ARC Review: Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen

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Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.

But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.

Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all. 

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This book was a purely vain addition to my tbr because have you seen the covers..??? Both the UK and US editions are stunning and there was no way I was gonna be able to resist reading it. And I was pretty happy when I got the arc. Now let’s see how I feel about it.

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The writing is definitely easy to get hooked on and I found the beginning with prophecies proclaiming upcoming doom and the main character trying to figure out what to do to prevent it very compelling to read. The world is also fascinating with Seers, faeries, faerie wood, witches, beasts and more – but I felt like none of the elements were too fleshed out. We only got the information that was strictly necessary to move the story forward and nothing more, which was slightly dissatisfying, but I hope we’ll get more in the sequel. It’s got a very fairytale feel to it though, and I was totally for those vibes. The plot also is a weird mix of romance and working towards avoiding the prophecy and while I did enjoy both aspects of the story, I think maybe the integration of the two could have been executed better. The pacing is pretty fast though, which is why this turned out to be another book I finished in a day. The other aspect I did like was how the author wove in themes like colonialism and expansionism, the false justification for wars, how common people are manipulated into supporting such bloodshed – and the author does all this quite well, seamlessly as part of the story, without feeling like additional commentary.

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Most of my love for this book is because of Violet. She is an orphan girl who managed to get to her position as the King’s Seer by being loyal to him, lying and manipulating when necessary, basically doing everything required so that she can survive. She is clever, icy, prickly and knows exactly what she is doing and doesn’t regret it for the most part (or atleast doesn’t give herself the chance to feel any regrets). She knows how to play the game at court and values the position she has earned, and to hell with anyone who thinks she is being cowardly or selfish.

Cyrus on the other hand may be the Prince Charming but it took me a bit to like him and I still can’t say I was entirely convinced. He is definitely righteous, wants peace and would like to avoid as much bloodshed and wars with the neighboring kingdoms as possible, but can also be narrow minded and a bit rigid in his beliefs and expectations.

Theirs is supposed to be a hate to love relationship and it shows. We get the antagonistic banter between them, the sexual tension, the hateful making out and more – but I guess it all felt a bit hurried to me. I can’t seem to decide if it was because of the fast paced plot, or if there was a possibility to have more of their interactions on page so that I could be convinced of their bond. I think I definitely saw his feelings coming through, but Violet’s feelings were more difficult to pin down which is funny considering she is the only POV we get. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the romance, but I guess I just would have liked more of it.

The side characters are not too many but are a mix of interesting and not too significant. Cyrus’s twin Camilla is definitely the most fun of the lot who is a privileged princess who enjoys her role to the fullest, but can also fight if push comes to shove. Dante is all of their close friend and he seemed to be someone I could have really liked if only he had been present more. The King is probably the looming presence across the book and I liked how the author used his character as a foil to discuss her themes in detail. I can’t decide if he was a good ruler for his kingdom or not but I definitely am not a fan, though I have to say he is written very realistically. And then there’s the antagonist whom I won’t spoil but we definitely deserved to know more about them, because I didn’t get a sense of why they were the villain.

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Overall, this was an enjoyable book but maybe not wholly satisfactory. I guess I just had too many expectations. But I love that the author created a no nonsense, prickly heroine and I can only hope we’ll get more of her being herself in the sequel. I am also looking forward to discovering more of the world. However, I feel like the author did a good job wrapping up the story in a way it feels complete, just in case it is useful information for anyone thinking about picking this up.

5 star

PS: Thank you to Random House Children’s and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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