Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne
Book One of the Rosemarked series
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
This smart, sweeping fantasy with a political edge and a slow-burning romance will capture fans of The Lumatere Chronicles and An Ember in the Ashes.
What I Liked:
Perhaps this is my impression of the book and its marketing, but it seems like this book is flying under the YA radar. Which is a real shame, because it is excellent. I hate to say it but it seems like this book is going to be a seriously underrated publication of 2017 and that is so sad. Hopefully I'm wrong - maybe there are armies of people that are excited about this book, and my tiny corner of the YA blogosphere is the only quiet one. I'm so happy that I enjoyed this book because my favorite book-related thing to do is gush about books. So here I go!
Zivah is a talented healer who has just become the youngest high healer of Dara... only to succumb to the rose plague. Now covered in rosemarks and isolated from the rest of Dara, Zivah lives in a cottage and tends to venomous snakes and scorpions. One of the many people she treated before she became rosemarked was Commander Arxa, one of the most powerful Amparans in the empire. He invites her to live in Sehmar City among the rosemarked, and treat those inflicted with the rose plague. She would no longer be in isolation, but she would have to leave Dara indefinitely. She almost refuses the offer, but fate throws Dineas in her path. Dineas is a warrior of a nomadic tribe caught in the middle of the Amparan wars. Dineas wants nothing more than to cut down every Amaparan who captured and tortured him, and when an opportunity presents itself for him to go to Sehmar City and pose as an Amparan soldier, he doesn't refuse. Dineas and Zivah didn't see eye-to-eye on anything at first, but circumstance and love for their homelands has drawn them together. They sacrifice everything they have to live a lie in Sehmar City, where they could be caught and killed for betrayal.
I've read Midnight Thief, and Daughter of Dusk, and the short story Poison Dance. But I have to say, Rosemarked is Blackburne's strongest novel yet. I love seeing an author grow as he/she writes and publishes more books. It was so clear to me that Blackburne's craft has gotten better since Midnight Thief. I really enjoyed Midnight Thief, her debut, but Rosemarked outranks the book any day.
This book is written in dual first-person POV, present tense. I love dual narratives but oftentimes, I don't like one of the characters as much as I like the other. That was not the case with this story. I adored Zivah, and I adored Dineas, and I loved reading from both of their POVs.
Zivah is a dedicated healer, and she is an accomplished scientist (though she wouldn't be called that, in this world). She is so smart and creative, with her experiments and conjectures relating to the rose plague, and her duty to studying the venom of her pets. Zivah is a kind healer with a spine of steel. She isn't a warrior heroine that kicks butt in a physical sense, but she is just as kickbutt. She wields the power of a good brain, and a strong will. She is quietly strong, and one of the most likable YA heroines I've come across in a while.
Dineas is a warrior and a soldier through and through. He is quite a skilled soldier and he also has a talent with commanding crows. Dineas is the physically strong, brave, selfless hero puts lives like he has nothing to lose. He is hardened and stubborn, and he is determined not to like Zivah at first. He puts everything on the line for his people, including letting himself lose his memories while they are at Sehmar City.
Losing his memories is a huge part of this story. Going through forced amnesia isn't easy, but Dineas does it willingly, to protect himself and Zivah (since he is posing as a rosemarked soldier looking for a place in Arxa's army). It was heartbreaking to see him lose himself as he retained no memories of himself. Zivah gave him temporary antidotes when they communicated with each, which meant that she had to watch him lose himself every time she and him finished their meetings. Blackburne wrote this aspect of the story so well, though it broke my heart every time.
There are a lot of pieces set in motion in this story. It isn't just about Dineas and Zivah going to Sehmar City to spy on the empire and Arxa and the prince. The rose plague is spreading, and no one can figure out how and why... especially when it starts to spread to higher ranks. Meanwhile, Dineas loses parts of himself every time he fights in Arxa's army. The rose plague is such an interesting part of the story - it definitely makes the book even more unique.
This story was exciting and intrigued from page one. I was hooked and didn't stop reading until I was finished - and I was looking for the rest of the story. I so thought this book was a standalone, and I was about to be quite upset! I'm glad there will be a sequel.
There is a subtle romance, as the synopsis implies. Dineas and Zivah fall for each other very slowly, and more visibly on Zivah's side. Well, on Dineas's too, but remember that his memories are taken away and given back and taken away. In any case, the romance is there and it's sweet, and also love-triangle-free. I'm rooting for more of a romantic presence in book two, because it's barely there in this book. It's there though, and a perfect amount, honestly.
I really enjoyed Rosemarked, possibly even more than I expected. While I liked Midnight Thief a lot, I didn't enjoy Daughter of Dusk. But I'm glad I gave Rosemarked a shot. It is Blackburne's strongest book, and it was an excellent read.
What I Did Not Like:
I'm curious to see if there are repercussions to all of the memory-hopping that Dineas has to go through... he takes a potion to lose his memories, and then takes a temporary antidote for every time he and Zivah communicate in person. But then that wears off and he is back to being amnesiac. Zivah has a permanent antidote so it isn't like he is stuck amnesiac forever, but it seems too clean, to be able to go back and forth between having full memories and being a completely blank slate.
I wouldn't have minded more romance. It's there, and I like it, but I'm hoping the sequel will have more. The romance in this book was sweet but also a little sad.
Would I Recommend It:
YA fantasy fans should definitely pick this book up. I don't usually compare books to other books, but the synopsis of the book is pretty accurate so I will use it - this book definitely compares to An Ember in the Ashes, and in a good way. It features a world just as brutal and hopeless as EMBER's, with a likable cast of protagonists, and villains you aren't sure are completely villainous. There are people on both sides of fight that are fighting for the "right thing" on their side. This book blurs that line and really makes you think about who is "right", in a war.
4.5 stars. This book was spectacular and one that I'll be thinking about in the future. It's funny - I love the warrior/healer trope in adult romance novels; it's a trope that really works for me. You don't see it often in YA though, especially not from a romantic sense. But this book features a warrior and a healer and they do slowly fall in love... I love it. And of course there are many parts of this book that I loved, besides the trope. I highly recommend the book!
Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!