Garden of Thorns
by Amber Mitchell
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: March 6, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
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.
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.
Just to get an idea of the conditions that Rose grew up in at the Garden.
“Nine years old and alone in the world for the first time. Dance until your feet give out, never talk back, and don’t ever disobey an order, or your Wilted pays the price.”