Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty… With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies. There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic―her curse―has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain for years. If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers into food. Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse―if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss. As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death? With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more. She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction. A Curse of Roses includes themes, imagery, and content that might be triggering for some readers. Discussions of religious-based self harm, religious-based eating disorders, and religious-based internalized homophobia appear throughout the novel.
A Curse of RosesFeatured
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.