Rosemarked (Rosemarked #1), Livia Blackburne

It’s just the two of us this time; the rosemarked healer and the soldier with no fear of her disease. Together, somehow, we are to steal Ampara’s secrets

When Zivah falls prey to the deadly rose plague, she knows it’s only a matter of time before she fully succumbs. Now she’s destined to live her last days in isolation, cut off from her people and unable to practice her art—until a threat to her village creates a need that only she can fill.

Broken by torture at the hands of the Amparan Empire, Dineas thirsts for revenge against his captors. Now escaped and reunited with his tribe, he’ll do anything to free them from Amparan rule—even if it means undertaking a plan that risks not only his life but his very self.

* * * *
4 / 5
Soft and almost melodic, Rosemarked is a lengthy, slow-burn YA fantasy novel. We follow two lovely characters: Zivah, a gentle healer who loves her people but must be quarantined due to a plague, and Dineas, a young warrior who serves his people, the Shidadi, in resisting the onslaught of the Empire. Rosemarked wasn’t the most fast-paced, exciting, or even believable book I’ve read recently, but it was fun and enjoyable and eloquently written and made me feel things, which was all just what I needed.

“We are never really orphans in this tribe,” he says. “Shidadi blood runs deep”

The Amparan Empire has been expanding for many years, turning it’s greedy eyes to country after country. Dineas’ people, the Shidadi tribes, are fighting back, leading resistance parties and shooting the soldiers of the Empire on sight. Zivah’s people, the Dara, are quiet village dwellers who have surrendered to the rule of the Empire. Zivah has just passed her trials to become a well-respected healer when soldiers stationed in her village are infected with the Rosemarked plague: most die, and those who do not bear the angry red marks of the disease, a warning that they will become sick and die in a number of sparse years. A very lucky few are Umbertouched: they recover fully from the plague and are now immune. 
Dineas is Umbertouched whilst Zarah becomes Rosemarked and quarantined from the rest of her village. She is just becoming accustomed to her solitary life when Dineas crashes into her life, bringing with him a plot to infiltrate the Amparan Empire. This is where the plot requires a bit of suspended disbelief: Zivah uses her skills as a healer to wipe Dineas’ memory, able to restore it with just a few herbs when convenient, so that he might join the army and gain secret knowledge without being aware that he is a spy and so arousing less suspicion. It did strike me as a bit ridiculous and farfetched, but also led itself to some fairly humorous scenes involving the “other, memory-less Dineas”. 

“I’m sorry,” Zivah says softly. “Sorry?” Sorry is a word for a stubbed toe, a keepsake gone missing. Not the betrayal of your soul

I loved the slow burn and the sweetness of Dineas and Zivah’s interactions; at first they are hostile, she thinks he’s a blood-seeking warrior who thinks only of vengeance, he thinks she’s a peace-loving delusional woman whose people are cowards. But they put this aside for the sake of their families and learn to trust each other. I also empathised with Zivah and her quest to reinterpret herself: she devoted herself to becoming a healer and just when it became possible, her future was torn away from her by a plague.
Perhaps there could have been a little more action, a few more heart-pounding moments or clever twists of intrigue, but Rosemarked is solidly enjoyable and I look forward to reading the second book in this duology.
My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book  

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