Evergarden Curses

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"Maybe that's all love was. Handing someone a knife and trusting that they wouldn't cut your throat."

Katy Rose Pool's books never let me down. I'll admit—I've been putting off reading Into the Dying Light for a variety of reasons, but Garden of the Cursed reminded me of why I loved Katy's books so much. Her writing is addictive, and it brings me back to the early to mid 2010's when I was devouring dystopian YA books left and right. Obviously, GOTC is not dystopian, but the fact that it tugs on my nostalgia strings is a definite win.

"Everyone wants to feel in control. But that feeling isn't real. None of us are in control, not really. So I say, stop pretending and embrace it. If I can't control my life, then at least I'm going to have a damn good time living it."

GOTC is a blend of fantasy and mystery, but it also leans into a slight detective vibe too. Marlow is a cursebreaker in Caraza, an extremely successful one at that, until her ex-best friend Adrius comes to her cursed asking for help. He is a member of the elite in Caraza, specifically the Five Families, who are the most powerful people in this world because they horde the secrets via creating spellscards and curses. Now being cursed wouldn't be so bad for Adrius if not for: 1. him being a Falcrest aka the most powerful of the Five Families, 2. his curse being a Compulsion curse which aren't supposed to exist anymore, 3. curses become permanent after two moon cycles. Yeah, I'd say pretty dire circumstances. Anyway, GOTC follows Marlow as she digs deeper into who cursed Adrius, but she's also forced to confront the reasons why their friendship ended nearly a year ago... and maybe that her feelings are a bit stronger than merely friendship.

"When lightning crackles across the sky and the air gets thick enough to chew, it means trouble isn't far behind."

While Adrius and Marlow aren't besties anymore at the start of this book, Katy certainly gives us other friendships to indulge over. Honestly, Katy always does friendships right—true friendship at that. Swift and Marlow were two peas in a pod, and their banter was one of the shining lights of this book. But Swift also calls Marlow out on her mistakes and bad decisions. Multiple times Marlow puts Swift in a life threatening and triggering position. He's essentially forced to help her because of his love for her, but once it's done, he confronts her and lets her have it. Friends don't get a free pass when they overstep. Marlow literally says "she knows what she's asking of him," but she still asks him anyway. I find a lot of friendships in books shy away from this very real reality that oftentimes friendships strain people more than any other relationship. Friendships are just as flawed as any other relationship; romantic relationships and parent-kid relationships aren't the only ones that exist and cause drama. It was refreshing to see this dynamic between friends in a YA book. You can tell Swift was given tons of thought. I'm hoping Adrius's best friend can get a bit more screen time in the sequel because he's essentially Adrius's version of Swift.

"Caraza was a city built on a swamp, and swamps bred mosquitos. And mosquitos fed on blood."

In terms of the world building, I was fascinated by this modern fantasy setting that siphons magic into spellcards for good or bad purposes. We only get crumbs when it comes to this magic system, which I assume is because the second book will lean more into it, but the Falcrest library scene, in particular, was my favorite. The multiple illusions engulfing the exterior of the library was fascinating, and I loved the details that it made Marlow a bit sick to her stomach due to all the distortion and movement. It felt overwhelming, and I couldn't even see it. Then, the fact that the library is spelled to be larger inside to accommodate for all the space... Genius! I wish we could've had more than two chapters in that location, so here's to hoping for more in the sequel. Pretty much every setting was great though. From the Evergarden parties to the swampy Marshes back at Marlow's apartment, the city felt like a real major city. I've been really into fantasy books that lean into modernity, specifically big cities, so it was a treat to find such a stunning world. If you're a fan of this type of fantasy world, then I'd highly recommend Amanda Foody's Shadow Game trilogy, which starts with Ace of Shades, or even the YA fantasy classic Six of Crows.

"The trick to pulling off a con... is that some part of you has to believe it, too. Just enough to make it real—but not so much that you forget yourself."

My main critique of this book was the rushed ending, akin to whiplash at times. The pacing was perfect until those final 50ish pages when chaos was unfurling left and right. It leaned into plot info-dump territory, which isn't my favorite way to end a book, especially one I was enjoying so much. Also, in those final 50ish pages I was pretty much fed up with the miscommunication between Adrius and Marlow. It didn't actually bug me until the end, but it went on waaay to long in my opinion. Overall, these aren't big critiques; they just disrupted the flow and pulled me out of the story.

"...as long as there were curses, she would go on breaking them."

Thank you also to Fierce Reads and BookishFirst for the opportunity to review this book. I think I'm going to have to pick up Into the Dying Light ASAP to continue on with Katy's wonderful writing.