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4.6 out of 5
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  • Highly enjoyed this book!

    Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne is a Young Adult fantasy book. The main characters are Zivah, a healer who can’t be healed from a disease she catched while curing an Amparan commander, and Dineas, a broken Shidadi fighter who spent a year in an Amparan dungeon. The two will have to carry on a mission to infiltrate into Sehmar, the capital of the Amparan Empire. Since she was young. Zivah trained to become a healer. However, on her first day as the youngest high healer, a disease of rose-plague breaks in the Amparan legion that was staying in her small Dara village. After curing commander Arxa, who came out Umbertouched, meaning he would be forever immune to the disease, she falls ill too. But she becomes Rosemarked, meaning that her body has expelled almost all of the plague from her body, except for a small part. Rosemarked people carry the disease with them, they can transmit it and have from a few months to a decade to live. I loved Zivah. After becoming ill, she started questioning everything she believed in. A healer who cannot even heal herself. Was it fate? Or did Zivah’s god turn her back against her? Maybe she never cared. The main female character’s belief is shaken in this dangerous journey. Dineas is a broken Shidadi. After spending a year in an Amparan prison and being tortured, he’s finally free, but his memories still haunts him. He’s fierce, strong, and intelligent. I liked him. Another character I found interesting was Commander Arxa. He was ruthless with his enemies, but loyal to his Emperor and caring with her daughter, Mehtap. He was a complex character and I was torn between liking or despising him. The characters were well-built. I could understand Dineas’ bitterness and Zivah’s pain. Both of them carry something that’s weighing down on them. I think they would be able to heal each other if only they opened their hearts to each other. The setting was quite interesting, inspired by Persian culture, and I loved the use of different herbs to cure diseases. Another important thing was how well the author portrayed people’s reaction to the Rosemarked. They went as far as to throw stones to Zivah during her journey to Sehmar City. I highly enjoyed the book and the characters, though I think their mission deviated a little during the story, and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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  • Pleasant Surprise

    Rosemarked was a pleasant surprise and made me realize how much I love healer-centric stories. It reminded me of Maria V. Snyder (perhaps because of her own healer-based series) and Marie Rutkoski's Winner's trilogy (due to the strategy), but Rosemarked was definitely a unique story. It was unpredictable with story twists and elements I haven't previously seen, and the pace moved quite quickly with never a dull moment. I loved the romance in this one. It was slow-burn with a lot of complications, but not overloaded in unnecessary angst. I enjoyed both viewpoints, which is rare, and I was eager to read both sides of the story. And lastly, Rosemarked poses an interesting question about what makes us uniquely us. Are we still ourselves without our memories? I cannot wait for the next book! *grabby hands*

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  • Good start to the series

    Having read Blackburne's Midnight Thief series, I already knew that I'm in for some good world building and great storytelling, and this first book in a new fantasy series certainly didn't disappoint. A fantasy world loosely based on the expansion of the Persian empire, Ampara is an empire that has taken over it's neighboring cultures. Perhaps the highlight of this novel is how it presents the PTSD of Dineas, which also serves as the basis for the major arc if the plot - him going undercover as an amnesiac spy. Helping him infiltrate the Amparan military is Zivah, the other main character who, after saving a Commander from the rose plague, herself becomes infected and Rosemarked. She is a talented healer, and knows how to make complex concoctions, including the one that makes him lose his memory (he volunteered for it) so that his trauma wouldn't come in the way of his job. Now, another thing to consider is the dehumanization of infected people in this world. They are treated as outcasts (think leprosy) and kept away from the general populace in a gated community, where it's a bit of anarchy going on. Meanwhile, Dineas enrols and becomes a loyal soldier of the very army he hates. From time to time, she brings him out of the amnesia and he can report, but it soon becomes apparent to him that the person he is when he is an amnesiac is different from himself. This brings out his questions of loyalty and feelings and how he can distinguish between them. Meanwhile, there is also a romantic arc going on - the other Dineas starts falling for Zivah and she, despite knowing he's just a part of another person, starts having feelings for him. This makes things complicated as she definitely doesn't want to take advantage of him, yet for the sake of her mission, she can't keep away from him. Also she can't keep pushing him away without telling him the real reason - and the first Dineas, though slowly warming up to her and starting to respect her as more than just a Dara maiden, is not in love with her. Yet. Zivah is still seeking out a cure, but she is also learning new techniques, understanding the virtue of patience but there is also the moral dilemma about how much she can use her skills as a healer to aid the mission while not causing harm to people. She is quite a force, too - like, imagine becoming a spy with no training and having to constantly balance the double lives you're leading! I loved the fact that this book is both driven by the politics of the Amparan empire, yet also by the character arcs. It's an interesting story overall, and told through some really well written characters. One of my problems with it is maybe the inconsistency of the quarantine measures. I can't help it as a bio grad! Sometimes it comes across as very strictly enforced whereas sometimes they forget that people can be fomites, too, if not carriers! Also, there is the fact that despite the high stakes, these two get away with pretty much their whole mission quite smoothly? Overall, a great start to the series and I'm eager for Umbertouched.

