Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This was one of those books I originally picked up because it had a gorgeous cover. I’m not sure why but I love the rose colored books, they are just so pretty. Before anyone goes and tells me not to judge a book by it’s cover, I didn’t. I ended up reading the summary, and thinking wow this sounds different and actually really interesting.
Here’s a quick breakdown on the book: We start out with one of our two main characters, Zivah, as she is about to go through her big healer exam. She is one of the youngest healers in the village, and one of the fastest taught students as well, but this exam tests not only their knowledge but also their preparation with deadly venoms (likely my least favorite part thanks to those creatures). Following that we are then introduced to Dineas, who finds himself waking up in a mass grave of sorts, tossed himself thanks to the Rose plague that had recently hit the prison he had been kept in. He is now what the book calls umbermarked, touched by the plague but not still threatened by it, or contagious. So, where is the conflict you ask? The Empire of the book has stationed a new force at Zivah’s village, but shortly after arriving there soldiers begin falling victim to the plague, and Zivah quickly goes to work as a healer, assigned to the Commander. She manages to nurse him back to health, saving her village, but the plague takes her as well, and unlike the Commander and Dineas, Zivah though alive, is now Rosemarked; both contagious, and threatened by the eventual return of the disease on her body. From there, Zivah is pulled into spying for her village on the very empire that threatens their way of life, thrown into a dangerous mission with Dineas.
One thing this book follows pattern wise is the idea of a great big empire threatening smaller villages, but other than that it took an approach I haven’t seen before with a healer, or even just someone who is sick themselves, something not seen in fantasy all too often. The world building was thorough, and the Rose plague itself was hashed out perfectly from what I read. You have the three different outcomes of the plague; Dead, Rosemarked, or Umbermarked. Not to mention the description of herbs and concoctions used by Zivah feel real, and in-depth. So, regardless of whether all the information was specially crafted for the story or researched thoroughly it all rises from the paper and is believable. The description overall in this novel was amazing, giving the right information at the right time, avoiding both info dump, and lack of detail, it honestly an amazing image that pops in your head, even as a whole Rosemarked village with crime and disease is described.
So, this is where we get into why this book is getting a three star review from me. I actually feel a little bad giving it this score, since I think in some way it might be on me. This book overall took me almost two weeks to read, and that’s with a lot more free time than I normally have. To begin with I’ll be blunt, there’s action in this book, but one of the things I struggled with was the pacing. In the effort to get all that beautiful detail out it doesn’t have that shotgun, working on a countdown feel (It was not the final countdown) that I think I needed at the time, and for this book I think it was not only appropriate, but also well done; so yep it was me. I’d likely recommend this book if you’re okay with something that doesn’t necessarily catch you from the first chapter alone, otherwise it might be a little work to get through.
Overall, this book was actually really good, the series (yes it’s a series) being well set up in this first novel. Dineas and Zivah both have gone through the Rose plague, but give us two different outcomes as well as two different ways of seeing these outcomes. Their journey from their villages to their big mission in the Empire brings us an extraordinarily written world, and its horrible disease that plagues it. I defintely recommend this to readers looking for something to read after the Ember in the Ashes series, or even the Tower of Dawn!
What was a book you recently read and liked, but somehow still struggled to read? Comment below, and don’t forget to like and subscribe if you enjoyed this!