Burning Roses by SL Huang
Two queer old women venture off onto one last journey—interwoven with fairy tales.
It was enjoyable! And so queer! And much family angst.
Old women who have hurt their children.
It’s hard writing about two characters at the ending of their lives. After the heroing is over. After much backstory has been expended and buried and retold until it’s more fiction than fact. That’s why it’s so easy to write YA—young characters who are just discovering who they are, with little life lived, with their lives and potential far ahead of them.
I think that was why I enjoyed this story so much even while I was frustrated at many times, mainly because I kept feeling like I was jumping in halfway through in a series.
And I was.
Because Rosa and Hou Yi have spent their lives dedicated to hunting and killing monsters—even before teaming up they spent years being heroes…or at least heroes in their own minds. Hou Yi dedicated her life to fighting sunbirds and searching for immortality, to the point where it destroyed her wife and transformed her adopted son into a villain. Rose murdered were-people, dedicating her life to the eradication of the other until it came back to haunt her and her family.
Now both women are on the run from their pasts, and have come so far that the only way forward is backward—backyard into Hou Yi’s mysterious past. But Rosa will have to confront her own history as well, and reckon with the awful things she did.
I really loved how the various cultures were woven through this story. There were Asian fairy tales and European fairy tales intermixed together, and a clashing of Asian and Latinx cultures and viewpoints. And there were trans characters! And queer characters! Everyone was gay! And I loved it.
I also loved how the book dealt with the concept of friendship and family—both the toxic and the healthy—and how one sacrificed in a healthy way and how a person recovered from a toxic relationship. Rosa had been exploited by her ex-girlfriend Goldie throughout her childhood and life, and the tendrils of that manipulative relationship drew out the worst of them and sent Rosa on a path where she constantly doubted herself and her connections with everyone else.
Anywho, I really liked Rosa and Hou Yi—the hero and the villain, and who is who depends on who you ask—and their complicated relationship. They are two old woman just hanging on for one more grand quest.
I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.