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Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: November 7th, 2017

400 Pages

Synopsis: 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 hand 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.

I have to admit that I initially requested Rosemarked based almost solely on the cover art. You have to admit though, it really is gorgeous! The premise though also intrigued me. A young healer that catches an incurable disease and a man who has survived the disease, teaming up as spies to infiltrate the capital city of an empire who threatens both of their people. I just couldn’t resist!

This is definitely a character-driven story which is told alternately by Zivah and Dineas. They are both very complex characters, but Zivah stood out the most strongly for me. Knowing she wanted to be a healer from a very young age, she has only just attained her goal when she becomes sick. Living with this incurable disease transform her from this sweet, naive girl to someone with much more purpose in her life. She’s determined to not only find a cure, but to also protect her people from the ruthless Amparan Empire. 

Dineas has managed to survive not only the rose plague, but also torture at the hands of the Amparan military. In the beginning, he’s angry and bitter. He also suffers from what the reader would recognize as PTSD. But as the story unfolds, you get to see literally the type of man he would be if he hadn’t gone through the horrific trials he was forced into. Underneath his harsh exterior he’s kind and compassionate, and it’s because of this previously hidden nature, that he and Zivah start becoming more than friends. Their relationship slowly evolves throughout the story and is believable and engrossing. 

The world-building is fascinating, but I wish there had been a little more to it. As Zivah and Dineas spent part of the story traveling, I was hoping for a little more descriptive detail. I would have also liked more backstory as to what life was like before the rise of the Amparan Empire. What does make it more compelling  is that while this is a fantasy, there are some political aspects to the tale that are not dissimilar to our own world. 

The story itself was interesting, yet lacked any truly climactic moments until right near the conclusion, and those were somewhat predictable. However, I think because the story was relatively uncomplicated, that gave more time for character development which is so brilliantly done that in the end, I can’t complain too much.

Overall, I enjoyed Rosemarked, despite the few issues I had with it. I went back and forth between giving this a 3 1/2 star or 4 star rating, but Zivah and Dineas truly are so beautifully written, that they stand out from characters in other fantasy books. Livia Blackburne focuses a lot of her time on the human elements and personal growth of not only Zivah and Dineas, but some of the secondary characters as well. I’m interested in seeing how they continue to evolve in the next book. I’m also hoping there’s a little more action and suspense in the sequel. I highly recommend this to fans of politically-themed fantasy who love complex characters they can instantly connect with.