THORNS OF A BLACK ROSE by David Craig.
Elsewhere Press. p/b. £9.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Karib, an assassin of the Black Rose sect, is tasked with killing King Xarius and his children. He pursues his prey yet it would seem that Verak, captain of the Royal Guard, has already taken care of one of the kills for him. Now the captain’s sword will become Karib’s prize as he finishes his tasks.
The Poor Quarter of Mask is home to a multitude of beggars, thieves and Tamira, a 13-year-old pickpocket, currently being chased through those very streets and across rooftops by her latest victim – an unsuspecting visitor to the capital. No one knows these streets like those who live there, but little does Tamira know she is being chased by a mage.
Shukara, recently arrived in the Red City, finds herself victim to a pickpocket. Money is not her concern but some of her necessary possessions will be impossible to replace in Mask. The magicker has no choice but to find the thief and reclaim what is hers. The Poor Quarter with its beggars and thieves holds no threat for the likes of her.
Tamira and Shukara share the narrative voice in Thorns of a Black Rose, taking turns to drive the story onwards and reveal their secrets to one another as they form an unlikely alliance. Both characters are easily likeable to the reader and Craig presents well-rounded, believable heroines alongside worldbuilding richly woven with influences from North Africa and ancient history.
The story moves at a very good pace and is one of those books that leaves the reader with a satisfying feeling of completion at the end whilst at the same time tantalisingly leaves enough scope for their adventures to continue in the future – and welcomed they would be if another installment were released.
Thorns of a Black Rose has the feel of a more modern young adult story with its roots very firmly in traditional fantasy; ancient magicks and daemons play out against the heat of a desert and under the desires of a dangerous cult of sorcerers, and our young females will triumph over all.