Book Review: A Curse of Roses
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
A passionate YA fantasy about forbidden love and determining who the real monsters are
Lillianett just turned 18. For most teenagers, this is a time of celebration, an initiation into the adulthood they’ve been waiting for. But in this world, and for this naive young woman, it’s the day that her curse takes shape, the day that propels her toward a year on the run.
She is a Renai, and like those before her, is being sent to Glorus to “attain penance for [her] existence.” In this new world, her main goal is to remain bored—to stay out of the way, to avoid being found among her enemies, and to train in combat just in case she is actually discovered. Her life is at stake.
“The best thing that could happen was nothing. That’s all I could hope for.”
But it’s not always easy staying inside. One day when she’s wandering out in the forest, she saves a young man’s life. Her trainer would be upset if he knew she did this, but the prince, whose life is now saved, is more than thankful.
Matter of fact, he might just be in love with her.
With each passing day, Prince Alix returns, drawn mysteriously to this girl who, for some reason, isn’t throwing herself at him. Doesn’t she know who he is?
Lillianett is in need of companionship, so should she allow herself to get closer to this handsome stranger? Or are the risks too big?
Balancing fantasy with romance, A Curse of Roses allows young adult readers to have a terrifically important conversation about a caste system and making monsters out of people who are different from you. It’s a discussion on race without directly discussing it, and I’m thankful that it’s handled with such care.
Probably a better fit for YA forbidden romance lovers than fantasy readers, it’s the clashing and later connection between Lillianett and Alix that takes center stage here. This blossoming love story is peppered with good secondary characters who have light and punchy dialogue, especially when Alix’s knights are in scene. Fans of extravagant settings will also love what Prince Alix has going on over at his palace.
While there are some good conversations about accepting others in here, I’m also reaching for a bit more from the plot in this one. For the most part, Lillianett’s goal is to stay hidden and we’re given a vague understanding of who is out to get her and why she’s in danger if she just stays inside. If she had some sort of goal while she was in Glorus other than survival, I think I could have liked this one all the more.
Another thing that didn’t quite sit right with me is just how much unwanted touching comes from the romantic lead. Alix continues to pop up even though he’s not wanted—sometimes in rather compromising situations for Lillianett—and the romance suffers because of it. He does get a bit better later on, so if you’re a reader who doesn’t love that type of thing, know that he gets his act together after a while.
I think there’s a lot to love in the foundation of A Curse of Roses. If this one ends up transitioning into a series, which it most certainly could, it absolutely has strong-enough bones to pull it off. And since Alix is doing better as a romantic lead now, there’s a whole lot of love to look forward to as well.
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Romance
Length: 371 pages
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