Review of ‘Thorn’ by Anna Burke.

Rowan is the daughter of a merchant who unknowingly gives her a cursed rose taken during an ill-fated hunting trip. The rose was in a land of eternal winter inhabited by a mysterious woman called the Huntress. Furious at the merchant for killing her wolves and stealing her rose, the Huntress irrupts into the merchant’s house and takes the rose back along with Rowan. Trapped in the Huntress’s realm of eternal winter and curse, Rowan will have to choose between her family loyalties and her growing feelings for the Huntress.

Following my new year resolution to read more books out of my comfort zone, I chose a genre that I seldom read: fantasy. ‘Thorn’ is a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In this novel, according to the author, bravery and not beauty defines Beauty. As in her previous book ‘Compass Rose’ Ms. Burke is very poetic in her metaphors, this time changing naval comparisons for winter ones. Her depiction of the freezing landscape with its vast gamut of whites, menacing beasts and dimmed sunlight acts as an ideal backdrop to this beautiful story.

This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Rowan except for a few short sections written in third person point of view from the Huntress. Both main characters are well-rounded and believable and the reader cannot help but feel the pain of both: the Huntress as a victim of her own arrogance and Rowan as a casualty of her father’s weakness. Underneath lies a heavy criticism to the patriarchal system, in which women are traded as goods in the name of their fathers’ interests, and the confict between family loyalties and a woman’s search for true love.

‘A rose for a rose, a thorn for a thorn’. With each repetition of this mantra, the reader sees this phrase in a different light. The tone of this novel shifts back-and-forth from poetic and romantic as a rose, to hurting and heartbreaking as a thorn. Similarly, the pace changes from slow-burn romance to fast paced thriller. This book has been a pleasure to read and shows that Anna Burke is quickly becoming more than a promising writer.

Overall, a very good lesfic retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. A tale of suffering, bravery and love conquering all. 5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Mine to keep’ by Wendy Hudson.

Three things made me read this book: its cover, the title and Ms. Hudson’s excellent debut novel ‘Four steps’. So I had high expectations that unfortunately didn’t quite deliver for me. ‘Mine to keep’ is a romantic suspense with the romance sweet and tender but the suspense quite predictable. Because the reader can guess where the plot is heading, there is more a question of when rather than if things are going to turn for the worse. This can work for some readers but, personally, I prefer thrillers that keep me guessing. My other issue is that even though the characters are generally well developed and multilayered, some of their actions seem unrealistic in, for example, some of the characters reactions to trauma. However, the villain is very well portrayed, as the reader can actually see his conflicts and shortcomings.

Having said all these, I think the book is worth a read. It’s entertaining and well written, the description of the landscape is vivid and the romance is satisfying.

Overall, an entertaining read if you don’t mind a bit of predictability in a thriller. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

ARC provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Into thin air’ by Jeannie Levig

I have mixed feelings about this book and after reading other reviews, if this was the author’s objective, then she achieved it. My main problem is that there are two parallel stories involving the three lead characters in this book: one a budding sweet romance between Hannah and Nikki, and the other the disturbing story behind Jordan’s disappearance  “into thin air”. Around the middle of the book, these two parts of the plot are alternated every other chapter in a way that doesn’t seem to flow naturally. Neither could I enjoy the romance nor empathise with Jordan’s suffering fully. Even though the plot idea is interesting, for me, it didn’t work in its execution.
Overall, an ok (though not very enjoyable) read. 3 stars.
ARC provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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