Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns, #1)by Bree Barton Published 31 7 2018
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|Publisher||Katherine Tegen Books|
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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.
"Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns, #1)" Reviews
There have been many times when I've disagreed with Kirkus reviews, but whoever wrote the review for this book and said:
"This winsome debut novel goes down like a vegan, gluten-free cupcake: sweet and good for you but entirely lacking in satisfying decadence."
Heart of Thorns needed more editing and fewer tropes. It needed more memorable characters and fewer info-dumps. And it really just needed to be a bit less... polite. There's absolutely zero juicy goodness in this book, and aside from the briefly-mentioned bisexuality of the love interest, it just doesn't do anything special or new.
It's interesting how we've rebranded the same old tropes. Some years back, when feminism was still a dirty word, this exact same story would never have been sold as "a fiercely feminist fantasy" but as a fantasy with a "kickass heroine". Back then, I got private messages from women saying how "brave" I was for calling myself a feminist on my profile (yes, really). Now "Feminist" is a t-shirt slogan, feminism is itself edgy and cool, so we can use it as a marketing tool. But, *whisper yells* it's still the same old story!
There is nothing uniquely feminist about this. Heart of Thorns consists of a vaguely-sketched world in which women are treated like shit until a badass female heroine rises up to challenge the system. This is not new. This is almost every YA fantasy novel of the last ten years. And, honestly, the attempts to be "feminist" and include LGBT relationships were not done well, in my opinion. It read really awkwardly and saw characters tagging on afterthoughts to appear so woke:
"You're beautiful when you lie." He quickly added, "Not to diminish you or suggest that beauty is an indicator of your worth."
“I don’t know. I’ve never had a husband. Or a wife,” she added.
Why even choose to write in inclusivity like an "oops"? Why not just say "I've never had a husband or a wife" or even just "I've never had a husband" because we already know the MC is straight. And I applaud anyone who can read that first quote without rolling their eyes.
So, the plot. Basically, Mia is being forced into an arranged marriage with Prince Quin when an assassination attempt forces them both to go on the run together. Up until this point, Mia has wanted nothing more than to seek revenge against her mother's killer - one of the Gwyrach: terrifying magical women - but it is on her wedding night that she discovers she is one of them. Armed with her mother's journal, Mia must find out the truth about the Gwyrach, her mother, and herself.
There's a lot of over-descriptive writing and info-dumps that would have benefited from further editing. The world-building we are given is introduced through conversations in which the characters awkwardly recite the history of their land and politics for no good reason. And the pacing is weird and uneven. At one point, I thought several days had passed and then Mia was thinking about the events of the night before and I realised it had been less than 24 hours.
Oh, and the tropes/things we see in pretty much every YA fantasy:
➽ Female assassin/hunter being forced into unwanted marriage with a prince.
➽ MC discovers own secret powers.
➽ Dead parent.
➽ Motivated by sibling love.
➽ Bland love interest.
➽ Mindlessly evil king.
➽ Gratuitous attempted rape scene.
I know every genre has tropes and I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, but I do expect books to do a bit of something new, or what's the point? There was nothing here that made me sit up, take interest and think "what will happen next?". Nothing got my blood pumping. I do also wonder if a first-person narrative would have made it more engaging.
I got to the end and felt no urge to seek out the sequel. The dramatic conclusion was not as tense as it was clearly meant to be because - and perhaps I am wrong - the very fact that there is a sequel seems to suggest a certain inevitability that drains some tension from the final moments. I doubt I'll be finding out either way.
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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
“Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.”
Hello, friends! This is going to be a hard one to review. I honestly feel like this is a solid 2.5 star read, but some aspects make me want to raise that rating and others make me want to lower it. I will say the end of this book is phenomenal. Like, easily the best part. And it was so good that I want to continue on. But the rest, especially the earlier sections, were some of the most predictable reading I’ve ever read.
