Violet Made of Thorns

Book Reviews / Sunday, July 31st, 2022

By: Gina Chen
Genre: YA Fantasy (14+)
Publisher: Random House, Delacorte Press

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Violet Made of Thorns, by Gina Chen, was an enjoyable YA fantasy. It is a fantasy romance of enemies to lovers, a touch of darkness, a dangerous prophecy, magic, court intrigue, and excellent chemistry between the characters. Violet is a seer who can predict what may happen in the future through dreams and visions. Her gift has given her a high position in the court of King Emilius, and, more importantly, the King’s ear, where he regularly consults her about her prophecies. Violet was taken in to the palace when she was young, after saving the life of Prince Cyrus. They grew up together, but the relationship soured and, and Violet and “Princey”, are far from being friends. At the heart of the story is a prophecy that predicts ruin for the kingdom if Cyrus does not marry by the end of the summer. Violet Made of Thorns is a solid standalone YA fantasy with unpredictable twists and turns, and fair bit of dark magic.

The story is told from Violet’s perspective, and I felt at times she was a morally grey character. For the most part, I did like her character, she was strong and a survivor. However, where her moral compass was questioned was in her abruptness and at times, cutting remarks to Cyrus, which were often cruel. Violet makes no excuses for what she is. She is a seer, not only for the court, but for the kingdom as well, as she reads the hands of the general populace to peer into their future. Sometimes Violet will embellish it, and she often has little patience in with the public. If necessary, Violet will lie and has no trouble doing so, especially if it as the behest of the King. She will ensure her position no matter what it takes.

I did like the fact that Ms. Chen didn’t dwell on the fact that she was an orphan living on the streets when she made the decision to save the young Prince Cyrus. This set-in motion her becoming the court seer. Violet does form a shield around herself, doing what she must. While that does come from where she came from, we see little of her life at that time. I thought that was a great choice, as there are so many stories of street children living in squalor, becoming thieves, and doing what is necessary to survive. That part of Violet’s life is not necessary to expand on in the story. It is enough to know her origin. Part of her dislike of and resentment of Cyrus stems from the fact that he wanted for nothing, while she must constantly prove herself to maintain her position.

The banter between Cyrus and Violet is done exceptionally well by Ms. Chen. It is clear that despite the fact that they hate each other, there is a growing chemistry between them. They toss barbs at each other that are as sharp as knives. Many times, those knives aim true for both, leaving Violet and Cyrus both angry and sad. Cyrus is a good character, not as well developed as Violet, though I did like him. He was true to his word and honest, and wanted to marry for love and not a prophecy. The biggest difference between Cyrus and Violet was their honesty. Violet is willing to lie to secure her future, which can be tenuous if Cyrus becomes King and no longer wants her. Cyrus doesn’t have to worry as he is secure as both Prince and heir to the throne. He can certainly still be a liar, but he isn’t. As the story unfolds, their relationship becomes ever more complicated and I enjoyed how they interacted.

There are many other wonderful characters, notably Dante, who is friends with both Cyrus and Violet. It is interesting how he maneuvers his way in between his two friends, clearly seeing the chemistry and tension. There is Cyrus’ twin sister Princess Camilla, who is larger than life. She is the character who loves life and lives it to the fullest.

The pacing and prose were excellent. As mentioned, the entire book is told in the first-person narrative of Violet. With this type of narrative, we see other characters only from her perspective. It is skewed because we never truly know what the other characters are thinking. We don’t get “into their heads”. Violet doesn’t believe Cyrus in their many conversations that often end poorly. However, I always felt that Cyrus was true to his word. Violet herself admits to lying when she has too, but she is truly a seer. Even though we see Cyrus only from her point of view, he doesn’t seem to have any reason to lie to her. She has built a wall around herself and her heart, vowing always to survive and be in charge of her own life first. The pacing was great, the story unfolding at an even pace. The reader watches it unfold as only Violet can tell it. It was immersive and hard to put down.  It was simply a wonderfully told story that I highly recommend.

Overall Thoughts

Gina Chan’s Violet Made of Thorns is an excellent addition to YA fantasy. It has something for everyone. There is a touch of darkness, magic, court intrigue, a deadly prophecy, fairies, and amazing characters. The story is told from the perspective of Violet, the seer for the court of King Emilius. She is morally grey, but a strong female character. In creating Violet, Ms. Chen has made a brutally honest woman, which was truly exceptional. Violet makes no excuses for anything she does, whether good or bad. Her choices reflect her ability to survive and remain in the favor of the king to keep her position. In contrast to Violet is Prince Cyrus, whom grew up with her, but they now hate each other. The chemistry between them leaps off the page, the barbs they trade are sharp as the thorns on the roses that grow in the gardens. It is a slow burn romance of enemies to lovers, and in it’s telling, Ms. Chen puts a little dark spin on it. With a deadly prophecy that centers on Cyrus, and Violet needing to fulfill it, there are many twists and turns that story takes. Nothing in Violet Made of Thorns is predictable. I highly recommend it all readers, not just fans of YA.

Summary (from NetGalley)

Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.
But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.
Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all.

You can find out more about Gina Chen on her website at:
My thanks to Random House, Delacorte Press and NetGalley for providing me with an eBook ARC.
Purchase Violet Made of Thorns on Amazon

Gina Chen spent most of her life thinking she hated writing, until she churned out a few hundred thousand words of fanfiction and decided that maybe she was a writer. Her stories lean toward the fantastic, featuring heroines, antiheroines, and the kind of cleverness that brings trouble in its wake.

A self-taught artist with a degree in computer science, she generates creative nonsense in all forms of media and always has a project stewing. She has particular fondness for fairy tales, demon tales, romantic comedies, and quiz shows. Currently, she resides in Southern California, where the sunshine is as plentiful as its tea shops.

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