Garden of Thorns

Garden of Thorns

by Amber Mitchell


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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 ashis 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 to take to her grave if she must.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781682814444
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication date: 02/27/2017
Pages: 370
Sales rank: 878,182
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

Garden of Thorns

By Amber Mitchell, Lydia Sharp

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Amber Mitchell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-848-3


Needle-thin spikes line the shackles that bite into my wrists and ankles. Blood crusts between my fingers and toes, but my chapped skin stopped throbbing sometime last night. I've learned that the less I move, the less they dig. Stiffness creeps up my back, growing out from my bones like branches.

"We're almost there now," Fern whispers next to me, her voice my only comfort in the never-ending darkness.

"I wish we weren't." Fear slips into my stomach like a stone, remembering where we're heading.

I lean my head back against Fern's, her long black hair tickling my bare arms. Maybe some of her courage will soak into me as she peers out of the tiny peephole we widened on our cart to sneak a view of her old home.

For as long as we've been paired in the Garden, she's told me stories of Imperial City's grandeur, of the cobblestoned streets that shine like honey during midday, of the four multiroofed temples that shoot up so high they look like pillars supporting the bright blue sky, and hidden gardens tucked between buildings, where you can duck under a blossoming dogwood tree to escape the heat.

Most nights, after I stumbled on stage and she bore the bruises or broken bones caused by my clumsy feet, we would lie head to head on top of the dirty straw lining our cage, and she'd spin golden webs from her memories of the Imperial City to get us by. Her whispers allowed me to forget, until I turned to look at her smiling face and watched a trail of fresh blood drip down her cracked lip. As a Flower, it's my job to dance. As a Wilted, hers is to keep me in line by paying for my mistakes with her skin. In the Garden, Flowers are low, but Wilteds are the dirt beneath our petals, silently keeping our roots alive.

"Do you want to look?" she asks, pulling me back to the present.

A beam of light spills into the cart, its weak ray like gentle fingers on my face. It gives the illusion of hope. I turn away before that seed can root into my chest.

"Sure," I say, and the spikes of my shackles bite as I move toward the hole.

My eyes fight to adjust to the glaring brightness, but once they do, I gasp in awe.

A white wooden building lined in red trim appears in my line of vision, shooting up farther than I can see through our peephole, and I can just make out the edge of its slanted red roof. Everywhere I look, I catch color — a blue stream slicing through the city, green bamboo shoots groomed artfully next to an arched golden bridge. I drink it all in, letting the scenery fill my soul after the endless stream of bland grays and browns of the small towns we usually visit.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Fern says, her voice tinged with longing.

She hasn't seen her home in nearly ten years. We were stolen into this horror show within a month of each other. When the Gardener stuck us in the same cage, I assumed it was an act of kindness, so we wouldn't wither under the weight of our capture. I didn't know until later that allowing us to bond the first four years would be his cruelest trick. That he would twist that bond to keep both of us in line or else we would both end up hurt — her flesh a physical manifestation of the mental scars I bear.

I pull my face away from the slit in the wood, ready to comfort Fern, but I don't see a trace of the sorrow on her face I thought I heard in her voice. She motions for me to return my gaze outside.

During our parade through town, we've attracted quite a crowd. The people in their plain linen clothes gawk at our processional, shock straining their pale faces as they witness the first public entertainment to enter Imperial City in over ten years. As our caravan bumps through the streets, women grab their husbands' hands tighter, guards in their shiny metal uniforms pretend not to stare as they herd people off the streets, and children weave in between the carts, playing a game of chicken with the horses' hooves.

At a glance, the bright colors painted on our carriages make it seem like the show is meant for children. When I first saw them, I was reminded of the grandiose red and golden tops of the Wonder Emporium from my homeland. Behind those walls lie men who could swallow whole swords and women who rode elephants.

But our carts depict what the Gardener sells: his thirteen Dancing Flowers. And we aren't meant for children's eyes. The paintings on the sides of our carts tantalize. Each dress brighter than the last, accentuating the curves of our forms as we dance, forced to lose one petal at a time, exposing our souls.

I twist my body so I can peek ahead. The ornate blue gate has been swung wide to let us pass unencumbered, and about ten men flank it, their woven chain armor as silver as the walls they guard. My heart squeezes, and panic swells my veins.

"Can you see the palace?" Fern asks, the familiar weight of her hand on my shoulder.

Before I can answer, our cage jolts to a stop and we fly off the bench, crashing in a pile of limbs. The splintered floor underneath the straw stings my knees. As I look up at Fern, I catch the thick scar twisting down her shoulder blade — a reminder of the first time I talked back to the Gardener — and keep my discomfort silent. She catches me staring and playfully sticks her tongue out at me.

