My Review of Thorns of a Black Rose

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Revenge and responsibility, confrontation and consequences. A hot desert land of diverse peoples dealing with demons, mages, natural disasters … and the Black Rose assassins.

On a quest for vengeance, Shukara arrives in the city of Mask having already endured two years of hardship and loss. Her pouch is stolen by Tamira, a young street-smart thief, who throws away some of the rarer reagents that Shukara needs for her magick. Tracking down the thief, and being unfamiliar with Mask, Shukara shows mercy to Tamira in exchange for her help in replacing what has been lost. Together they brave the intrigues of Mask, and soon discover that they have a mutual enemy in the Black Rose, an almost legendary band of merciless assassins. But this is just the start of their journeys…

Although set in an imaginary land, the scenery and peoples of Thorns of a Black Rose were inspired by David Craig’s experiences on a trip to Egypt, Morocco and the Sahara. Mask is a living, breathing city, from the prosperous Merchant Quarter whose residents struggle for wealth and power, to the Poor Quarter whose residents struggle just to survive. It is a coming of age tale for the young thief, Tamira, as well as a tale of vengeance and discovery. There is also a moral ambiguity in the story, with both the protagonists and antagonists learning that whatever their intentions or justification, actions have consequences.

My review:

Thank you to Elsewhen Press for sending me this ARC copy. Thorns of a Black Rose is a great novel I’ve read that deserves to be on the top selling lists of major book stores such as Waterstones and Barnes and Nobles. This book reads like an RPG of the Desert.

The world is rich and diverse in its settings inspired from Moroccan, Ancient Egypt and the Maghreb. I also love the hint of the Assassin Creed Influence here.

The characters in this story are finely developed. Tamira develops the most change in this novel, finding such friends that she would never have thought off. The setting is vivid, and the description takes you back to a world where dusty deserts and camels embark on a vast sweeping epic journey. There’s bandits, assassins, empires, merchant guilds, all jostling for power.

For Jassan, he’s a very rough man that is somewhat heroic, and somewhat isn’t. I’ll leave that up for you to decide. This novel has so much magic I’m flabbergasted that it is this well done. That said, I didn’t approve of Jassan’s actions sometimes, but I understand his role. In a harsh world like this, it was common for dangerous revolts, plotting and taking over new lands was common.

Read this book for Tamira. Shukara is a complicated character, where there are layers to her character that are slowly unveiled. She dabbles in magic and is a clever mage. However on some of the weaknesses of the novel, sometimes I did feel there was a little bit too much world building, as in more names and empires, but since I was given an ARC, there may have been a map in the published version, of this I am not sure. But don’t let the cover distract you, because THE COVER IS THE STORY! It fits right with this theme.

It is like Laurence of Arabia. But more importantly, this is a sweeping epic of a sword and sandal film. I didn’t see much involvement of the fantasy Ancient Egyptians but I suspect they are in for the sequel. This is book is like a 1960s Hollywood historical film that involves a lot of talking, hashing and revenge. The prose is well written. The writing is on point. The dialogue is great, and is there a sequel? my rating is 5/5