Flower and Thorn

Wednesday Bks. Oct. 2023. 352p. Tr $21. ISBN 9781250823700.
Gr 8 Up–Only the brave, desperate, or foolish venture into the salt flats of Rann in search of flowers. But these rare, expensive plants give their owners magical abilities. With her caravan deep in debt, Irinya uses the tricks her lost mother gave her to find the flowers and survive the wastes. However, when her friend and fellow hunter finds a spider lily, capable of conquering the invading Portuguese army, she must decide: save her caravan or save the country. When a charming traveler promises she can do both, she defies the caravan’s debtors and gives the flower to him. But when the riches never come, it falls on her to make things right. Set in historical India, this tale weaves in plenty of lore and tackles themes of sexism and systemic poverty with excellent worldbuilding and political machinations. A Portuguese invasion, while out of sight, adds a touch of true history for readers to explore in further reading. The feisty protagonist doesn’t shy away from the gravity of her mistakes but handles them with determination and heart. However, the story suffers from a slow start and would have benefitted from more developed secondary characters, particularly Irinya’s fellow flower hunters. While Irinya’s romantic exploits are a bit dizzying, the final friends-to-lovers relationship will lead readers to happy sighs.
VERDICT A magical, political standalone packed with Indian mythology that will please those who stick with it.

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