I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about Sarah J. Maas for months.
Back in July, I read A Court of Thorns and Roses which I quickly followed with A Court of Mist and Fury and shortly after that started on her Throne of Glass series. By the end of August, I’d gotten through Throne of Glass, Heir of Fire, Crown of Midnight, and The Assassin’s Blade. My local library didn’t have Queen of Shadows available, and my SJM binge came to a close.
In September, my boyfriend bought be a copy of Queen of Shadows and then he got me a copy of Empire of Storms for Christmas. Very sweet of him, and I appreciated it. But, I haven’t read either book yet. And today he commented on that fact, and I had to try and explain my hesitancy.
I really, really, really enjoyed A Court of Mist and Fury. I rated it one of my favorite books of 2016, and I meant that. I fell head-over-heels in love with the Court of Dreams. I enjoyed Feyra’s journey, the portrayal of PTSD, the idea that you can fall out of love with someone, realize they’re very toxic and abusive, and find love in someone more suited for yourself.
But, there were problematic aspects of the book that I was remiss in not discussing in my original review (one thing I’ve learned is I need to give myself time to reflect on a book, rather that writing a review within hours of reading something).
I was leery of Feyra’s relationship with Rhys. His behavior to her Under the Mountain was abusive and toxic and wrong, and nothing can justify that. He hurt her. He drugged her. He took away her ability to consent. I do wish that the book would have addressed this more head-on and established that this behavior was wrong, no matter Rhys’ own abuse. The reveal of which came across as more of an excuse to justify Rhys’ actions than as something to create character development for him.
I took notice of the lack of diversity. It is, however unfortunate, something that I am rather used to, especially in fantasy. I didn’t think anything of it.
Until I started reading Throne of Glass.
Maas writes some very white-washed fantasy. Her characters are bland, and almost exclusively white, heterosexual, and cis-gendered. It is hard to ignore the similarities between Maas’ two universes. The over-reaching plots are almost identical (greedy, evil king wishes to have total control over the world, which is to be saved by human-turned-fey, her mate, and small circle of friends, including one monstrous female character). The tropes are the same (fey, mates, magic, dark brooding love interest that has lost everything, antagonists-to-lovers, multiple love interests over several different books). It is obvious that Maas has learned how to technically write better, but her ideas seem stagnant and the same.
If I was leery of Rhys, then I was downright mistrustful of Rowan. I was relieved with Crown of Midnight ended with Rowan and Aelin being friends, rather than any romantic relationship. It seemed obvious that, considering how their relationship began, a romance between them would be problematic at best. So, imagine my dismay when I learned that Rowan and Aelin was actually the end-game romance.
I haven’t read Queen of Shadows. I’m not sure I actually want to. I’ve heard enough about Chaol’s character assassination and the romantic build of Rowan and Aelin’s relationship, and I’m actually afraid that continuing the series will lead to me being unable to support Maas as an author in any way. The more I hear, the more I learn, the more I want to stop while I’m ahead.
I have always prided myself in refusing to support writers that are toxic. I refuse to read Cassandra Clare. I will not read anything by Orson Scott Card. Patricia Kennealy-Morrison is another person I cannot support as an author.
I haven’t decided yet whether Sarah J. Maas will join their ranks. It is unfortunate that it appears like she might.