Garden of Thorns
By: Amber Mitchell
Publication Date: March 6th, 2017
After seven grueling years of captivity in the Garden—a burlesque troupe of slave girls—sixteen-year-old Rose finds an opportunity to escape during a performance for the emperor. But the hostage she randomly chose from the crowd to aid her isn’t one of the emperor’s men—not anymore. He’s the former heir to the throne, who is now leading a rebellion against it.
Rayce is a wanted man and dangerously charismatic, the worst person for Rose to get involved with, no matter what his smile promises. But he assumes Rose’s attempt to take him hostage is part of a plot to crush the rebellion, so he takes her as his hostage. Now Rose must prove where her loyalties lie, and she offers Rayce a deal—if he helps her rescue the other girls, she’ll tell him all the Garden’s secrets.
Except the one secret she’s kept for seven years that she’ll to take to her grave if she must.
Tell us a little about yourselves:
Rayce: First of all, thanks for having us today. My name is Rayce Sun and currently, I’m the leader of the Zareeni rebellion. Our major aim is to free Delmar from the rule of the oppressive emperor, who also happens to be my uncle. I don’t have a lot of free time between strategy meetings, all the books my mentor pours on me, training and the upkeep of the rebellion but when I can squeeze a few minutes to myself, I enjoy cooking.
Rose: And teasing people.
Rayce: Only you.
Rose: Before I found myself in the position to be teased, I was an unwilling participant in the Garden doing aerial dance. The Garden is a travesty, stealing or paying for young girls from their homes and forcing them to entertain…or worse. Though I hated every moment of it, I have to admit that some the skills I brought with me from that horrible place have come in handy in my quest to destroy every last trace of it from this land.
Rayce: Also, she seems to like to read.
Rose: Way to end on a high note.
What is your earliest fond memory? What do you fear the most?
Rayce: This one’s easy! My fondest memory is definitely learning to make honey crisps with my mother. I was about three and had to stand on a wooden stool to reach the top of the counter. Her hands were covered in white flour and sunlight streamed through her dark hair as she taught me how to knead the dough. She would hum to herself as she worked. She let me lick the spoon still dripping with honey.
Rose: And your fear?
Rayce: I face my fear every time I send another man or woman out on a mission for the rebellion. Because I know there is a chance they won’t come back, that I’ll be the one that has to tell their family that they won’t ever see their loved one again. It’s one of the worst parts about leading the rebellion. *looks at Rose* Don’t think I didn’t notice you were trying to avoid the question. So what about you?
Rose: It used to be the day my father took me to see a traveling performance group in Varsha. Their brightly colored tents, the tops gleaming gold in the hot sun, had transfixed me. It was one of the first days since Mother died that I saw my Father smile and he’d taken the whole day away from his duties just to bring me. There were these giant beasts called elephants and sword jugglers and it was the first time I’d seen aerial dancing up close. The entertainers had looked so happy while they performed like they were a living dream. Of course, now…after everything, it’s more of a bittersweet memory a distorted image through a rippled surface.
I guess my fear would be that I won’t be able to help the people who depend on me. That I’ll always be powerless.
Rayce: I don’t think you were ever powerless.
Rose: *clears throat* Next question!
Who is the person you respect the most in life, and why? Who do you confide in before anyone else?
Rayce: My mentor, Oren Whitlock. Before the rebellion, he was my teacher. He knows so much about war strategies, the emperor, and people. I’ve never met anyone as kind or insightful as him. If I could be half the man he is, I’d consider myself lucky. My second, Arlo, is a pretty good guy too. I can definitely talk to him about things and know he won’t judge me.
Rose: Fern. We’ve shared everything together. All the pain, the suffering, the long cold nights tucked away in our bed of dirty straw, all of our hopes, dreams, secrets. She’s been the only true constant in my life. I’ve started to trust Marin this way too. She doesn’t know the pain I went through but she’s tasted it. I admire her love of life.
Rayce: You know, you aren’t a bad listener either, Rose.
Rose: *blushes* I guess you’re okay at it too. Even though you tell me things I don’t always want to hear.
What is your perfect date?
Rayce: A nap.
Rose: Can I second that?
Rayce: Seriously though, one of the only things I miss about the palace is the gardens on the grounds. There was this beautiful red bridge that stretched over a blue lake and during the spring time, the cherry blossom petals would be in full bloom, littering the surface of the pond. I always thought that would be a nice place for a picnic. Of course, we’d start the date out by making all the food because nothing brings people closer than preparing a meal together.