I meet her gesture with a smile, like always. The word "sorry" hangs unspoken around us in the air. We both know that no matter how many times I say it and no matter how many times she whispers that it isn't my fault, it won't change the fact that she suffers every time I make a wrong move. All the scars and bumps and cuts littering her body are because of me. Though I didn't wield the weapon or the fist, they always fall on her because of my imperfections.

And yet, she still tries to make me smile.

We remain motionless until sounds spill from the crack in our wooden cage: men shouting orders, wood banging against the ground as cart doors are thrown open, and the shrill sound of giggling. All the noises feel so familiar I can almost trick myself into forgetting that tonight we'll be performing at the first Spring Ceremony in ten years since the border to the neighboring kingdom was shut down. My gut twists thinking about what that day meant for me, and I push it from my mind.

Fern's fingers pick through my hair, yanking out pieces of straw, while I crawl back toward the peephole. Every bit she drops to the floor will be one less she'll have to pluck later when helping me dress.

"I lived here for nine years and I've never once seen the palace gates open," Fern says, longing coloring her voice. "I used to wonder what the inside looked like, how the cherry blossom trees were arranged, what their benches were made of."

"Then you should look," I say, scooting out of her way. Fern peeks outside. As she does, a loud bang sounds to our left and, despite my best effort, excitement grows in my chest. My shackles won't be on for much longer.

One of the Gardener's lackeys has begun releasing us. They always start with Clover's cart at the front of the line, since her throwing knives aren't going to sharpen themselves. The heavy door at the back of the cage is yanked up, and we're temporarily blinded by sunlight then ripped out onto the grass. Torn from our cage and planted into the Garden for a one-night show.

And tonight's spectacle is the one our ringleader has been scheming since the idea of the Garden developed in his head. The emperor of Delmar personally requested our show to entertain him and a hundred of his highest-ranking soldiers, celebrating in the name of the Delmarions' earth goddess, Lin.

With the particularly grueling winter and shortage of crops, rumors of how important this festival is to the people have even spread into the Garden. I overheard several lackeys talking around the campfire three nights ago about a town near the Blue Wall where bowls are even emptier than they are here after a bad performance.

That's the only reason I can think why the Gardener packed up our show before we'd even performed at the last city when a scroll with the imperial seal was dropped at his feet. And just like that, we're back at Fern's home, in the heart of Delmar, where rumors of glowing men and weapons that can freeze a man's movement run rampant. The Garden's lackeys whisper of magic, but I know too well that magic can't exist in the same world as our show.

"I can't believe I'm back here," Fern says. "I never thought I'd get to see these streets again."

We don't talk about her family or the house she used to live in. She only ever told me once, right before we fell asleep a few years ago, that her father traded her to the Gardener for the price of a cow. That her head literally has a price on it. That she has nowhere to go back to.

"I didn't think we'd ever see the palace," I whisper.

Fern pulls away from the peephole, and we meet each other's gazes. My worry is reflected in her face. For as long as I can remember, our nightmare show has been flitting on the outskirts of the emperor's watchful eye, his heavy ban against any form of entertainment casting the shadow of an ax over all of our heads. The entirety of the land knew about our traveling band but turned a blind eye, because it was one of the only things that kept the soldiers happy.

But now the emperor is publicly acknowledging our existence, inviting us into his home and openly allowing us to perform behind his gates, which can only mean one thing: he's planning on legalizing the Garden. If that's really true, then we will never be able to leave.

And our master will get everything he has ever dreamed of.

I have to do something, anything, to make sure that doesn't happen.

Fern pulls her hair behind her back, revealing a jagged scar across her collarbone, the very first lesson of what my disobedience would cost us.

If I make a move, if I try to stop whatever it is this invitation means, Fern will pay for it in blood.

"When you were looking out earlier, did you notice the new lackey that gave Clover a blanket back in Lao Zun?" Fern asks. "I didn't see him out among the rest."

Our show picks up a few new lackeys at almost every stop we make, men not deemed fit for the emperor's army or the odd single man who spends all his spare coin underneath our silken tent flaps while we're in town. But the particular lackey Fern mentioned has made waves through the Garden with every spare piece of bread he sneaks for Juniper, every kind word he whispers when the others aren't looking, and every clean bandage that passes through his hands.

"No, I didn't," I say.

She leans up to look out the peephole again.

"We should have seen him by now," she mutters under her breath. "He said he would check in when we arrived."

"What're you talking about?" I ask, crawling up beside her.

I place a hand on her back as the muscles in her shoulders stiffen.

"What is he doing here?" she asks.

Before I can ask who she's talking about, something heavy slams into the side of our cart, the wood creaking with the weight of it. "Rose, there's something I need to tell you," Fern says, pushing off from the wall of our cart.

"One second," I say, taking her place to see what the commotion is.