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  • Immersive and Entertaining

    In the magical world of Rosemarked, healer Zivah falls plague to the deadly Rose plague, leaving her with only years to live and isolating her from society. At the same time, solider Dineas finally escapes from the clutches of the Amparan Empire with a renewed passion to free his tribe from its rule before it is too late. Trust together with nothing left to lose, Zivah and Dineas must complete a deadly mission to spy on the capital so they can fulfill their wishes and save their loved ones from dying by the hands of an enemy kingdom filled with secrets and risk. This book had so many amazing aspects, for one: the research. If you ever want to read a book that an author clearly puts a lot of effort into, this book is definitely on for you. I loved how Blackburne found a way to put descriptive detail into everything without making it seem like too much. From the descriptions of various tribes to herbal remedies and military campaigns, when I was reading this book I didn’t feel like I was reading, but I was living. So many books these days have half-baked ideas and cheap attempts at descriptions and Blackburne definitely blew those books all out of the water with the amount of research that she put into this which leads me to the next fabulous thing about this book; the plot. Wow, was this a story to remember. Based in a world much like the medieval era and filled with walled cities and suffering villages, it was both a refreshing fictional world and clear of any sort of magic. I really enjoyed this because so many books written in this sort of setting are often not without magic and while Rosemarked doesn’t have a hint of it, it is still immersive and capitating, leaving me glued to each word. This sort of uniqueness was clear throughout the plot as characters that are often in love with each other aren’t, leaving room for character development. Not only could these characters be clear of these tropes, but it makes it so every move that they make is a surprise. I loved this plot for this very reason. So many books are set with clear and straight-forwards story lines while this one was able to navigate its world of disease and corrupt military in a new way. When I first began to read this book, I was sure of what way the story will originally take me and boy was I wrong. I would recommend this book for fans of The Queens Thief because of the similarity to its world. Fantasy lovers will also love this book because of its well written and immersive storytelling and world building. If you are looking for characters that grow off of typical YA tropes and defy your expectation with every word, you will not be let down. I think that it is safe to say that I am more that excited for the next book in this series.

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  • Left me wanting more!

    This book is one of those reasons you should never judge a book by it’s cover! I wasn’t sure what to expect (a fairytale retelling maybe?) but what I got was a vivid fantasy with an almost Asian setting and high stakes. While the action wasn't fast-paced, the tension was so deliciously woven throughout the story and the characters’ lives I couldn't put the book down. And oh, the characters! The characters were one of the best parts of the book. I love Zivah with her desperate fears and fragile dreams for the future. And Dineas - he was so self-loathing and lost. In the end, Rosemarked was an intriguing read that presented a lot of risk and unspoken questions I’m dying to have answered. I’m not sure how this story will end, but I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

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