This Own Voices novel sounded like everything I love about YA fantasy with rich world-building, superb characters and a touch of romance. I adored the fact that it draws on Portuguese legend and couldn’t wait to see how that would inform Pinguicha’s lusciously bingeable writing. Thank you so much to Alexandra Mathew at Entangled Teen for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.
There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic–her curse–has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain for years.
If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers into food.
Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse–if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.
As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?
With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.
She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.
A Curse of Roses is a brilliant, spell-binding sapphic story that feels like a treasured fairytale for the modern age.
I was initially drawn to A Curse of Roses by that stunning cover, enticing synopsis and the unique concept at the heart of the book. Luckily, all of these elements played out perfectly and the beauty of the cover precisely matches the beautiful content hidden inside.
A definite highlight of the book is our wonderful protagonist, Yzabel. This is completely her story of self-discovery and learning to accept herself and utilise her position for the benefit of the greater good. She’s charitable and has a huge heart for the people, being a truly caring royal and wanting to enact real change. Unfortunately, her gender and hidden abilities are perceived as holding her back and instead she is forced to become a passive, silent object. The story centres around her reclamation of her voice and discovery of her own identity. Indeed, I loved how Pinguicha reminds us that LGBTQ+ people existed in every period, despite what historical erasure may want us to believe. It’s vital that everyone can see themselves reflected in a variety of stories and that we remember their historic presence pretty much everywhere. I really enjoyed the central romance, feeling like it grew naturally and the pacing of it was well-executed. I felt their chemistry sizzle off the page, as it slowly built up into mutual attraction. Yzabel’s self-conflict with her extreme religious beliefs was presented in a nuanced and realistic way for me.
I really enjoyed Pinguicha’s discussion around religion, particularly its misuse in order to silence and subdue certain groups. It’s presented as one of the key patriarchal structures in the story and certain figures within it distort and twist their version of religion in order to control and manipulate Yzabel. They want to weaken her in order to exert more control, ostentatiously for the benefit of her eternal soul. This contrasts brilliantly with other communities we come across, who draw on each other’s strength and inspire one another to achieve. Powerful women are a potent force and one that has historically been oppressed in order to try and eliminate it. Here, Pinguicha celebrates the strength of women in all its various forms. Strength can come from your inner character and indeed your femininity. Far too often, this is considered a weakness, but here it is celebrated. Religion is also respected, with Yzabel embodying what she sees as Christian values of charity and kindness. This kind of complex presentation that acknowledges and works through internalised homophobia is so incredibly important.
Pinguicha’s writing is simply entrancing. The story is so gorgeously written, with the prose practically weaving this intricate world around you and drawing you into Yzabel’s story. Her attention to detail is sublime, with the magic, world-building and mythology all being exquisitely crafted and fleshed out. I love how it’s based on the Portuguese version of the legend of The Miracle of Roses and I was inspired to go out and research more about this legend after reading. You can tell how meticulously researched the book is, with all these little details helping to fully immerse you in this rich world. I especially loved how elements of Portuguese history and culture were so interwoven into the story, making it stand out from the crowd. This original slant exemplifies the brilliance of #ownvoices narratives. Also, the writing was so lyrical and delicate, it really felt like a great legend was being passed down through generations.
A Curse of Roses is a fascinating exploration of power and interrogating how the beliefs and ideology we’ve always trusted may hide darker truths.