Review: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

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I’m actually not sure where I first heard of the book or what drew me in. The cover? The concept? The fact that it’s based on a Portuguese legend? Was it on some list of sapphic SFF? All of the above? But it felt like a good impulse read all of a sudden, so I went in.

A famine is plaguing the land and princess Ysabel is cursed with any food she touches to her lips turning into flowers – and guilt-ridden about the waste. There might be someone who can help, an Enchanted Moura who can be freed with a kiss, so she sets out to find her.

There was much about the beginning I liked. The predicament of magic, how horny Ysabel was for Fatyan, the issues with religion she had to work through. Slowly getting over her self-esteem issues and internalised homophobia. There was a hurt/comfort angle to the romance, something I always like. And besides, it was very very readable.

Unfortunately, the pacing was a complete and utter mess. In the beginning, it blazed through everything in the synopsis that I thought would take up most of the book in the span of a couple chapters, and then in the second half, it just kind of…floundered. As a result, several plot turns didn’t really feel earned, not helped by some events in the end feeling random and unnecessary. The magic did whatever was required for the plot and some things that weren’t.

In additon I really didn’t like her betrothed. He boasted so much about doing the bare minimum for her, and often didn’t do even that. (Like, come on, not being a rapist? Low, low bar.) Maybe with how controlling and abrasive he often acted towards her she had a reason to distrust him and hide things? Judging from the preface they were supposed to be portrayed as friends and honestly that didn’t come across at all. I have nothing against complex relationships, but it requires skill that just wasn’t present here.

Not sure I’d recommend this one.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Execution: 3/5

Recommended to: those looking for sapphic SFF, religious protagonists, or books inspired by Portuguese legends and history
Not recommended to: those who hate magic ass pulls and deus ex machina

Content warnings: self-harm, eating disorder, internalised homophobia

 

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