AUTHOR: Catherine Bakewell
GENRE: YA Fantasy, LGBTQ+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 352 pages (hardcover)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins on March 14th, 2023
RRP: $19.99 USD (hardcover)
Blurb from Goodreads:
Perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson and Tamora Pierce, this standalone YA debut is a stunning cottagecore fantasy romance about a girl with powerful and violent magic, which she must learn to control—or lose everything she loves.
Clara’s magic has always been wild. But it’s never been dangerous. Then a simple touch causes poisonous flowers to bloom in her father’s chest.
The only way to heal him is to cast an extremely difficult spell that requires perfect control. And the only person willing to help is her former best friend, Xavier, who’s grown from a sweet, shy child into a mysterious and distant young man.
Xavier names a terrible price in return, knowing Clara will give anything to save her father. As she struggles to reconcile the new Xavier with the boy she once loved, she discovers their bargain is only one of the heavy secrets he’s hiding. And as she hunts for the truth, she instead finds the root of a terrible darkness that’s taken hold in the queendom—a darkness only Clara’s magic is powerful enough to stop.
I enjoyed this one! Lovely, lush writing, the focus on flowers made it vivid and dreamy (except when the flowers evoked body horror, that was viscerally terrifying!) and I liked how it was a cozy low-stakes fantasy. No cliche Chosen One versus Dark One, this is a charming alternative which focuses on the heroine’s struggles with her magic and a potion wreaking havoc in her community.
The casual queerness is very welcome, it shouldn’t be groundbreaking, but I’m always happy to see it. There’s no homophobia in this world, it’s not unusual to be attracted to/married to someone of the same sex. Transgender characters aren’t as common because Robin mentions being happy to have a transgender mentor who understands them, but again, no transphobia or angst over it which is a relief.
I love the overall theme of overcoming negative self-talk, pushing past your anxiety and having confidence in yourself to achieve your goals. There’s also an emphasis on experiencing your emotions both good and bad, rather than bottling it up or suppressing it, and how crying can be healing which I appreciated.
Disclaimer: digital copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.