Rosehead is a work of fantasy fiction by Ksenia Anske. I first heard of Anske through Twitter and ended up reading and reviewing the first book in the Suicide Sirens series. Last week I was fortunate enough to meet her at the Dallas Amtrak station. Anske is currently finishing up her Amtrak Writers Residency and had a short layover in my city. The few minute meeting confirmed that she is very much like her video posts, smart, quick thinking, genuinely a very nice person, and a very good writer. She was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States in 1999.
Most of my reading is non-fiction and very occasionally I will drift into a fantasy. I do like Russian fiction and that was probably the reason I became interested in Anske’s writing. There seems to be something a bit different from American and English Literature a bit of magic, so to speak. Although Anske now lives in America, she has kept some of that magic in her work. I picked up Rosehead two weeks ago as something different to fit between books on Xiaoping and America’s use of drones in war and enjoyed the break.
The tone is set from the opening line:
Lilith Bloom had a particular feeling that the rose garden wanted to eat her.
This story is set in Germany and although some very weird things happen, they are taken in stride. There are some surprise but not the crippling shock you would expect, this is a fantasy novel, after all. Lilith, the main character, also has her trusted pet a whippet — Panther Bloom Junior. Panther is more than just a loyal dog. He can talk. A talking dog shouldn’t be a big deal, after all, Bulgakov had a talking cat who shot pistols and played chess in his novel. There is also a much more serious underlying story about prescription drugs and our nation’s youth.
This novel turned out different than I expected and all in good ways. Lilith is almost thirteen, but this is not a young adult book for teenage girls as I first suspected. Also, this novel being fantasy leaves quite a bit outside the willing suspension of disbelief. It is not a novel that you fall into and believe it is happening around you. It is more like a scary story your grandmother would tell you. You knew it was a story, but you were intrigued by every word. Rosehead is that type of story.
I really enjoyed the story and the build up to an exciting finish. The characters are all very well developed as are the relationships between the characters. There are the typical mother-daughter friction and father protecting “daddy’s girl.” Relationships between Lilith and the other characters develop in a believable manner. Lilith’s relationship with her grandfather and his estate are the centerpiece of the book. There are a few reoccurring themes in the book some are obvious and other’s the reader will have to discover.
Over the years, I have read plenty of independent fiction. Most are adequate, several have been simply terrible, and very few have been great. Rosehead falls into that last category. Anske is a great storyteller and it shows in her work. I found Anske’s novel to be a refreshing change in the current fantasy offerings. An outstand piece of independent fiction. Read Anske’s books or the roses will eat you…