Again, I’m super torn on this one. This book does tackle a lot of important themes, and I would say that the heart of this novel is honestly feminism. This book shines a spotlight on inequality between men and women, and how women in this world basically developed magic because it was the only way to somewhat counterbalance it.
“…men have found ever-new ways of oppressing women. Our bodies have been receptacles, both container and contained; our wombs soft and pliant for the children we were meant to bear our husbands, whether we wanted to or not. We have been restricted, silenced, and confined. This has been called many things—‘protection,’ ‘progress,’ even ‘love.’”
This book stars a young girl named Mia, who is getting ready to celebrate a marriage that her father has chosen for her. Mia is contemplating running away, so she won’t be forced to marry a prince that she barely knows. But Mia has a sick sister who she has to take into account, because she can’t bear to leave her. But her sister wants nothing more than to stay, safely tucked away in the castle, while hoping for her chance at love.
Mia’s father is a renowned hunter of Gwyrach, which are woman who are believed to be witches, who are said to be able to stop a man’s heart just by laying their hands on their skin. They are also said to have powers to enthrall those around them and make them do their bidding. So, in this world, all women are forced to wear gloves, and it is considered unthinkable to be seen without them.
But this story is truly about Mia’s mother, who was killed when Mia was very young, and found dead with not a mark upon her skin. Heart of Thorns truly centers on Mia trying to figure out who killed her mother, and why they chose to do so. And Mia is able to finally leave the castle and hope to search for clues once her wedding day ends with a murder attempt.
Together, Mia, and the promised prince that she knew barely anything about, go on an adventure where they find out a lot not only about Mia’s mother, but about the entire corrupt world they live in. And Mia finds out who she really is, and what she can really become, only if she chooses to embrace and love what she is, instead of hating it because of what she’s grown up learning.
Trigger and content warnings for talk of illness, graphic depictions of dead bodies and parts from those dead bodies, physical abuse, assault, sexual assault (unwanted touching), war themes, torture, violence in general, cruel death of an animal, a lot of blood visuals, murder, and too many rape attempts and talk of past rape attempts.
“We were hunted and killed for thousands of years, long before we had magic. We are magicians because of our suffering. A woman’s body can survive only so much abuse before our very blood and bones rise up in revolt.”
So, the promised prince’s name is Quin, and he honestly was my favorite character in the entire book. Not only is he bisexual, he is just kind, and caring, and thoughtful, and empathic. He also really loves dogs, and this is another very important quality that I personally look for in people. And speaking about more sexual representation, Mia’s mom was for sure not straight and was in a relationship with another woman. There is also a big side character that is gay. There is also a little bit of disability representation in this book, from another character that I really liked. Again, this book does have a lot of good, it just also has a lot of predictability.
Sometimes while reading, I felt like this was maybe a middle grade book. Because the writing is well done, but the clues are so glaringly obvious it makes for a poor reading experience. Hence why the end was so amazing, because it actually has twist after twist that I didn’t see coming. But I’ll be honest, the first 75% of this book is somewhat boring to read. At least, it was for me.
“Magic is born in the margins. It is nurtured among the vulnerable and broken. It is our bodies crying out for justice, seeking to right centuries of wrongs.”
Again, I still think this is a really good start to something that could be amazing. Between the feministic themes, to the bonds of sisterhood, to the lengths we are willing to go for the ones we love, I want more from this world, these characters, and this author. Also, this is Bree Barton’s debut novel, so I’m going to cut her a little slack for the predictability. And I honestly am excited to continue on with this series.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Buddy read with Jules at JA Ironside! ❤
"Your clavicle throws the most beautiful shadows"
"If she had understood the way blood flowed through the vena arteriosa to the heart's left chamber, or known how to invoke the subtle rhythm of the cariac systole- she might have saved her mother's life."
"She dug her fingertips into the bridge of her nose. 'The sphenoid bone. It's like my whole cerebrum is on fire.'"
