Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

TITLE: The Rose Throne
AUTHOR: Mette Ivie Harrison
PUBLISHER/YEAR: EgmontUSA / May 14, 2013
SOURCE: For Review from Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads / Author's Website

You guys know me, I'm not a huge lover of fantasy novels. Generally, I kind of avoid them, but when I saw the description for The Rose Throne on NetGalley I had to request it. Even though I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, I do love novels about royalty and like Elizabethan England and this book seemed to have some interesting parallels, plus it has two princesses and who can resist a good power struggle? While I never fell in love with it, I did enjoy The Rose Throne and found it to be a pretty solid fantasy novel for a non-fantasy lover.

The Rose Throne is about two princesses, Ailsbet of Rurik and Issa of Weireland. Ailsbet is from a land where her father rules with an iron fist, a militarily strong country, the magic of anger and war surrounds the country and very little grows. It is stifling for Ailsbet who was born without magic and only wants to see her music flourish. Issa is betrothed to the prince of Rurik, but originally hails from Weireland where the magic encourages growth and nature. It's basically just a less fractious country, but also less powerful. Essentially both girls must put their country's needs ahead of their own and forge marriages based on power, loyalty and uniting their countries rather than love while navigating the court's politics.

Like I said, I was intrigued by this title because well love, power, politics all colliding in one fantasy novel. I didn't love it as much as I was hoping to, but it was overall a solid read. The story is told through alternating perspectives of Ailsbet and Issa and it actually worked really well. Each princess had a very unique perspective and I didn't find myself questioning which was speaking (admittedly, the chapter titles with their names helped). Harrison did an excellent job in creating two distinct characters and I felt for both of them. Issa is trapped in a loveless betrothal to a thirteen year old, she's living in an enemy territory and she's sacrificed her own safety for the good of her country. She was kind and brave. Ailsbet on the other hand has grown up within Rurik's court and is adept at navigating its corridors. She was understandably a much less sympathetic character on the surface, seen as cold by the nobles and completely friendless, but her story was the one I loved the most. She had developed such a keen sense of duty and self preservation that the moments she let her guard down and opened up to other characters were that much more powerful.

I didn't love the secondary characters on their own; they weren't completely fleshed out. They were generic good and bad guys without real depth or motivation. King Rurik is the evil villain, poisoning those who cross him, constantly terrified of losing power. He has no real motivations and we never see his emotions or reasoning. It's the same with Lady Pippa, generic evil woman.

The world building itself was also fairly weak. There are other countries within this world, but  none of them have magic. The reasoning behind this is never explained. Additionally, I believe if any of the citizens of either kingdom goes to one of the other countries their magic disappears, but I'm not sure as each person supposedly has a specific amount of magic. I never got a good sense of where the magic came from, it's exact powers and why some were left out. I'm also still not totally sure why there's a feminine and masculine magic or how that came to be. The world building could have been far more detailed.

My final issue with the book was the romance. Issa has a romantic relationship with one character, but it didn't feel real. It was like and now we're in love, but it kind of came out of the blue. It could have been more strongly hinted at before it was obvious on both ends. I also felt like it was unnecessary as I was much more interested in how the princesses were fairing with the court's politics and their plans for their countries. I just didn't really care who they really loved.

I enjoyed The Rose Throne. It provided me a few hours of solid entertainment, but I never fell in love with the characters or the world. I wish it had been more detailed with the secondary characters and world providing a solid backdrop for the two princesses. I missed the nuances that come with these two things more than anything.

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