Rose Petal Graves by Olivia Wildenstein (A Book Review)

Plot: 3/5       Characters: 3/5       Writing: 3/5       Entertainment: 3/5       World Building: 3/5

Rose Petal GravesRose Petal Graves brings a new twist to the fairy lore we all know, but its slow, heavy-handed world building and lack-luster faerie characters hold it back from being anything great.

The small town of Rowan has a rich and mysterious history filled with legends about faeries and those who hunt them. For nineteen-year-old Catori, the death of her mother means all those legends are coming to life and demanding she chose a side. With only an ancient casket filled with rose petals and a book of Native American stories to guide her, Catori must find the answers that her mother was looking for before anyone else dies.

I must admit that Wildenstein has a gift for breathing life into places and people that only exist in the imagination. The town of Rowan is a well-fleshed out, believable and homey and the people who reside there are equally so. Catori’s relationships with her parents are heart-felt and genuine, which is rare for YA and NA (and I think Rose Petal Graves could fit in either category), which I’ve always found odd since parents still play such an important and complicated role at that point in peoples’ lives. If as much heart had gone into the magical elements of the story, Rose Petal Graves would have a fairly strong book rather than simply “okay.”

While I appreciate Wildenstein’s attempt to work outside the usual faerie lore, the huge emphasis on an over-complicated back story slows the book down immensely. The conflict is interesting enough without info dumping every legend and story relating to it in rapid succession. The constant use of borrowed words for things that already exist in English hurts the book as well. While a few of them work for places and things new to Catori’s word, Wildenstein really could have left “mate” as “mate” and “legend” as “legend.” Making a reader keep track of words for concepts they’re already familiar with doesn’t really add to the fantasy experience. It just makes them pause and retrace where they heard the word, which gets old quite fast.

The fantastical characters themselves aren’t much better since their personalities are mostly made of exposition, being attractive, and, if they’re lucky, being attracted to Catori for reasons that don’t really lend themselves to potentially interesting relationships. If more of the book had been dedicated to developing Ace, Cruz, Lily, and Kajika as people rather than fountains of information, they and their world could have stood apart from the YA/NA urban fantasy crowd. As is, they all feel like cut outs of all the other mysteriously attractive otherworldly beings we’ve seen before.

So, if you want an easy read and like faeries, I guess Rose Petal Graves is okay. There’s definitely worse urban fantasy titles out there, which is why Rose Petal Grave gets three stars, but if you’re looking for something more exciting with more original characters, it might be best to look elsewhere.

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