Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m hovering between 3.5-4 stars. The beginning (the first 30%) was SO GOOD. Seriously, I had no doubt I was going to rate this 5 stars. It was immediately gripping – I felt for the heroine so much and my heart just ached for her. Unfortunately it lost a bit of momentum for me – mostly because the heroine did WAY too much thinking about the love interest was amidst all the more important things going on. Regardless, the plot was really fun and I still recommend the book!
Basically Rose is the ‘star performer’ of the Garden – a traveling burlesque full of girls who’ve been kidnapped/captured and forced into the rouse. It’s horribly sad and quite graphic how everything is written (in no way is it romanticized or glorified – but be aware.) The garden master keeps the girls in line by harming the ‘wilted’ girls – girls who are raised alongside of the performer girls.
Anyway, after a horrific tragedy that I won’t mention, Rose realizes she must escape so that she can find a way to free the rest of the girls. During a performance in front of the emperor, she ends up taking someone hostage – not realizing he’s the ex prince and leader of a powerful rebellion.
That all happens within the first few chapters so the book starts off VERY intense.
Some of the highlights for me were the magic system (totally unique and looks super cool in my head) AND the book takes place in a fantasy nation that I believe was inspired by a mix of Japanese and Chinese cultures (I’m not an expert and I could be wrong but according to the terminology/descriptions, this is what it seemed like.) And Rayce, the former crown prince, was pretty much wonderful all around.
*Minor spoilers below – nothing big*
Rose ends up joining the rebellion, mostly because she wants to convince them to help rescue her friends. Things get pretty interesting as they are sent on missions. The pacing was really great all around. I also loved the fact that Rose’s secret was obvious and the author didn’t try to make it a big reveal. It was never meant to be a plot twist – she lets the reader piece it together it in Rose’s thoughts without a major ‘aha’ moment.
Let me be clear… this is a fantasy romance. It is the main focus (at least it is a semi slow burn). I’m not really one to complain about that if it’s done well – and even though I loved Rose as a character, I got reaaaally tired of her overanalyzing her feelings towards Rayce. Even amidst major scenes, she was thinking about him WAY too much. It didn’t even really line up with her character because she wasn’t petty or whiny at all. Some writing advice I received myself was to not ‘think too much for your reader’ and I believe this is what was happening here.
The whole ‘garden’ aspect was so unique (and heartbreaking). Mitchell’s storytelling was phenomenal and she definitely knows how to break your heart. While there were several creative elements, the main plot line wasn’t exactly anything new after the last 50% but I still enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it and I’d totally read another book by Amber Mitchell.