"No, this can't wait." Panic colors her voice, and she wraps both hands around my arms, trying to pull me back to her.

I catch the back of Shears's head. He's the Gardener's right hand. He bangs a stick on the wheel spokes of our cart. The infamous set of gardening shears that gave him his nickname poke out of the back pocket of his ratty pants. The Gardener collects many things, but Shears is by far the worst of his collection. No one really knows where he came from, but that hasn't stopped the myriad of rumors spreading like weeds throughout the Garden about how many people he killed and how many body parts he separated before signing on to do the Gardener's dirty work.

I shoot back from our peephole, into Fern's waiting arms, and try to breathe. No one ever wants to catch Shears's attention. The Gardener is cruel, but Shears is twisted. He cuts with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes that activates only when his blade carves flesh.

"I didn't do anything," I say as the sound of another person banging against our cart echoes. "I swear I didn't."

"I know, I know." Fern presses me against her chest, rocking us back and forth.

A third set of bangs, then a fourth. The number keeps rising with every pound of my heart. They're surrounding us like a herd of swarming beasts.

Somewhere in the distance, the airy sound of a flute slithers through the air like a snake in the grass, one of the musicians probably practicing for our performance tonight in a nearby tent.

"I just thought about disobeying him," I say over and over again. "I wasn't going to do anything. I'd never let them hurt you again, I swear!"

"They must have discovered who Bái really was," Fern says, her hands shaking underneath mine.

She pulls away from me and leans down so we're eye to eye. Every ounce of ease has left her face, and her mouth draws into a serious line. I've never seen her look at me like this, and it scares me more than the banging outside ever could. Her brown eyes are saying the one thing I could never survive: good-bye.

"Now listen to me," Fern says, holding my face in both of her hands. "You know I'll always do my best to protect you, right?"

"And I'd do the same for you."

Her words send a sharp jolt of panic through me. Why would she bring this up now, with Shears right outside our cart?

She nods. "Just like we promised."

We were two little girls clinging to a splash of stars between wooden planks, whispering the only words that could ever truly mean anything to us: no matter how dark the night, we will always be there for each other.

"Whatever happens next, remember that we have to stop him."

"What are you talking about?" I demand, clutching her hands.

"Something's happening," she says. "Something between the Gardener and the emperor, and we can't let it — do you understand me?" The latch to our cart releases with a loud pop. Soon light will flood inside and I won't be able to see her.

"I don't —"

"It has something to do with you, Rose," she says. "You and that glowing rock they found a few towns back."

She's speaking so fast that it's hard to stay focused, but I remember the chunk of jagged brown rock that glows green every time the Gardener presses his fat fingers to it. He brought it to his personal trailer where he keeps all of his favorite trinkets.

"I know you have your secrets; we all do," Fern continues. "But you can't let it happen. No matter what, you can't let that bastard get what he wants, or none of the Flowers and Wilteds will ever be free."

"I don't understand what's going on. I didn't do anything."

Her brow furrows, and the ghost of a smile plays on her face. "You're right, you didn't," she says. "Let him think you're scared. Don't let him think there's anything different about your behavior, and during tonight's performance get every step perfect. When the time is right, when the lights are low, escape and don't look back until you can free the others."

Her words flood my mind as I try to figure out how many broken bones and bruises my escape would cost her, but before I can ask what she means, light pours in from our open door.

Four dark silhouettes block the pristine white square as they jump into our cart, the floor shaking with their weight.

Fern squeezes my cheeks.

And then we are ripped from each other, the shackle spikes digging into my flesh as I'm thrown from the cart onto the grass inside the palace gates.

My head spins from the combination of bright light and the impact of hitting the ground. One of the lackeys yanks up the chain connecting my shackles and unlocks them. Warm air attacks my chapped wrists.

I turn on my side, pain shooting up my shoulder, and see Fern's ocean of black hair spilling out around her a few feet away. I reach for her, my fingertips brushing the ends of her hair, but another hand beats me to it, grabbing a fistful and holding her up off the grass.

Though pain must be shooting across her scalp, she doesn't scream.

I follow the arm to the shoulder and see Shears, his unnaturally wide grin revealing a row of shiny white teeth before he turns away from me.

And I realize we're lying like plucked flowers at our master's feet, in the perfect position to be stomped back into the earth that we came from.


