Bringing ACOTAR to the Screen
Given its massive popularity, it’s not going to surprise anyone that there have already been attempts to bring the story of Feyre and friends to life. Tempo optioned the film rights in 2015 and the project progressed to the point where Maas herself teased an early look at the script, which was written by Rachel Hirons. However, the film adaptation eventually sputtered out, and if we’re honest, it’s probably for the best. While it’s thrilling to imagine the version of Prythian that might be created by big studio movie budgets, the run time of even the longest potential feature film would require some serious condensing of the original text in a way that would almost certainly leave out key moments or characters.
Thankfully, in 2021, it was announced that streamer Hulu was working on a TV adaptation of ACOTAR with Ronald D. Moore of Outlander and Battlestar Galactica fame, alongside Maas herself, who was reportedly co-writing the pilot. Development on the series has been relatively slow in the three years since this initial announcement, and although Maas confirmed as recently as last summer that she was still working on the script, she has also deleted the Instagram post that originally announced the series to her fans. What does all this mean? Probably nothing, given that last summer also saw both the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild go on strike and there’s every chance Maas simply deleted her post in solidarity.
This theory is borne out by comments from Moore himself, who confirmed the series was still in development last November, but admitted that they were “all just sort of waiting” to see how the strikes would end. (Interestingly enough, Moore’s TV Line interview took place just days before the actors’ strike concluded so fingers crossed the waiting is over by this point.)
Why ACOTAR Is the Perfect Next Step for Fantasy TV
The truth is ACOTAR has always made more sense as a television series, where its sprawling cast of characters and complicated plot can have the room to breathe they deserve. But also because our current fantasy television landscape desperately needs a show like ACOTAR.
Maas’s books are wildly popular due to their dense plotting, steamy romances, and rug-pulling narrative and emotional twists. But where her works differ from many of the other big-name fantasy series of the day (looking at you, George R.R. Martin), is how explicitly female-focused they are. The ACOTAR series not only features a female lead, but a squad of a half dozen other women around her, each with stories, agency, and relationships of their own. (Nesta, Feyre’s sister, is even the primary protagonist of one of the later ACOTAR novels.) Maas’s books feature plenty of sex and romance but lack the lurking threat of sexual menace that permeates so much of the world of high fantasy, both on the page and onscreen. There’s no rape and most sexual encounters occur between a set of fated partners, tied together by not just desire, but love and destiny, their romance a crucial piece of the endgame of the larger story the books are telling.
For all Maas’s reputation as the undisputed queen of the “romantasy” genre—the publishing term for books that simultaneously embrace epic love stories right alongside their dense fantasy plots without sacrificing the quality of either—her novels are uniquely grounded in a very specific female experience. Yes, Feyre must ultimately work to save Prythian from an ancient evil, but at its heart, these books are about how its heroine learns to save herself. ACOTAR is as much a story of healing and self-acceptance as it is a magical adventure, and in order to save the world, Feyre must first confront the pain and trauma that’s holding her back. Power in Maas’ world doesn’t often come in the form of a sword or a magical talisman. Instead, it often looks a whole lot like forgiveness, peace, and self-knowledge.