Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton, published by HarperCollins Children's Books on 31st July 2018
In the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.
Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch.
But when Mia's father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.
'Heart of Thorns' is the first book in what I assume is a planned trilogy. The story centres around Mia Rose who wants to avenge the death of her mother at the hands of a Gwyrach. Within the kingdom, Gwyrach are hunted down and killed for being half god, half human and capable of manipulating the flesh, bone, breath and blood of their victims - sometimes leading to them inflicting death on others. While Mia only has revenge in mind, her father has a different fate for her in store. He wants her to marry Prince Quin and in the process protect her younger sister Angelyne. As Mia prepares for her wedding, she discovers that she is also a Gwyrach and this revelation turns her whole world upside down and makes her question everything she thought she knew.
I really liked the character of Mia. She's feisty and independent and carves her own path, even when she's being forced into certain situations by those around her. She also never backs away from danger and instead confronts it head on. She's a heroine who I could definitely get on-board with. I loved the inter-play between her and Quin, particularly when they are outside of the Palace walls and I enjoyed the slow burn of feelings between them.
I initially found some of the world building a bit confusing and I'll admit that I felt slightly lost at the beginning but things picked up when the action moved beyond the Palace. It was intriguing finding out more about the Gwyrach and their history.
The book is an intriguing blend of fantasy, romance and adventure. It doesn't fit neatly into one genre but that's a quality that I really liked about it. It kept me on my toes. It kept me guessing. It kept me wanting to know more. There's a huge jaw-dropping twist near the end of the story that I did not see coming and that's made me doubly excited for the next book in the series, 'Tears of Frost'.