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.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Review of ‘If I loved you less’ by Tamsen Parker.

Theo Sullivan is a surfing instructor based in a small island in Hawaii. In her free time she enjoys being the village busybody and matchmaker and eating all things sweet at her friend Kini ʻŌpūnui’s bakery. As Theo is a lesbian, she normally enjoys no-string relationships with visiting tourists but she’d never imagined that the love of her life could be closer than she thought.

This novel is a retelling of ‘Emma’ by Jane Austen. The author mainly writes about m/f and m/m couples with the exception of a couple of f/f books. In the acknowledgements, the author admits that this book was difficult to write and, to be honest, it shows. Even though this book features two main women characters falling in love with each other, I wouldn’t consider it lesfic because most of the attention is focused on heterosexual relationships. Additionally, Theo affirms that she’s a lesbian (or queer as she prefers to call herself) but her attraction to women isn’t completely believable. I couldn’t feel the mains’ chemistry beyond the level of friendship and their romantic involvement is rushed and unconvincing. It doesn’t help that there no intimate scenes either and I’m not sure that they would have worked with that low level of chemistry.

The book is written in third person from the point of view of Theo. To say that Theo is not an easy to like character is an understatement. Most of the time, she comes across as self-centred, opinionated, superficial, immature and manipulative. Kini is the complete opposite and you can only wonder what she sees in the younger woman. There is an age gap between the mains of around 14 years, both characters are believable in their ages and they somehow balance each other. Kudos to the author to tackle an interracial romance in the beautiful setting of Hawaii. However, there are too many out of context Hawaiian words, specially when food is mentioned, which somehow interrupt the reading flow. Additionally, some of the secondary characters are a bit stereotyped and sometimes act strangely for the XXI century. I’m not sure that interpolating Jane Austen’s idiosyncrasy to a modern day lesbian romance worked in this case.

Overall, an unconvincing romance that probably won’t appeal lesfic fans. 2.5 stars.

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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com