Cover Image: Burning Roses

Burning Roses

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Member Reviews

I want to thank NetGalley, the publisher, and author S.L. Huang for providing me with an ARC of the title Burning Roses!

What a beautiful retelling of classic fairy tales. I really enjoyed this! This is a short story, but it for sure manages to pack a punch regardless. This was definitely a different pick for me, but I did end up enjoying it.

Thank you again for the opportunity to read and review this ARC!
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Burning roses is a short, queer, feminist story about to older women who live in a magic land. This world is based on Eastern lore and Western fairytales.  Both of them have a complicated past which has made them both leave a wife and child. 

I really liked the world this story took place in. It has a great mysterious feel to it with different magical animals and foods. And woven into the story are different fairytales. The main characters portray a version of a red riding hood and a Robin Hood retelling, but you can also recognize other characters from different stories as Beauty and the beast.

I particularly liked the main characters and their friendship. The fact that we got two lesbians yet there wasn't a moment you thought they'd be more than friends was great! Rosa and Hou Yi have a great dynamic because you can see how they are different in many things (one used to be an assassin, the other a hero), while also having similarities. Many times they have discussions and small fights and they joke around. Little by little they get to know each other better and through flashbacks you learn more about how they got to the place they are. It was very interesting to see these characters behave the way they did and later learn why. I also found it very unique to read about characters who have already been through a lot. There's also a big theme of family.

❝Too much truth to both sides. Rosa, an exiled stranger in this land, her family stripped away, and with no purpose left, nothing but her rifle; Hou Yi, who had too much purpose, cheerfully throwing herself and her bow in the path of every ravening monster or magical scourge until Rosa had begun to suspect she had a death wish.❞

At first the main story felt a bit chaotic to me, but as you learn more about the past, you understand little by little how it plays into their future. This felt really great as it was ment to be mysterious. The world itself however, still felt mysterious and unexplained at the end. Though for some people just having a magic world is enough, I would've liked a bit more of an explanation for how it works.

though this story is very short, it felt developed and I took my time with it. You could easily read it in one day, though it took me longer than that as I wanted to read just a little every day and have time in between to think about it. This might not have the biggest or best explained magic system, but it sure did have a magical feel to it and I loved how the different fairytales were woven into it.

❝They fit together—tagging onto Hou Yi’s obsession gave Rosa’s life borrowed meaning, and Hou Yi was growing too old to succeed in such recklessness alone.❞

(I have not read the other books in this world and honestly this one has made me very curious!)
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This tells a story of Red Riding Hood, and Hou Yi, a legendary archer from Chinese mythology (traditionally a man, but a woman in this telling). They’re both older now, friends living together, and more-or-less retired. Their retirement ends abruptly when sunbirds begin attacking and burning the countryside, and it’s up to them to go out and save the day. Except they’re not the people they used to be; they are old, and filled with shame and regret over the lives they’ve lived and the persons they’ve been. The story is about the two of them opening up to each other and acknowledging their own faults much more than it is about heroics. It’s sad, it’s bittersweet, and it’s beautiful. Comes out September 29.
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I was going to rate this book 3,5 stars but then it managed to make me cry on the very last sentence so that deserves at least 4 stars.
Burning Roses is a beautiful and twisted retelling of Red Riding Hood. It’s about regrets, grief, about owning your sins and mistakes, and learning to live with both the good and bad parts of yourself. It’s about family and friendship. 
The story follows Rosa and Hou Yi, and as they both go on their journey we slowly learn about them, about their lives before they found each other, and about how they both ended up there. 
Burning Roses is a very short story and yet it still manages to convey so many emotions and to involve you in the story and into these women’s lives so completely, to the point of tears even, at least for me.
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This was an interesting novella which I enjoyed but did not love quite as much as I hoped based on the description.
This is a retelling of some of the most known / family favourite fairy tales but with a lovely twist. You are following two women in their "later years" and this was an element I thought worked very well as it allowed for you to have a perspective of what happens after the fairytale we know and love ends. 

I wish it hadn't felt as rushed but I will definitely keep an eye out for Huang's next work. 

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for an early copy of Burning Roses. 3.5/5
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This was a great retelling of “classic” western fairytales. This was a deeper and more harrowing look into those fairytales of many western childhoods. The nuanced look into the “good guys” vs. “bad guys” narrative of yore was especially refreshing. The hard line rules of good vs evil are an oversimplification and this book highlights that. I also just love to have another interesting queer book. A book that is queer just by existence and not by force, if that makes sense. Really enjoyed this - I hadn’t read the earlier books because I didn’t realize it was a series - I look forward to going back and catching up on those. 

