don’t need telling where the angst in this comes from. I’ll just end by saying that this was one of my first experiences at truly heartbreaking YA.

2. Jude and Oscar from I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson 

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This book is my favourite. Everything about this novel is angst, from beginning to end, but not in an annoying, eye-roll kind of way, but in a gushing, make you want to cry and laugh and scream and punch something all at once. Jude and Oscar are so angsty that it made my heart feel like it was being squeezed at times. I mean, you can’t get much more angsty than: “I gave up practically the whole word for you…The sun, stars, ocean, trees, everything, I gave it all up for you.”

3. Twylla and Lief from The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury

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Twylla is the human embodiment of the goddess Daunen, the Queen’s executioner, and her touch is fatal. As if that isn’t enough to make her relationship to her new guard Lief risky to say the least, she is also engaged to the Prince. There is so much standing between Twylla and Lief that their romance is already angsty enough, and that’s before the main story of The Sin Eater’s Daughter even begins. Once the trilogy gets going, this relationship only gets more and more angsty.

4. Maddy and Olly from Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon 

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Another great romance story that makes you not only squeal with excitement and butterflies but also squirm in apprehension at what might go off. Not only is the romance in this novel heightened by the fact that Maddy could literally die from an allergic reaction to anything and everything, but she can’t even be safe with Olly himself.

5. Celaena and Sam Throne of Glass series – Sarah J. Maas

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At first I chose Chaol and Celaena, then I chose Aelin and Rowan, then I decided to not choose any in particular, then I remembered that there are also all the other relationships, from Dorian and Sorscha to Elide and Lorcan. This series is so filled to the brim with angsty, steamy romances that I couldn’t choose for ages, but in the end I chose Celaena and Sam because they are the sweetest of the lot in my opinion and have the most dramatic end. I don’t think anyone can quite fit angsty romance into epic fantasy like Sarah J Maas can, and even though sometimes I am a bit fed up with the prevalence of romantic pairings in the series, I still get obsessed with them.

 

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T5W: Books You Felt Betrayed By

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is Books You Felt Betrayed By, so, let’s jump straight in!

1. The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen

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I’ve spoken about feeling betrayed by this book a few times on my blog (1, 2), so it seems apt to take the top spot here. To be honest, every time I think about my high expectations going into this book and how disappointed I felt at the other end, I get angry. This trilogy had so much buzz around it that I was expecting a book of epic proportions. Instead, I got a book in which nothing happened. This is a book about a young girl becoming a Queen, deciding how she wants to rule, and having to face the fallout of her decisions. My issue was that there was no fallout. Instead, the book builds up to action, promises action, and then leaves that action for the sequel. I enjoyed this book until I realised that the action wasn’t coming, and felt like I had been conned out of money and time. This is, to me, a prime example of stories being stretched out into series because series are more popular or profitable perhaps, without there actually being enough content to fill a trilogy.

You can read my full review for this book here.

2. Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

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I’m pretty sure this was everyone’s most disappointing read of 2015. However, to be fair, I don’t think it’s completely down to the book itself. This was not a sequel, as marketing suggested, but actually Harper Lee’s first draft for To Kill A Mockingbird, and she didn’t want it to be published. For all those readers looking for a sequel, this was bound to be a disappointment. Central characters were completely different to how we remember them, like Atticus, or missing altogether, like Jem and Boo Radley (which was my favourite aspect of the book). It was an odd choice to market this book as a sequel, knowing that so many much-loved aspects of To Kill A Mockingbird were missing, and this was one of the few times I wished I hadn’t read a book altogether.

You can read my full review for this book here.

3. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley 

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I was so exciting coming into this book. It’s set in Victorian London, there’s a seemingly magical watch, a mysterious old man, Japanese influences, and a murder-mystery-esque storyline at the centre. It should have been like a fantasy Sherlock Holmes or Ripper Street, but instead, this book just bored me. Although Natasha Pulley’s writing is sensational – she describes things beautifully – and I enjoyed the ambiguity about whether or not there was magic involved, I felt like the plot itself faded into the background too much and I couldn’t remember what the point of the story was and what the characters’ aims were. I think that this book was maybe too convoluted with various threads of storylines, for example, there is one part of the book that takes place before the main timeline in Japan, but in my opinion, this could have simply been woven into the main storyline, and it would have been less confusing and the book as a whole would have flowed better. Everything else was there – characters, setting, fantasy – to make this a firm favourite, but it was just the lack of plot that made it difficult.

4. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas

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Sarah J. Maas is a fantastic writer. When I read this book, I was completely wrapped up in her Throne of Glass Series, which I had just started, but where Throne of Glass is a thrilling fantasy epic full of drama and action, ACOTAR just dragged on. For the first half of the book, barely anything happened, and we simply follow Feyre around as she decides whether she wants to paint and falls in love with Tamlin. This book really let me down in two ways. I found Feyre to be annoying, boring, and frankly, too dumb to live. She made so many terrible decisions and always managed to get out of them alive, and never learning her lesson. The second way was in the setting. I know that Sarah J. Maas can create fascinating worlds from the Throne of Glass series, and the map in the book tells us that Prythian has many different kingdoms – The Summer Court, The Winter Court, The Spring Court, The Autumn Court, The Day Court, The Night Court, and The Dawn Court – which probably all have their own distinct characteristics. However, mostly we just see the Spring Court, and I think so much more could have been done here.

You can read my full review for this book here.

5. An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

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When I read this, I was just riding off the coattails of The Fault In Our Stars and Looking For Alaska. I was into my angsty teen novels with fuzzy romances and tear-jerking tragedies, and John Green was the man for me. However, this book was so boring. I didn’t understand the purpose of the book, and I couldn’t relate to or sympathise for the main character Colin. Whilst in the other John Green books I had read, I had enjoyed the characters, even if they are somewhat overly quirky, but it took so much effort to not throw this book out the window because I hated Colin so much. He complains the whole way through, his obsession with anagrams was annoying, and the whole Katherine obsession felt creepy. This book was so disappointing that it has turned me off reading any more John Green novels since! Maybe one day, when the memory of An Abundance of Katherines has faded from my memory, I will be able to read Paper Towns, but for now, I’d rather read something else.

 

Now, if you enjoyed these books, that’s great! This is just a list of my own personal opinions, and whether you agreed or disagreed, I would love to hear your comments below. What are your top 5 most disappointing reads, and what are your thoughts on the books listed above?

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T5W: Favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Books

Welcome to the first instalment of the Top 5 Wednesday book meme that I’ve decided to take part in! This is a weekly meme that was created by Lainey of gingerreadslainey and is currently hosted by Sam of ThoughtsOnTomes. Every week, I will post my top 5 of that week’s theme. If you’d like to learn more about it or join in the fun, head over to the Goodreads group where all the discussions take place here.

This week’s theme is Favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi, but I am a massive fantasy fan, so it has been a huge challenge narrowing down my favourites to 5, but here we go!

1. Harry Potter – JK Rowling

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I don’t really think that this choice needs an explanation, but I’ll give you one anyway. The Harry Potter books were a defining series for me in terms of my reading habits. I remember being completely swept up by the world, the characters, the magic, the story, everything about it. It was the first book that made me genuinely wish that the world I was reading about was magic, even over a decade later, I have never stopped imagining what life at Hogwarts would be like, and every time I’ve gone back to it, the magic hasn’t worn off. It’s thanks to this book that I always return to fantasy, and this will always hold a special place in my heart.

2. Red Rising Trilogy – Pierce Brown

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This is the first sci-fi book I series I had ever read, and wow. This trilogy is truly epic. Everything is so well thought out, from the world, the politics, the social structure, family backgrounds, and then the story itself is unbelievable. I would have to put the book down after almost every chapter because I would be hyperventilating at the latest plot twist! I love how Brown takes the world and makes it bigger, brighter, and louder with every book, and I’ve never read battle scenes that are so vividly described so that I can see everything unfolding in my mind, and almost feel like I’m right there with the characters.

Also, it’s set on Mars.

3. Caraval – Stephanie Garber

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I loved the setting of Caraval and all of the magical aspects of the world, like the dress that changes to reflect the mood of the wearer, the potion that helps you to see more clearly, the mystery behind Legend. Garber is really excellent at intertwining the feeling of wonder with the feeling of fear and apprehension, so all the while, you are having fun reading about this world and the plot, and also terrified that it might all be a trick.

You can read my full review for this book here.

4. Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton

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This book was so much fun to read! I love the setting, a mix between Arabian Nights and the Wild West, which basically means you have deserts and dunes interrupted by train tracks, and a main character who is a sharpshooter. As if this setting on its own wouldn’t have satisfied me, I really enjoyed the inclusion of mythical creatures like Djinni, horses made of sand, nightmare monsters, all great fun to read. This book has both an interesting setting, exciting plot, and characters that come to life on the page. I could read about Amani endlessly.

