Novel | Flower of Steel — YAY for a strong, intelligent, and unwavering female lead?!

Novel | Flower of Steel — YAY for a strong, intelligent, and unwavering female lead?!

Hello, my BAYOG lovelies! It’s been a while! Yes, my drama post is delayed again… But… I got a novel review for y’all! It’s been a while since I did a proper one of these.

Note: This post might contain some spoilers
( I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible)

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DISCLAIMER
A WordExcerpt team member had invited me to be a beta reader for some of their books. So yeah, basically that would mean that I’m provided some ebooks to read for free in exchange for honest voluntary reviews on specified platforms by a certain deadline. Totally cool. So yeah, I went for it.
So full disclaimer: I received a free ebook copy via Booksprout in exchange for a review on Booksprout and Amazon.

But apparently, I didn’t realize past Minty had actually already pre-ordered Flower of Steel back in December LOL… So, um… yeah… Regardless, I’ll still be providing my unbiased honest opinion as usual~
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FLOWER OF STEEL
강철의 꽃

Title: Flower of Steel
Alternative Titles: 강철의 꽃
Author: Hong Heesu 홍희수
Original Korean Publisher: Lucy Novel
English Publisher: WordExcerpt

[Content/Trigger Warnings: Cheating, Gaslighting, Misogyny, Some Violence]
Genre/Theme: Romance, Fantasy, Josei, Historical, Girl Boss
Spicy Level: ? — I see nothing spicy at the moment
Rage/Frustration Level: Mild? — Frustration at typical bullshit trash-type characters and scenarios
Webtoon Status: None at the moment
Official English Version (Ebook): [Amazon Kindle]
Official English Version (Print): [Amazon], [WordExcerpt Store]
Official English Version (Webnovel): [WordExcerpt]

Synopsis:

Ten-year-old Marina’s destiny began when she met the teary-eyed boy at the Imperial Palace. The time she spent with him playing chess was like a fairytale, sweet but short-lived. It had become a faint memory of first love.

Betrayed by her fiancé at eighteen, she decides to fulfill her lifelong dream and work in government office. Much to her dismay, she soon learns that life at the Imperial Palace was just too exhausting. There were so many twists and turns! But she held on; she hoped to see the boy in her youth once more, even if only for a little. Turns out that the boy had always watched her from afar.

And so begins a complicated love affair at the Imperial Palace! Will Marina be able to find happiness?

Synopsis by WordExcerpt

Again, this is another series that’s being published/localized in English by WordExcerpt. You can get the ebook or print through [Amazon] or the [WordExcerpt Store page]. You can also read the webnovel edition for free on [WordExcerpt’s platform]. Flower of Steel is also actually a series by Hong Heesu, the same author of [Daddy, I Don’t Want to Marry!] (아빠, 나 이 결혼 안할래요!), aka [Father, I Don’t Want This Marriage!] (webtoon on Tappytoon). To be honest, when I first saw the cover and read the synopsis for Flower of Steel several months ago, I didn’t think I’d be too interested in it? The cover wasn’t really pulling me in if I were to base it on just looks. The synopsis didn’t exactly pull me in either at first. Mostly because of the whole “government office work” thing. Just didn’t seem like something I’d particularly care about, and cuz I’m not that big on the political stuff in series. The irony since I was a poli-sci major… Still, I guess past Minty thought of purchasing it anyway. Probably because I do like 『Daddy, I Don’t Want to Marry』. However, it still wouldn’t have been one of my priority reads on my reading list. I imagine I probably saw this as something to read in between chapter releases of other series I’m more interested in or have prioritized. This beta reader thing from WordExcerpt gave me the push to just dive into it much sooner because of the deadline. Honestly, I’m glad for it, because it probably would’ve taken forever for me to get to it. I probably might’ve even forgotten about it. I’m thankful because I did actually find it pretty interesting. I might just like it a smidge more than 『Daddy, I Don’t Want to Marry』.

Bts Reaction Jinm1nkook GIF - Bts Reaction Jinm1nkook Yoongi Reaction GIFs
Look, I’m chill with cliches and throwing out logic…but only to a certain point! Sometimes things are a bit too much and too frustrating…

There was also another reason I was initially kind of apprehensive about starting this series. Again, I do love both the novel and manhwa for 『Daddy, I Don’t Want to Marry』/『Father, I Don’t Want to Marry』. Like the misunderstandings and things are really hilarious at times. However, at the same time, sometimes Jubelian (Juvelian if you’re reading the manhwa from Tappytoon) is incredibly and frustratingly dense. Like I get characters can be kinda dense at times, but sometimes there’s a point where it’s too much and you wanna throw something at their heads if you could… Anyway, I was a little worried about whether Marina, the female lead in Flower of Steel, would be similar in some of those aspects. Thankfully, she’s not. She’s actually very intelligent, capable, and a strong female character. She basically gives off girl boss vibes. Granted you can say it’s just more of a… passable kind of execution when it comes to strong girl boss characterization and all, but we can get into that in a bit. Still, I found her rather refreshing especially compared to female leads in many other series. Again, we’ll get into the details about this later.

