Series: Garden of Thorns #1
Published on 6 March 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Orphans & Foster Homes, Royalty, Young Adult
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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.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
In Garden of Thorns, teen burlesque dancer Rose decides to escape the company that is holding her prisoner by taking a hostage at the next show. But it turns out he’s the exiled heir and leader of the rebellion, and he takes her hostage in the mistaken belief that she is an assassin, and spirits her away to their secret underground hideaway. But now Rose wants their help to free her captive sisters!
Among all of the cookie cutter YA fantasies currently glutting the market, Garden of Thorns stands apart with this theme of gardening running throughout the narrative. The burlesque company Rose was part of was called the Garden, run by horrible man known only as the Gardener. Rose was a Flower, one of the prized performers, who are paired with Wilteds, girls who take harsh physical punishments for every step out of place the Flowers take. Rose thought in gardening terms: pruning, cutting, growing. That was interesting and unique. The other thing that makes this differ is that Rose has a secret, but it’s not saved until the end to reveal it. It’s pieced together and revealed casually throughout the beginning of the novel. ‘Guessing’ the secret isn’t that big of a claim because it’s never treated as a big mystery, which another author probably would have done.
Rose was a likeable character who showed growth throughout the novel. Already entering as a veteran of performing in silks, she had overcome a fear of heights and now learned how to handle weapons. She didn’t immediately become a pro but did show advancement after her training.
One of the issues I had with the novel was a sense of disconnection. There is nothing wrong with its writing or narrative, I just felt disconnected from the characters and could not care that deeply about their welfare. One character is killed early on, which I think is supposed to make us realise that anyone can die, but when I reached the end of the novel View Spoiler »and neither of the main antagonists had been killed, yet a character that had deeply cared about Rose had « Hide Spoiler, I felt unsatisfied, like I was being lead into reading the rest of the series. I understand that leaving threads open extends the story when there is more to tell, but I felt unsatisfied and disinterested in continuing this series. The book had a really great opening, but by about 30% I had lost significant interest, even though the love interest seemed like a genuinely nice guy and Rose was clearly dealing with some intense mental health issues.
Overall Garden of Thorns delivered a predictably strong story, a brave heroine with an interesting love interest, horrible and creepy villains, and developed side characters, but I found it hard to care about any of them. I haven’t yet decided f I want to read its sequels, but I think it’s telling enough that I don’t immediate want them in my needy little hands.