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Inventive and heart-racing, this fierce feminist teen fantasy from debut author Bree Barton explores a dark kingdom in which only women can possess magic—and every woman is suspected of having it.
Fans of Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor won’t want to miss this gorgeously written, bold novel, the first in the Heart of Thorns trilogy.
In the ancient river kingdom, where touch is a battlefield and bodies the instruments of war, Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood. The same women who killed her mother without a single scratch.
But when Mia's father announces an alliance with the royal family, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Determined to forge her own path forward, Mia plots a daring escape, but could never predict the greatest betrayal of all: her own body. Mia possesses the very magic she has sworn to destroy.
Now, as she untangles the secrets of her past, Mia must learn to trust her heart…even if it kills her.
About the Author
Bree Barton is a writer in Los Angeles. When she’s not lost in whimsy, she works as a ghostwriter and dance teacher to teen girls. She is on Instagram and YouTube as Speak Breely, where she posts funny videos of her melancholy dog. Bree is not a fan of corsets.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Bree Barton has a special magic when it comes to language. A stunning debut by an author who is one to watch!
Based on a recommendation, I purchased this book for a friend's 15 year-old daughter. She's not typically an avid reader, but she read the entire book over one weekend. Her mom was curious and has begun to read it, and tells me that she's enjoying it as much as her daughter did, which seems like a great recommendation! If you are looking for a great book to gift to a younger reader -- or an older reader, apparently :) -- this seems like an excellent choice! I actually just hopped online to order a copy for myself. I understand that this is the first installment of a trilogy, so I'm especially excited to get my friend's daughter primed for another great read!
I've had the great fortune to read mostly 4/5 star books this year, but it appears that a below-three-starrer finally slipped through the cracks. I want to be honest from the beginning that I didn't like this book - but if you did, that's totally fine! There were a number of reasons it just wasn't for me. Before we dive into those though, I'll list the things that Heart of Thorns did have going for it. From an overall standpoint, the story is very entertaining. I turned pages quickly and wanted to find out what happened next in Mia's wily adventures across a strange fantasy world. The banter between Mia and Quin (the love interest) was probably my favorite part! I chuckled through the whole first third of the book (with high hopes for an increasingly better plot but unfortunately, that did not happen). Heart of Thorns also had an awesome premise, while the part that failed was the execution. I loved the idea of a magic system used only by women, born out of oppression and as a defense against the terrible ways of men. But this book felt like the feminist book the publishing world may want, but definitely not the one that we need. Maybe this is just me, but I'm personally tired of narratives that focus on a fantasy world where women are forced into marriage and physically assaulted. There are so many books like this already, and frankly so many stories that do it much better than this book did. I will give the author credit for at least attempting to make the feminism intersectional, as there are multiple LGBTQ+ characters and one (yes, literally just one) identified character of color. But yet again, this was very poorly done. The book just screamed, "Look at me!!! I can be diverse!! See! Here's a gay character!" It was all written as afterthoughts and add-ons, rather than a given. And one last thing regarding the representation and feminist themes: towards the end of the book, there's a scene I would consider to be ableist. It's probably debatable, but a character with deformities and scars is made to be a villain for wanting to heal herself and make herself "whole." Aside from those issues though, there were a number of other things that made this book hard to get through. Like the feminism, the world-building needed much more development. The main fantasy nation had city names and a vocabulary that seemed Gaelic/Irish/Scandinavian inspired to me (I couldn't tell you specifically, butbasically European). It felt like your classic Game of Thrones-style world. But then right next door was another nation with an Asian (possibly Japanese) inspired name with volcanic islands that made it feel more like Polynesia. In total, this fantasy world was a hot-freaking-mess. As for Mia? She wasn't terrible, but there were moments when I really thought I would throw the book across the room if I had to read one more scientific term from my freshman biology textbook awkwardly thrown into her dialogue. I'm all for having female protagonists with a love for STEM, but literally no one refers to another person's head as their "cortex" in passing conversation. And the romance felt very forced, with no chemistry whatsoever. I'll just say that I think the author put a straight romance where there definitely should have been a gay one. Finally, the ending sort of culminated in this big-hot-mess fiasco to end all the other big-hot-messes that trailed throughout the book. It's highly unlikely that I'll be reading the rest of the series.