Excerpted from Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell, Lydia Sharp. Copyright © 2017 Amber Mitchell. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Garden of Thorns 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
NovelKnight More than 1 year ago
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.
MorrisMorgan More than 1 year ago
I loved “Garden of Thorns.” It features a heroine who kicks butt and an intense political uprising. The premise has two characters and stories that come together for mutual benefit. Rose was kidnapped as a young child to serve in a burlesque troop made up of underaged slaves. Rayce is leading an uprising against a tyrant. There is romance, but it is sweet and simmering, and not at all graphic. The main plot is focused on the action. Those with weak stomachs beware, the violence is brutal and graphic. I recommend “Garden of Thorns” for anyone looking for a young adult novel with a strong heroine and a quick-paced plot. I hope there’s a sequel! This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.
VoluptuousBDiva More than 1 year ago
This young adult fantasy is well written, keeps your interest and is full of action. I certainly enjoyed the romance between Rose and Rayce as it was a sweet love. This author is off to a fanastic start and I'm hoping there's a second book!! {I requested a copy of this book for reviewing purposes and was approved via NetGalley. I made no guarantees of a favorable review. The opinions expressed here are unbiased and my own.}
Sarah_UK1 More than 1 year ago
(I received an advance copy of this book for free. Thanks to Entangled Publishing, LLC and NetGalley.) “Something’s happening,” she says. “Something between the Gardener and the emperor, and we can’t let it.” This was a YA fantasy story about a girl forced to dance in a travelling show. Rose was quite a caring girl, but she was also a little naïve. I thought that while trying to rescue her sister dancers from the garden was a good thing, thinking she could do it alone was a little silly. The storyline in this was about Rose being kidnapped when she was only 8, and forced to work as a dancer in a troop called ‘the Garden’. She had a chance to escape, and instead ended up as a hostage to a rebel. This probably worked out better for her though as she had zero plans or ideas as to how to rescue her sisters and where she’d go afterwards anyway. We also got a storyline about Rose having a secret, but I guessed what that was pretty early on. I felt like I should have enjoyed this book a lot more than I did, but it was just missing something for me. The ending to this was okay and tied most things up, there was room left for a sequel though. 6 out of 10
Beths-Books More than 1 year ago
Epic! I loved everything about this book. The story was unique and the characters had so much color and depth. The love story was touching, but not overwhelming like so many are. There was mystery in Rose's background, and it kept me wondering what her big secret was. I kept scream, "Tell him. You need to tell him." When she finally did, I was able to exhale a sigh of relief. Five stars for Garden of Thorns! Can't wait to read more from Amber Mitchell.
YABookMadnessBlog More than 1 year ago
From the very first page I knew I’d love this book. It’s dark and twisted and made of intrigue and the darkest forms of humanity. What happens when humans are reduced to numbers? When they become dispensable and money/greed reign supreme? You have the sparks of a rebellion and the vilest and most inhumane atrocities. From the sinister descriptions to the unflinchingly honest voice of Rose, this story is gripping and despite the carnage, you won’t be able to look away. The Flowers, the Wilted, the whole hierarchy of these dancing, trafficked girls and the pain their Wilted faces every time one of the Flowers disobeys. It’s terrifying. From the clicking of the shears on their caravan cages to the pools of blood and threats made all too real; it’s gory, graphic, and sickening. The fear and anxiety will keep you on edge, it definitely had me flipping pages like mad hoping that Rose and the others made it out of whatever dangerous mission they happened to be on. If there’s one thing this story excels at, it’s pacing and keeping the tension high. Whether it’s blossoming sexual tension or fear, it’s there in abundance. The characters are full of life and strong voices. Every one of them is memorable and leaves you with something to thing about. They add to the story. They’re so much more than throwaway characters and after seeing so much of that lately, I am seriously impressed. I loved each and every one of them. Whether I liked them as characters was one thing, but they all had flaws and an energy that took over whenever they were present, despite the story being told from Rose’s POV. Rose has suffered years of psychological and verbal abuse. And I’m not sure if this term is correct, but secondary abuse-having to watch someone she loves get punished in her place. Everything she’s seen, each horrific, bloody act, all the guilt she’s felt, all the pain, and still Rose rallies on, she fights, and she sacrifices everything for her Flower sisters. Her determination, her courage, and her humility are a powerful example and completely unexpected. Some other things I loved about Rose was that she admitted her mistakes, she thought through every situation, and she weighed the risks. And her voice was consistent throughout. Rayce. Dear sweet gorgeous man. He’s playful and regal and brilliant and loves his people so fiercely that you can’t help but fall for him hard as the story progresses. The way her looks at Rose, how comfortable he feels with her, the honest way he confesses his fears and just listens to her, made of head over heels swoon. A noble and epic love interest that is more than worthy of Rose. Some of the plot was a little iffy. I would have liked a stronger history lesson on why these two groups hate each other, why the intial rebellion happened, and the aftermath. What’s happening in Varsha? More of that backstory would have painted a clearer picture of the animosity between groups and better explained why blondes are discriminated against, etc.
