A Court of Thorns and Roses

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Name: A Court of Thorns and Roses
Abbreviation(s): ACOTAR
Creator: Sarah J. Maas
Date(s): 2015-present
Medium: Book
Country of Origin: United States
External Links: Sarah J. Maas official website, A Court of Thorns and Roses Wiki
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
A Court of Thorns and Roses cover.jpg

A Court of Thorns and Roses, often abbreviated as ACOTAR, is a series of new adult fantasy books written by Sarah J. Maas. The series is a retelling of multiple myths and fairy tales, including the renowned classic Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and the Greek myth Hades and Persephone.

Since the first book's release in 2015, the ACOTAR series has an active fanbase primarily on located on Tumblr. Though originally marketed as a new adult novel, the series gained traction in young adult literature communities such as Goodreads, BookTube and book blogger groups. The second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, won a Goodreads Choice Award in 2016 when it was voted by fans as the "Best Young Adult Fantasy".[1] Other contenders for the same award were Cassandra Clare's Lady Midnight and Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven King.

Much of the ACOTAR fanbase consists of Throne of Glass fans, a series also written Sarah J Maas. During 2015, the fanbase for ACOTAR had a relatively small amount of fanworks. Instead, Throne of Glass was the dominant focus of fannish activity from the combined Sarah J. Maas fandom. This changed in 2016 after the second book's release. A Court of Mist and Fury gained major attention and the time after the release is typically viewed the true beginning of the ACOTAR fandom. Fanworks and meta discussions became increasingly more common, and fanfiction archives such as Archive of Our Own quickly expanded in numbers.

During this new period of the fandom, tumblr user bookishnessnessness sums up fandom consensus:

Welcome to the ACOTAR fandom where the name is to long that we don’t bother saying it all, where you regret your old ships, where we laugh over wingspans, we think of the first book as a prologue and we struggle to pronounce our favourite characters names. Enjoy your stay.[2]

Canon Overview

Synopsis

The series focuses on Feyre Archeron, a 19-year-old mortal huntress, who lives in poverty with her father and two sisters, Elain and Nesta. After killing a faerie, Feyre is taken into the faerie land of Prythian by Tamlin. The first book is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and involves Feyre falling in love with Tamlin, the High Lord of the Spring Court.

The second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, is a retelling of the Greek myth Hades and Persephone. This book details Feyre and Tamlin's broken relationship and the new blossoming romance of Feyre and Rhysand. The third book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, involves a war between the rival faerie kingdoms, Prythian and Hybern.

Characters

  • Feyre Archeron: Feyre is the protagonist of the series. She is a mortal huntress, and later the High Lady of the Night Court.
  • Rhysand: Rhysand rules the Night Court, a dark and mysterious place in Prythian. He is Feyre's mate.
  • Tamlin: Tamlin is the High Lord of the Spring Court. Tamlin is Feyre's fiancé until Feyre and Rhys start a romantic relationship.
  • Morrigan: Rhysand's cousin. She is the third-in-command of the Night Court. She is revealed to be gay in A Court of Wings and Ruin.
  • Azriel: Azriel is a spy and close friend of Rhysand.
  • Cassian: Cassian is the leader of the Night Court's armies and a close childhood friend of Rhysand.
  • Amren: Amren is the second-in-command of the Night Court and a faerie with a mysterious past.
  • Lucien Vanserra: Lucien is a former member of the Spring Court. Lucien is Elain's mate.
  • Elain Archeron: Elain is a seer and Feyre's sister.
  • Nesta Archeron: Nesta is Feyre's sister and the emissary to the Night Court.

Fandom

The fandom is most active on Tumblr where fanfic, fanart, headcanons, edits, photography and meta are regularly posted. Many members of the ACOTAR fandom also post Throne of Glass related content, forming a somewhat combined Sarah J. Maas fandom. Though it is not uncommon for some users to post solely ACOTAR content, especially common with users who dislike Throne of Glass. Despite being marketed as New Adult fiction, the A Court of Thorns and Roses series is also popular in Young Adult literature communities.

Ships

A visual representation of expectations for endgame pairings before ACOWAR (designed by lizthefangirl)
What actually happened in ACOWAR.

Due to its central focus in the series, Feyre/Rhysand is the most popular pairing. It has the largest amount of fanworks on Archive of Our Own and fanart of the pairing is also common. Het ships are the common focus of the fandom, though femslash gained more popular after Morrigan reveals she is gay. However, slash pairings are rare.

Prior to the second book's release, Feyre/Tamlin was arguably the most popular ship. Feyre/Rhysand gained some popularity but to a lesser extent. After the release of the second book, Feyre/Tamlin's popularity decreased due to the domestic abuse storyline that was introduced. Instead, Feyre/Rhysand popularity increased dramatically gaining many fanworks and focus within the fandom.

