April 22, 2022

ARC REVIEW: In A Garden Burning Gold (Argyrosi #1) by Rory Power

In A Garden Burning Gold (Argyrosi #1) by Rory Power
Rating: 3 Stars
Release Date: April 5, 2022
Format: eARC (From Publisher and NetGalley)
Publisher: Del Rey

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When I saw the opportunity to join Del Rey’s virtual book club for In A Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power, I jumped at the chance. I became even more excited once I received a full invitation. I absolutely love the premise of the book, and while there are a few issues it was ultimately an enjoyable read. 

The dual points of view for the book were quite interesting. It helped move the story’s action along and give a well-rounded perspective to the events that were occurring. I found it unique to have the point of view narrators be twins; their relationship was central to the story and thus added another layer by highlighting the differences between them. One interesting quote about this issue is; “Rhea had never answered in kind, and Lexos had always privately thought it was because Rhea was complete without him in a way he was not without her.” Each twin's approach to love is very unique (In Rhea’s case, I think it's because of the number of consorts she’s had to watch die over the years). Rhea and Lexos also have different ways of “taking care” of their family (both their immediate family and the Stratagiozi as a whole). The other family members have their quirks, but my curiosity was the most piqued whenever the mother (Vasilis' wife) came up. Her role in the story made her the most interesting character, in my opinion, even though she’s dead. 

Like many epic fantasy books, the author includes a lot of worldbuilding in In A Garden Burning Gold. I loved how the setting was reminiscent of the Mediterranean and inspired thoughts of Byzantine culture. I was also impressed by the unique language, political structure, and magic system Ms. Power thought up, though it was a lot to keep track of at times. Thankfully, there is a reference guide to help keep everything straight but I could see how the amount of worldbuilding could be off-putting to those who are not used to it. It got kind of exhausting to flip back and forth from my page in the book to where the reference guide is. One suggestion (unrelated to my review) that I would have to fix this problem in future books in the series would be to include a smaller version of the map at the start of each chapter where it is important. I've seen other books do this, and it worked out well. 

While I don’t believe the characters were intended to resemble one particular culture, the messiness and the complications of the family politics in the book reminded me a lot of the gods and goddesses in Greek Mythology. A major theme of the book is parental abuse and trauma (which is very present in Greek mythology). Rhea in particular is regularly subjected to her father’s machinations and whims. Her twin Alexandros touched on the subject in this way, “Instead she let Baba hurt her and insisted, at the same time, that he had done no such thing. And it was left to Lexos, then, to open her eyes, to show her the scars on her skin. Not a job he’d ever asked for, and not a job anybody wanted him to do.” The family and generational trauma in the book is on a larger scale than most, given the extended lifespans of the Stratagiozi. However, I had some issues with the execution and the explanation of this aspect of the story. In a story like Disney’s Encanto, the root causes of the family conflict are quite clear (years of expectations put on the shoulders of children, a sense of unworthiness for those who are not part of the “miracle”, and isolation just to name a few). I can’t say the same for this book. Baba clearly rules the family with an iron fist, but what were the offenses that made his children so afraid of him? What happened in Patrassa that made Rhea lose her father’s favor? How did the isolation of the other three siblings (who rarely if ever get to leave home) factor into the actions that readers witness in the book? Without questions like these answered, it was much harder to fully invest myself in their story. 

All things considered, this was a very entertaining read. Despite the minor issues here and there, I’m still looking forward to reading the sequel once it’s out. I can’t wait to get answers to the questions that In A Garden Burning Gold left me with. Thank you to the author, Del Rey Books, and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary review copy of the book as part of my participation in the virtual book club. I appreciate the opportunity immensely. Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed In A Garden Burning Gold. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

CONTENT WARNINGS (From the Author’s Website): Emotional and physical abuse by a parent, Death, Manipulation/discussion of loss of agency, Discussion of state violence and war, Mention/Description of Blood

About the Book
Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver meets Game of Thrones in a mesmerising and unputdownable Balkan fantasy novel of family and survival from the instant New York Times bestselling author of Wilder Girls.

Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity using cunning and magic to help rule their small, unstable country. Rhea controls the seasons to show favor to their most loyal stewards with bountiful harvests and short winters, while Lexos keeps the tides strong and impassable to maintain the country's borders.

Reigning over them both is their father, who holds dominion over death, using his most powerful weapon-fear-to keep the people, and his children, in line.

For a hundred years, Rhea and Lexos have been each other's only ally, defending themselves and their younger siblings against their father's increasingly unpredictable anger while also trying to keep up the appearance of unity and prosperity within their borders.

Now, with an independence movement gaining ground, other nations jockeying for power, and their father's iron grip weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep the world from crashing down around them. But as Rhea and Lexos travel beyond the security of their home to try to save their family, they begin to draw very different conclusions about their father's style of rule.

And if the siblings aren't careful, they'll end up facing each other on the battlefield.

In a Garden Burning Gold is a captivating saga of love and legacy that explores the limits of power and the bonds of family-and how far both can be bent before they break.

About the Author

Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and thinks fondly of her time there, partially because she learned a lot but mostly because there were a ton of bunnies on campus.

She is represented by Daisy Parente at Lutyens & Rubinstein and Kim Witherspoon at InkWell Management.

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