First off, I'd like to say that I'd have loved to give this book four stars. It could so easily have been four-star material, and with some serious editing--mostly eliminating the typos and inconsistencies that pop up regularly throughout the book--maybe even five. In general, Burnett has a touch with the written word. She can convey her ideas clearly and concisely, and there were some phrases or descriptions in the book that I did enjoy. The base idea for the plot seemed good and solid, and I'd have liked to see it carried out better. There were four stars hovering all around the edges of this book all the way through.
The first thing about this book that annoyed me was the cover. I don't mind dragon-eye covers when they're done well, but if they're done poorly all it shows me is a lack of imagination and lack of effort. There are too many of them out there that look just like this, but with more flash and dazzle and realism involved. The artwork on this cover is cheap and shallow and flat, and the color scheme reminds me unfortunately of ketchup and mustard. It looks like the kind of cartoony thing I would draw up in two minutes and then give up on, abandoning it to the first-layer stages. But I try to never judge a book by its cover, and the description intrigued me, so I offered to read and review it anyway.
The title also seems a bit overworked, with the multi-word name of the book, the multi-word name of the series, and the fact that it's Book 1 all thrown in together. But again, this seems to be a new author, and new authors make stupid decisions and take bad advice all the time. I wouldn't hold that against Burnett either, but I certainly wouldn't have bought this book or picked it up to look at it by catching sight of the title, either.
Also, may I point out that I hate it when authors give themselves five-star reviews? If your book is good enough to deserve those stars, or people enjoy it enough to give it those stars, nothing will stop them from coming in. Authors are biased, and falsely pushing up their own average star rating with a five is demeaning to us all. I would beg all authors to stop doing this, because usually it really puts me off, and I can't be the only one it does this to. If I'm any example, simply seeing an author's self-granted five stars is enough to lessen your business.
And now, to the meat of the book. I must confess that I speed-read and skimmed a little through the second half of the book, because by then I'd come to the conclusion that it was past redemption--at that point, nothing the author could do would repair or apologize for the sickening content that I'd already encountered, and it looked like things were only going to get worse.
Okay, so, I have an old-fashioned opinion of chivalry and feminism and a lot of other modern-day issues. I don't think women should be six feet less than men, but I don't think we need to act like we're superior, either.
I don't think a guy should hit a girl. I don't think a girl should hit a guy either, or a girl hit a girl, or a guy hit a guy--violence on all fronts is wrong and I detest it. In a book, though, it's okay. I like to see an evil dragon that actually rampages, and I like to see a book end with a life-or-death situation or an epic battle scene. I can also handle books that have matriarchal societies or countries ruled by evil, where half the character cast believes the evil is all right because they've been raised/brainwashed into it; in short, I will appreciate a deep, involved culture of any sort. I can disagree with a thing and still love it for what it is. Severus Snape, for example, I hate because I was taught to hate him from Book 1. Severus Snape is also perhaps the best character ever created, and I admire him greatly, and I kind of love him for being so amazing even while I hate him.
We can't all be J.K. Rowling, but you understand. I expect an author to be able to present me with a hero or heroine that I can sympathize with. I expect to share in their troubles and wish them the best. I expect to hate and admire the bad guys. And if my expectations aren't all met, hey, I can live with it. There are some awesome books out there that fall short in certain ways, but I still love them.
Rose and Thorne frustrated me, sickened me, bored me, and made me wish really hard that I could rescue certain things from among its pages--Lott or Horus, for example, or the beautiful phrases that I mentioned above. I wanted to take them and put them in a better book, where they would be appreciated more and not tainted by their surroundings.
My updates near the beginning of the book illustrate a number of my problems with Rose and Thorne. Just a few hours ago, I asked what type of scent is a "silvery" one. Silver smells metallic, cold, and slightly sour, yes? But Burnette insisted on beating me over the head with her "silvery" scents every few pages. She never used a substitute word. She never elaborated on what "silvery" might smell like, whether it was a cool or a warm scent, a sharp or bitter or sugary sweet scent--oh, no. She gave me "silvery" and left it at that, until she whacked me over the head with it again.
