Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Length : 160 pages
Format : eARC
Rating : 4.5 stars
Publication Date : September 29th 2020
Rosa, also known as Red Riding Hood, is done with wolves and woods.
Hou Yi the Archer is tired, and knows she’s past her prime.
They would both rather just be retired, but that’s not what the world has ready for them.
When deadly sunbirds begin to ravage the countryside, threatening everything they’ve both grown to love, the two must join forces. Now blessed and burdened with the hindsight of middle age, they begin a quest that’s a reckoning of sacrifices made and mistakes mourned, of choices and family and the quest for immortality.
Two women warriors fight for forgiveness and love in an epic blend of Western and Chinese fairy tales.
Rosa has changed a lot since she witnessed a wolf killing her grandmother in the middle of the forest. She’s now the companion of Hou YI, a legendary archer who has lost her wife to the gods. The two women would like to retire but monsters are threatening villagers and they are the only ones capable of protecting them. Even if it means confronting the mistakes they both made years ago.
I didn’t know a lot about the story before diving into it so, I had no clue that it was retelling several fairy tales including Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the legend of Hou YI. It probably took me a bit too long to connect the dots considering all the hints dropped at the beginning of the story but, when my two brain cells connected, I had a huge “Eurêka!” moment. 😅
I didn’t know who Hou Yi was but, when I realized all the characters were inspired by fairy tales, I thought it would be nice to know more about this character. I’m glad I googled it because it added another layer to the story, I was able to see which parts of Hou Yi came from the legend and which were added by S.L. Huang. I don’t think you need to know all the fairy tales and legends to appreciate the story but I think you will get more out of Burning Roses by doing so!
I enjoyed the story from the start but I didn’t expect to empathize that much with Rosa and Hou Yi. They are both quite flawed and they are trying to ignore the mistakes they made but, they can’t help but to be plagued by guilt because of what they did. For me, it made both characters very relatable, I’m sure everyone can understand this “I did nothing wrong” attitude when you know you have made a mistake but you are trying to reassure yourself. It was sad to see how much their various mistakes shaped their lives and haunted them still decades after the facts.
I also liked the fact that the two protagonists are middle-aged lesbian women and that they had a platonic relationship (it’s not because two characters have the same sexual orientation that they have to end up together after all!). I don’t know why but I love reading stories following older characters, it’s probably because they have experienced a lot more things and have a very different outlook on life.
The last part of Burning Roses was heart-breaking and beautiful at the same time. I didn’t expect this novella to shake me up as much as it did but, it made me cry tears of sadness and happiness and I’m usually not a cry-baby (except when I watch movies, then I cry all the time).
If you want to read an amazing story following two older queer women and blending tales and legends from Europe and Asia, look no further! I highly recommend this one!