Shrewd and calculating witch Violet Lune doesn’t see the harm in using her magic for opportunistic gain. Especially if she’s the one gaining. Even now, positioned as King Emelius’s trusted Seer, Violet knows her position in the palace is unstable. Especially when Emelius’s son Prince Cyrus has no use for Violet or her carefully crafted (but not always entirely true) predictions. And he’s poised to take the throne come summer.
But Violet isn’t the only witch who has peddled prophecy throughout the kingdom and one is dangerously close to coming true–a dangerous curse that might save the kingdom. Or destroy it. Everything depends on the prince’s future bride.
When Violet’s attempt to influence Cyrus’s choice with one more carefully worded prediction goes horribly wrong, Violet has a choice to make: She can seize this moment to take control of her life, finally gaining the stability she has sorely lacked even if it damns the rest of the kingdom. Or she can try to save Cyrus from his cursed fate–and admit that the prince might actually be as charming (or at least attractive) as everyone at court always says.
In a world where magic can be bought and sold, sometimes telling the truth is the most powerful spell of all in Violet Made of Thorns (2022) by Gina Chen.
Violet Made of Thorns is Chen’s debut novel and the start of a series. Violet is cued as a fantasy version of Chinese hailing from Auveny’s neighboring kingdom Yuenen. Cyrus reads as white (like most of the kingdom of Auveny). Other characters (and kingdoms) add diversity of the world and contextualize this fairytale remix beyond the common white/European setting with character with a variety of skintones, cultural identities, and across the LGBTQ+ spectrum including Cyrus’s twin sister Camilla who is lesbian.
Chen’s novel is filled with an abiding understanding and fondness for tropes and themes common to fairytales–many of which are artfully turned on their head by the end of the story. While beautiful, Cyrus is far from charming to Violet–constantly doubting her actions and her motives throughout the story even as the two form a very uneasy alliance to stop the curse from spiraling out of control. Confident and often brash to hide her own insecurity, Violet is keenly aware of her vulnerabilities within Auveny’s court as both a young woman and a person of color. Whether these fears drive her to become the villain of the story or its hero might be something readers will have to decide for themselves.
Violet Made of Thorns is an exciting story that builds familiar fairytale elements into something new; a story set in a world where happily ever after doesn’t come with rose colored glasses. Highly recommended.
Possible Pairings: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine, Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber, Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Furyborn by Claire Legrand, The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller, This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi, Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West