Hello book friends! Hope you’ve all been doing well. I’ve been busy yet again, but I’ve also been making time to read of course. I haven’t read a big number of recent releases lately, but one that did make its way on my TBR was Garden of the Cursed.
Garden of the Cursed came out last month, but it was already on my TBR before that. I saw a single video about it on Instagram and was immediately sold. This book has unique magic, a friends to sorta enemies to lovers trope, and a good ole mystery. Check the content warnings if you wish!
Garden of the Cursed
By Katy Rose PoolMy Rating: ★★★★☆
Published 20 June 2023 by Henry Holt
YA fantasy | Magic | Curses
In this thrilling YA fantasy/mystery duology from award-winning author Katy Pool, cursebreaker Marlow Briggs reluctantly pretends to be in love with one of the most powerful nobles in Caraza City to gain entry into an illustrious—and deadly—society that holds clues to her mother’s disappearance. Perfect for fans of Veronica Mars, These Violent Delights, and Chain of Iron.
Since fleeing the gilded halls of Evergarden for the muck-filled canals of the Marshes, Marlow Briggs has made a name for herself as the best godsdamn cursebreaker in Caraza City. But no matter how many cases she solves, she is still haunted by the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
When Adrius Falcrest, Marlow’s old friend and scion of one of Caraza’s most affluent spell-making families, asks her to help break a life-threatening curse, Marlow wants nothing to do with the boy who spurned her a year ago. But a new lead in her mother’s case makes Marlow realize that the only way to get the answers she desperately seeks is to help Adrius and return to Evergarden society—even if it means suffering through a fake love affair with him to avoid drawing suspicion from the conniving Five Families.
As the investigation draws Marlow into a web of deadly secrets and powerful enemies, a shocking truth emerges: Adrius’s curse and her mother’s disappearance may just be clues to an even larger mystery, one that could unravel the very foundations of Caraza and magic itself.
Let’s start with the world building. There is just enough of it to make for a rich world, but not so much it takes away from the rest of the book. This isn’t a large book, after all. Either way, I loved the setting! It gave strong 1920s vibes with the whole underworld thing in the Marshes, the gangs, and the high society having all the power. The magic is unique yet easy to understand. I find this one of the hallmarks of good writing; no one wants to read about a magic system that requires a degree in quantum physics to understand.
Next, let’s talk about plot. Again, the plot was fairly simple, but at the same time lots of fun. There were enough twists and turns and the mystery was drawn out enough to keep the book interesting. Some things I guessed quite easily, because the hints are actually in the book and if you pay attention you’ll see them, too. However, there are still so many aspects of the story that left me with questions, so I’m super excited for the sequel already. The ending was also really great.
Lastly, let’s talk about the characters. Marlow and Adrius have quite a complicated relationship. Marlow got all the benefits of a good education in high society thanks to her mother’s work, but she’s still constantly left out. It seems Adrius is her only friend, until he suddenly isn’t. Fast forward a year and you’ll see why their relationship is a wee bit bumpy. I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two. Marlow is your typical underground girl, while Adrius is a classic high society charmer. So obviously much banter ensues. They both have a load of bagage neither wants to talk about, so that also leads to some great confrontations throughout the book. I sometimes wished they’d just get over themselves and tell each other the truth, but alas, that would make a boring book. The story is entirely Marlow’s POV, but I still felt that Adrius is a well-developed character. There are a couple of side characters as well, and I hope Marlow’s relationship with these characters gets developed further in the next book.