Review of Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

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.

“Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.”

Firstly, I did enjoy Heart of Thorns, I found it an easy going read with lots going on and some twists I genuinely didn’t see coming. Whilst Mia is the MC, I have to say that Quin does actually steal the show.  As far as character development goes his transformation from formal and unemotional prince to what he becomes is a real joy to read with so many facets of his personality. I liked the way that the history of the world we find ourselves in is laid out conversationally rather than in one big chunk.  The journey Mia and Quin find themselves on is long and for the most part without peril so it’s the perfect way to fill the time. Given Quin’s sheltered upbringing at the castle it’s not so far fetched that given his fathers fears, he would know very little of the surrounding lands. Mia does struggle to get out her one dimension though, which I don’t know if is by design to explain things later on or whether she simply needed a bit more breathing room and perhaps a different focus from time to time.  Things really felt like she was too transfixed on righting the wrongs of the past to focus upon the present dangers.

The book also raises a lot about feminism, I have to say that it take a while to get to this point and to start I felt it was yet again another misrepresentation that Fighter = Feminist but thankfully all that changed.  It makes much of the differences in society between men and women and how women need to fight to be anything but a pair of legs that needed to open. The origins of the magic within the story are really quite heartbreaking and born out of a necessity for self preservation which naturally becomes misrepresented and skewed over time to make magic a true evil which is feared by men.  There is an element of the macabre in the King’s fascination with the slaughter of those with magic and his trophy room will have your stomach clenching.

This book does misdirection well and it’s all the more easier to achieve with a large supporting cast.  I genuinely was left with a number of WTF moments as the story went on, I had to re-read a few pages just to confirm that the twist was as awesome as it was and this book has them in spades towards the end.

However, all this needs to be offset by some things that made it fall just short for me. It’s clear that Mia has studied medicine, but her overly complex use of medical descriptions of bodily parts is unnecessary and makes for jarring reading “She dug her fingertips into the bridge of her nose. ‘The sphenoid bone. It’s like my whole cerebrum is on fire.” Why not just say she had a headache? It’s also mega tropey – I don’t as a rule mind tropes in books, they exist for a reason but this book turned out so many including the ever present MC as a huntress with the sister who dreamed of marrying a nice prince, that I found my eyes rolling. There is also a lot of tick boxing going on in respect of LGBT diversity, there was a neon sign for one character as if the author was labouring the point – the disappointing thing is that this element did fit organically into the story in a really beautiful yet heartbreaking way at a later time which made me feel that the earlier depiction was somewhat unnecessary.

Whilst there are some failings, this is an enjoyable read with plenty of magic, mystery, and misdirection and if you are in the mood for an adventure you will hopefully enjoy Heart of Thorns 

3*

 

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