As a medical student, I can assure you that no one speaks like this. Such phrases generally never come out of one's mouth oral cavity.
I heard "bi male love interest" and "fiercely feminist", so, uh... here we are.
Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton is the first book in the young adult fantasy series by the same name, Heart of Thorns. This one is a darker fantasy that would be best for an older crowd as there is a lot of violence and even rape involved in the story.
The series is set in a world in which some women possess magical abilities but having these abilities causes fear in those that don’t. With only a touch those known as the Gwyrach can manipulate a victims body and steal their life and to protect from this magic all women are forced to wear gloves at all times.
Mia Rose lost her mother to a Gwyrach and in the years since she has done nothing but train to be the one who destroys them. Now however Mia’s father has gone into an arrangement with the King offering Mia’s hand in marriage to the Prince.
Mia is completely against the marriage and had planned an escape but couldn’t leave her sister behind. However, just as the marriage is about to take place a threat on the groom’s life sends Mia into hiding with him as she finds herself developing the same powers that she’s vowed to defend against.
This opening of the Heart of Thorns series seemed to be a bit up and down for me while reading. I actually enjoyed the world the author was creating in this one and felt it had a faster pace to it as it along which I enjoy. Mia took a little warming up to in the story though and she kept going back to something that would have me shaking my head. Quin was a great character though along with some others. There was one particular scene however that I just really didn’t like at all but it’s too far to go into specifics but when I added it all together in the end I’d rate this opener at 3.5 stars and would continue reading the next book of the series.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.
For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Thank you Katherine Tegen Books for providing me with an arc of this!
tw: attempted sexual assault, mentions of self-harm
This was a bummer for me, you guys. I was really looking forward to this one and it just really fell short for me. The premise of this book was SO good, and when I read the synopsis I was instantly sold. But unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me.
So where did it fall short, you ask?
For starters this was SUPER trope-y, and don't get me wrong I love a good trope (I mean I've only screamed about tropes in, like, my last ten reviews) but there were so many tropes and so little development. They were just thrown at you with a bunch of extra info and then on to the next. It was like an Oprah show during Christmas. "You get a trope, you get a trope, you get a trope, don't think we forgot about you in the back - here's another trope for you". I think fewer tropes and more development within those tropes would have been a little better for this story.
Second, the MC was forgettable and sometimes rather annoying. Honestly, if her name wasn't Mia I probably would have forgotten it by now. The rest of the characters were basically just as forgettable, except for Mia's mother and sister. I do have to say I really did love reading about Mia's mother and what happened to her leading up to her murder, it was probably the only highlight of the story for me.
Third, the pacing or whatever that was? I mean this was really my biggest problem and struggle with the book. Parts of this book were so descriptive that it just felt off. Once Mia learns she is a Gwyrach and is being taught about her magic she goes through "training" as would any other YA girl learning about her unknown magic. Except that training is, like, a pretty decent amount of this book and it's literally the span of one day. One day of training. I was so thrown off by this because I thought this was something that was happening over the course of days, not less than 24 hours. It was really weird because you just spend so much time reading about the training and then realize it was literally one day out out the characters life.
I do have to say, despite the things I didn't care for some of the plot twists were actually unexpected for me. And I do love me a good unexpected plot twist because I am the queen of overthinking and usually figure these things out early on. You can also expect a strong focus on feminism/sisterhood once you power through about 45% of this book. And I generally did enjoy the fact that this book really focuses on perspective a lot. Where Mia is from Gwyrach are considered demons, but what about other kingdoms? Also, this book does have bisexual rep in it, however, it is pretty minimal at this point. I think from the ending of this book we might see more of that rep in the next book, or at least I hope.
All in all, there were more letdowns then lovable parts of this book for me. I'm not sure how I feel about picking up the sequel at this point. I am generally curious as to how the multiple cliffhangers of this book will be wrapped up, but who knows how I'll feel after waiting a year for the sequel to come out.
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