Review: Princess of the Rose

Before I begin, please be aware that the book I'm about to review contains extremely sensitive content that should only be read by adults. If you are under the age of 18, please skip this review and refer to my other book recommendations for something else to read. I learned about Princess of the Rose through a promo thread on Twitter for indie authors. Being an indie author myself, I was eager to help promote the work of K.L. Bone. Of course, the title and premise piqued my interest as well. This is the sixth book in her Black Rose series, which I was unfamiliar with. Looking over the reviews, I learned that it is a prequel to the series and that many readers recommended reading it first because the earlier books would have spoiled the ending. With that in mind, I eagerly dove into the dark world of the Muir court. Though it was different from the sort of book I usually read, I was impressed with K.L. Bone's beautiful imagery and gothic storytelling as well as the innocent protagonist. However, the tragic nature of the tale deterred me from wanting to read more of the series.

Princess of the Rose tells the tragic story of Princess Liza, who, like many fairy tale princesses, wants to find love and obtain the freedom to make her own decisions. Sadly, she is not destined for such a fulfilling life. Instead, she is kidnapped by the wicked Prince Nicholi who intends to force her to marry him. In that respect. the book felt like a darker version of "Beauty and the Beast" where the beast never becomes a better person. Not only is Liza held prisoner in Nicholi's castle for the span of a human lifetime, but she is also disguised by magic so that no one can know her true identity. A rumor is spread to her home kingdom that she is dead to prevent her family from coming to look for her. Though Liza demonstrates many of the traits of a traditional "Damsel in Distress," she does her best to make the most of a bad situation. She begs the knights to have mercy on her, tries to convince Nicholi to let her go, and finds solace in the arms of a captain. Yet, her feeble efforts are never enough to achieve the freedom she so desperately desires.

What I found most intriguing about this book was the setting. It takes place in a beautiful world of immortal beings that reminds me of the Netflix drama Ashes of Love. Age means very little for these characters or whom centuries pass in the blink of an eye. Because of their unique bloodlines, Liza is able to have a relationship with the prince's uncle without the stigma of an uncomfortable age gap. Another side effect of her royal blood is the effect it has on roses. True to its name, Princess of the Rose is packed with beautiful rose motifs that are reminiscent of the anime Revolutionary Girl Utena. Liza demonstrates her lineage as a rose heir by transforming the colors of the roses around her to a beautiful violet in response to her touch. Yet, her connection to these magical blooms does not always work in her favor. Nicholi kidnaps and torments her in the hopes that she will be his rose bride and give him a rose heir with the same abilities as her. The roses also have a dangerous side that can give or take life from their chosen heirs.

As much as I enjoyed the beautiful imagery in Princess of the Rose, there were portions of the book that I had to skim over. It contains high levels of Game of Thrones-style violence, sex,  and rape. It is completely inappropriate for younger audiences or anyone who is easily triggered. If I didn't relate so much to Liza, I probably would not have finished it. She is the only character who seems to have any semblance of a conscience. I appreciated that the knights she confides in seem to genuinely care about her predicament and want to help her, but none of them act on that desire. Even Liza's lover, Erik, does terrible things and sees himself as unworthy of her affections. Sometimes it gets frustrating that Liza is such a passive character, but the alternative is for her to become as cold and blood-thirsty as everyone else, so her retention of innocence turned out to be the biggest redeeming factor of the book in spite of how passive it made her.

If you are looking for a light and happy fairy tale, Princess of the Rose is not for you. However, if you enjoy dark tragedies and mature content in a Game of Thrones-like setting, this is a beautifully written work of fiction. I appreciated that the wide-eyed protagonist refused to become corrupted by the awful world around her. It is for this reason that I don't think I would enjoy the other books in the series. I could not relate to any of the other characters besides Liza, and this is the only book about her as far as I know. Even though it isn't the type of story I normally read, the beautiful imagery and juxtaposition between her character and the setting really made it mostly enjoyable for me.


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