Review Detail

A Curse of Roses Featured
Young Adult Fiction 553
intriguing dark historical fantasy
(Updated: November 30, 2020)
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
A CURSE OF ROSES is an intriguing YA historical fantasy based on a Portuguese legend. The book tackles themes of religious piety, miracles and their moral ambiguity, homophobia, and misogyny (internalized as well as external). Yzabel is betrothed to the king of Portugal and lives in the palace with him in the lead up to their wedding. Because of her curse where she turns food into roses, Yzabel eats very little, starving herself so much that she no longer gets her monthly courses.

She has tried self-flagellation and physical pain as methods to keep the curse at bay, but it seems to only be getting worse. When her maid suggests she seeks a Moura, Yzabel takes the chance, hoping that magical Moura will grant her wish of removing the curse. Once she finds the Moura, Fatyan, she explains that a cure is not so simple. However, she promises to help her if Yzabel helps to break her curse - with a kiss. Yzabel is torn about this sacrilegious act, but she ultimately kisses her, feeling things that cause increasing inner turmoil.

What I loved: This is a really intense story with a lot of inner struggle. The beginning is a little scattered, but it begins to really take shape about a third of the way through. The themes are dark but intriguing. There is a lot about acceptance of LGBT individuals and the struggles they face for living their truths. There are also intriguing discussions and symbolism around morality and religion. Yzabel learns from Fatyan that her curse could be viewed differently by different perspectives as well as that the interpretations of religious texts are not as simple as she had thought. The lens through which magic (or miracles) and religion is viewed matters.

What left me wanting more: As many of the struggles are internal, I wanted to hear more of Yzabel's changes and how she comes to terms with herself and her own truths - I think this would have been even better in a first person story to really get immersed into Yzabel's mindset and thoughts. As a small point, the beginning felt a bit scattered, and it was hard to find my footing in the story with different magic, plagues, and so on. This was a small point, as it really firmed up later in the story, and the ending was strong.

Final verdict: Intense and with intriguing themes, A CURSE OF ROSES is a fascinating, dark YA historical fantasy. Recommend for fans of THE GILDED WOLVES, GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE, and BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL.
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