Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: Champion of the Rose by Andrea K Höst

Title: Champion of the Rose
Author: Andrea K Höst
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Andrea K Hösth
Publishing Date: November 30th 2010
Paperback: 304 pages

Stand Alone or series: The first book of the Darest series. Not sure how many books the series will be though.

Where did I get this book: I won this book from Goodreads "first reads" actually.

Summary:
Soren Armitage is an anachronism. Proclaimed Rathen Champion by the Rathen Rose, intended to support the rule of a Rathen King or Queen. But there are no Rathens. Resigned to symbolising only Darest's faded glories, Soren is not prepared for the sudden appearance of a Rathen. Now she must find and support the heir despite the machinations of the kingdom's regent, sylvan curses, and the strange behaviour of once-dormant protective enchantments. While the odds seem stacked against her, Soren is determined to do her best to live up to the name of Rathen Champion. But what is she to do when it seems that there is something very wrong with her Rathen? Can she trust the person she is meant to protect?
Review:

The kingdom of Darest has always been ruled by Rathen's. With the help and protection of the Rathen Rose, a magical enchanment that helps protect the family, the Rathen's were expected to rule the kingdom forever. At least until a few centuries ago when plague and family rivalry wiped the last of the Rathen family out. Now Darest is being ruled by a regent Queen and experiencing a slow decline. The magical forests of the Fae are starting to take back the land and neighboring kingdoms are helping the inevitable death of Darest along with greedy eyes. And in the kingdoms time of great need, the Rathen Rose's enchantments are dormant. With one exception that is: The Rathen Champion. The Rathen Champion was once the right hand of the Rathen King or Queen. Confidant and protector, there was no role the Rathen Champion couldn't fill. Yet even though there are no more Rathen's left, the Rathen Rose still calls upon a Darest citizen to become Rathen Champion once a generation. But instead of having a role in palace life, the Champion is now just a reminder of what once was.

This is where Champion of the Rose opens. Soren is the latest Rathen Champion trying to find a place for herself in the palace. Resigned to simply organize the Champion library, Soren's life is turned upside down when the Rathen Rose appears to have a single flower on it's vine after centuries of being bare. This single new rose indicates a living Rathen and sets Soren on a journey that will change everything.

Champion of the Rose has everything an epic fantasy should have. Journeys, evil enemies, court intrigue, and complicated relationships are all par the course for this novel. What I went into with little expectation, ended up completely surprising me. I loved Champion of the Rose. For some reason I thought the cover/blurb of the book made the story seem like it would be for older children or younger teens, but that's definitely not the case. Unlike most stories I've read, especially fantasies for young teens, this book focuses on the space between right and wrong. There is a lot of gray throughout this book and things are never as obvious as they seem.

While the plot is pretty basic in this story, the relationships between Soren and...well pretty much everybody is what really caught my interest. I found myself staying up far too late to finish the story and I just adored Soren. She wasn't perfect, but she's the kind of protagonist I want to read about. Not entirely confident in her place, we get to watch Soren grow and overcome her mistakes along the way. And I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I love flawed characters.

My only two issues with the book are personal. I prefer not to read stories with any kind of rape (though it's very complicated and I think Höst handled it well) and I thought the ending was a bit cheesy. The way Höst treated relationships in this book was a breath of fresh air though. I know I've left a ton of stuff vague, but you really should experience the story for yourself. You know how every once and a while a book comes a long and reminds you why you love to read? Well this book did that for me.

Notable Quotes/ Parts:

You can read the first half of the book here.

Verdict: 

If you can't tell, I loved it. I hope it gets more recognition in the future and I hope everyone gives the book a shot. (The book is self published so I doubt you'll be able to get it from the library though.) If I hadn't won it I would have bought it. I can't wait for the sequel. 

Rating: 9. Damn near perfection

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