cover28636-mediumAny fans of Game of Thrones out there?

I like to think of the Rose Throne as something like Game of Thrones Lite. Parents who are fans of the series and are trying to help their kids get into the genre without handing them George R. R. Martin’s extremely violent and sexual tome might want to think about getting them the Rose Throne. There’s more of a fantasy element in the sense of ever present magic but it has a lot of the same political intrigue. It’s a good primer for kids before they tackle Game of Thrones. I mean, you might as well let them leave off on reading them as long as possible. It’s not like the series is going to be finished any time soon.

The Rose Throne takes place in a world where magic is fairly commonplace. The kingdoms of Rurik and Weirland are both known for their people’s ability to wield internal magical powers known as neweyr and taweyr. Not everyone can wield these powers and not everyone should. Neweyr – which is related to life and the land, growth and rebirth – is a power that generally belongs to women. Meanwhile taweyr – which is physical and fueled by power, anger, and death – generally belongs to men. Those who wield the wrong power for their gender are often persecuted and in Rurik they are even put to death. Both powers are thought to be necessary to balance the other and a strong throne would have a king who could rule with a strong taweyr and a queen who could support the land through her neweyr. But in Rurik the iron fisted King Haikor cares only for taweyr. He taxes it and takes it from the men below him. He expects to use his children only to his own benefit and he removes any and all threats to his reign – including members of his own family.

This is the kingdom into which Princess Ailsbet is born and Princess Marlissa (known as Issa) is to be thrown.

The story is told from the two girls’ perspectives. Ailsbet is King Rurik’s daughter and as far as anyone in the kingdom – including herself at first – knows she was born without any type of power. Instead she devotes all her time to music – something that the rest of the kingdom could care less about. Marlissa, on the other hand, is the daughter of the king of Weirland and she’s been betrothed to Ailsbet’s younger brother, Edik. Some hope in secret that if a child could be born of Edik and Marlissa who weilds both weyrs that a great prophecy might be fulfilled, the balance to the weyrs restored, and the kingdoms reunited.

But it won’t be that easy.

When you play the game of thrones it’s never that easy.

The two girls are faced with difficult decisions and forced to weight their desires for freedom, power, love, and the safety of their kingdoms as they navigate the treacherous waters of the Rurik court. This is a very different book from many other young adult novels that circulate around. Because for these girls their paths – though decided for them in part – remain their own. Both are strong female characters without any real, solid romantic interests at first. Their are no ‘instant relationships’ in this novel as are so common these days in others. The men the girls see every day, the ones they are betrothed to, and the ones they think they love are not the same people. Relationships are built and broken not in an instant but over time. I particularly liked Ailsbet’s relationship with Lord Umber and Issa’s relationship with Lord Kellin.

I also really, really liked the weyr magic system. I liked how it worked, it’s quirks, the social hierarchy around those with the power, and the social stigma that develops around those who have the ‘wrong’ powers. It’s all very well developed and believable. And it’s a nice little social commentary on our own world done in a way that is not overly preachy to younger readers.

What I liked most about the Rose Throne, though, was that it wasn’t predictable. It was not your traditional fantasy romance with a teenage princess and her teenage prince. There is deceit, murder, and intrigue. Ailsbet, who wants nothing more than to escape to the continent most days where her music can be appreciated, finds herself keeping a deep secret that could get her and anyone else who knows it killed. Issa keeps a secret, too, about who truly holds her heart and that could also get her – and him – killed. The girls are constantly battered from every angle throughout the story and it’s a story that is always in motion, flowing easily from event to event. Things are constantly happening and occasionally if you don’t read carefully you can miss things.  Ultimately both girls are really forced into action one way or another in an ending that could easily set the stage for a series of stunning sequels as the girls come into their own and really decide what they should do next.

Really, this book is definitely worth a read.

It’s not something that I would necessarily find myself reading again and again but it’s a great story. Don’t let the descriptions on Good Reads or Amazon fool you. It really isn’t just a fantasy romance. It’s something that I think a lot of fantasy and high fantasy writers themselves would enjoy. For fantasy fans young and old alike it’s the sort of story that fills the gap between entries in George R. R. Martin’s epic saga. It’s not just a kid’s book. Like I said, it’s almost like Game of Thrones Lite. I just hope that we get at least one sequel because there is so much of this story yet to be told.

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