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Book Review: ROSEMARKED By Livia Blackburne Is a Bold, Fantastical Must-Read

ROSEMARKED brings war, disease, loyalty, and romance together in a fierce new release!

There are three possible results when a person contracts the Rose Plague:

  1. Most likely, they die a slow, delirious death.
  2. Very few become “umbertouched,” healed and completely immune with only discolored scars to remind them. Some maintain their memories, some forget who they are.
  3. Some exist in a deadly purgatory state in which they are “rosemarked,” covered in red splotches and contagious, the disease lingering in their system. Someday, it will reignite with new fervor and kill them once and for all.

Zivah is the youngest and most promising healer in the small community of Dara… until she contracts the Rose Plague from soldiers of the Amparan Empire, the brutal force that once conquered Dara, and becomes rosemarked.

Dineas escaped the clutches of the Amparan dungeons thanks to the Rose Plague. He was left for dead, but became one of the umbertouched instead. Now he’s returned to his warrior tribe, which is constantly at battle with the Amparans, to seek vengeance against the people who tortured him and left him for dead.

When Zivah receives an opportunity at a new life as a healer in the rosemarked colony just outside the empire’s capital, Dara and Dineas’ tribe see an opportunity to weaken Ampara’s hold on their communities. As an umbertouched, Dineas is one of the few people who can safely be around both the rosemarked and the healthy. If Zivah can bring him into Ampara with a feigned new case of the disease and a “miraculous recovery”, he can infiltrate the army and discover their plot. But doing so requires one hitch: Zivah must use her healer skills to temporarily block his memories. Soon, she’s working with two men: Dineas, skilled but cynical and weary, and amnesic Dineas, charming, eager, and totally unaware of her deceptions. She’ll need help from both if she wants to save her homeland.

With intense world-building, political intrigue, medical drama, action, and a complex romance, Rosemarked is a strong series starter. Livia Blackburne gives a careful cadence to the many facets of storytelling and the result is a fresh, fully realized read with an original setting that feels like high fantasy even though it doesn’t rely on magical elements. It will certainly appeal to fans of Sabaa Tahir and Renee Ahdieh.

Zivah and Dineas are both loners at first, but there’s no denying their chemistry once it picks up. It’s especially complex because of the two very different sides of Dineas and the secrets between them, but their banter is sweet, their doubt is crushing, and their fates are undoubtedly intertwined. All the same, the romantic angle isn’t too in-your-face, which I appreciated.

Zivah has inner-strength and an unbreakable spirit. She has sincere intentions when she enters Ampara and genuinely works to heal the sick, but she toes the line in many ways to protect the people she loves. She’s also constantly risking her own life with experimental treatments. She’s the brains to Dineas’ brawn, though that’s not all he is. Dineas is a bittersweet character study between a man who knows the horrors of the world when his memory is fully intact and a younger, lighter being with hope for the future when it’s not. It speaks to the power of one’s past. Both sides are interesting, but in very different ways.

Rosemarked snags your attention right away and maintains a solid pace, leaving room for exposition and quiet moments, but not too much. In scenarios where the story could have sagged, Blackburne finds the right plot notes to keep the story flowing with surprise twists and bursts of action. There are also some great secondary characters who help the story along, especially Mehtap, an Amparan captain’s rosemarked daughter with ambitions all her own.

Here’s the truth of the matter: This book deserves a much, much larger buzz in the blogosphere than it’s gotten so far. It’s kind of flying under the radar and I have no. idea. why. If you’re rooting for the underdog and want a great read, you need to put this one on your to-read list!


Rosemarked is out now. You can order it via Amazon.

A healer who cannot be healed . . .

When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

A soldier shattered by war . . .

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

Thrust together on a high-stakes mission to spy on the capital, the two couldn’t be more different: Zivah, deeply committed to her vow of healing, and Dineas, yearning for vengeance. But as they grow closer, they must find common ground to protect those they love. And amidst the constant fear of discovery, the two grapple with a mutual attraction that could break both of their carefully guarded hearts.

This smart, sweeping fantasy with a political edge and a slow-burning romance will capture fans of The Lumatere Chronicles and An Ember in the Ashes.

By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary

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