Genre: Fantasy, Adult, Horror
Please note in an exchange for an honest review, I received a copy from the NetGalley. Thank you!
Juniper & Thorn is a retelling of The Juniper Tree fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. I am not familiar with the original fairy tale at all so I really didn't have any expectations of what I was getting myself into.
The story follows Marlinchen, third (and youngest) daughter of Zmiy. Zmiy is a great wizard from a time where magic was everywhere. Now the city of Oblya is joining the rest of the world and shifting from magic to industry.
Cursed and angry, Zmiy forbids his three daughters from ever venturing to the outside world because of their horrible danger and temptations. Yet one night when their father is asleep, Marlinchen joins her sisters to a trip to the ballet theater where her heart is immediately captured by their leading dancer.
Normally the obedient daughter, she is stuck between following her father's wishes or her own.
Let me start by saying this is a dark book. There are sensitive topics here that you might not feel comfortable reading about, so if any of the warnings apply to you, I think you should skip it.
As for me, I do think this book fits in the horror category. Some things were a bit disturbing to read or gory. I'm not used to reading things in that realm, but to be honest, I didn't mind. If anything, it made me double take on what I had just read.
Overall, I thought the book was OK. The plot was interesting enough and the horror was written really well, that I continued to read just because I wanted to see what other strange things occur.
Characters are one-dimensional. The main character, Marlinchen seems a bit bland to me. Since I wasn't invested in her story and she was the only point of view we followed, it definitely brought the book rating down to me. The sisters were always described as pretty and clever or pretty and cruel, the father angry, and the love interest as handsome and kind. Those characters are only ever that and never grow out of that. I admit, Marlinchen does grow, but instead of just being plain and obedient, it's plain and brave (if that).
The magic is interesting, the monsters are barely there. I enjoyed the magic and what I considered myself more interested in was the tidbits of how magic is used and the different types of magic. The herbalism, flesh divination and scrying was interesting to read about and I really wish we explored it further. The few monsters mentioned were interesting (a goblin, a centaur, the ravens and serpents) but they are mostly mentioned in passing.
The romance is an instant love. I am not a fan of the romance at all. I honestly hate the trope of a girl constantly being described as plain or boring and yet somehow managing to capture the attention of the most handsome man. She was kind to him once and that was enough for him to fall in love with her and her with him.
The ending was rushed. All the crazy things happen in one to two chapters with the epilogue at the end. I was more interested in the plot, trying to see how Marlinchen would get herself out of the situation, but everything happened so fast that everything felt so lackluster. I honestly hated how the father was dealt with because it felt like such a cop out.
Juniper & Thorn fell a little flat. The tidbits of the magic and monsters were interesting, but because the main character we follow is boring, I found myself struggling to finish the book.
Once the plot finally picks up, you find yourself left at how quickly it all ends.
Since I have not read the original fairy tale, I'm not sure how big the dark/horror elements are in it. For someone that enjoys horror, I think they wouldn't mind reading this book, since I do think those moments were done well but, again, are not the focus of the book. The same goes for people who enjoy instant love romances.
For anyone else? It's an interesting book, but if you find yourself unable to keep reading because of the main character, I do think you should put the book down since she doesn't get any better.
Again, if you are sensitive to any of the topics as mentioned below or by any other reviewers, I would definitely pass on it.
Not an all inclusive list:
TW: Cannibalism, child abuse, sexual assault