The second book also introduced multiple new characters, prompting a surge of new fanworks and ships. Cassian/Nesta, Azriel/Morrigan and Elain/Lucien became popular ships. While, some rarepairs also gained some attention including the slash pairing Azriel/Cassian, the het pairing Amren/Varian and the femslash pairing Morrigan/Nesta.

The third book's release revealed that main character Morrigan was gay. This reveal caused major controversy within the fandom, mostly from Azriel/Morrigan (Moriel) shippers who were upset that their ship was deemed non-canon. Many believed prior that Maas was hinting at a relationship between Azriel and Morrigan, particularly as it was confirmed that Azriel held romantic feelings towards Mor.

i don’t know how to feel about sjm’s choice of making Mor gay. now, before tumblr decides to reign hell on me, i’d like to clarify that i’m no homophobe and support Mor for who she is. However, as a Moriel shipper, i was devastated when it hit me that Moriel will never happen.[3]

After the third book, Azriel/Elain (Elriel) gained more attention and shippers of Elriel commonly engaged in ship wars with Elucien (Elain/Lucien) shippers. Additionally, new pairings included Lucien/Vassa, Kallias/Viviane and Andromache/Morrigan.

Fanart

Fanart is common and is usually posted on Tumblr and/or DeviantArt. Largely due to the series' medium as literature, official artwork of the series is limited, and therefore fanart is typically subjective and based on the artist's personal image of the character. Consequently, it is common for artists and Tumblr users to debate how the characters look:

Everybody keeps drawing Rhysand with these big feathery wings, sometimes even large and white with great feathers, sometimes black like a crow’s. completely ignoring the fact that SJM has repeatedly written they are membranous, which means they are bat-like, guys.[4]
don’t even think about commenting about his ears. I don’t care. I like him with pointy ones, so that’s how this sketch is staying. And if it bothers you that much then just picture him as Rhys.[5]

The author of the series, Sarah J. Maas, has regularly expressed her appreciation for fanart. Her monthly electronic newsletter occasionally includes fanart she likes. Charlie Bowater, an artist who designed fanart for the series, was often included in the newsletter. In fact, Sarah J. Maas liked her work immensely that her work gained canon status when she was hired as an artist for the official coloring book.

Fanfiction

Fanfiction of the series is usually posted to Tumblr and/or Archive of Our Own. Additionally, Fanfiction.net also contains an archive of A Court of Thorns and Roses, but has a lower number of fics compared to AO3.

Many fanfics have adopted a similar naming scheme to the canon series. Each canonical book is a deviation of the title A Court of A and B; the first book being A Court of Thorns and Roses and the second as A Court of Mist and Fury. Similarly, many fanfic authors have adopted similar titles for their works. For instance, herxndale's Hogwarts AU is titled A Court of Witchcraft and Wizardry and sarahviehmann popular fanfic is titled A Court of War and Starlight.

Fannish terminology

A fanart of Tamlin with a caption of his fan favorite nickname (art by lizthefangirl)
  • Tamlin the Tool: is the fan favorite nickname for the character of Tamlin. The name is commonly used in memes, comedic chat posts and in general conversation on Tumblr and other social media.
  • Fire Dick: On April 27, 2017, several days before the official release of A Court of Wings and Ruin, the tumblr blog acowar-spoiler posted a link to an 8 chapter preview of ACOWAR on Overdrive.[6] This post garnered just over 500 notes, and the Overdrive link went viral across the fandom. During Chapter 6 of the preview, the character Brannagh mentioned that "Autumn Court males have fire in their blood - and they fuck like it too.". This piece of dialogue inspired several posts, memes and even fanfiction regarding the 'fire dick' idea.
FORGET ELUCIEN !!! LUCIEN / FIRE DICK IS DA NEW OTP !! HOW DO YOU EVEN SHIP A MALE AND HIS PENIS YOU ASK ?!?!?!?!?! I HAVE NO IDEA BUT IS IT GUNNA STOP ME ? HELL TO ZE NO !!! I am so invested in Luciens fire dick you don't even know!! Jk elucien for life but seriously[7]
How does one join the cult of fire dick cause I need more of this in my life tbh ...
  1. Accept the Fire Dick as your one true savior and heathen god
  2. Go into the woods naked and befriend a fox
  3. When said fox brings you back to its fox home you are considered initiated[8]

Anti-fandom

The A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and Maas' other series, Throne of Glass, have both been heavily criticized by fans for a lack of diversity and negative depictions of LGBT and POC characters. This has been raised in meta posts by book bloggers and Tumblr users. An anti fandom also exists, primarily on tumblr, where users discuss the issues in Sarah J. Maas's writing. Often discussion and meta focus on various topics including homophobia within the series, acephobia, sex in YA fiction, writing issues, POC treatment, toxic masculinity, unhealthy relationships and possible misogyny.

