Now I’ve read all books by SJM that are currently out (May 2023), I thought why not pop all my reviews in one place? I also share my thoughts on the each series in comparison as a little guide on where to start with SJM books.
A Court Of Thorns and Roses series (ACOTAR)
The world: The fey realm is split between 7 courts, each ruled by their own high lords and the fey are divided from the humans by a wall. Across the sea is Hyeburn’s kingdom, isolated on it’s own island as they refused to sign the treaty of peace with the humans.
The first book opens with our protagonist Feyre, hunting in the woods in a desperate bid to keep her destitute father and two sisters fed. She shoots a large wolf, not realising that it was a fey, soon after one of his friends, Tamlin, comes to collect for his death, invoking a supposed clause in treaty drawn up between humans and fey hundreds of years ago, which demands either death or exile to the fey realm in exchange for the fey life she took. Feyre departs her rubbish life with her family to live on the fey’s estate with him but soon discovers there is more to this than she has been told. A curse has fallen over the fey lands, controlled by an evil fey queen who has created a court of horrors ‘under the mountain’- a formerly sacred territory hewn inside a mountain that sits between the borders of the high lord’s court’s. Her forced exile to these lands is a part of undoing this curse somehow, as is the growing romance between her and Tamlin but she discovers this all too late.
I cannot say more without spoiling the books but the plot from then follows how this Queen is part of a larger incursion that will threaten all the high lords and the fragile peace between the humans and the fey. We are introduced to another court and another love interest over the following books, as they seek to stop this incursion and save the humans as well as the high courts. The latest book in the series is set after this war has been resolved and follows the point of view of Feyre’s sister, Nesta, instead (can’t tell you how they get involved with plot without spoilers!).
Look, you know what, I know these books are not perfect but I absolutely loved them! The first book is a bit crap, the difference in the quality of writing between the first and second is astounding. If I had not had a friend who had read them first, who had told me that I’d have to stick with it past the first book, it would have really put me off.
I love love love the love stories in these books and the attempts to discuss important topics like consent and mental health are admirable, even if they aren’t perfectly executed. If you enjoy fantasy, I can 100% recommend these books, they were good fun, easy reading but interesting enough. They could do with some diversity, more LGBTQIA+ representation (a character comes out to Feyre later in the books but is not out-out) and a little less stereotypical portrayals of the feminine and masculine characters traits but I think some of that comes with trying to invoke traditntal romance novels vibes; doesn’t change the fact that it could have been modernised a little, however.
That being said, I especially loved the latest instalment, A Court of Silver Flames, as there was another jump in the quality of writing between the 5th and 6th book. It was an absolute pleasure to read from start to finis and I can’t wait for the next book. I’m definitely a convert to these books that I thought maybe would turn out to be a little overhyped by TikTok but are actually a nice read.
Throne of Glass Series (TOG)
So, the story opens with Celeana being taken from the Slave mines of Endovier, where she has been held for a year, by the Prince of Ardalan, Dorian Havilliard, and his Captain of the guard, Chaol Westfall. They make a bargain with her, she will become the Prince’s candidate in his father’s competition to find his ‘champion’ (essentially a glorified assassin) in return for her freedom. Before her imprisonment, Celeana was known as ‘Ardalan’s assassin’, for her efforts during the war where Ardalan invaded and overthrew the royal families of the surrounding kingdoms.
The first book follows this competition and the politics of Ardalan’s royal court, where we quickly discover that there’s more to who Celeana is than just being a mysterious assassin. The rest of the books follow the unveiling of her true history, her power and destiny.
I don’t know how else to summarise this without spoilers…
I loved this series! The relationships, platonic, familial and romantic are fantastic. All the characters have so much depth. Your heart will break, multiple times. So much happens, the summary above doesn’t even touch the sides, I just couldn’t go further without massively spoiling it. The world building is rich, the magic system is well thought out and all the detours the characters take on their long journey to victory felt justified, instead of it just being done to long the story out to get more books. In fact Tower of Dawn literally only covers one set of character’s POV’s, which happens in conjunction to the timeline of the events that occur to another set of characters in Empire of Storms but it still felt completely necessary to get us to the events in Kingdom of Ash.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a long series and most of them are big books, they are a commitment but if you enjoy epic fantasy, these are definitely worth reading at some point. They are also free of a lot of the issues I’ve found with Sarah J Maas’s writing in series’ like ACOTAR (even though I LOVED those books too), with very few crutch phrases, besides the ‘eyes lined with silver’ (to describe crying). Whereas ACOTAR famously has loads of these crutch phrases.
It was very easy to get completely absorbed into the world of these books, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and they were the cause of a fair few late nights. The next big Sarah J Maas series left is Crescent City but those books are huge, so I will be getting to them in a little while I think.
Crescent City (HOSAB and HOEAB)
These books are set in a world where technology and magic are blended, humans live side by side with vampires, werewolves, fae and Angeles. They are all ruled over by the Asteri, powerful beings whose rule is absolute.
The first book opens with Bryce and Dannika and their life together, full of partying with their friends and Dannika’s pack. Bryce is half human, half fae, without much magic to her name but with Dannika and the pack she is living the high life. Until a strange demon attacks and kills all her closest friends, leaving her alone. Bryce believes the person responsible has been put behind bars until the similar murders begin happening again two years later. Bryce gets roped into the investigation alongside the infamous Hunt Athalar. As they delve into the dark under belly of Crescent City they discover how many secrets Dannika kept, and dark powers which threaten everything.
The second book takes on the aftermath of the events in the first, as well as discovering more of Dannika’s secrets and Bryce must decide on what side she’ll take in the coming war.
I really enjoyed these books! They didn’t quite suck me in the way other books by Sarah J Maas have but the story is great, the romance in it is so good, there a lots of twists and turns and the second books ends on a nail biting cliff hanger. For the first book, shit really kicks off in the last 300 pages and I fully sobbed for most of them. There is a lot of world building in the first book and my only critique of either of them is that they could have been shorter, there’s is loads of extra detail in both books, which usually I eat up but it does make reading them bit of a commitment (but then again, I happily read Throne of Glass, which was 8 books long, so what do I know).
Overview of all 3 series in comparison
So, ACOTAR is my favourite, perhaps it’s because I read during a particularly difficult time in my life but these books had a grip on me for a bit like no other series had in literally years before. It reignited my passion for reading, especially the fantasy genre. In terms of quality of writing, frankly, it probably ranks the least but there something so innately readable and enjoyable about them despite that.
Throne of Glass hit different, the world is rich and you are with the characters for so long, it stuck with me in a different way. The characters go through SO much, SJM is downright ruthless in this one and Aelin is probably her most complex female character (in fact, all the women in this series are very well rounded). This one stuck with me in the kind of way where I wanted to get tattoos of the quotes.
Crescent City is enjoyable but out of the three it gripped me the least and didn’t make me feel as deeply as the others, this series would be the one I would say you would read out of love of SJM’s universes/ books more than anything.