I shared in my A Court of Silver Flames or House of Sky & Breath reviews that it was soon time for me to do an updated Sarah J. Maas review. As you likely know, I have been an avid SJM reader since 2015 – yes, I was indeed reading A Court of Thorns & Roses in my high school library before school and during study hall. If reading fantasy romance in that setting is my claim to fame, I am so here for it. Fun fact that my Top 5 SJM Books post I wrote in 2020 is one of my most popular posts on the blog – I definitely owe some of the attention to the increased popularity of SJM thanks to ACOTAR love on BookTok.
While I am tempted to do an updated ranking since I do think that A Court of Silver Flames and House of Earth & Blood might just be among my top five favorites (I’m thinking of doing a top ten because let’s be honest, if though I have my FAVORITES, I LOVE all of SJM’s work), I thought I’d go in a different direction and rank the Throne of Glass, ACOTAR, and Crescent City series, based on the first 2 Crescent City books.
1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Yes, let the controversy rain over me. Maybe blame it on the fact that it was my introduction to Sarah J. Maas, but Throne of Glass owns my heart. I think Throne of Glass is the most fantasy of SJM’s books, in the sense that we don’t get a ton of steam/romance, at least until the last three books. Yes, a large part of that is because Throne of Glass is considered YA, but my theory is that those last few get a little steamy because they were written along side A Court of Mist & Fury and A Court of War & Ruin, ie when ACOTAR really established the romance. Crescent City is of course SJM’s most high fantasy, but I think its setting that borrows a lot of elements from the modern world makes it less of an intimidating fantasy read than ToG (aside from the page numbers of course). While there is that connection to ACOTAR within House of Sky & Breath (trying to be save with spoilers/as non-spoilers as possible).If you’re a reader that has started with the Crescent City series and want to explore more of her backlist, while ACOTAR is the obvious choice, I would recommend reading Throne of Glass if you like the fantasy of SJM more than the romance. Throne of Glass as a series has a similar effect to the transition from ACOTAR to ACOMAF, in the sense that everything you know and expect based on the first two books, Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, gets blown up by the end of Heir of Fire and the series goes into a new direction with my personal favorite SJM book, Queen of Midnight. Throne of Glass begins as semi-Cinderella inspired retelling, as assassin Celaena Sardothien is selected to compete to be the king’s champion, earning the attention of the crown prince, Dorian, and captain of the guard, Chaol Westfall, along the way.
Maybe also blame my love for Throne of Glass on the fact that at the moment ACOTAR just feels kind’ve never-ending, between at least 2 more books coming and the Crescent City connection and that Throne of Glass is over…although I think it has gotten canceled or hopefully just delayed, but I still want that World of Throne of Glass Encyclopedia that includes a look at the characters ten years after the events of Kingdom of Ash.
2. A Court of Thorns & Roses – Again, likely the controversial or less popular opinion that ACOTAR is my #2 pick out of SJM’s series. Yes, I love, love this series, but ToG is my number one. I think ACOTAR is another series that has gotten stronger with the latter installments as SJM continued to evolve as a writer, or the books that feature the most fantasy romance, like A Court of Mist & Fury and the first spin-off book, A Court of Silver Flames. Although I really enjoyed it when it first came out, A Court of Thorns and Roses (the first novel) is SO different than what the series forms to be – which again, goes to the amazing storytelling of SJM and the fact that she hides so many Easter eggs in that book that ultimately makes ACOTAR so rich and so something more… but it really falls into starter/first book syndrome – Olivia Muenter of Bad on Paper podcast has recently just started the series and I so agree with her and Becca’s similar thoughts, especially since they both come from a perspective of readers who don’t read a ton of fantasy (including myself too). A Court of Mist & Fury and A Court of Silver Flames, again in my opinion, are such AMAZING and strong books, whereas A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Frost & Starlight, and even certain aspects of A Court of War & Ruin (there was a TON of slow buildup in this one to get to the finale).
3. Crescent City – I do admit that maybe I should’ve waited to do this ranking until Crescent City was totally complete as a series, or at least the third installment was out, because I could see this overruling ACOTAR for me personally. I really love the blend of (urban) fantasy elements and the modern world. Crescent City is definitely the most complicated of SJM’s books to understand when it comes to the intricate plot and world building, but I think it has the biggest payoff, at least based on the endings of books #1 and #2. What ultimately did lose points for me and what I KNOW will be my most controversial opinion is that I don’t necessarily like the ACOTAR tie-in. I think I had this feeling right after finishing House of Sky & Breath, but wanted to wait & sit on my thoughts before ‘announcing it.’ Yes, I do like how SJM’s books do ultimately take place in the same universe (there is a scene in Kingdom of Ash (ToG #7) where we assume based on hints/character descriptions that there are indeed ACOTAR characters), but if you’ve read House of Sky & Breath, then you know the direct tie-in. A part of me feels like there is the so obvious connection in HOSAB because ACOTAR is arguably SJM’s most popular series right now and almost could act as a strategy in getting fans of ACOTAR to read Crescent City & vice versa, at least readers that aren’t die-hard SJM fans (including myself) to read both.
What’s your favorite Sarah J. Maas series? Do you agree or disagree with my rankings? Share in the comments!