Also, another thing I appreciated about this series is that it’s not an isegye/isekai/transmigration, reincarnation, or regression series. If you all aren’t familiar with those, isegye (the Korean term) and isekai (the Japanese term) basically mean transmigration. It means that the characters are brought into another world. Often times it’s in a novel or game, or it can just be some other world or dimension kinda thing. Sometimes it means that they appear in that world as they are, like they got teleported or something. Other times, they find themselves in the possession of another person’s body and sometimes even kinda gain their memories and knowledge of that life. The latter scenario is usually when the person got into an accident and/or died. Reincarnation is when they’ve died and are reborn in this new world. Sometimes this kinda goes along with isegye/isekai. Like they’re modern people that find themselves reincarnated as a character or person in another world, a novel, a game, etc. Lastly, we have regression. That plays with timelines. It’s basically time travel. Something happened in the original timeline, often leading the character to die. They then find that they’re back however so many years ago. Like a 25 year old character dying and waking up to find out they’ve gone back to when they were 17. Thus attempting to change things in this new timeline. Again, sometimes we get a mix of all the different genres and elements. Either way, they’re all very common in Korean novels. Again, I read a lot of different series. They almost always follow one or more of those tropes/plot types. So it was nice to find one where it’s just one timeline/lifetime and there’s no “I’m in a novel/game” type of thing.


Marina and Her Situation — As usual, I hate trash and cheating scumbags

Warning — Spoilers Ahead: I’ll try to keep it spoilers brief and to a minimum, but there will be some major spoilers regarding the beginning of the book. It’s literally just more so the scenario at the immediate beginning, like literally just the first chapter or two.

I first wanted to get into the whole situation and motivation for Marina in the series. This part is basically a summary of the first chapter or two. So again, yes, there are some spoilers here. She’s basically from a fallen aristocratic family. Her family was once a very respected count family, especially since her father worked under the Emperor in the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately, there seemed to have been a situation that caused her father to lose his position and have the whole family be moved to the countryside. They also took a huge hit financially as well. It’s to a point Marina has had to do some odd jobs and labor, such as dollmaking and tending the fields/crops. So Marina isn’t able to be like other aristocratic ladies or indulge in fancy outfits and trends. Because of all of that, those in aristocratic society look down on her. They see her as nothing more than a stupid country bumpkin…and, unfortunately, the perfect target to bully. One of the main reasons is that the bullying is being led by Elise. Elise is the daughter of a marquis, the “most beautiful woman”, the flower of high society, oh…and the Crown Prince’s fiancee. She’s also the basic hella jealous green tea or white lotus bitch character. Apparently, this girl has just always had it out for Marina and been hell-bent on making her miserable. Marina doesn’t even know why. The bullying just seems unprovoked and this girl just always has it out for her. It’s to a point that she has hellaaa low self-esteem and absolutely hates going to these social gatherings. Can’t blame her. Who wants to go somewhere where everyone gangs up on you and talks shit about you the whole freaking time… Especially when you can’t even argue back because of the whole status thing.

Seokjin Nervous Hoseokvs GIF - Seokjin Nervous Hoseokvs Seokjin What GIFs
Me just already being like, “Oh honey…Oh no… Oh no no…”
If your partner can’t be happy about your accomplishments and skills and can’t even support you…they ain’t worth it.

The only reason why she ever does go to these things is for her fiancee, Kyle, whom she really cares about. She feels like she’s only able to make it through those things if she has him beside her. Can’t say whether it’s really love. However, they have been engaged for several years, she does admittedly really like him, as well as trusted him and felt comfortable enough to feel like she could see a future with him. OOF… Sis… She does all she can to help support him, especially when it came to becoming a government official. It’s something she wanted to do for herself as well. However, she didn’t wanna make it awkward and compete with him. So she gave up on her own dream and put all her focus on him. She helped him study and even secretly went to pull some strings to get him a job opportunity. Like she literally secretly made a bet on some games of chess against the Chancellor to help get Kyle the job that he has now. So typical self-sacrificing female lead who does everything to support her man. And in typical romance fantasy novel fashion, it blows up in her face and she gets stabbed in the back.

I Hate Snakeu Jhope GIF - I Hate Snakeu Jhope GIFs
We know where this is going, and y’all know how I feel about cheaters and trash… Into the BAYOG volcano ya go~

Yeah, she went to a party and finds her fiancee sucking off that green tea bully bitch’s face. But before we get to that, we gotta mention the red flags. Of course, there were red flags and suspicions prior to this incriminating discovery. Marina was ganged up and bullied by Queen Green Tea Bully Bitch and her posse. Sees Kyle has arrived and figured she’s safe, or can feel safer and feel more comfortable now that he’s with her. Except for the dude basically ignored her at first. He swerved and went straight to the bitch to give his greetings. Like he gave no acknowledgment of Marina first before giving his greetings. Like, hell no, what the fuck bruh?? It wasn’t until she stormed off upset that he went to coax her. Dude then gives an excuse that they’re just friends and it’s all just networking is all. I do appreciate Marina being smart and calling him out that it still didn’t make sense for him to just walk past her and ignore her like that. However, in typical fashion, she glosses over her worries. He then reassures her that his relationship with Elise is just purely friendship and to trust him… *Me rolling my eyes hella hard* Yeah, we all know where this shit is going…

Joonality Jimin GIF - Joonality Jimin In The Soop GIFs
Me just being like, “BITCH! EXCUUUUSE ME?? The audacity of these gaslighting pieces of trash!!!”