etoile1996 More than 1 year ago
reading garden of thorns totally confirmed my love for #epicfantasy. this was such a thrill to read. i was super excited to get my hands on a copy of it yesterday, and i immediately dropped everything and started reading. amber mitchell's debut introduces us to a world at war, where suffering and pain is common, where even the lightest entertainment has such a dark underbelly it's amazing that no one has bothered to look any deeper. the garden is a traveling entertainment show, bringing beauty and delight to the people who are able to view it, but the cost of this entertainment is brutal. young girls are taken from their families and held in captivity. paired off from the start, one girl, the flower gets a new identity and is trained to perform; the other, the wilted, is also given a new identity but is destined to serve as the whip that keeps the flower in line. the wilted receive all the flower's punishments, an especially hideous kind of mental torture. the wilteds serve the flowers, they help them prep for the shows, they share their rooms and lives with them. when rose's wilted, fern, is clipped--killed--rose knows that she needs to fulfill her last promise to her. she needs to escape the garden and save her sisters in captivity. she has no plan, only the chance to look for the right opportunity. one she gets at the performance the garden holds for delmar's spring festival. except her ideal hostage target is an enemy of delmar, rayce is the displaced heir to the throne and the leader of the zareeni rebel group. immediately rose's plans are thwarted. and she is taken by the rebel group as they flee the chasing imperial soldiers. they don't trust her, she doesn't trust them. rose has more secrets than she is sharing, secrets that go beyond her life in the garden and extend to her childhood in varsha. her secrets explain what the gardener is doing with the emperor. and her secrets could be just what the rebellion needs in order to settle things with the emperor. in spite of this, rose is increasingly drawn to rayce. the more she sees of his leadership, of his kindness, his compassion, of the terrible choices he's had to make in the name of the rebellion. he's a man unlike any other she's ever known. and she worries that she's going to be another terrible choice he has to make in the rebellion's name. but rayce is as drawn to rose as she is to him. the more he tries to deny it, the harder things get between them. and they already have enough hard stuff ahead of them. a dual mission to save the girls from the garden and to save the girl left behind when rose interfered with the previous plan to save her when she took rayce hostage. death is what they face if everything goes wrong. both rayce and rose can lose everything. and even as rose clings to her secrets, she has to wonder what she is holding on to. trusting rayce could set her free. she does trust him, she loves him. they were destined for one another before they ever knew of each other. they were always meant to heal their world together. and now they have to fight for that chance. because in the end, trusting in each other will save them. and they go through the wringer to get the chance to prove that trust isn't unfounded. there's more battles to be fought, the zareeni cause has yet to prevail, but they stand a chance, especially if rayce and rose stand together. **i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (entangled teen)
Book_Sniffers_Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Garden of Thorns is an interesting story about a girl who was captured at the age of nine and has been performing aerial acrobatics for the Garden (a human slave version of the circus) for the last ten years. She’s considered a “Flower” since she’s the performer and every flower has a “Wilted” counterpart, a girl who is behind the scenes and is punished for every mistake or disobedience the flower makes. Basically the story is about Rose who is able to escape the Garden but instead of finding freedom, she finds herself captured and forced to help the rebellion to overthrow the Emperor. However, there’s a lot more going on besides that but I don’t want to give anything away. One thing that I really liked about Rose was that she wasn’t some strong badass heroine. Sure, she’s the “star of the show” at the Garden but she’s definitely no fighter. Which kind of shows when she’s recaptured by the rebellion and isn’t even able to escape them. She doesn’t know how to use weapons, she freezes whenever she thinks about the “Gardender” (the slave driver), and when she’s able to help those in need, she also sometimes freezes. She’s not some crazy assassin with special powers who can do back-flips while she throws daggers into people… and I really liked that about her. She was just a young woman who was stolen away at a young age, forced to perform for the masses, and had been tortured the majority of her life. I thought her character was really believable and while I did get frustrated with her sometimes, her responses made sense given the way she had been raised in the Garden. While I really enjoyed the story, I was a bit confused by the “secret” that Rose holds onto until the end. I didn’t feel like it was that big of a deal. I kept thinking that maybe she did wield some dangerous weapon or have the codes to a nuclear bomb or something that would cause all the secrecy when she was starting to make a life with the rebellion. Surely her secret wouldn’t be as simple as who she was before her capture. Maybe her family harbored a deep dark secret. Maybe they were really dragon-shifters, or mages, or something. Obviously I read too many fantasy novels. Either way, what I’m trying to say is, I felt like the big secret that loomed over Rose’s head the entire time was kind of a underwhelming. I kept thinking there was more to it, I held out hope until the very last sentence of the book, but alas it was not as crazy as my imagination had conjured up. While I did find the big reveal to be a bit of a let down, I still thoroughly enjoyed this story. Now I will say that this does have some gore to it. I mean, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows at the Garden… or the rebellion. The author doesn’t go into too much detail but let’s just say the people of this era are quite fond of beheadings and just leave it at that. Anyway, I enjoyed the author’s creativity in this novel. I thought it was an amazing debut novel and I really look forward to what she comes out with next. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series since the rebellion is still a thing or if the author is going to leave it as is but either way, I’ll be keeping an eye out for her next book. I would definitely recommend Garden of Thorns to anyone looking to read a young adult novel that has some fantasy elements to it.
