“A woman’s body can survive only so much abuse before our very blood and bones rise up in revolt.”
Heart of Thorns is, first and foremost, one of the prettiest books I have ever read.
I mean look at this thing:
Yes those are SPRAYED RED PAGES.
It follows Mia Rose, the daughter of Griffin Rose, head of the Hunt for Gwyrach across the land of Glas Ddir. She has been raised to be wary of these Gwyrach, demon women whose touch can manipulate bones, flesh and blood, who can stop a person’s heart with a single touch and freeze their breath in their throat. Raised to be a Hunter, Mia is horrified herself the intended of Prince Quin, doomed to a life at court instead of avenging her murdered mother and finding the demon that took her life.
“For the entirety of human history, weak men have been afraid of powerful women.”
The fear of Gwyrach has taken over the land of Glas Ddir, the King has closed the borders and women are forced to wear gloves to protect from their potentially deadly touch. I loved the imagery of the Gwyrach, the way something as innocent as brushing hands could ensnare you with desire, end your life, mend broken bones and flesh – because Gwyrach weren’t always demons. Formerly cherished for their ability to mend and heal, these women have been hunted and tortured – their hands removed and displayed in King Ronan’s horrifying ‘Hall of Hands’ as a warning – by men afraid of their power. Even Mia, certain in her belief that these witches are inhuman, monstrous things, can’t help but hear the humanity in the tortured screams of women and girls beneath the castle floors.
“We are demon, and we are witch. We are also human. This is what your fairy tales forget.”
It is only Mia’s love for her ailing sister Angelyne that keeps her from fleeing her arranged marriage until she sees the magic in her own hands and is forced to run in order to stay alive. I loved Mia’s journey of discovery, watching what she thought was true in the world unravel and reshape itself into something entirely different. As we see the story of Mia’s mother, our own knowledge of what is real is shaken and rearranged and I absolutely adored the way the story twisted and turned upon itself, I genuinely didn’t see quite a few of the twists coming. From Gwyrach to Dujia, these magical women are individual and unique, capable of wonderful and terrible things and fighting against a world determined to see them dead.
“My father has made a royal mess of things…In his efforts to restore the rich heritage of the river kingdom, he has stanched the flow of everything that might have made it rich. He promised a return to greatness and then stripped Glas Ddir of all the tastes and colors and cultures that made us great.”
Barton paints an image of a country whose colour and diversity have been drained in order to maintain a tenuous hold on control. Far from the flourishing nation under the murdered Queen Bronwynis, the Glas Ddir of King Ronan is one kept in line by fear and lacking in all life. A nation devoid even of skin to skin contact, it is cold and barren.
In terms of representation, we see unapologetically bisexual characters and same-sex relationships throughout the novel. I have seen reviews saying that to merely mention bisexuality isn’t enough, but we do see these relationships. Far from a mention we see the two young boys in love in a nation that forcefully and violently seeks to end what is between them. We see a woman whose love with another goes sour, blackens into something dangerous, who grows to love the father of her child for the love he has for their daughter. Complex, human relationships in a country that seeks to brand them as wicked. To me, that’s relatively good on the representation front!
Just a warning ahead of reading: this book does contain a scene of attempted sexual assault. The attacker does die shortly afterwards, but I thought I’d mention it for you guys. If you’d like, I can provide a page number if you’d rather avoid it.
I adored this book, I thought it was beautifully written and the story kept me on my toes throughout. Also I have to stop reading new releases with cliffhangers because I NEED TO READ THE SECOND ONE RIGHT NOW.
Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5