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Umbertouched (Rosemarked)

Review

Umbertouched (Rosemarked)

Zivah and Dineas have one secret to show for their time in Ampara. The knowledge that troops of the empire were deliberately sickened by Emperor Kiran to frame the rebel tribes could spark a full rebellion of those under the Amaparan Empire, but Zivah and Dineas lack proof, forced out of Sehmar City when their mission was uncovered. Returning home to their people, the Dara and the Shidadi, who are already preparing for an attack from the Empire’s army, they desperately try to determine their next steps, even as they deal with the mental aftermath of their time in the city.

While Zivah discovers how much she has changed, Dineas wades through the dichotomy of his memories --- raised as a rebel, yet trained as an Amparan soldier under Zivah’s memory-altering medicines. Friends when Dineas’ memories were blocked, and perhaps even more, the knowledge of what has transpired takes away their comfortable relationship, leaving them operating as distanced allies. As they get closer to a fight for their lives --- and their homes --- they must put aside their reservations and fears to defeat the Amparan Empire.

"UMBERTOUCHED offers a well-composed fantasy story with unique touches that elevate the book....Blackburne pulls together a successful duology that offers readers a compelling and insightful story..."

In the sequel to ROSEMARKED, Blackburne depicts the natural continuation of the first book, yet presents a unique story of a different tone and focus. While ROSEMARKED drew from interesting scientific background, UMBERTOUCHED relies more on well-developed characters, something that Blackburne draws out particularly well.

One particular facet of Zivah’s character in particular that stands out is her maturity. In many fantasy series, the main character will not reach maturity until the end of the series, but Zivah’s composure provides a refreshing element to the narrative, and will appeal to older teen readers. Additionally, her knowledge of her own terminal illness opens the story to a unique mindset, one that contributes to and highlights Zivah’s composure. Blackburne devotes moments of the story to this inner struggle, but she could have even expanded on it further. As such a complex and thought-provoking idea, it still felt like that specific storyline had untapped potential at the end of the book.

Providing a unique voice and balancing the narrative with an equally strong perspective, Dineas’ narrative offers a harmonious complement to Zivah’s point of view. His struggle for identity fits the more conventional pattern of character development, but his transformation as a character begins with its own unique catalysts --- the disorientation of altered memory, leaving him feeling like two different individuals. Blackburne’s exploration of Dineas’ inner conflict and the reactions of those around him to his changing character is composed particularly well, clearly drawing out the contrasts between Dineas’ former personality and his present one.

In terms of thematic development, Blackburne adds to the construction of her story with strong thematic bricks, exploring ideas such as loyalty and trust, as well as compassion and inner peace. With careful consideration of these ideas, UMBERTOUCHED stands above other fantasy stories that rely on plot without the same secure foundation, and the mature perspective of the characters supports the insight that UMBERTOUCHED provides.

However, UMBERTOUCHED does not come without a few weaknesses. Like ROSEMARKED, parts of the book struggle in their pacing; the ending, in comparison to the pace of the rest of the book, feels rushed. Especially given that UMBERTOUCHED is the conclusion of the duology, a more drawn-out climax and a slower resolution --- not necessarily with any more closure, but constituting a greater portion of the book --- would have kept the ending from striking the reader as abrupt.

As a whole, UMBERTOUCHED offers a well-composed fantasy story with unique touches that elevate the book. Not only will the novel appeal to younger teens, but the maturity of the narrative will also draw in older teens. Altogether, Blackburne pulls together a successful duology that offers readers a compelling and insightful story, proving that the fantasy genre still has plenty of unexplored worlds, plenty of untapped ideas, and plenty of stories to delight readers --- including UMBERTOUCHED.

Reviewed by Rachel R., Teen Board Member on October 29, 2018

Umbertouched (Rosemarked)
by Livia Blackburne