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Friday, March 17, 2017

*Grabby Hands* Release & Review - Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell

Image and blurb from Goodreads
Title: Garden of Thorns
Author: Amber Mitchell
Publication Date: March 6th, 2017
Age Category/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.

Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.

Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll take to her grave if she must.

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4 “Roses & Snakes” Stars

ARC via NetGalley.

Thank you, Entangled Teen!

Damn, this book was well-written. I really enjoyed it. The language was just beautiful in the way it blended with the theme. I loved how the writer managed to find the perfect analogies involving garden-related stuff, and it felt really original and unique. If nothing else, this book deserves a high rating just because of that.

But don’t worry, it has more than beautiful language. It has plot and romance, too.

And a stunning cover!!!

Garden of Thorns is a YA Fantasy set in a unique world where the main lands are at war. Rose, the MC, was born in Varsha, but she was brought to Delmar when she was a young girl by the hand of her slaver, the Gardener. Ever since then, Rose’s been forced to perform as an aerial acrobat, also known as Flower. Under the Gardener’s tyranny, Rose suffers the kind of mental and even physical abuse that paints in bold colors a really ugly picture of what a life as a Flower must be like. From moment on, I felt for her.

But Rose isn’t just any Flower. The Gardener has a special interest in her because of a secret she’s keeping. A secret that’s practically a chain holding her back and keeping her from trying to escape. Until the day that secret costs her the most important thing in her life. That’s when Rose decides she’ll escape and find a way to bring down the Gardener.

Enter Rayce, Delmar’s former heir to the throne (the emperor’s nephew) and the leader of the Zareen (the rebellion). Rayce’s fighting to overthrow his horrible uncle, a man who won’t hesitate before killing and destroying in order to maintain his power. Unlike him, Rayce is all about the people—he wants a fair world where everyone can leave in peace. A bit naïve, I guess, but he’s a young man and his heart is in the right place.

Rose and Rayce’s path cross during her escape, and they’re forced together when, instead of letting her go, Rayce takes her back to his people. That’s when the real fun starts.

This is an action-packed story that has enough fighting, planning and characters trying to escape or make their way back home to keep you entertained and turning pages. If that’s your kind of fantasy, I imagine you won’t be disappointed.

But there’s also plenty of romance for those, like me, who like their fantasies romance-heavy. Rose and Rayce have that type of slow burn romance that had my chest tight the entire time. I devoured their scenes, always wanting for more. They have the perfect chemistry and high stakes to go with it.

Rose had a lot to lose by trusting him enough to acknowledge her growing feelings for the boy who took care of his people like they were all his family. She’d been betrayed her entire life by men, and, with the secret she was keeping, there was a good chance Rayce would be put in a position to betray her, too. Even if he wanted her as much as she wanted him.

Rayce was a young man plagued by past mistakes shouldering a lot more responsibility than anyone else in the book. There were so many people counting on him that he couldn’t allow himself the distraction of falling in love. Besides, in times of war, loving someone is dangerous because it turns that person into a weapon your enemies can use against yourself, especially if you’re the leader. So he also hesitate before giving in to his feelings.

We got to watch all of that “should-we-or-shouldn’t-we” play as the story progressed, and I loved every second of it. Bottom line, I ship Rayce and Rose. Hard.

But this book isn’t only about beautiful writing, great romance and action (although that’s more than enough to make it a great book, huh?). There was also space for character development and beautiful friendship/mentorship.

There are some great side characters in this story, but I think Oren deserves special attention. He was such an important figure in both Rayce and Rose’s personal journeys by being a positive influence and a paternal/mentor figure to both of them. I imagine he was as important to Rayce in a time prior to the start of the story as he was to Rose throughout this first book. He earned Rose’s trust and respect, and mine, too. I’m Team Oren forever.

Speaking of Rose’s journey, I was really proud of who she became in the end. Rose started out as someone who, at times, irritated me because of her inability to react. She let her secret—let’s be honest here, it wasn’t even that much of a secret—become a chain that held her back. A chain the Gardener didn’t hesitate to use on her. Every time she thought about that secret she froze. Every time she confronted the Gardener or any other powerful figure that could use her secret, she couldn’t think or react. It was frustrating and caused harm to those around her, which is something that always makes me look at the main character under a not-so-positive light. Having said that, I understand that this was the arc the author planned for Rose. She had to go from powerless, defenseless to someone who could fight for herself and those she cared for. It took her a while, but she got there. In the first book of the series!!! It’s more than I can say about some characters out there. So, go Rose!

Rayce’s journey was a little less dramatic, mostly because it had already started by the time the story started. When we met him, Rayce was already the leader of the rebellion, so we didn’t get to see how he got there. We got an explanation, though, and everything made perfect sense, as far as I’m concerned. I’m still betting the author will come up with a stronger arc for Rayce in a second book—although this didn’t end in a cliffhanger, it’s still clear there’s a lot more story there, so I’m betting on sequels. That though aside, I loved Rayce. He was a complex character battling the kind of guilt that would’ve incapacitated some people—like Rose noticed herself—but turned him into someone strong, someone with a purpose. I loved that about him. He reminded me a bit of another favorite character of mine, Stefan from The Vampire Diaries, in the way he channeled his guilt into this need to protect everyone around him and was willing to sacrifice everything for the ones he cared for. It’s such a great trait in a hero and so hard to do while looking genuine. For me, it worked here.

As you can see from this long review, Gardens of Thorns was a pleasant surprise. I expected to like this book because the blurb sounded intriguing enough, but I thought it was richer than I had anticipated. The writing, the characters and the messages make this a book definitely worth reading. I hope there’s a book two coming my way soon.
*If you liked this review (or not), if you read the book (or not), come say hello and leave your comments bellow.

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