Arys More than 1 year ago
4.5 out of 5 Stars* Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell is an amazing debut YA fantasy novel that pulls you in from the first page through the last with its wonderful imagery and strong relatable characters. Filled with action, it kept the story moving forward. Sixteen-year-old Rose has spent seven years as slave in the Garden, a burlesque troupe of slave girls, where each girl is paired with another. One as the Flower, the performer on stage, while the other is the Wilted, the emotional blackmail to make sure the Flower performs perfectly or the Wilted will suffer in her place. From the beginning we are thrust into Rose's harsh and violent world. When she has a chance to escape during one of the performances, the hostage that she grabs is not one of the emperor's warriors but wanted leader of the Zareeni rebellion and nephew of the emperor, Rayce. Soon, Rose finds herself taken captive instead and needing to prove where her loyalties lie especially if she wants to rescue the other girls in the Garden. I loved the characters of Rose and Rayce, both have experienced so much and have a great weight on their shoulders. I also liked the character of Oren, Rayce's mentor. Overall, Garden of Thorns was a fun read that I happily recommend. (I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book I received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my open and honest review.)
erinlee20 More than 1 year ago
As soon as I read the summary of Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell I knew I had to read it. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy and Mitchell had my attention from page one of this book. Rose is the main character and has spent the last seven years as a slave in the Garden, a burlesque dance troupe. When the Garden is set up to perform for the Emperor, Rose sees an opportunity to escape and she is willing to do whatever she needs to in order to make it happen. Unfortunately for Rose, she chooses the wrong person in the audience to use so she can get out and she ends up being the one held against her wishes. I love a great character driven story and Mitchell did a fantastic job of getting me to care about these characters. Rose and her Wilted have been together the entire time they have been in the Garden. As a Flower, Rose is directly responsible for anything that happens to her Wilted and almost immediately something happens that forces her to make a decision about her future. One of the things I really liked was that Rose isn’t perfect. She makes mistakes and she keeps secrets. Her biggest secret is the one that ended up getting her captured by the Gardener and it is the one that she continues to try to hide from everyone around her. I couldn’t really blame her for the things she kept hidden…even though I wanted her to tell Rayce everything. She hasn’t had an easy life since she was captured and she has learned just how dangerous and evil some people can be, not just the Gardener and his right hand man, Shears but also those someone she thought was a friend. Rayce is who Rose ends up trying to use as a hostage in her escape without really knowing that he is the guy who is wanted by the Emperor for leading a rebellion against the Empire. He also happens to be the former heir to the throne and I loved learning more about his background as the story progressed. It is clear he takes his leadership role very seriously and his reasons for going against his uncle have a personal aspect to them. There were so many scenes with Rayce that I loved and most of them revolve around the weight he carries on his shoulders as a leader. Of course, there are some swoony parts that I loved too – I just wish there had been more kissing (yeah, I said it). The relationship that forms between Rose and Rayce isn’t something that happens overnight and there was one quote from Rayce that I highlighted that I thought was a perfect reflection of them both. As the story moves forward, there is quite a bit of action and danger. Rayce and Rose make a deal to work together to take down the Emperor and save the rest of the girls, but it doesn’t go smoothly. Of course Rayce is wanted by the Emperor but now Rose’s picture is also on a wanted poster and she is sure that the Emperor knows exactly who she is. Not only does that mean she is in danger but anyone who is with her is too. Never mind that this really complicates any plans she has to save the rest of the girls from the Garden. Overall I really enjoyed this book – I’m not going to say anything more about the story as I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone. Just know that the characters were well done and the story kept me turning the pages. I am interested to see what happens next for these characters and while it ended in a great place, there is definitely more story here – at least from my point of view.
Candace-LoveyDoveyBooks More than 1 year ago
