Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.
For Mia Rose the world is simple, black and white. There is good and there is evil. There are humans and there are demons that look like humans. There are the Gwyrach, magical demons like the one that killed her mother, and the hunters, like her father, that guard the kingdom against them. This is the world as Mia knows it. That is, until her father betrays her by promising her as a bride to the prince and the world as she knows it begins to unravel.
Heart of Thorns was a bit of a roller coaster of a read for me. Some of it, especially for the first half, is incredibly trope heavy, to the point where it is hard to see past the tropes long enough to find what makes this book different from any other YA fantasy on the shelf. There’s the girl being forcibly betrothed to a prince she hates only to discover he might not be so terrible. There’s the character discovering she possesses the very power she’s sought to destroy her entire life. It seemed, at first, to be predictable to the extent of becoming utterly generic. To be clear, I was never bored. I never had to force myself to keep reading. I just wasn’t especially blown away either.
And then I tipped over the half-way mark, and suddenly the ride got a whole lot more turbulent and a whole lot more interesting. There are so many twists and turns that I had honest to goddess had whiplash by the time I got to the end. Throughout the latter half of the book, Heart of Thorns turned into a beautiful story of found family and sisterhood, of how devastating the consequences can be when blind hatred becomes law, of how powerful love can be and how badly the ones we love most can hurt us.
Heart of Thorns is an overtly feminist book (which, needless to say, I adored), but it also is careful to include diversity beyond simply speaking out against blatant misogyny. There is a disabled character who uses a wheelchair and when another character asks why no one has used magic to “fix” their legs, they are told that there a somethings magic cannot do, and somethings that do not need to be “fixed.” There are a number of queer characters and characters of various skins tones. The one area I feel the book really failed to explore, or even comment on, was trans people within the world. Only women are capable of possessing magic, but if that’s the case there should be some thought about what that means for trans men who are born with it. I really hope to see trans characters taken into account in future books of the trilogy.
All in all, while Heart of Thorns and I certainly had a rocky start, I was legitimately freaking out with excitement when I finished it and I am very much looking forward to reading the next book in the series. It has a bit of a slow build, and the characters could use a bit more development, but the ending is good enough to be worth pushing through the slow start. Seriously. The ending is phenomenal. I had to take back every thought I had about the book being predictable. There is so, so much more to this story than there initially seems and in my opinion it is well worth the read.
- In one chapter near the beginning of the book the Gwyrach are referred to as half-breeds. To my best memory this is the only instance in the book the word is used. All the same, it’s pretty unnecessary.
- There is an attempted rape scene.
- General CW for blood and death.