Thanks to both netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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Burning Roses is a beautiful and gripping modern fairytale. A sapphic melding of eastern and western myth and folklore that will pull at your heartstrings from beginning to end. You'll recognize many of the figures in this novella, but they have all been recast in new and surprising ways. It's a story about love, loss, betrayal, and the dual nature of the human spirit. A story well crafted and wonderfully told.
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Recommended for fans of Seanan McGuire's WAYWARD CHILDREN series, which admittedly didn't really work for me but I could definitely see a certain audience liking this novella.

Conceptually, this novella was really interesting. A fusion of Eastern and Western fairytales, namely Hou Yi (a legendary archer who shot down the suns and is connected to the goddess of the moon, Chang'e) and Red "Rosa" Riding Hood. Because of the length of the book, you don't really get a sense of the wider world in which this story is set—just that there is a loose geographical West (where magical creatures/shapeshifters are discriminated against) and East (where magic tends to be more mundane), and a smattering of notable fairytale characters between, i.e. Goldilocks, Beauty and the Beast.

Hou Yi and Rosa are two women who have aged out of the heroic stunts of their youth. They are middling age, living a life of quiet obscurity as they protect people from the treat of dangerous creatures known as sunbirds. Ultimately, their quest to hunt down the sunbirds leads them to open up to one another about their pasts—what drove them into isolation, what they are running from, and ultimately, what their deepest secrets are.

This is a book about families, about expectations, and especially about regrets regarding families and expectations. It's also a book about reconciliation—how it isn't easy, often leads to disappointment and heartbreak, but offers a lot of hope. There is a strong ethos that relationships built on love can survive anything, even hurt, which I found very charming.
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Burning Roses is set in a world not unlike ours, where all the fairy tales take place. The primary stories are of Red Riding Hood and Hou Yi, which I was not familiar with prior to this, but many many other fairy tales and symbols are woven in to the story. Rosa and Hou Yi are older now and end up on a quest, and the quest reveals much about both women; their scars, their demons, and their hopes. While Huang has a number of themes she uses this tale to discuss, ultimately Burning Roses is about the relationships with family and friend, how we are hurt and hurt other, and the importance of forgiveness.

Huang’s prose is beautiful as always and it was interesting to see the folklore and fairy tales woven together. I think I’m not super fond of the “older main characters reminiscing about their life” storyline. I would have preferred a more linear storyline, more like a standard retelling; but I think that Huang wrote this novella this way for a reason and was right to do so. I was not into many of the themes earlier on in the book - they were sometimes wielded with a little bit of heavy hand - but part 5 focused on family, reckonings, and forgiveness, and that saved the book for me. For me, Burning Roses was solid but not stunning.

Thanks to TOR and Netgallery for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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A fairytale featuring Rosa (Red Riding Hood) and Hou Yi (legendary archer) on love, family, revenge, and forgiveness. Rosa and Hou Yi are now middle aged, fighting dangerous monsters occasionally, and ruminating on the lives they once lived. When firebirds attack a local village, it kickstarts a mediation on their old mistakes and sacrifices.

I love retellings and reinterpretations of fairytales and Burning Roses delivers on that front, presenting new twists and perspectives on old stories. Knowledge of their respective tales intensifies the impact of their stories in Burning Roses. It blends Western and Eastern fairytales and mythology so it just seems right that Rosa and Hou Yi end up in this tale.

I appreciated, especially, that Rosa was depicted as middle-aged - as Red Riding Hood is usually depicted as a forever young girl-child. Rosa and Hou Yi are now speaking 'one of' Hou Yi's languages, and the language shifts and readjustments make for a more immersive and sophisticated reading. In a favourite scene, Hou Yi, shrugs off Rosa's invitation to visit the West as she finds it bothersome that she'd have to introduce herself as female /every single time/ to people. This retelling is unabashedly queer after all.

And it is also a story about families. Hou Yi and Rose have made mistakes, and their slow revelations of their past on their journey, reopens old wounds but it also allows for hope and the possibility of forgiveness.
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Burning Roses is not a romance but a heart-breaking tale filled with sadness but also hope. Rosa and Hou Yi, two middle aged women, set off on a journey to stop Feng Meng, Hou Yi's son from sending his fire birds to destroy villages. Along the way he hear both their stories, though chiefly Rosa's and learn of all the awful things they have done in their lifetimes. The ending does not erase the atrocities that they have committed but it does give hope of reconciliation for the both of them with their families.

The book is lyrical and fantastical, a wonderful fairy tale filled with the darkness of the Grimm but none of the sexism and plenty of the queer. A short book, but beautiful nonetheless. Sometimes, I was a bit annoyed at the flashbacks since I wanted to be with them in the hear and now but in the end I felt satisfied and filled with hope.

