by Amber Mitchell
Published on March 6, 2017 by Entangled Teen
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
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Sometimes tropes work. Sometimes… they don’t. This was one of those times. Garden of Thorns had all the potential of a fast-paced YA fantasy but lacked the hook to keep me interested.
From the very beginning I struggled to get into this book. The idea was interesting enough, having the “flowers” and “weeds” so there was something there that caught my eye. But the writing just wasn’t working for me.
Things moved pretty quick for a little while so I could mostly ignore the writing style and push through but then things started slowing down. I wanted to skim the pages rather than really read them. And the writing itself isn’t bad or anything, just felt… too simple? Not sure if that’s the best way to put it but I wasn’t hooked. I didn’t feel the desire to keep reading the farther I got.
The plot became predictable and therefore boring. I saw each twist and turn before they happened. Not good. The characters themselves weren’t all that intriguing to me either. I felt like Rose and Rayce were simply meant to full standard roles in this YA fantasy, with a lackluster romance and really no dynamic between them.
That romance was just… well, it didn’t work. It could’ve been a great enemies-to-lovers scenario which I love but I didn’t like Rose at all, and Rayce wasn’t all that great himself. It felt forced and instead of liking the characters more for this new love, it was quite the opposite.
I just really didn’t like Rose. I wanted a strong heroine to fill the role of protagonist in this book but she became super swoon around her love interest and I imagined a cardboard cut-out would have likely filled her role with similar results. That sounds terrible, I know. But I’m tired of YA fantasies where the girl suddenly loses her personality over a boy.
As for the world, I loved the idea of the Garden but I wanted more. Everything felt very superficial for the sake of the story instead of immersive. That’s what I was looking for and Garden of Thorns just fell short.
Now I noticed a lot of people really enjoyed this book so maybe I just read it differently but I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone looking for a YA fantasy with depth. It takes a unique idea but never fleshed it out into a book I could really dive into. I needed more from it and there just wasn’t anything to give. Just wasn’t a fan of this one.