Violet Made Of Thorns by Gina Chen appeared delectable, but when it came time for the main course, the server dropped my plate before I could enjoy the meal. The book needed more ruthlessness, more scheming, and more stakes to make the story’s dark prophecy hit where it hurts. Unfortunately for me, it missed every shot it took.
Violet holds a powerful position as the kingdom’s seer. Originally found on the streets, Violet is raised in the palace alongside the prince and princess. Chen may be living out her dreams of being a royal through Violet because even the seer’s humble beginnings could not keep her from acting as if she had a crown of her own. Violet views the king as a father figure, and she quickly learns how to navigate royal politics under his tutelage. This includes twisting words and creating fake prophecies to serve the king’s desires. However, the king is falling ill, and it’s time for Prince Cyrus to take the throne. The only problem is, Cyrus hates Violet and wants nothing more than to rid the kingdom of her visions. As Violet fights to stay relevant, dark magic reveals itself and solidifies the terrifying prophecy haunting Cyrus’s every step. Plagued with visions and mysterious voices, Violet must decide her role in the kingdom’s future either as its savior or its destroyer.
Because Violet and the king are buddies, there is a lot of friction between her and Prince Cyrus. All this sets up an interesting premise, but the book doesn’t play out the story between these three very well. It’s a shame we miss out on the politicking between Violet, the king, and Cyrus because their dynamic could have been more interesting had it been more cutthroat. I would have loved to see Violet using her position more for her own ends. It’s talked about in theory, but we never see her utilize it. She lies and twists words, but Violet never displays those dreadful acts that have kept her in a place of power. Additionally, Violet’s unique role as the all-knowing seer gets lost when she becomes the “I’m special” character, and it deflates the revered position that was so central to the story.
In the same vein of underutilizing her role, Violet constantly talks about how ruthless she is, but her actions never back up her claims. This all-talk and no-show situation is one of my biggest pet peeves, and it plagues the YA genre. Violet is prickly, and she’s far from a people person. She is petty, rude, and blunt, but at her worst, Violet lies for the king and verbally spars with the prince. This is not conniving and dangerous material if you ask me. It’s disappointing when a character spends more time trying to convince me how “bad” they are than actually contributing to the plot. It felt like Violet was talking a big game to receive validation, and it sucked the life out of the story. This isn’t a situation where a character is bad at being bad either. Violet believes she is a lot worse than she actually is, and I tried not to cringe when encountering her false declarations.
I was promised a duo as vicious and manipulative as Cardan and Jude in The Cruel Prince, but what I got instead was an odd couple with misplaced emotions and halfhearted actions. Both Violet and Cyrus’s motivations are hard to pin down. Their whims change constantly, and it’s not done purposefully for mysterious vibes either. They simply cannot decide what the hell they want and it can change by the next paragraph. As a result, the plot is choppy and I was exhausted trying to keep up with them both. Be prepared to experience whiplash in the weird dance happening between these two. I love the push and pull between enemies, but I consider their dance to be one that missed every beat. It was about as eloquent as the chicken dance and nowhere near as fun.
I wanted Violet Made Of Thorns to be something much different than what it turned out to be. I had little investment in the story because the characters were so hard to love. Their tiring escapades dragged the plot down, and Violet’s lack of ruthlessness and lackluster power struggle with Cyrus soiled the story for me. Ultimately, I needed Violet to live up to her infamous reputation but was sadly let down too many times.
Rating: Violet Made Of Thorns – 4.0/10