Book Review: Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell

by - 8:19:00 PM

 Title: Garden of Thorns
Author: Amber Mitchell
Pages: 368
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: 06 March 2017

From Goodreads: "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."

Thank you to Entangled Teen for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for review! All opinions are my own.

Garden of Thorns was a book that caught my eye immediately and I was so excited to get the opportunity to read an ARC of it that I absolutely flew through it, but was left feeling quite neutral about the book. The more I think about it, I definitely enjoyed it, and while it wasn't the five star book I was looking for, I can definitely see where others would love it!

Rose has been a Flower in the Garden for seven years and during her most recent performance, she makes the decision to run away by taking a hostage. Little does she know that the hostage she picks is the leader of the rebellion, and the nephew of the Emperor, named Rayce. When Rose's escape plan backfires, Rayce takes her hostage and returns to the home of the rebellion. I'm going to stop there because it really almost sounds like I'm repeating the synopsis at this point, but I just wanted to lay a bit of groundwork for the plot. The beginning of this book opens with Rose in a cage with her best friend, Fern. As a Flower, she dances, and any punishment given to her is taken out on her Wilted, which is Fern. The Garden is run by, you guessed it, the Gardener, and he is disgustingly cruel. I cringed and wanted to cry at the treatment that these girls received and I was 100% behind Rose wanting to escape and help save her sisters. I just couldn't believe how awful this one man was! Outside of that, I really liked the political aspect of the book and how the rebellion was forming to try and create a better place for everyone. It was very fast-paced with a lot of action scenes that were very engaging and exciting, and it really allowed me to dive head first into this book and finish it quickly! I did enjoy that Rose and Rayce didn't have this insta-love thing going on (although I've seen a lot of people saying that they do?) and I really think that is due to her mistrust of others, especially males. They definitely did not give off a lovey-dovey vibe at first, but rather it built up over the book. Also, Rayce wasn't the typical YA dark and brooding male character with a dark past and if I could high five Amber Mitchell for that, I would. He was very caring, and one thing that stands out to me was towards the beginning when he returned to Zareen and received news about a caravan being attacked. He made it a point to deliver the news personally to the families of the deceased because he was the one who made the decision to send them out there, so he felt the need to take their deaths upon himself and tell the families about the loss of their loved ones. It was just something that made him stand out among all of the other male YA characters I've read about. One of my biggest complaints (and the reason I can't consider this a five star read) was because of Rose's secret. It was pointed out at the beginning that there was a secret Rose had that only she and the Gardener knew of, one that made her the star of the Garden. Okay, I'm interested! But then it was on almost every single page that Rose had a secret that no one else could know or else. I made a note about 17% in that her secret had been mentioned on nearly every page since I had started the book. I couldn't continue at about 27% because I was being driven insane by the number of times that this girl and her secret that no one can find out had been mentioned, and I actually put my Kindle down and walked away. Of course, I did pick it back up to finish it, but it was almost enough to make me want to stop. I understand wanting to emphasize the fact that she has a secret (which I totally guessed early on and it wasn't even that big of a deal to me) but moderation is key. Putting that aside, I did enjoy the plot and thought that the ending did wrap things up nicely, but also left an opening for a potential sequel, which I would totally be up for as I would love to read more about Rose and this world!

I feel like all of the characters were very well written and I actually ended up rather liking them all. Rose was smart, but her years in the Garden made her very distrustful and seemed to hinder her ability to form relationships/friendships with others. But I think as the book progressed, she was able to grow and learn to trust more and kind of move past her...well, past. Rayce was fantastic and I loved how dedicated he was to being a leader! He was just so great and had so much heart, and once things started getting more serious with Rose and Rayce, I loved the two of them together. He is definitely on my top favorite male characters of all time because he was so different from your stereotypical YA male character and that was something I really needed. Oren, Marin, and Arlo were really great supporting characters and felt like they really fit in with the rebellion in their own ways. I will admit that even though he was awful, that the Gardener was written well, too. He was gross and creepy and awful, but it was very well done and definitely did the job of making him an incredibly disliked character. Just overall, the characters each stood on their own and fit in the story perfectly and just made the book much more enjoyable. They took the plot to the next level and made it a wonderful blend of a character and plot-driven story!

Right after starting Garden of Thorns, I made a note regarding the writing of the book. It was so beautiful. I loved the description of the Garden (despite it being an awful place) and the dancing just painted an absolutely lovely picture in my mind. I also really liked the Zarenite and how it glowed when it came into contact with itself! Everything was just written so well and it was very easy to get lost in this world. The writing was the highlight of this book for me and I am so excited at the possibility of there being a sequel because of the way that the book ended!

Beautiful writing, enjoyable characters, and a fast-paced plot all added up together to make Garden of Thorns an exciting read! While there were a few things I didn't love about it, I did still find this a great pickup and would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a new YA fantasy that is easy to follow and has the potential for a sequel in the future!

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