Defending YA: My Recommendations Round 2.

Round Two, I give you Sarah J Maas. It was really hard to write this blog without going full spoiler because the writer in me wants to go critical analysis on these books and I will with the slightest provocation…thats maybe a post for another day. It was this series in particular that roused me to start the rewrite on my own fantasy YA series I wrote as a teen and made me passionate about high fantasy again.

In November last year I was about to move three states and was highly stressed and like a god send Amazon recommended me Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass.

I hadn’t come across a high fantasy series I’ve really gotten into for a long time but I couldn’t get enough of it. This blog is going to be an overview of the series and SJMs A Court of Thorns and Roses and once again I will keep it brief and spoiler free as possible.

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Teenage Amy would have been a hardcore fan of the assassin and smart mouthed Celaena Sardothian.

Throne of Glass begins with Celaena being pulled out of the salt mines of Endovia and entered into a competition to become the champion to the King of Ardalan and eventually gain her freedom. She wins the trust of Prince Dorian, Captain Chaol and Princess Nehemia along the way. This isn’t a love triangle sort of series, there are elements but they are relatively minor in the sheer scope of the novels. The thing I loved about the romance element of these novels is that when Celaena reveals a side of herself to her potential love interest and he’s afraid and repulsed she does the only thing any girl should do…she leaves him. No matter how much it hurts  she won’t get back together with him because he can’t choose parts of her to love, he must love her in her entirety. That is a powerful message to send to the target audience in this world that tells them they must look and act a certain way to be loved. Celaena says that’s not good enough so hopefully other girls will do the same. Celaena is tough but she’s also vulnerable and she doesn’t compromise her femininity ( dresses are described in drool worthy detail) instead she uses it as another weapon in her arsenal.

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Maas does not hold hold back with any of her characters and certainly not because the main character is a girl. Celaena frequently gets wounded and scarred up as an occupational hazard and the scars don’t magically disappear, they are referred to as scars should be, as badges of honour. There is one part of the series where she gets tattoos over her slavery scars and it’s a very powerful and beautiful scene.

Celaena really grows as a character, she’s got some serious past and Maas is very careful on how much is revealed at any one time. Even though she writes in third person omniscient Celaena keeps her cards close to her chest as if she’s as untrusting of the audience as she is of everyone else.

The world building in this series is amazing mainly because of what she doesn’t tell you. It’s one of those tropes of fantasy that whole swathes of the book is being told in detail all about the cultures and gods and special foods with unpronounceable names. There are handy maps of Maas’ world in the beginning of the novels but its cultures as well as the constant state of war and conquest is revealed through experiences of the characters, especially their emotional gauges. Where there is description it’s minimal and leaves the audience to put together the pieces together in their own way. Admittedly I haven’t read tonnes of YA so I can’t say if this is a common thing in the fantasy section of the genre but I found it refreshing being left to enjoy the story without the convoluted world baggage in my head.

People who know me know I’m mad about magic and Faerie and when this culture makes its appearance in the series I went into a rather hardcore fan girl mode. They are formidable, powerful and have the emotions of the eternal. I won’t spoil it but the third book of the series Heir of Fire was definitely my favourite.

I will however move onto the first book of SJM’s new series A Court of Thorns and Roses.

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This book makes me feel all….

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If there’s a story I love more than anything in this world it’s the fairytale Beauty and the Beast. This book is a retelling of that tale in the most beautiful, made-for-me, way possible by having the relationship between a human and one of the High Fae.

Feyre is a hunter, trying to keep her family alive until one day she kills a wolf in the forest. Unknown to her he’s actually one of the fae and his friend Tamlin (a nod to another fairy tale which I squealed at) turns up to claim a blood debt. She’s taken into Faerie as a prisoner and forbidden to leave Tamlin’s court. Even when he’s not in his beast form Tamlin and other members of his court wear masks that cannot be removed, the result of the curse that is lain on them.

Like Celaena, Feyre is a strong female protagonist and is capable of taking care of herself, even in a strange land with monsters keen to kill her. You can see how Maas has matured as a writer in this novel and her descriptions take on a fairy tale gleam that brings the court and characters to life.

This novel is also aimed at an older audience, sitting in the New Adult area more than Young Adult, and the scenes between Feyre and Tamlin are filled with crackling energy and sexual tension. The desire between many of the characters is palpable. I wont go on and say who but what is written is hot. If Maas ever decides to write adult fiction I will be first in line throwing my money at her. Who am I kidding I would be first in line anyway and I can’t wait for the next instalment.

There is a lot that would appeal to adult readers in both series and its easy to look past the characters age. The story lines are intricate and well structured and definitely worth spending your money on.

You can check them out here.

p.s. Dresses! Because I can…

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