Lotus and Thorn by Sara Wilson Etienne
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
Ravaged by a plague known as Red Death, the planet Gabriel, a former colony of Earth, is a barren wasteland. Since being abandoned by Earth 500 years ago, resources are scarce and life is cheap. To stay alive, the survivors, the Citizens, scavenge the remains of a now dead city, trading for food with the resource-rich Curadores, the only other survivors on Gabriel. Every old computer, every piece of wire, every scrap of metal counts. To steal is the ultimate sin. So when tough-as-nails seventeen-year-old Leica is caught doing just that, she's exiled and left to the mercy of Gabriel's unforgiving desert for the rest of her life.
While in exile, Leica discovers a mysterious shuttle, which may not only lead her home, but even more impossible—reestablish contact with Earth. Then Red Death rears its head again, killing her entire work crew, leaving Leica all alone until a handsome Curador offers her refuge in the Dome—the only place on Gabriel untouched by Red Death, where a decadent and sultry life awaits. But there's a catch: Leica can only enter the Dome as his concubine—his Kisaeng. When a rogue group of Citizens see their chance for revolution in Leica's good fortune, she finds herself unraveling a deadly mystery with chilling answers to the true origin of Red Death and the reason Earth really abandoned them so long ago.
A richly imagined fantasy in the vein of Tamora Pierce, Lotus and Thorn, is a magnificent, epic adventure.
What I Liked:
I'd heard of this book before there was a summary or cover, and so I didn't know anything about it (its title was originally Unworthy). When I requested the book, there still wasn't a cover, but there was a summary. I remember thinking, epic fantasy? Count me in! And then the cover was released and, well, it is gorgeous. I didn't know much about the book and didn't know what to expect, but I really enjoyed this book! Once I started, those 464 pages flew by.
The prologue tells the (short) story of how Leica is exiled from her home. Stealing is a sin, and while Leica wasn't exactly stealing, she was caught with something worth stealing. Nearly two years later, just shy of eighteen, Leica's crew in the treacherous desert is completely lost to Red Death. Leica bumps into another group of exiles, called the Indignos, as well as a Curador. The Curadors trade food and supplies for electronics, which the Citizens gather. This Curador, Edison, wants to help Leica, and he takes her back to the Dome, where food is bountiful and life is good. Leica can only enter the Dome if she is his Kisaeng, or concubine. Leica agrees to go, because she wants to spy on life at the Dome and see what they are hiding from the Citizens. As it would turn out, the Curadors are hiding quite a bit.
The world-building of this book is so well-written, in my opinion. I know this book is billed as a fantasy novel, but it seems more of a post-apocalyptic type to me. This world is Gabriel, a former colony of Earth. There has been no contact with Earth in hundreds of years. Leica's home is more of a community of Citizens, lead by the Abuelos. Everything electronic and basically metal-y is scavenged and traded with the Curadors, who give them found. But waves of the Red Death have been killing off the Citizens. And when Leica is exiled, she is left to face the harsh, unforgiving desert. Somehow, she survives for nearly two years, with the help of a crew. But when all of her crew dies, she is left alone. Again.
Leica goes through so much in this action-packed novel! In the beginning of the book, she is fiercely protective of her older and younger sister, and she is painfully aware of her "Corruption" (she has an extra pinky on each hand). Two years in the desert has toughened Leica even more; she was already a fighter, but now she's a survivor. And when she is taken to the Dome, it's s different kind of fighting and surviving that she must do.
I can't fault Leica for anything that she does to save herself and others. There is a very weird part of the book towards the end that will make just about anyway very sad for her, but the girl is braver and stronger than many of us.
This book is a journey! It's a 464-page story that really digs deep, taking us from beginning to, well, another beginning that is also the end of the book. I think the book is a standalone, and I think it ends extremely well for a standalone. I also think that there is room for a sequel, but who knows. I could also see a companion sequel happening.
I think I'll mention the romance, but it's not something that I really want to talk about. The romance is a little strange. The author plays with the idea of physical attraction but not emotion. So I hesitate to say that there is real "romance" in this book... because it's not romance. Still, there was an aspect of romance that I liked, one aspect that was sweet. I won't say anything else because I don't think it's important enough. Do not read this book for the romance, because you'll be disappointed (in terms of what is not there).
There are science-y aspects to this book! I like that Leica is good with electronics and electrical wiring and things like that. She's not just good with a sword and a knife and her bare fists. She's got a science-y brain and she uses it well.
Overall, I'm pleased with this book. I didn't know much about it going in, which was a good thing. I think I probably would have been a little misled about a certain thing (which I left out of my own review - you'll have to discover that aspect for yourself!). I'm curious to see if there will be a follow-up to this book!
What I Did Not Like:
You can probably tell from what I said above, but the romance was not something I absolutely loved - I didn't hate it either. I think the romance itself could have been so much more. Instead, the author focused on something more physical. I know, I know, Alyssa complaining about a physical aspect?! I have reason to do so, in this case. It didn't detract from the story and I still liked the book a lot, but I guess I'm a little picky when it comes to these things!
Would I Recommend It:
I liked the book, and I'd recommend it if you were already interested! It's a post-apocalyptic novel, not necessarily dystopia, but definitely the futuristic survival type. More science fiction than fantasy, in my opinion. I will say that if you're expecting an epic romance, don't bother. Do not read this book for its romance.
4 stars. I'd not read the author's debut, Harbinger, but I remember seeing it when it published years ago! I wonder if it is just as engrossing as this book. In any case, Lotus and Thorn was very much worth the read!
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