Book Review: Rosemarked

Title: Rosemarked (Rosemarked #1)
Author: Livia Blackburne
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Source: ALA
Format: ARC

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 (goodreads).


Rosemarked was a unique read in the YA fantasy realm. 
Plot: Rosemarked has received nothing but rave reviews and I completely understand why! I absolutely loved the complex layers of this one, especially learning about the characters through dual perspectives. The pacing was just right and Blackburne wove her story masterfully; I was never bored and I always questioned the loyalty of certain parties. It's easy to have clear-cut villains in fantasy novels, but I've always enjoyed fantasy books with morally-grey characters. Of course, the Empire was written as the Ultimate Bad Guy but there were different levels to this in Rosemarked, not everyone in the Empire was a bloodthirsty dictator and I liked that Blackburne challenged Zivah and Dineas' existing prejudices.While Rosemarked didn't end on a cliffhanger, it did leave the book with high enough stakes that you'll be counting down the days until Umbertouched

Characters: What made Rosemarked such a joy to read was the complexities of both Zivah and Dineas - especially Dineas. Zivah had her life planned out and was on her way to serving her Goddess until a sickness took all that away from her; her desperation to make a difference was admirable and I also loved her subtle bravery. 

Dineas was a whole different creature, he was raised and trained to be a warrior for his people but a year of torture shook him up quite a bit. I fell in love with his vulnerability and attempts to keep others at a distance. I lived for Zivah's interactions with Dineas and how the two played off of each other's strengths to complete their mission. 

Worldbuilding: The dynamics between the expanding empire and various villages was intriguing and easily explained, which is always appreciated in a new fantasy series. Rosemarked was clearly influenced by Eastern and Southeastern Asian cultures (hello PoC) and I loved how Blackburne was able to make the world her own, even with those influences. 

Short N Sweet: Rosemarked is everything I want in a fantasy novel, and I want more!

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