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A Curse of Roses – 4 Star Book Review

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Welcome to one of the December 18th review stops on the blog tour for A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha, organized by YA Bound Book Tours. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, teasers, promos, and other reviews.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links, which means there is no additional cost to you if you shop using my links, but I will earn a small percentage in commission. A program-specific disclaimer is at the bottom of this post.

About the Book

A Curse of Roses
by Diana Pinguicha

Published 1 December 2020
by Entangled Teen

Genre: YA Fantasy, Own Voices, LGBTQ
Page Count: 352
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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.

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.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

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My Review

My Rating: 4 Stars
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I was granted complimentary access to an eARC of A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguiacha in exchange for an honest review as part of my participation in a blog tour for this title. Thank you to YA Bound Book Tours for the opportunity, to Riki Cleveland for the NetGalley widget, and anyone else involved in getting this tour off the ground. This has not swayed my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.

Have you heard of The Miracle of Roses? I hadn’t before this book found its way onto my radar, but it’s a Portuguese legend about Rainha Santa Isabel (Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.) A Curse of Roses, set in the 13th century, is a retelling of this folk story with an LGBTQIA flair. It’s full of political intrigue and the age-old conflict of tradition vs the human heart. Yzabel, princess of Aragon, is betrothed to a king… but she’s in love with a woman named Fatyan.

This book is so beautifully and powerfully written! Both main ladies, Yzabel and Fatyan, are strong, empathetic, and sharply intelligent. Yzabel, however, does not love herself, and Fatyan finds herself faced with the task of teaching her the value of self-love, self-forgiveness, and accepting her own value.

I absolutely love reading historical fantasies, because they’re a perfect marriage of literary preferences between the part of me that endured long hours in the stacks preparing to write undergraduate history papers and the part of me that took breaks from that reading by pulling out a science fiction or fantasy novel. The fact that this is set in 13th century Portugal and based on Portuguese legend is even better, as that’s not a time or culture I studied past first-year survey courses, so my inner historian found all sorts of shiny things to muse over and look up.

This book is full of sensory pleasures, too. So much delicious food and beautiful flowers! (The latter of which shouldn’t be a surprise from the title and gorgeous cover art.) Oh, and let’s not forget the dog! Dog lovers, if you’re not familiar with the Alentejo Mastiff (Rafeiro do Alentejo) picture a cross between a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd and then colour it like a Saint Bernard. Cute, right?

Most importantly, though, I would like to celebrate the fact that this is a beautifully written F/F romance in a fantasy version of our world, at a time in history when we modern westerners seem to like to pretend the LGBTQIA didn’t exist. Of course they did!

The latter half of this book felt rushed, and while at 352 pages it’s certainly not a short book, it’s also not too long for a YA title or for a fantasy title in general. There were definitely plot points that deserved more page time. I also felt that this book lacked world-building detail. There were little things here and there that the former history student in me spied, latched onto, and ran off to research, but the book itself didn’t teach me about 13th century Portugal. Just because it’s a real-world setting with magic layered over top doesn’t mean it can be assumed that the reader knows what the place looks like or how the local culture works (beyond the church. Religion was thoroughly explored.)

This book seems to use a “soft” magic system, and as such doesn’t lay down too many finite rules This may bother some hardcore fantasy readers, but I didn’t mind. I guess we can blame growing up vicariously attending Hogwarts and spending high school afternoons debating with my best friend on how exactly the veil worked and whether or not Sirius was truly gone before book 6 landed and cleared it up for us, but less defined magic systems are not a negative in my book.

All in all, this is a good book and a beautifully written sapphic romance, and I’m here for that! It isn’t without its flaws, but it’s absolutely worth reading.

Content warnings: external homophobia & closeted status, self-harm, religious abuse, eating disorders, murder & body horror

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About the Author

Born in the sunny lands of Portugal, Diana is a Computer Engineer graduate who currently calls Lisbon home. She can usually be found writing, painting, devouring extraordinary quantities of books and video games, or walking around with her bearded dragon, Norberta. She also has two cats, Sushi and Jubas, who would never forgive her if she didn’t mention them.

Her art can be found at http://pinguicha.deviantart.com.

Also publishes under Diana Pinguicha Connors.

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Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Jenna is the artist/illustrator and author behind Westveil Publishing and its sub-banner platforms Jenna Gets Creative and The Westveil Archives. She live in Newfoundland, Canada with her husband, daughter, and feline overlords.

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