Amber Mitchell's debut, Garden of Thorns, takes originality to a new level! In this marvelous epic fantasy novel, readers will be taken in by fearless characters and their action-packed adventure. She has crafted a well-balanced story that gives attention to delightful world-building and a memorable cast of characters. The story begins on a high note that lasts until the final word. Rose has lived a majority of her life in captivity under the Gardener. When she acts on a chance for escape she finds herself within the ranks of a rebel army. Its leader, Rayce, wants to help her free the other Flowers left behind in the Garden, but only if Rose can prove herself trustworthy. Rose has found it hard to put complete trust in men, but she must learn to believe in the rebel leader if she wants to keep her promise to the Flowers. Her plight instantly merits attention from readers because she's following a path that not only seems impossible, but could put her in the middle of war. If you loved Mary E. Pearson's Remnant Chronicles, you'll love Garden of Thorns. The stories are unrelated, but Rose reminds me so much of its heroine Lia. Their secret pasts and desire to protect those with little power of their own make both stories worth reading. Garden of Thorns, however, is more immediate in giving readers what they want. It doesn't take long for the action to roll in and it comes in waves throughout the story that magnify the pacing of the plot. Another reason readers shouldn't miss out on this story is because it's pure entertainment. From the flames of attraction between Rayce and Rose and the blossoming friendships, there's no shortage of quips and memorable moments. The story ends too soon, but I hope it will pick up in another installment. There's so much more left to learn about Rose's world and the one she left behind. I'll be waiting (im)patiently for another story from Amber Mitchell in the meantime! *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review*
TheThoughtSpot More than 1 year ago
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Thanks to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Garden of Thorns by Amber Mitchell! The story begins by showing the setting of captured girls and young women kept in cages. Some women are forced to entertain, they are called flowers, while their cage mates, called the wilted, take the punishment when the flowers do something wrong. The captured young girls are being trained to become flowers or wilted when they are teenagers and the cycle continues with young girls being kidnapped, trained and eventually taking the places of the flowers and wilted that are no longer serving their entertainment purposes and are expired or killed. The Gardener runs the Garden with a strict hand and his helper, Shears, enjoys the violence and gladly harms the entertainers. Entertaining is forbidden by the Emperor of Imperial City, but he has seemed to have recently changed his mind. After Rose's friend Fern is killed, Rose decides to plan a distraction during entertaining the emperor so she can escape and eventually free all of the other girls. Rose uses a member of the audience as a hostage and runs. Little does she know that her hostage is the leader of the rebellion against the Emperor, Rayce. Rose is harboring a secret and she's terrified to trust any man. She also has a lot to learn about the rebellion and the histories of the people involved. The intrigue and secrecy kept me interested and I liked the unique story line. I grew to care about several of the characters and found myself rooting for them when they were up against danger. I figured out some of the back story on my own, but not all and I appreciated the unpredictability-4 stars!
onemused More than 1 year ago
“Garden of Thorns” begins with a bang, as Rose is trapped in a cage as part of the Garden. The Garden is ruled by the Gardener who trains enslaved young girls to be “Flowers” in his entertainment show. The Flowers are each paired with a Wilted who they sleep with and who helps prepare them for performances. Anytime a Flower makes a mistake, the Wilted takes their punishment. Rose is the star of the Garden and eager to escape and save the rest of the Flowers. At the beginning of the book, she learns that her Wilted, Fern, has been accused of doing something terrible and watches, trapped, as she is “Clipped” (beheaded). Rose vows to escape and save the other Flowers. Soon after, Rose makes her escape and lands promptly in the clutches of the Rebellion, led by the handsome and kind-hearted Rayce. As Rose gets to know the rebellion better, she begins to open her mind and her heart to new possibilities. In the meantime, we explore the politics and history of this interesting fantasy world. One major theme of the book is Rose’s distrust of all men due to the fact that she was betrayed by one at 9 years of age and handed over to the Gardener (and then suffered at his hands). I found this a little hard to believe (despite people keeping their promises, helping her, etc., she could not seem to trust), especially to the pervasiveness at which it escalated and also considering the time before she was captured with her fond memories of her father, etc. Maybe it was meant to be a coping mechanism for her to lay blame elsewhere (e.g. on all men, rather than specific ones?). I also found the instant liking between Rose and Rayce to be a little too fast/predictable. I would have liked a slower lead up and burn for their attraction. That being said, the book captured my attention from the start and I loved the beginning of the book- the idea of the Garden was fascinating and quite creative. I was excited to see it lead into some bigger picture ideas with government/rebellion. I devoured this book pretty quickly as it was tough to put down. Although it was supposedly written as a standalone, the ending felt pretty open (e.g. we see the sand, not the beach), so there is that to consider. It’s not clear if this would have sequels, but if it does, I would be happily first in line to check them out! Overall, I found it to be enthralling and enjoyable- a fascinating addition to the YA fantasy genre. There are some mature themes which should be considered in terms of readership (e.g. battles, death, murder). Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
The_Hazel_Eyed_One More than 1 year ago