I was really excited to read another YA fantasy and I was so happy to find that Heart of Thorns was up next in my to-read list. I think it's because I don't pick up as many YA fantasy that reading a YA fantasy and being immersed into a different world feels so... invigorating! And, with a giddy feeling in my heart, I began reading Heart of Thorns. I went into Heart of Thorns fairly blind--nothing else besides reading the synopsis. I'm glad I did that because I feel like if I knew more details about it I wouldn't have been as motivated to pick up the book again once I set it down. The first half of the book was pretty slow because it was somewhat info-dumpy and predictable as in a lot of the plot elements were very trope-y that it's easy to know what will be revealed next. While this didn't necessarily took away my enjoyment of the story it did dampen my giddiness a little bit. But, once I got past the first half of the book, things got a lot more exciting and I had that invigorated feeling again where I couldn't stop turning the pages fast enough. I love the twists and the turns the story took and by the time I finished I needed the second book in my hands right then. Mia, our main character, is admittedly very similar to many other YA heroines--similar personality and motivations. I liked her, but I also recognize that there wasn't really anything about her that felt special to set her apart from other YA heroines. However, I thought the love interest Prince Quin and the side characters stood out more. Quin was bisexual, which I thought was refreshing in a love interest, and he's just an overall lovely person. Besides Quin, there were other side characters who were gay as well as a character with a disability, so kudos to the author for including those reps. As for the world, I thought the author did a really good job describing it. With her descriptions, I could easily picture the setting in my head. I thought what we learned about the world, its history, and especially the magic system was really interesting. What we got was just the tip of the iceberg and know we're going to learn even more in the next book in the series. One of the things the drew me to this book was that it was pitched as "fiercely feminist" and there was a stronger emphasis on feminism in the later part of the book and in certain elements like the magic system. Even though I had some issues they were minor enough that they didn't really take away my overall enjoyment of the novel. There was a lot to like, like the interesting world building, inclusion of different reps, the feminist elements, and the action in the later half of the book. Heart of Thorns was a great start to the series and I can't wait to see what's next for our characters.
I received an ARC for an honest review. In a Kingdom where “Gods forbid a woman ever express a sound belief” two sisters, 17-year-old Mia Rose and 15-year-old Angelyne, challenge this belief. Mia wants to be a Huntress, not married off to the prince and continue her mission fighting Gwyrach and their menacing magic. The girls of the Kaer Killian wear gloves, for the fear anyone one of them could be a murderous Gwyrach, and a threat. “Women who, through their touch could manipulate the flesh, bone, breath, and blood of their victims.” Mia Rose prepares for her escape; her father, who loved her mother, now dead, has forced her into a loveless marriage. Only “She has work to do and a sister to save.” Her sister’s fighting a mysterious illness, since staying in the ancient citadel carved from a mountain of ice, her lady in waiting during the month-long engagement. A demon, half-god, half-human, killed her mother and destroyed their lives. It’s Mia’s mission to find that Gwyrach once they escape. But her sister, Angelyne won’t go, and Mia can’t leave her behind. She insists the life Mia hates and wants to escape isn’t so bad. Mia’s marriage to the prince continues as planned. Even after overhearing him call her dangerous. During the wedding dinner, Mia vows to strike fear in every living Gwyrach, once she’s princess. Her father secretly hands Mia her mother’s journal. Her mother wanted Mia to have it when she was ready. She discovers her mother’s secrets as the blank pages reveal what she needs to know in due time. Changing all her preconceived beliefs. Five hundred pairs of eyes await the union, marking the alliance of two great houses. The prince falls into Mia’s arms, wounded by an arrow, and they make their escape. When Mia tries to save his life, her entire world is thrown into chaos, and the adventure is just getting started. A gorgeously written fantasy with nail-biting suspense, and twists that’ll leave your mouth gaping. A familiar world, a little too familiar, where powerful women and girls are seen as dangerous, feared, and kept bottled up, or on display. Many of the truths are painfully similar to the struggles of our time. Written with a poignant message about feminism and love. Sometimes love is the stronger choice.