Meta examples

Her books are the epitome of white feminism. She glorifies toxic masculinity with the way she’s written her Fae “cultures”. She’s killed off characters of color (indeed, entire countries coded as predominanty non-white) for the sake of her white characters’ angst. She writes possessive, disgusting, abusive men but paints them as attractive and desirable.

She creates misogynistic societies just so she can call male characters “feminist” when they descend from their thrones and put women on equal ground (*ahem* Rhysand *ahem*).

Her queer rep, whenever she manages to shoehorn some in, is restricted to “whore bisexual” or “sad closted gay” or “soulless asexual”. She wrote a homophobic society and made a lesbian character suffer for hundreds of years because she can’t come out of the closet and another male character wants her but she can’t tell him to fuck off in fear of hurting his feelings. (And the fandom thinks it’s super tragic. FOR HIM. Poor thing, he’ll be so heartbroken when he finds out she’s a Gay!)

She portrays abusive men as redeemable while every female villain is portrayed as irredeemable slutty whores. Every woman in power who didn’t get that power from men is a villain.

And frankly, she’s just a terrible writer. Her prose is repetitive and boring, she constantly tries to be deep and dramatic like she wants every other sentence to fit a glittery Tumblr aesthetic post. And someone needs to take the em dash away from her, seriously.[9]
There are so many layers of internalised misogyny surrounding Ianthe and Amarantha that I genuinely don’t know how to unpick it. The thing that I’ve noticed, other than the obvious conflation of women who dominant also being perverse, is the way that women are utterly punished for sexual transgression and abuse, in comparison to the men that perpetrate the same crimes getting off with little or no reprecussions. It’s seen in the fact that, although both men and women have engaged in non-consensual behaviour in this series, only the women are branded as rapists by the plot.

Like, ACOWAR squicked me out so much, because in the same book that we have the rehabilitation of and depiction of positive, heroic traits in (at least) two male abusers, Tamlin and Eris, (I say at least because I also think that Mor’s father is forgiven to some extent ‘out of necessity’), we also have a scene where Feyre gleefully smashes Ianthe’s hand to smithereens and feeds her to the Weaver without a second thought.

Men are forgiven for sexual assault, or their past indiscretions are discretely swept under the rug, often because the plot demands it (’we have no other choice’, ‘we need allies’, Tamlin did a selfless thing so everything is fine). Meanwhile Amarantha is skewered against a wall, and Ianthe is depicted in two brutally violent revenge scenes. They are being punished for their sexual abuse in a way no other male character has been in these series. [...]

I genuinely don’t know what’s behind it - does SJM think it’s more acceptable or ‘normal’ for men to perpetrate sexual assault, and therefore it’s more forgivable? I don’t know - it does fit with the conception of fae men as subject to their ‘instincts’, whereas the women who forcibly become sexually dominant seem to subvert the natural order and become monstrous. All I know is that the moment a woman in these books has sexual power that takes dominance and power away from men, they automatically become liable for the harshest, most graphic punishments in the books, and have to be utterly demonised and violently excised from the plot, because somehow their sexual assault is more perverse, wrong and ‘unforgivable’ than that performed by men.[10]
She normalises an incredibly sexist dynamic that has men universally characterised as possessive, violent and dominating, and women as passive objects to be fought over. In the case of Feysand, this is repainted in ACOMAF as a narrative of undying and ‘true’ love.[11]

"Antis" vs "Stans"

On Tumblr, users who oppose and critique Sarah J Maas's writing are typically referred to as antis. The "anti" fandom particularly rose to prominence in 2017 after the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin; this book was notable for including problematic LGBT characters and the first book by Maas to include more diverse representation. Due to the controversial plotlines, the anti fandom grew in number and popularity. However, in turn, members of the anti fandom gained hate and abuse from some fans of ACOTAR and Throne of Glass. These particular fans were nicknamed "stans" by the anti fandom.