I recommend this to anyone that wants a dark queer fairy tale with beautiful language.
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Rosa and Hou Yi: two women who have each lost their wives and children. One a reformed hero-turned-tyrant, the other a former mass murderer.

Together, they must grapple with all of the ways they have hurt themselves and their families in the name of love.

Burning Roses is actually the third story in a series of queer, feminist mashups of Eastern lore and Western fairytales. (If you're curious about the events that led Rosa to where she is today, hunting sunbirds in some remote region of magic-laden China, I would absolutely recommend reading Hunting Monsters and Fighting Demons.)

In this world exists grundwirgen: humans cursed into animal form, or witches and sorcerers with shapeshifting abilities, or simply animals born with unnaturally keen intellects. I was fascinated by these creatures, because designating them as such—grundwirgen—allowed the fairytales we've heard time and again to be held up for closer examination and alternative interpretation. What if Red Riding Hood had to reconcile her guilt and grief at killing a wolf who had the sentience of a man? What if Goldilocks wasn't so innocent a trespasser after all?

Not to mention, grundwirgen are positioned as a Western concept—setting up some fun riffing on the differences between magic of the East (more commonplace and plentiful, less easily defined) and West (less ambiguous, but more prone to prejudice).

As Rosa—a markswoman who has fled the West—and Hou Yi—the legendary archer of Chinese lore—travel the countryside seeking an island of flame-breathing sunbirds, both women's histories unspool. Both women come to terms with the immense guilt they feel at having let down the people they love.

I absolutely enjoyed the thoughtful way that S.L. Huang wove themes of family and belonging into Eastern/Western legends. Chang'e makes an appearance, as well as Beauty's Beast and an English dragon named Bistherne.

My favourite in this series still has to be Hunting Monsters, though! I didn't find Burning Roses as propulsive or poignant as its predecessors, maybe because it was longer and rehashed some of the events of the short stories I'd already read.
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Tor publishes great novellas!  This one is a fairy tale retelling  with Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast among many others set in an Asian world.  In case you aren’t familiar with the Chinese fairy tale I think this is the right one
It’s a story about realizing the mistakes you’ve made in this life as you age and trying to correct them as you can.
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Yes! I got so excited to be approved of this ARC as I follow this author! Writing style is similar but different in a way since this is a complete different genre. The world building explained in throughout this story was great and it went into detail when needed but did not drag the reader. There were some many twists that lead me not wanting to put this book down!
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I am confused as to how to rate this book. The retelling of the characters as grizzled middle aged women was an interesting twist. I didn't like the conflict in the book- most of it was due to misunderstanding and could have been solved by proper communication. The ending seemed a little too convenient. Give this a shot if  want a quick read and like fairytale retellings.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Tor for the e-copy for an honest review!

4 stars. 

Burning Roses was a lot more quiet than I expected it to be, and that was easily what I liked most about it. We have two main characters, Rosa and Hou Yi, who are both middle aged once heroes who, not only have to come to terms with their pasts, but face them. Their uneasy, sometimes stressful, friendship, is mostly a quiet, empathetic insight into their own traumas. Seeing these two women learn to open up to one another was beautiful and soft. I thought the prose felt true to the story and did a service to this - to the point, not overly flowery, and introspective. 

That said, I did struggle with the flashbacks a bit. Only in that some of the fairy tale retelling could have been a little less obvious.  I felt that because it’s a novella, maybe too much time was wasted on fairy tales most of us are familiar with when I’d have rather had more time with Rosa and Hou Yi and the world building. (I’m SO interested in this world. I want to know more about shape shifters, about the magic, and people.) Some of the fairy tales didn’t really have anything different to say, but I think my complaint with that is more to too with the size of the novella than the actual tales. That said, the fairy tales that weren’t as pronounced were very nice. I extremely enjoyed the Beast and Mei, and Puss. These both felt like uniquely adapted stories that fit well within the context of the world. 

Overall, I really liked this story. The characters were extremely thoughtful and engaging and well worth exploring any folklore I might think myself overly familiar with, and I would be happy to explore both the characters and the world more if given the chance. Rosa was such a beautiful change of pace as a main character and I thought her internal monologue beautifully self-torturous and hopeful at the same time.
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Considering that this is a novella about two heroines chasing deadly sunbirds, it is surprisingly quiet and introspective. The story combines several fairy tales and folktales to form a narrative about a woman, Rosa.  Rosa suffers a terrible trauma and, as a result, subjects the world to many more terrible traumas.

We pick up with Rosa in middle age, as she joins her friend Hou Yi on a quest to save villages from attacks by deadly sunbirds. Rosa has put her old life behind her and wants very much to be a good person. Hou Yi feels a desperate need to help everyone possible, partly because she thinks the sunbirds are her fault.

