Welcome to the first Feminist Fridays! This is a new feature I'm trying out on the blog, because of some issues I've been finding more and more in some books. Please, please read the disclaimer on the Feminist Fridays page before going off on a rant in the comments. Understand that what I say in these reviews in no way means the book is bad, just that it has some issues that could do with being changed, to make it more equal. They do not, in any way, shape or form, reflect my views on the authors or their lives, and I am not blaming them for anything.
General Rating: 3/5
FF Rating: 2/5
This review contains spoilers for the ending of the book.
For the general review for ACOTAR, go here.
Like I said in the main review, there were some problematic points with ACOTAR that I feel should be addressed.
First of all, even though Tamlin isn't exactly Feyre's jailor, he isn't warm and fuzzy either; in fact, throughout the first part of the novel, she is terrified of him. Now, I don't know about you, but I find it deeply disturbing that a man who once scared her so much went from tormentor and scary guy, to lover in just a few chapters. Maybe, if the relationship had evolved over the whole book, it would have been less disturbing. Although I know why she wrote it like that, considering the plot, it still didn't sit well with me at all.
It's quite sad that a Disney movie aimed at children, that couldn't have been longer than an hour and half, managed to portray a more likeable and slightly less creepy romance than a book with hundreds of pages. I mean, I get that the naga were meant to be the wolves, and let's face it, there's always been grumblings over Beauty & the Beast and Stockholm Syndrome (grumblings I always sort of ignored good-naturedly, because, come on, it's a fairytale, you have to cut it some slack, especially considering the context of production for that movie. Also, even though the Beast keeps Belle in the castle, there's never really any hint that he'd physically harm her, and we see him actively trying to be nice and make her feel at home. With ACOTAR, not only did Feyre's very physical reactions of distaste and fear of Tam create the idea that he might physically try to hurt her, because the narrative was told solely through Feyre's first person POV, it's hard to see any real evidence of Tamlin actually trying to be nice; instead, he's dismissive, and only offers to buy her stuff to paint with in what feels like almost a way to trap here there. It's creepy, it's scary and it did nothing to help me believe that they could have a healthy, loving relationship). So, maybe the problem was with the nature of the fairytale itself, rather than with the book. Still, in a retelling of a Victorian fairytale, some aspects always need to be changed, because that's what fairytales do: they adapt to the society they're being told to, and that was sorely missing here.
Also, the imbalance of power between Feyre and Tamlin, at the start of the book (because of course, by the end, it's been erased... sort of. More on that later), with Tam being a High Fae immortal who can turn into a beastie and use magic, and Feyre a lowly illiterate human. It's a massive imbalance, and in no way makes for anything even resembling a healthy relationship. Feyre would always be second to Tam, always less important, less noticeable, less valuable... less.
And, yes, by the end of the novel she's High Fae herself. Which breaks some of that imbalance pretty neatly, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that will play out in the second book; but there's still the fact that Tam is still a High Fae of something, while Feyre will always just be Tamlin's girlfriend (or whatever it is we're calling them).
So she's Tamlin's girlfriend, Rhys' property for a week every month... why is it that woman are so defined by men in this book? Can they not exist on their right?
Which brings me on to the thing that quite possibly bothered me the most. I could sort of overlook the creepiness of the romance if I squinted real hard and ignored the first half of the book. What I couldn't ignore was the fact that about 90% of the conversations in this novel would not pass the Bechdel Test. I didn't actually count them all, but around the time Feyre goes back home, this was seriously bothering me.
Not only are there very few women in the book (other than Feyre and Amarantha, who, surprise, surprise, is a seductive older woman, out to corrupt the incorruptible Tamlin *groans*, the only other women are Alis, who is a secondary character at best, and Feyre's sisters, who are maybe tertiary characters if they're lucky), but the few conversations they have between them, generally are about men. I think the only ones that would pass would be Feyre chatting with the worshippers of the Fae at the beginning, and her conversations with her sisters before they found out the truth. And maybe some chats with Alis, though even those mostly were about Tamlin.
All in all, points for the plot and the idea, but dear god, this book pissed me off sometimes. I will read the next one, because I'm curious, but I'm lowering my expectations exponentially.