A Curse of Roses

Entangled Teen. Dec. 2020. 352p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781682815090.
Gr 9 Up–In 1288, Yzabel, the 17-year-old fiancée of King Denis of Portugal, is afflicted with a curse that turns food into flowers. As the Portuguese people suffer from hunger and the red plague, Yzabel bands with her lady’s maid to seek the Enchanted Moura, a magical being named Fatyan who has been locked away and can be liberated with a kiss. Fatyan is able to help Yzabel see her sahar, or magic, as a blessing, but as Yzabel realizes her feelings for Fatyan are romantic, she attempts to reconcile her attraction with religious beliefs and teachings that decry same-sex relationships. Even still, Yzabel and Fatyan are up against a power-hungry man who is determined to bring war among the Christian nations and expose the girls for what they are. Pinguicha’s lyrical #OwnVoices novel based on Portuguese legend is a coming-of-age story that encompasses timeless topics. Yzabel fears a same-sex relationship and her sahar makes her a sinner. As she and other characters explore forgiveness of one’s self and others, she learns to question the power dynamic between her and Denis in regards to politics, gender, and sexuality. Tumultuous relationships and strong character development keep the plot moving at a page-turning pace. A content warning for self-harm is included at the front of the book, and there are some brief sex scenes.
VERDICT This book offers representation that is rare in YA historical fantasy. Recommended for young adult collections.

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