I'M ABOUT TO GO ON A SUPER LONG RANT ABOUT THESE ANTI-SARAH ASSHOLES AND I'D LIKE YOU TO READ There are so many toxic people who are anti-SJM or anti-so-and-so-character in this fandom. It’s definitely good to take a critical look at something you love to see if it’s unhealthy or problematic. Sarah isn’t perfect. She writes a lot of white characters, a lot of her characters are hetero; but she’s genuinely trying to get better. When we started complaining about all the white characters she wrote the Illyrians, she wrote the Summer Court. A lot of this fandom views Manon as East Asian. Could there be more? Definitely. When we pointed out that there were a lot of hetero relationships she wrote Morrigan, a lesbian, she wrote Aedion as bi, I personally think Manon is also bi. She also wrote a gay couple in Heir of Fire. She slips these in so subtly and doesn’t make a big deal out of it, so people forget. The only complaint brought up by y'all that is complete bullshit is that she’s romanticizing abusive relationships. If y'all want to know why I think I have the right to call bullshit on that you can talk to me personally. She’s one of the very few authors that truly listens to her audience and tries to improve herself. She’s worked so hard since she first wrote Throne of Glass. She’s always writing new material for us, traveling to meet us, and executing all of the technicalities to give us new material! And y'all have the gall to call her lazy, when her dad has just had a heart attack and she has her own health issues?!? SARAH ISN’T HERE TO SERVE US. SHE’S A FUCKING HUMAN WITH HER OWN LIFE. It’s healthy to take a critical look at a fandom or something you love. But picking apart literally everything she does is fucking awful and extremely unhealthy. Trying to stamp out the joy that other people get from Sarah’s work is vile. I cried when I read how well Sarah had written Aelin’s crippling depression, because she had put what I was going through into words so well and I felt a so much less alone. There are so many people who connect with Sarah’s writing and being an asshole and telling people that it’s problematic when it’s really not is atrocious. No one is going to be perfect and I truly feel sorry for the people who feel like they have to trumpet their hate out to the world. Sarah isn’t perfect but neither are you, and holding her to an impossible standard is unhealthy for you and for her. I don’t like Cassandra Clare and I think she’s problematic, but do I shit on everyone else’s love for her books? No, because I’m not an asshole. I really can’t summon up any emotion for these people except for disgust.[12]
Why can’t stans realize that it is perfectly fine to criticize something you like? Nothing is perfect. Nothing is flawless. You don’t have to become an anti. You don’t have to stop reading the books. Just please recognize that they have problematic aspects and plotholes that need to be fixed.[13]

Fanworks

Fanfiction

  • A Court of War and Starlight by Sarah Viehmann "The war is just beginning. Disguised in the Spring Court, Feyre gains access to the King of Hybern's plans for Calanmai while Rhys hatches a plot to get her out before it's too late. Old allies are restored, new enemies are made, and Feyre and Rhys must travel across Prythian and beyond to unlock ancient secrets of the fae and prevent the King of Hybern from conquering every fae and mortal realm."'
  • Unbound by pterodactylichexameter, rated M, "It's been weeks since Nesta arrived at the Night Court and she's still not used to her new body. Or Cassian's constant presence as he trains her and Elain. She knows she has to face him, face what she's become, but it's easier to pretend there's nothing going on. After all, he's still healing too. The Cauldron rendered Nesta and left a piece of itself in her, ruthless and destructive. This is the story of how Nesta put herself together again."
  • Saturated Sunset by pterodactylichexameter, rated M"Everything is Happy™ and Feyre finally makes it back to that lingerie store in Velaris. Smut ensues."
  • A Court of Hopes and Dreams by dreamworld1997 "Modern AU/AH. Feyre is conviced to attend the Prythian University by a beautiful stranger in a bar and now she has to deal with the aftermath of her decision. While hoping to find her escape from her previous life, she soon discovers there are worst things to face than her past."
  • ACOMAF Part 1: The House of Beasts (Rhys POV) by illyriantremors "The first 13 chapters of ACOMAF told from Rhys's POV. Includes some brief details of his three months without her after he comes home from UtM and some improvised scenes, but most of it concerns his time with Feyre."

Fanart

The Court of Dreams by Charlie Bowater

Fanvids

Meta

Archives & Fannish links

Fanfiction

Resources

References

  1. "2016 Goodreads Choice Awards: Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction". 
  2. "welcome to the a court of thorns and roses fandom", Archived version by bookishnessnessness, posted on March 7, 2017
  3. about mor *spoilers*, Archived version dated May 2017.
  4. Quit drawing Rhys with angel wings, Archived version dated May 2017.
  5. Little sketch of Azriel to warm up the wrist by JoPainter, Archived version dated June 2017.
  6. overdrive link on tumblr@acowar-spoiler, Archived version
  7. anonymous ask on tumblr@valamerys, Archived version
  8. tumblr@abookandacoffee: "How does one join the cult of fire dick...", Archived version
  9. I'm curious, why are you anti Sarah J. Maas?, dated August 2017.
  10. tumblr@howlsmovinglibrary: response to female villainly meta post, Archived version
  11. The relationship between misogyny and romance: a SJM study, Archived version
  12. I'M ABOUT TO GO ON A SUPER LONG RANT ABOUT THESE ANTI-SARAH ASSHOLES AND I'D LIKE YOU TO READ, Archived version
  13. tumblr@velvetwrappedsteel: "Why can't stans realize...", Archived version