Centuries ago, a monstrous horde of wyldebeasts led by the dark wizard, Augustin, threatened to overrun the continent of Gaia, but the four nations of Gaia banded together to forge the green rose. The rose harbored a powerful magic which allowed the people of Gaia to defeat their enemy, but now they find themselves under attack again. An evil mage has betrayed his own people and once more has allowed the wyldebeasts to overrun the land. When their fathers are kidnapped by the mage's forces during a surprise battle, Ivanstan of Dahaka and Sonia of Tapin courageously step forward as heirs to their respective thrones to represent their countries. Together, they set out on a quest to find the fabled green rose, retrieve it from the three witches who guard it, and return with it to the battlefield. Ivanstan and Sonia face many obstacles along the way, and love grows between them as well. But before they can find true happiness, they must return in time to save their people and hope that if they succeed their fathers will agree to the match when their countries have never before joined together in marriage.
The Green Rose is a short novel of romance and high fantasy. This story of an intrepid hero and heroine going on a quest to find the fabled green rose which will save their people from an evil mage and an invasion of monstrous creatures was a generally enjoyable one, but not particularly unique to the genre. I liked the premise of the plot, but felt it had some weaknesses. Many things happened far too easily. For example, when the story opens, Sonia has no idea that she can wield magic, but once she figures this out, she develops a strong command of it almost instantaneously. Also, the green rose is a powerful tool of magic that is carefully guarded by three witches, yet Ivanstan solved their riddle, which allowed him to take the rose, with relative ease. I would have liked to see a little more suspense building up to these things with perhaps a few missteps along the way. I think it would have made a fuller, richer and more interesting story. There were a couple of major plot points that weren't really explained very well either, one being why the mage, Bathyser, chose to betray his own people, and the other being why the green rose's magic wasn't used to heal a dying character. The first made the villain pretty one-dimensional, and the latter, while somewhat important to the overall plot, I thought could have been better clarified.
Sonia and Ivanstan were likable characters. They are both honorable people who are heirs to the thrones of their respective countries. They are also both skilled and courageous warriors who led their soldiers into battle. Underneath it all though, they have no real flaws that I could detect. They seem to be virtually perfect. I thought that perhaps giving them some sort of vulnerability would have made them more interesting and given them more depth. I've also never been much of a fan of instant attraction in romances, but that was exactly what happened here. This couple falling in love was another thing that happened a bit too easily. For quite a while I didn't really feel much of a connection between Sonia and Ivanstan, because the early parts of their relationship seemed more lustful than romantic to me. There were a number of instances where one or the other of them, or someone else, interrupted a moment of passion between them, as well as a couple of aborted attempts at love-making. I think all of this was meant to build sexual tension, but as a reader, it simply left me frustrated. I would have preferred more romantic interludes woven throughout the story and then waited until the end for a bigger love scene. It did get better as the story went along, but I don't think I finally started feeling the love and romance between this couple until their love scene which is pretty far along in the book. In my opinion, the main problem was too much telling and not enough showing when it came to the hero and heroine's feelings for one another. I think more gestures, body language and introspection would have really helped with this.
In spite of any perceived weaknesses, The Green Rose, as with all of Stephanie Burkhart's stories I've read to date, was a light, entertaining read populated with likable characters. I was particularly taken with the animal characters and the way in which the human characters bond with them to share their thoughts and life force. I was especially fond of Ivanstan's dragon, Draco. The dragons in this book are a little smaller than I'm used to seeing in fantasy stories, but there's just something about them that always intrigues me. Overall, The Green Rose was a sweet story. The only other small complaint I have is that I felt the author overused the word, "Aye." While reading, I thought of a dozen other words and phrases that could have been used instead to cut down on the repetitiveness, and also some instances where the word probably wasn't necessary at all, but this was a relatively minor thing in a book that was otherwise a very pleasant diversion.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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