A Court of Thorns and Roses follows the adventures of a young huntress named Feyre as she journeys from her home to the faerie realm of Prythian. Feyre serves as the protagonist and narrator, providing insight into her private thoughts and heightened immediacy to the action. When the novel begins in the icy cold forest of Feyre’s bleak home world, she’s driven by her primary goal: caring for her family. As a child, she makes a deathbed promise to her mother to keep the family together and safe, and this vow forms the basis of Feyre’s daily life. When she kills the wolf on her hunt, Feyre shows that her word is the strongest currency she has. Though she considers the large, stealthy beast may be a faerie, the prejudices she holds about the fae based on a lifetime of myths and misconceptions make the animal’s death an even more attractive possibility. When Feyre launches the ash wood arrow, striking the wolf and bringing it down, the shot forever changes her life and acts as the inciting incident for the novel. 

Although Feyre is brought to Prythian as a captive, her new life is full of transformation and possibility. At Tamlin’s manor house in the Spring Court, she must live among the creatures she’s been raised to hate and fear. As she spends time with Tamlin, Lucien, and Alis, she learns to overcome misconceptions about the fae’s arrogance and cruelty. While some fae exhibit sinister natures, she realizes that fae and humans are not so different. In turn, Feyre surprises her hosts with her cleverness as both sides break down walls between the two worlds. Tamlin’s assurances that Feyre’s family is safe and comfortable allow her to finally set down the burden of caring for others, a weight he can empathize with. By encouraging her painting, he brings color into her life and gives her, for the first time, a purpose focused on herself and not the people reliant on her. In doing so, Tamlin opens Feyre’s mind and her heart, creating a world of love between them. With the blight encroaching on the land, Tamlin’s primary motivation shifts from protecting the Spring Court to protecting Feyre. He sends her home out of love while sacrificing his only chance to save his people. 

Feyre’s sojourn in the human realm provides her with firsthand knowledge that her family is well provided for, effectively closing the human chapter of her life and removing the weight of duty towards her family. Her interaction with Nesta catalyzes Feyre’s decision to prioritize her love for Tamlin above all else. As she sets off for Prythian, the weight of duty she has always carried is transferred from her human family to her chosen family: Tamlin and his people. At the manor house, Alis’s revelations about Amarantha and Tamlin’s curse set in motion the rising action of the novel that provides Feyre with critical information about the danger Tamlin is in and the trials Feyre is about to face. The predicament Feyre finds herself in is a direct consequence of her avoidance of vulnerability, but her decision to go after Tamlin signals that she finally recognizes the value of following her heart.   

The trials Feyre faces at Amarantha’s court Under the Mountain serve not just as a test of her love for Tamlin but of her mental and emotional strength. The first trial proves her mettle as a huntress and introduces her essential relationship with Rhysand, whose help is invaluable but comes at a steep cost. The second trial is a lesson in humility as Feyre’s illiteracy nearly gets her and Lucien killed. Rhysand repeatedly subjects Feyre to humiliating scenarios to illustrate his control over her and the cruel reality of life in Amarantha’s court. In between these public displays, Feyre is locked in her cell, which serves as both a physical and mental prison as Feyre attempts to work out Amarantha’s riddle and contemplate the love that has brought her to this juncture in her life. The trials and Feyre’s role as Rhysand’s escort push Feyre to the edge of her mental and physical limits and build to the story's climax.  

The final task occurs as the climax of the story. Amarantha’s hatred for humans has blinded her to Feyre’s strengths at this critical moment. In contrast, Feyre is able to feel some measure of empathy and pity toward Amarantha for her suffering, and this empathy allows her to work out both the solution to the third task and the answer to Amarantha’s riddle. The novel reaches its climax as Feyre stabs Tamlin in his heart of stone and realizes that love was the answer she needed all along. The importance of love is the core lesson at the heart of A Court of Thorns and Roses. Amarantha, who is blinded by hatred, fails to see the irony that the answer to her riddle is love. Feyre’s actions are motivated by her genuine love for Tamlin while in contrast, Amarantha’s actions conflate love with power as she keeps Tamlin prisoner and tortures his loved ones. Amarantha’s hubris culminates with her death by Tamlin’s hand. 

Feyre’s transformation into a High Fae at the end of the novel is emblematic of the transformative nature of love. Being resurrected and made immortal is a reward for Feyre’s bravery and love for Tamlin. Feyre, who began the novel with hatred for the fae in her heart, becomes one of them. Her human heart, however, remains an essential part of her conscience. Feyre struggles to find peace after murdering innocent faeries during the third task, showing her humanity remains intact. Feyre not only grapples with her new reality of being fae, but with the actions she had to take in order to save the one she loves. Feyre is a complicated protagonist with a strong moral compass, and how she will ultimately process such a fundamental change is left open-ended. Feyre’s transformation is not a tidy conclusion of happily ever after, but one that leaves her at a crossroads of wild possibility.