My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? —Jeremiah 17:9
Heart of Thorns earned a place on my TBR shelf because I thought that this book was inspired by Sleeping Beauty. Just look at that thorny cover reminiscent of Aurora’s gilded cage of a castle. However, unlike the mentioned fairy tale, this book doesn’t focus on a handsome prince saving a pretty damsel in distress. Instead, it turns the cliche around by featuring a world wherein men need to protect themselves from magical women called Gwyrach. If you hate toxic masculinity and support female empowerment, you’re in for a treat.
Nowadays, everyone is familiar with sexism, particularly the kind that’s directed toward females. With that in mind, I enjoyed Heart of Thorns because of its depiction or exploration of misogyny. Mia, the heroine, was the daughter of the best Gwyrach hunter in the land. Her dislike for the said “demons” turned into irrevocable hatred because one of them killed her beloved mother. Eventually, it was revealed that the Gwyrach’s power to control flesh and blood was a defense mechanism, a result of male violence.
For example, the Gwyrach could direct the flow of blood to “soften” a man’s erection. They could also control his mind to prevent further, unwanted advances. I found this phenomenon very interesting even though it showed the hypocrisy of my own sex. The men in Mia’s world resented the Gwyrach’s magic when their lust or superiority complex was the reason why it developed in the first place. In other words, they were the real “demons.” Oh my, such beautiful irony!
Recognizing their vulnerability, the men in this book forced all women to wear gloves. Apparently, some Gwyrach could enthrall a man (intentionally or inadvertently) with a mere touch. And once the enchantment was in place, the victim would be a mindless puppet. Fortunately, when Mia “bloomed,” she refused to use her magic for malicious purposes; doing so would only reinforce her people’s bad reputation and strengthen the patriarchy. It was nice how she strove to use her powers for good. By exhibiting self-control, Mia could ensure that her relationship with Quin was born of genuine affection. In this regard, she was way better than her mother, who had enthralled Mia’s father for years. Quin was one of the few decent men in the novel, so I would’ve been angry if Mia had taken advantage of him.
Don’t get me wrong. Mia wasn’t a perfect character. She enjoyed using her intelligence to belittle others and was obsessed with the idea of getting revenge. I related to her erudite personality, but I rolled my eyes every time she mentioned the scientific names of body parts (i.e. the chambers of the human heart). I knew that the author wanted to establish Mia’s nerd status and maintain a “cardiovascular theme.” Nonetheless, I wished that she would stop using medical jargon.
Oh well, at least Mia was not as frustrating as Angie, her sister who was an exceptional liar. I should’ve known that her weak and flirty attitude was just a facade. I couldn’t believe that she had the nerve to enthrall their father. Indeed, he was in charge of killing the Gwyrach. Still, he kept his wife’s deadly secret. Angie’s accomplice, whose name I happily forgot, was another vain and horrible Gwyrach. Both women were only likable because they contributed to the plot’s spontaneity.
In the end, the moral of Heart of Thorns is that men and women are equal in the sense that both of them are flawed creatures. Each has strengths and weaknesses, so it’s pointless to advocate the superiority of one over the other. If you plan to read this book, I hope that it will also make you reflect on meaningful things.