As Rosa and Hou Yi hunt the sunbirds, they open up to each other about their past lives, mistakes they’ve made, and regrets they still have. At its heart, this is a story about family and forgiveness and what we owe to those we love best and often hurt the most. It is also about the friendship between two middle-aged friends (which I LOVE) who know each other very well without knowing everything about one another, and about how the best friendships challenge us to be better versions of ourselves.

The world Huang crafts is lovely, though we only catch fleeting glimpses of it since this is a novella. I would absolutely read more books set in this world!

I recommend this if you enjoy fairy tales and stories about family and friendship. Love that this one features a Latina woman and a Chinese woman, both middle-aged, both queer, and both on a mission to make the world better.
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Thank you, Net Galley and for a free Ebook ARC of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. 

Burning Roses reads very much like a fairytale. It is not your common retelling that jumps into a long epic series, but instead, it is a retelling much like the original tales from years ago. It is a tale to teach the reader of something.
This work begins in medias res, or in the middle of a tale, meet Rosa or Flower, as her middle aged Chinese friend Hou Yi (The Chinese tale of Hou Yi, the skilled archer who sought immortality) calls her, she would be your Latina Red Riding Hood. We meet the two of them in the middle of the story on a battlefield. From this battlefield comes the short tale of a quest to kill the beasts or Sunbirds as they are called. As we hunt, we learn about Grundwirgen or the eastern term for magic users who are evil and can take the shape of animals. As the quest trails on the two middle-aged women reflect on their past journeys, same-sex lovers quarrels, broken family ties and ways to right their wrongs before it is too late. Along the journey we meet the big bad wolf on the way to Grandma’s, we glare at Puss in Boots because what cat wears books, we make friends with the thieving Goldilocks, and we even fall in love with Beauty, not the Beast. This is a novella with many fairytale aspects and characters that we have come to know and recognize. Huang does an interesting of connecting the story to the tales we grew up with by giving the story meaning, making a lesson or something to remember, and allowing the reader to reflect upon their past as well as that of the main characters. 
In all, this novella is a clever way to retell several tales from both the western and eastern world from a different perspective along a journey of self-discovery and meddlesome magic users with a little LQBTQ flare to it.
 I understand why the novel started in the middle of the tale but it did make the story a bit hard to get into, as well as the lack of ultimate fantastical action made it not as exciting as it could have been. 

Check out the live video review at or view it later under Fairytale retellings video playlists airing Tuesday 7/28/2020 at 3:00 EST.
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Thank you Netgalley for providing a free copy of Burning Roses by S. L. Huang in return for an honest review!
I do not know where to begin with this book.
In a word, it is beautiful. Burning Roses is filled with heartfelt words in a beautiful and unconventional writing style that tugsz at your emotions in unexpected ways. It’s a quick read, not just because it’s a short book but because it is so arresting, so lovely, that you can’t bear to put it down. It tells the tale of two older women travelling across the land to hunt down deadly sunbirds and save the villagers. One of the women, Rosa, tells her story through flashbacks as they travel, weaving a tragic tale of a villain reformed. These two women have both loved, each one talking about their wives and children from the lives they left behind. Their regret runs heavy through lyrical words and stunning descriptions, their friendship often tenuous but unyielding. Hope springs eternal, however, as this book is filled with the theme of new beginnings, second chances, and forgiveness. It’s quiet, yet exciting, like the air before a storm, with calming words even in harrowing situations. Every page prompts you onward, onward, until you’ve reached the end and you only wish you had more. Both popular and uncommon fairy tales are woven into an East Asian setting, with Rosa being based on Little Red Riding Hood, and her backstory having brushes with Goldilocks, Puss in Boots, and Beauty and the Beast, and even having a reference to the rarely-spoken-of Snow White, Rose Red. None of the references seem jarring or childish, as fairy tale references in an otherwise non-fairytale based book often are, but instead just add to the mystifying and strange air that makes this book so memorable. No words I write are doing it justice, because it truly is just so beautiful and strange. I don’t always buy physical copies of books I receive as ARCs, but this is one I’m buying for sure.
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what a beautiful book, sacrifices made, mistakes mourned, but there's also hope and love and i love the ending so much!

this book has so many retelling for a novella, but amazingly it works beautifully, the world is full of magic and tragic events, a retelling of red riding hood ft. hou yi + Goldilocks and the three bears + beauty and the beast + puss in boots.

it also has middle-aged women as main characters and it was very refreshing to read. not to mention a latina lesbian mc + chinese wlw trans mc!

i have no other words but that this book was brilliantly done!

my only complaint is i want more so i can explore the world but that's my greedy ass talking sksks.
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