Rose: That sounds really nice. Being stuck in the Garden, I haven’t given much thought to anything besides escape, but I have learned through observing people in the rebellion that cooking and food is how they stay connected so I think preparing food together would be a great date idea. I like the picnic too though I think it’d be nice to bring a book too and read out loud to each other.
Describe each other in 5 words or less.
Rose: Strong, charming, kind, irresistible and persistent.
Rayce: What she means by ‘persistent’ is annoying. Let’s see, Rose is captivating, resourceful, capable, brilliant and loyal.
What is the others best quality, what is their weakness?
Rose: What made me fall for Rayce is both his greatest quality and his weakness…he cares for his people. He’ll do anything to protect the men and women under his command and he cares for the land the rebellion is fighting for. But that also means that he has the most to lose every time the rebellion fights. It’s easy when you don’t know the people that you are sending to fight in your name but when you’ve broken bread with them, when you know their children’s names, it becomes so much harder.
Rayce: Rose’s best quality is her loyalty. Her resolve to help the other dancers in the Garden enthralled me and she never wavered in that desire.
Her biggest weakness is her inability to trust people. I understand why she has trouble, what with the horrendous conditions she had to survive through and I know that keeping her guard up was the only way to live through it, but it’s also impossible to do everything on your own. Sometimes, you need to open up and let people help you.
Rayce, what is your favorite physical attribute about Rose? Rose, what is your favorite physical attribute about Rayce? Is there anything the other does that drives you crazy?
Rayce: I love Rose’s face. Not only is she beautiful but she’s so expressive. It’s constantly changing, even when she thinks she’s bluffing. It’s cute, really. Oh! And when she’s annoyed with me or flustered, she’s gets this little crinkle right in the middle of her forehead and I know when I see that, that I should keep teasing her.
Rose: You’re impossible.
Rayce: Impossibly… charming, was it you said earlier?
Rose: Anyway. This is going to sound kind of strange but my favorite thing about Rayce is his hands. He’s very handsome but I’ve always been fascinated with how gentle his hands are even though they are so large, they look like they should be rough. I like how he uses them to extend his kindness to the world. I’m also fond of the scar that runs down his face. Especially now that I know the story behind it.
Rayce: There’s the second part of the question too. What do I do that drives you crazy?
Rose: You speak.
Rayce: *He laughs* Fine. Well, if you won’t answer seriously, I will. I love it when she runs her fingers through my hair. No one has done that for me in a very long time.
You two meet under… unusual Can you tell us what your first thoughts were of each other?
Rose: That this man was going to be the end of me. When I grabbed him during the performance and he kept warning me to pick another person, I was sure he was just being another typical cocky guy like he thought I wouldn’t be able to take care of myself.
Of course, the first time I ever saw him was just a picture on a wanted paper. Even though the artist tried to draw him looking mean, he was still incredibly handsome. That made me weary. My mind’s changed since then.
Rayce: When Rose dropped down from the ceiling that night in the Garden, I was transfixed. Even though I could tell her heart wasn’t in what she was doing, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She was beautiful and so sad. Then she headed for my section of the tent and suddenly, her face wasn’t lifeless any longer. Her eyes were burning with a determination that wasn’t there before. I thought I was dreaming for a moment until she jumped up over the table.
When did you first fall for each other?
Rose: Are you asking when I knew I’d fallen for Rayce or at what point do I think I did? Because it took me a long time to come to the realization that I had feelings for him. The first time I became aware of it is was in his room when we embraced after our first mission together. I was surprised that he could take away the heaviness in my chest, even for just a moment. But I didn’t want to acknowledge those feelings until much later. I knew for a fact that my feelings toward him were more than friendly the night before we went on a mission to save Kyra.
Rayce: The moment I realized that I could fall for Rose was when she confided in me about her life in the Garden. I’d only known her for a few days at that point but her determination, her fierceness and also her willingness to be vulnerable made me unable to stop thinking about her. I tried to deny those feelings because I knew they could make everything else in my life messy but when I saw her go down at the battle during Dongsu, I knew that I couldn’t deny it any longer. The thought of my world without her, it sent tremors through my entire world.
What is a day in the life of the revolution like? A day in the life in the Garden?
Rayce: Busy. There are always at least four things that need my attention immediately and I usually don’t ever get enough sleep to contend with them. That’s why I’m lucky to have Oren, Arlo and Piper. It’s like three more of me running around so I can take a breather every once in a while.
Rose: I don’t want Piper making decisions for me. And don’t tell me she means well.
