Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton
(Heart of Thorns #1)
Published: July 31, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: I received an eARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions stated in this review are my own.
Summary from Goodreads:
In the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch.But when Mia’s father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.
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The synopsis for this book had a lot of my “buzz words” in it: kingdom, demons, arranged marriage…to a prince! This sounded like exactly my kind of fantasy novel. I wish I could say it’s everything I wanted it to be, but that’s not exactly true.
Let’s start with the good stuff:
– The writing. There were some truly lovely lines in this novel. The descriptions were vivid and unique and often lyrical. I also love that there is an undercurrent of modern humor woven throughout as well–sarcastic and deprecating. Also, a love for doggos.
– The premise/worldbuilding. This is a world in which only the women have magic. It’s horrible, dangerous, wicked magic, right? The more you learn about the world, the more this novel becomes a critique of women’s oppression, which is really cool. There are small details throughout the novel that solidify the world’s history and mythology and I thought those were impressive touches. This whole novel is basicially unraveling a web of perceptions, so you’re constantly learning more about the truth of the world, the magic system, etc.
– The diversity. There’s so much casual diversity in the novel, and I am here for it. There are characters with different skin colors, sexualities, and abledness. And though the different points of diversity are not major plot points, the author still makes comments to dismantle prejudices. The love interest is interested in both men and women, and when the protagonist “confronts” him about it, he responds with, “I prefer whom I prefer. Girls. Boys.” And when the protagonist asks why a character couldn’t use magic to heal her disability, she says something along the lines of, “Magic can’t heal everything, and not everything needs to be healed.”
– The love interest. A prince who loves food and dogs. I mean, what more could I ask for? There’s a heck of a slow-burn romance throughout the novel, too, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Now, the aspects of the novel I did not particularly care for:
– The pacing/plot. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly where this fell short for me. I just expected more excitement, I guess. I didn’t feel like there was all that much action or tension. Like, there was conflict, but maybe the stakes didn’t feel high enough? Again, hard to pinpoint.
– The protagonist. It’s not that I didn’t like her. Her character was just fine. I just couldn’t connect with her. I feel like I never really grasped what she actually wanted. And her development wasn’t really convincing to me, which is actually a problem I had with most of the characters. All of a sudden it felt like they were completely different than the characters I was first introduced to, and I didn’t really understand how. I felt as if most of the transformations just…happened. They weren’t gradual. This is another thing really hard for me to explain (why do I even write reviews lol). I had a hard time getting into the novel at first because I just was not emotionally invested in the protagonist.
– The ending. I had a problem with the ending for a few reasons (don’t worry–no spoilers). Firstly, there is a sort of twist at the end that just…wasn’t satisfying. I don’t think there was sufficient buildup to this particular twist. Secondly, THE VILLAIN MONOLOGUE. Dear lord, usually I don’t have a problem with the villain monologue because sometimes you gotta do what ya gotta do, but the entire climax of the story was actually just a villain monologue. It was all conversation. I wanted less explanation, more excitement! Thirdly, the ending just…wasn’t a satisfying ending. The author was going for a cliffhanger ending, but the plot was just straight unresolved.
All this said, I still enjoyed reading. I mean, I read it in like 2 days, so clearly I was plenty engrossed. I wanted to see how everything played out, I wanted to know what happened to the protagonist’s mother, I wanted to learn all the secrets. I really loved seeing the world unfold and learning more about the magic and the history.
I am definitely going to keep my eyes peeled for the sequel next year, too. I’m hoping since we got so much background information out of the way in this first installment, the sequel will have more action!
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