The Rose Mark by Connie Suttle
Series: Black Rose Sorceress #1
Published by Indie
Published on: February 23, 2017
We belong to the King--those of us with the black roses tattooed on our left wrist, directly over our pulse. As if every beat of our hearts reminds us that we are not our own.
All the women with the fire burning within them are culled, tattooed and taken to the warriors, to provide more energy. Energy that the warriors will then use to defeat the barbarians from the ocean of sand. Women with black roses on their wrists are emptied of their power by those warriors, who care not that they die a shrunken husk.
In the King's library, The Book of the Rose says to honor the tattooed women. More than anything, I want to spit on its pages.
As for running--there is one thing worse than having a black rose on your wrist. That is for the enemy to find you and see the black rose on your wrist. Your death will be slow and excruciating at their hands...
It’s been years since I’ve read something by Connie Suttle which is a real shame because she’s an incredibly talented author, and THE ROSE MARK reminded me of that fact. Neither teething baby nor attention deprived husband could tear me away from this book! I shudder to think that I almost passed on it in favour of staying true to my existing TBR pile. The blurb comes across as a sexist, male dominated society with a heroine who’s screwed from birth, and yes, that’s how Sherra’s tale begins, but the 400 pages that follow turn tragedy into triumph.
This novel is written in alternating POVs, mostly rotating between the protagonist and her warrior, Kerok, with the occasional deviation whenever another character needs to weigh-in. All the chapters are clearly labelled, so you always know who’s speaking. I loved the way that this title was penned because the male / female perspectives are very different, and Suttle’s narrative for both was well executed which is a rare find because try as they may, most authors have difficulty with the opposite sex’s thought processes.
The world-building was rich, and intricate without the need for a lengthy lexicon like so many other Fantasy universes, although there is a brief list of the cast and places at the end for clarity’s sake. I really enjoyed how we got to follow Sherra’s journey from trainee to escort; instead of skipping straight to the trenches, readers are taken through their paces right alongside the Black Roses. It allowed for a more thorough understanding of the magic and techniques used, and of the driving forces behind the war.
Sherra is an amazing character, and her relationship with Kerok is very complex. The hero’s loyalties are split between the army, the crown, Grae and his escort, so he’s walking a paper-thin line. The protagonist has more-or-less accepted her fate, but thanks to a bout of ingenuity and a little outside help, her destiny is no longer a foregone conclusion. Foreshadowing and whispers are peppered throughout the story, and the last pages confirmed a few of my suspicions. My family better buckle-down as there’s another binge read in my future!
THE ROSE MARK’s deceptively simple cover hides a truly spectacular piece of fiction.