Rayce: She does. But I don’t usually let her make decisions about more delicate things, usually just logistics, what needs to happen to keep the rebellion running. She’s great for that. I know you don’t like talking about it but what about the Gar—
Rose: Brutal. Terrifying. Every day is like walking on a tightrope without a safety net. You never know if today is the day you will fall.
You two lead very stressful lives? How do you decompress?
Rayce: There are only two things that clear my head. The first is helping people with their daily tasks. I like the repetitiveness of it and while I do it, I like to hear what makes them do it every day. It helps me focus on other people’s problems instead of my own.
Rose: The other thing is cooking.
Rayce: Right. That activity does the opposite thing for me. It completely clears my head, allows me to use my hand to create something that will help people survive. It’s a joy.
Rose: Unwinding has been something I’m getting used to. If I’m being honest, I still listen too intently. It’s a hard habit to break. Lately, I’ve been getting more into reading. I’ve always liked stories so it’s nice to have them readily available. The other thing that has helped me unwind is training. I’m used to physical activity every day but at least now, I’m learning how to defend myself properly. It’s easy for me to lose myself in the movement of it all. Sword fighting is really just a dance where the steps aren’t choreographed.
Rayce, can you tell us about the early days of organizing the rebellion?
Rayce: Unfortunately, I wasn’t too involved in the earliest stages of planning. Since I was still in the palace and constantly watched, it didn’t make sense for me to jeopardize the entire cause by staying up to date. Arlo and Oren consulted with Piper about where the rebellion should be located since Piper’s father discovered the mines a long time ago and had detailed maps of part of them. We spoke in code usually when they had something to report. Oren would communicate updates by selecting historical events that would correspond with their recent talks. It was frustrating, honestly, having to pretend like nothing was happening but it had to be done while plans were made and whispers would spread.
Rayce, there are two times that Rose goes missing, one time after a mission and one time when she gets kidnapped. Can you tell us what was going through your head when you found out she was missing each of these times?
Rayce: How can I get her back? Those were two of the only times I’ve ever felt purely selfish while leading the rebellion. I mean, I had the capacity to rescue her, I could send my full forces in to bust down doors and retrieve her and I wanted to desperately. When she didn’t report in the first time, Oren kept a close eye on me in the camp because he could just tell I was planning to slip away and go after her on my own. I wanted to trust in Rose, to be secure in her abilities but I knew too much about my uncle to rest. That’s why I sent all the men and women I could afford out to search the forest for her. It was literally the only thing I could do to keep from going crazy.
Rose: I didn’t know it bothered you so much.
Rayce: More than I can possibly describe. The feeling of not knowing you were safe and that it was my fault, it was more than I could bear.
Rose: I felt the same way while I was captured the first time. All I could do was hope you were safe.
We are in Rose’s head for most of the book, seeing everything from her perspective. Rayce, is there a scene, or multiple scenes, that you wish we could have seen from your perspective, or that you wish Rose knew what was going through your mind?
Rayce: Rose has a pretty good idea of the pressures I face by leading my people but I’m not sure if she really understands how hard it for me to separate the good of the whole versus what is good for me. I think the time she most needed to know about the war going through my head was when she caught me after a particularly grueling strategy meeting. Oren brought her into the kitchen because I think he knew I needed someone to talk to, but neither of them know how guilty I feel when I choose something for myself. Especially since if I chose to care for one person above others, it feels like I’m somehow letting my entire rebellion down. That’s why I pushed her away that night. The pressure was too much and it was too confusing and I didn’t have the time to deal with it. Not with such a critical mission hanging in the balance. I know I hurt her and what was it all for? I ended up coming to her again because I couldn’t stay away. The only time I felt at peace was when she was next to me. Maybe if she could have understood my struggle then, I could have saved her some unnecessary pain.
What is next for you two? What needs to happen for you to have yourhappily ever after?
Rayce: We need to win the war against my uncle. Delmar is torn apart right now and it’s going to see far worse days before it gets any better. After that, it just needs some mending.
Rose: Here you go again, thinking of reasons so much bigger than just yourself.
Rayce: What were you thinking? What needs to happen to make you happy?
Rose: I’d like to kill the Gardener, for starters. But I guess…no, never mind.
Rayce: Now you’re going to have to tell me.
Rose: The only thing I really need to be happy now…is you.
Rayce: I don’t want to change my answer but I would like to expand on it. The only person I can see by my side at the end of this war, who will know how to help heal the land and its people is Rose. We can fix this world together and nothing would make me happier.
When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.
Garden of Thorns is her debut novel from Entangled Teen.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author images and info were acquired from YA Reads Blog Tours.