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The Thorn and the Sinking Stone
Thorn & Dagger #1
C.J. Dushinski
Genre: YA Dystopia
Warring families. Forbidden love. And danger they can’t escape…

Daggers. Roses. Cowboys. Boat Men. Survivors of Earth's Last War, four “families” vie to rule the dreary streets of Rain City through violence and blood. Valencia Hara, Princess of the wealthy Black Roses, is raised in warrior ways with sharpened steel. But she is no ordinary Rose. She is Cursed—tainted with the ability to see seconds into the future…

To avenge his father's death, Sebastian Leold, of the rival gang Two Daggers, must face off against the Black Princess, he with his dagger, she with her katana sword. Yet a secret from a shared past leaves him unable to kill beautiful Valencia; nor can she kill him. For they once knew each other beyond their blood feud…and they have more secrets in common than they know.

But in a world filled with vengeance and violence, there can be no room for love…
Review copy provided by NetGalley

Certainly, the beginnings of The Thorn and the Sinking Stone is similar to that of the Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, albeit a dystopian version of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 ­­Romeo + Juliet. But aside from being fierce rivals, the Haras’ and the Leolds’ similarities to the Capulets and the Montugues end there. 

Unlike Romeo and Juliet (whom I detest because of the stupidity of their story), Valencia and Sebastian are level-headed, clearly understands their situation –loyalty vs. doing what’s right-, and generally fun beings to be around with (as fun as you can get while being hailed with bullets and in the depressing Gotham-like Rain City) and to be inside their heads. I like them. Very much. And NO, they are not like Romeo and Juliet. Thank the gods. 

There are four gangs running around Rain City, each holding a territory of the cardinal points: the Armstrongs of the Cowboys in the north, the De Lucas of the Boat Men in the south, the Haras of the Black Roses in the east, and the Leolds of the Two Daggers in the west. It was not clear where Rain City was in this dystopian world, for this world is still Earth, but a world devastated by a Last War that happened some years before Pek Hara came from the islands of the Rising Sun and established his family in Rain City, somewhere in post-apocalyptic Europe (are my facts right?) The Last War, the establishment of Rain City, the rise of the gangs, what is beyond Rain City are all very fascinating plotlines to explore in this world but we are not here for them. This is about the Thorn, Valencia Hara, and the Sinking Stone, Sebastian Leold. 

Adding to the tensions is the so-called Cursed –people gifted with extraordinary abilities. I am not sure if they it was explained on how they came to be, if they are a result of scientific origin or if they are just genetically like that. What is clear is that they are feared and the Watchmen (the city’s authority) are encouraging anyone who knows someone who’s Cursed to turn them in. The concept of the Cursed reminds me of Graceling. But unlike the Gracelings, who were not persecuted unless they’re murderers, the Cursed are hunted for just being who they are, whether they are dangerous or not. 

And as I said, the dynamics of the different rival families may just be a fraction of what is really going on in Rain City. There is something afoot behind all the posturing and the back-and-forth revenge and retaliation. I caught a glimpse of it when Valencia was trying to escape the prison for the captured Cursed. With the elusive fifth group, the Gifted Few, coming out of the shadows, I am sure the next book will be electrifying.

Ayanami Faerudo

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