Title: The Rose Throne (The Rose Throne #1)
Author: Mette Ivie Harrison
Publisher: Egmont USA
Release Date: 14 May 2013
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Page Count: 400
2.5 hearts – rounded up because I’m nice.
I was beyond excited to read this book because it has several things in it that drive me crazy and hit all my marry-me-book buttons. Mostly being about strong princesses, magic, female friendship, and no insta-love.
However, I was let down by a detached narrative that made it impossible for me to give a shit about any character.
The stunning lack of details or movements during dialogue and action left me to imagine movements, pauses, inflections, reactions, body language and facial expressions. Because it was left up to me to interpret what was actually going on, two moments in particular shocked me. One is the following:
The prince waved a hand. “I could kill him if I wished it,” he said casually, striding away.
“Yes, we all know,” said the kind, sounding bored. But I find Duke Kellin a useful tool. If he dies because of this night’s contest, you will have deprived me of his service, and I shall expect compensation.”
Issa began to tremble, and Prince Edik put his arm around her possessively.
There had been no indication of where Edik was walking to, of him returning to Issa. I had assumed ‘striding away’ meant he left the room or at least moved AWAY from people, but not only was he still there, he had moved close enough to another character to embrace them.
Another moment was when Issa and Ailsbet were arguing in Issa’s doorway. Because of the lack of description, beats, or inflection, I took the argument to be a somewhat fierce yet relatively uneventful whispering match between the two. One of the princesses slaps the other (and they’re so bland I forgot whom). The movement shocked me because there was no build up of emotion in either words or movement, so the slap came as a complete surprise and also as an overreaction.
If you leave it up to the reader to completely interpret the dialogue, and have no body language, beats, inflection or tags in the conversation, then of course it is going to be a surprise when one person is suddenly so heated they strike the other. It’s similar to having a paragraph of dialogue with no exclamation points, then tagged at the end with ‘she yelled.’ It’s just… it just doesn’t work.
Some other readers have said they are confused by the magic system. I’m not confused. I’m all up on magic systems in fantasy. It’s my home base genre. I did not understand it, not because it was confusing, but simply because it was never explained. I have a strong grasp on the concept of female magic (neweyr) linking all females and being about life and plants, and the male magic (taweyr) linking all males and being about death, violence, and fighting, but I have no idea how one ‘uses’ their magic, especially to take it from someone, how the hell you can tax someone in taweyr if it simply comes back after a day (is it really taxing at all), if taking their taweyr makes the other person stronger, and how one can lose their taweyr to an ekhono, which is a male with neweyr or a female with taweyr.
Ekhono aren’t allowed in King Haidor’s kingdom, because they ‘take’ the taweyr of men, who are at the same time completely terrified of having their magic stolen and also very Joffrey from Game of Thrones arrogant about their magic. I don’t understand how a male with neweyr can take taweyr from others. I also don’t understand how you can kill someone by taking their taweyr. It is a really great concept, and the male/female divide lends itself to some great gender debates (the men revel in their manliness but are also terrified of their magic being taken, somewhat similar to a reaction to cock size and castration), but the complicated concept is not ironed out enough. Especially because neither the characters nor author seemed to give a shit about neweyr, and the only things that happened with that magic was making plants grow and untangling hair. There was a very unfair ratio between the representation of taweyr and the representation of neweyr, because of course men are more interesting than women and their violent magic is more interesting than making pretty and useless flowers. No wonder Haikor banned neweyr from his kingdom. Where’s the conflict in that?
This wasn’t meant to be a long, detailed review, because quite honestly the book was not a bad book. It certainly wasn’t a great book, but it wasn’t stupid and offensive or telling one thing and showing another. Harrison’s not a bad storyteller, and there is experience lurking under the telling-not-showing and lack of description. I’m still interested in checking out Harrison’s other royalty books. I just can’t really give a shit about this book I was so excited to read – a book that sounded as if it were written just for me, but ultimately let me down.
An advance reader copy was kindly provided by the publisher.