Rosemarked – Livia Blackburne – Disney-Hyperion – Published 7 November 2017
A healer who cannot be healed . . . When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.
A soldier shattered by war . . . Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.
Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.
Rosemarked is a richly detailed fantasy that has a fairytale feel but is entirely unique and cleverly crafted. I so enjoyed sinking into this delightful story. I was enraptured by the first chapter. Here are just a few of the things I loved most about it: the references to herbs and their uses for healing; the complicated morality aspect and the way in which is this so cleverly conveyed through the chapters; the girl who takes down a trained warrior by using her poisonous pet snake; the use of a variety of weapons from bows and arrows to swords, daggers and poison; the messenger crows; that tantalising hint of romance, high-stakes tension and the quote: “I may not be a walking armory, but I’m not completely helpless”.
Zivah is a healer. She has trained many years and undergone many trials to finally earn her healer’s sash. But when there is a sudden outbreak of the rose plague in the soldiers patrolling her mountain village, Zivah also finds herself falling ill with the deadly and highly contagious disease. Now she is an outcast, unable to use her healing skills, her final days numbered. Until she discovers that her village leader has been conspiring with a group of rebels. She is tasked with a job no one else can do – journey to the enemy Amparan Empire’s Rosemarked settlement to act as a healer. Along with her is the rebel fighter Dineas. He has been captured and tortured by the Amparan’s before, has had the Rose plague and survived as one of the few immune Umbertouched. Her job is to use her skills with herbs to remove Dineas’ memory so he can infiltrate the Amparan forces. Together, they risk discovery to steal information that might help protect their people.
Rosemarked is written in alternating chapters from both Zivah and Dineas’ points of view. This allows the reader to get a good understanding of both characters, really get inside their heads. This is particularly effective when Zivah takes away Dineas’ memories. Gone are the terrors of his time being tortured. Gone are his first, rather unflattering, impressions of Zivah. Gone is his history of fighting for his freedom and loathing the Amparan Empire. It’s almost like there are suddenly three characters. Zivah struggles with the morality behind her actions, liking the Dineas without his memories better than the one, in those few moments when she temporarily restores his memories, with them. Dineas also struggles, especially with his thoughts and the actions he must take when he has no memory of his true people or the real reason he is now fighting in the Amparan army. This complex morality question, the way it confuses Zivah and Dineas, the way in which it affects how they grow to feel about each other was so very interesting. It makes the hint of romance so very tortured and delightful, bitter and sweet. Loved it.
Rosemarked has been likened to one of my absolute favourite fantasy series, The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. I agree, as it shares many of the same themes: two young people living in a world where their land has been taken, where they must fight for the survival of their people, and the same fantasy feel without there being a whole lot of magic. Rosemarked also reminded me of the Study series by Maria V. Snyder. Perhaps it is the use of herbs, the way animals are used, the fighting, or the banter between Dineas and his fellow Amparan soldiers, but it has the same feels as Poison Study. I cannot give two higher recommendations. But even better, Rosemarked is suitable for readers aged 12 and up and there is no reason why I can’t give it to slightly younger readers, which makes it perfect for fantasy YA fans of all ages.
I could go on forever about everything I loved about this book – the setting, which feels part Asian mountains to Arabain-nights-esk desert, or maybe the romance (can’t wait to see how this develops in the next book!). The risk of Zivah and Dineas’ deception and how this draws them closer to each other but also, conflictingly, closer to their Amparan enemies is tantalising, and I just loved the messenger crows. I want my own Scrawny. Or maybe Zivah’s very poisonous pet snake, Diadem. This is a fantastic new fantasy book, the first in what promises to be an amazing series. Very highly recommended.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Healers, War, Invasion, Memomry, Illness, Plague, Soldiers, PTSD, Herbs, Deception.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: Violence – death, injury and vague references to torture. Poision, battles and fighting.
Published: 7 November 2017 by Disney-Hyperion.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 400 pages.
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