You can read my full review for this book here.

5. Crown of Midnight – Sarah J Maas

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While I have read the whole of the Throne of Glass series, but I chose not to put in all the books because I have mixed feelings about the series as a whole. However, Crown of Midnight, the second book, blew my mind and I still think that it is the best book in the series. It really picked up the story from the first book and upped the ante so much! There was so much action in this book, character development, and also, magic and fae. Although I might not love the Throne of Glass series too much, this book remains one of my top fantasy reading experiences.

So, there is my first #T5W post! This list was so hard to compile, not only because I love so many fantasy books and series, but also because I know that I have so many fantasy and science fiction books in my TBR list that I’m sure I will love! I’d be quite interested to re-do this list in a year and see how much this list has changed.

Are you a big fan of science fiction and fantasy? Comment below and tell me what your top 5 books are!

Book Reviews, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult

Review – ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ – Sarah J. Maas

 

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Taken from: @inkdropsbooks (Instagram)

Rating:  ★ ★ ★

This was one of the first YA fantasy books that I read in ages – probably since Harry Potter. It was mainly the fact that the bookstagram community, which I joined a while ago, loves Sarah J Maas. While I don’t think this book is perfect, I did enjoy it and I will definitely be reading more YA in the future.

The only thing I knew before setting off with ACOTAR was that it is a rough retelling of Beauty and the Beast. ACOTAR’s main character is Feyre. One night while hunting for food to support her impoverished family, she kills a wolf. In fact, this wolf is a faerie from the neighbouring faerie kingdom, and another faerie comes to demand retribution. To repay the life that she has taken, Feyre must spend the remainder of her life in the faerie kingdom Pythian. Once she arrives, she learns that the faeries are not all they seem, and that there is a plague that is threatening not only the faeries but the human realm too.

First of all, I love a good fantasy setting, and Prythian founds truly magical. From the moment I opened the book and saw all of the different locations (The Summer Court, The Winter Court, The Spring Court, The Autumn Court, The Day Court, The Night Court, and The Dawn Court), I was so excited to learn about all of these different places. I really liked seeing the various magical creatures that were introduced, and towards the second half of the book, we saw many more faeries and learned some more about the politics of the kingdom which I liked. However, I do wish we had seen more of the kingdom because I felt like it wasn’t fleshed out too well. I didn’t even know that Tamlin’s court was The Spring Court until about halfway through the book! Hopefully, both the kingdom of Prythian and the characters are explored and developed further in the following books in the series, and we can learn even more about this world.

16096824Now, how do I feel about Feyre? When I started the book, I was so excited to read about this young girl who has supported her family almost single-handedly for so long. She was brave and strong, but Sarah J Maas really helps you get into Feyre’s head so that you understand her emotions and that she isn’t a cookie cutter ‘strong female character’ type of girl. However, Feyre was just a little too reckless for my liking. Personally, I couldn’t understand the thought process behind some of her decisions, which were in my opinion way too risky to understand, and for me to keep thinking of her as smart. I also got frustrated with her hot-and-cold mood swings. I couldn’t figure out whether she missed her family, whether she was happy to be in the Spring Court, or any of her feelings towards anything, because while she would say X at one point, her actions wouldn’t show it, or she would change her opinion within a few pages. Thankfully, in the second part of the book, Sarah J Maas takes Feyre to the next level and really puts her under some intense pressure and we get to see her being more focused and determined.

Now, personally, I am not a huge fan of romance books. I love a good romance, and I ship just as much as the next person, but I like my love stories to be a subplot. I think this is just because I get fed up of seeing complex characters be reduced to their relationship with someone else. For this reason, I got a bit bored with ACOTAR in the middle section. There is a love story to this book, and while that’s fine, I got really bored of reading about the characters getting sappy and falling in love. It just took up too large a portion of the novel, and with Feyre’s mood swings (as mentioned above) I had a hard time feeling any genuine emotion from her at times, making the romance feel forced. I would have preferred for this section to be shorter, and to have gotten to the more action-packed part of the story sooner – because that was GREAT!

So, I give ACOTAR 3/5 stars. I wish that I could have loved this book more, but I just didn’t. I wish that the plot had moved quicker, and that there had been more world building and characterisation instead of long drawn out scenes depicting the romance. However, I am hopeful that my concerns will be rectified in the second novel, so keep a look out for that!