For the past ten years, "Rose", now sixteen, has spent her life enslaved in a burlesque troupe called The Garden, forced to perform and known only by a name that is not hers. Only the cruel leader of The Garden, the Gardener, knows who she really is and holds it over her to keep her in line. When Fern, the girl that she's grown up with, the wilted to her flower, is murdered right in front of her by the Gardener's right-hand man, Shears for conversing with a member of the rebellion Rose knows she has to escape. But when the man she uses to escape during her performance turns out to be the young leader of the rebellion she trades one captor for another. Can Rose convince him that she's not an assassin sent to kill him? How will she be able to return to The Garden to free her still captured "sisters?" As Rose finds herself aligning with the rebel Zareen, making friends with their members, and falling for Rayce, the rebellion's young leader who's mood runs hot and cold Rose will grow more involved in the cause and learn more about the fall of her homeland, Varsha - and about herself. But can she really trust Rayce and the rebellion? Or would they turn on her when they found out her identity too? Garden of Thorns is a tense, fast-paced fantasy that incorporates unique ideas like a enslaved burlesque troupe and familiar themes like a lost, forgotten princess and a disgraced prince leading a rebellion to save a kingdom. The book reminded me in ways of the Throne of Glass series, Rebel of the Sands, and in a strange way - Water for Elephants. Rose had a little bit of a "Caelena Sardothian" in her, but definitely a feistiness that was all her own. I loved the supporting characters: Marin, Arlo, and Oren and felt they really fit with the rebellion. Rayce was a perfect rebellion leader and love interest for Rose and his hot and cold temperament showed his struggle between helping his people and giving in to what he wanted - Rose. As for the world-building, oftentimes in Fantasy novels, I try to compare the kingdoms to countries of our world. Delmar reminded me of a fantasy version of China and Varsha maybe could be compared to Russia; especially with Rose, who would, in a way, be like Anastasia - the lost and presumed dead princess. The only thing that annoyed me a bit was Rose's lack of trust toward Rayce and the Zareen toward the end of the book. I kept waiting for her to admit her secret to Rayce and yet she chose to run, again, which caused the unnecessary deaths of a lot of people - one in particular who had treated her with respect and like family. Hadn't the Zareen, by that point, proven that they looked out for her like she had been one of their own all along? Overall, I really enjoyed Garden of Thorns and am eager to see if this is continued as a series, it has great potential for a continuation.
cornerofthebookstore More than 1 year ago
**I received this book as an arc from entangled teen in exchange for an honest review** Oh my god..... Oh my good..... ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod. If you can't already tell this book has me in awe. I loved this book so much! It has been awhile since I have read a really really good book and this was one of them. Amber Mitchell did an amazing job with this book her writing was beautiful. This book was about a 16-year-old girl named Rose who was a slave in the garden. She escapes with the help of a very handsome man named Rayce. Rose has a secret that she doesn't want anyone to know and this secret may be able to help with the rebellion. There is only one problem, Rose doesn't want anyone to know her secret. Rayce was definitely one of my favs and Rose and him together was just so hard to describe in words. I still can't believe how good this book was. I highly highly recommend this book to anyone who loves YA Fantasy. There's some romance, some action (little throne of glass action if I do say so myself), and we can't forget the secrets. Again I highly recommend you read this book it will definitely be one of my favorites that I recommend to my friends.
suekitty13 More than 1 year ago
Spoiler Free Review! This is one of the most exciting fantasy books I have ever read! Right from the beginning the story threw me into some of the most disturbing and heinous abuse I’ve ever encountered in YA. It literally made my stomach churn. The Flowers and the Wilteds live in an absolutely unbearable, atrocious situation. To use The Wilteds in the manner they are used is diabolical and heartbreaking. I wanted so badly for them to escape, fight back, be rescued, anything to get them out of The Garden! This novel involves a familiar trope in Rose's secret which I won't give away although it's easy to guess pretty early on. What truly makes this heroine special isn’t some undefined power or anything to do with her secret but rather it is the strength and aerial skills she developed due to the abuse she suffered for years at the hands of the Gardener. It allowed her to be able to ignore pain and taught her to be quick and agile. This certainly comes in handy when captured or fighting a battle! While the abuse made her distrustful and took away her self-confidence it didn’t make her weak. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger indeed! I didn’t always like Rose’s decisions and I often had to remind myself that she wasn’t making her choices from a place of normality and confidence but rather from what she had learned from her past in the Garden which was full of fear, mistrust, pain, and misery. There was no chance of such a broken girl making good decisions! The romance bordered on insta-love but due to the constant danger and Rose’s background it is understandable that she would fall for the first kind and goodhearted (and good looking) man she spent any time with. The action was pretty well constant with epic battles, chases and rescues leading one into the next with hardly enough time to take a breath in between. There are a few quiet, tender scenes but for the most part it is all action all the time. The plot is constantly pushed forward with nary a lull and there is no chance of boredom. Due to this the world building is minimal and mostly functional. There is some background history but only as it ties directly into the plot. It was enough information to be satisfying and certainly not overwhelming but I’m hoping future volumes in the series tell us a bit more about the world this story is set in. I'm also really hoping that the final version includes a map! Thank you to Entangled Publishing for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.