Also, there was this scene...let me explain. Thorne, the MC, owns a broad swathe of land and a castle in dragon-territory. She made a deal with the dragon, and so the dragon honors her end of it by allowing Thorne and her people to live in the castle and farm the surrounding land. But the dragon will attack the castle and slaughter its inhabitants if Thorne is away for long. The dragon sends a fairy-dragon to spy on Thorne, to report if and when she leaves. Thorne tests the fairy-dragon by hiding for a few hours, and the fairy-dragon tells the big dragon that Thorne is missing. The big dragon attacks the castle.
Long story short, Thorne lures the dragon away and convinces it that she's still alive and present, but the dragon drops the corpse of a man into the castle bailey before she flies away. This was apparently a good man, well-liked by everyone, with a wife and children. Thorne doesn't have so many subjects that she can afford to lose any, they're a close-knit group and dependant on one another. THORNE CAUSED THE DISASTER AND THIS MAN, HORUS' DEATH BY PICKING AT AN OBVIOUS SCAB, AND THEN ALLOWED HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN TO THINK THAT HE HAD ANGERED THE DRAGON AND CAUSED A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF DESTRUCTION THAT NO ONE HERE CAN AFFORD. I mean...what kind of honor is this? Thorne won't even tell Horus' wife and children how and why he died, that it was her fault? She'll allow them to think of him as the traitor and villain forever, because she doesn't want her precious reputation as a "goddess" tarnished?
And do you know what they say about Horus' death? Something painfully similar to, "He's only a man. He's expendable. You're worth more." As if the fact that he's male is a criminal offense that makes him deserve this treatment. He is human, isn't he? The blood he shed because of Thorne's mistake was red, wasn't it? He breathed the same air as Thorne and her precious amazons.
SICKENING. Most villains in books I've read do things like that, and that's what makes them EVIL. But Thorne is hailed as a hero for it, as she is for everything else.
And that isn't the only thing. Every female character in this book, whether she's the main character, an elderly fishwife, a snappish healer, a farmer's daughter, or anything in between, is portrayed through sugary rose-tinted glasses. She's courageous, she's heroic, she's innocent, beautiful, clever, prodigiously talented, sweet and kind, a hard worker, honest, generous...the list goes on. The worst you might say about any female character is that she's misunderstood.
But the men....agh, the men. They're either disgusting, hideous, snobbish, lecherous, gluttinous, cruel, brutal, domineering, sarcastic...you get the idea. EVERY time a new male character came into the picture, he either is vile right off the bat, or if he's good he turns out to be a girl in disguise, or if he has a chance at being good he dies early, etc.
I WILL NOT CONDONE THIS BEHAVIOR. I WILL NOT EVER STAND UP FOR ANY PIECE OF LITERATURE THAT SO BLATANTLY FLUSHES MEN IN GENERAL DOWN THE SEWAGE PIPE. I...WILL...NOT.
And that, above all else, above all the little idiocies and plot holes and everything else, is why I will not give this book more than one star. I don't think there was an opportunity to put men down that Burnett missed.
Add to that the traditional girl-disguises-herself-as-a-boy plot, a Too Stupid to Live/Makes Me Want to Rip Out My Hair Every Two Pages heroine, and the revolting "romance" angle that was 100% lust and nothing else, and you get Rose and Thorne. Thorne was the PERFECT character, humble and brave and modest and beautiful and "clever" and "strong" and "witty" (these last in quotations because I don't believe it, although everyone in the book reiterated each fact a hundred times and more)...there was nothing she didn't have going for her, but she never thought of herself as perfect. I cannot stand it when characters act like that.
Unfortunately, many characters in this book also seemed to have a bizarre tendency to move from Point A to Point B, or take a certain action, just because it would further the plot and for no other reason. It was rare when they had any motivation. Magda's fear of the dragon and Rustofona's sudden outburst when she woke up screaming are two of the worst--there was NO warning and NO satisfactory reason why things happened like that. I can breeze over some of these in books that don't overdo it, but this is a book that lacks ANY sort of motivation at all to balance it out.
This book has left a foul taste in my mouth and a sharp ache in my brain. I feel dirtied by it. If I rant about it any longer, I will probably punch my keyboard into oblivion, so I'll stop here. I will not recommend this book to anybody and I'll try to forget about it as soon as possible. I'm very sorry, Burnett, but it's books like this that make me fear for the fate of all humanity.