Back to the present of Marina finding Kyle sucking off Elise’s face… As usual, they had the audacity to claim, “It’s a misunderstanding!” and gaslighting Marina to think she’s overthinking things. They be sticking to that whole “friendship” bullshit. Except Marina pulls out evidence that proves her suspicions right. Earlier, she had gone to visit Kyle at his office, but he wasn’t there. However, she ended up finding an unfinished letter that was just left out there. A love note. Basically proving how scummy this piece of trash is. Dude be just going on about Elise’s beauty and all, “I know we both have fiances, but their bond isn’t as strong as ours.” He then even said that he didn’t realize soulmates existed until he met her. EW. Fuck you dude!

Every time I hear bullshit excuses and gaslighting in these scenarios…

Even after the undeniable evidence, they keep trying to gaslight her and insist they’re just friends. The bitch then goes into full white lotus bitch mode, acting all innocent and pitiful, and saying the typical bullshit excuse of, “We’re just friends. I didn’t mean to make you two fight because of me.” Marina is obviously and understandably pissed. So she calls Elise out and asks her just how many “so-called friends” she has, and how many she seduced under the facade of friendship. And that’s when it happens. Fucking Kyle slapped Marina. He gave up on his bullshit excuses and now insults and blames her. Elise runs off to act as a pitiful white lotus and garner pity from everyone else. Meanwhile, Kyle just berates Marina and goes on about how Elise is good, unlike Marina who “peeks through other people’s letters”. BRUH. GTFOH. Maybe don’t cheat and write bullshit letters in the first place?? The gaslighting and insults continue. It’s your typical rom-fan situation that happens in so many series.

“Oh~ She really confidently did that?! You go queen!”

However, what I liked was that Marina straightforwardly and confidently went off on them right then and there. Again, we often see weak types of female characters who may say a word or two, but we don’t normally get such a strong and confident response at the get-go. Another thing I loved is that she instantly, and I mean right then and there, decides to cut ties with Kyle. Often times we see female leads flabbergasted, still a bit hung up on the person that hurt them, and still waver quite a bit. I mean, I get it. There was genuine attachment and affection that had been built over a long period of time. Still, I like that Marina doesn’t waver and is smart enough to see that SHE is the victim and shouldn’t feel bad or take that kind of bullshit. I like that she holds on to her pride and walks forward with her head held up high despite all the hostile looks and bullshit everyone gives her. Which, by the way, I still don’t understand how people treat the cheaters as the victims and treat the actual victims as the bad ones. Like, bruh. It don’t make sense. Look, I don’t care that your little perfect princess is “so lovely” and looks like the “seemingly most pure thing in the world”, she still got herself involved with an engaged man despite her being engaged to someone else as well. Yet those two don’t get admonished by the crowd. Like, bruh. Y’all can go fuck yourselves.

Marina and this novel basically got the same energy/vibe as Blackpink’s [How You Like That].

Anyway, Marina put on a strong front. While she did indeed cut off Kyle with no hesitation or regret, that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. After all, they spent 5 whole years together. She invested a lot of emotion and time for him. Not to mention she worked so hard to help him succeed in his work. Including giving up her own dream. Now the great thing is, she decides, “Fuck it! I’ll show them!” So she decides she’s going to just go follow her dream and show them her worth. This is great. Like we love a protagonist with goals. Despite her expectations, her family is very supportive of her. Which is super refreshing. We often see families admonish the female character still. Sometimes they might sympathize, but just tell them to accept it. Anyway, this means she literally only has 2 months before the next exam to become a government official. So she does the impossible and works her ass off. Which is great cuz she’s focused on that instead of the pain and trauma she’s been through. It also pays off because she’s shown to make it, actually ranking first, and getting a great position. Homegirl instantly became Kyle’s superior.


Initial Thoughts On Marina

Like at first, though I pitied Marina, I didn’t instantly like her. I actually found her pretty arrogant at first, despite her incredibly low self-esteem. Like she has these 3 cousins who are completely devoted to her. They basically her fan club and would do anything for her. Cute. What kinda rubbed me the wrong way is that she sees and refers to them as “servants 1, 2, and 3”. There are times when it doesn’t seem like she even sees them as her cousins. She just sees them as some brats she’s trained to follow her commands. Although, eventually there are moments where she starts to show a bit more genuine affection. It still kinda seemed a bit off-putting for me at first. At first she also kind of put the blame on her family. Although there were some things her family said at first that made me tilt my head and go, “Bruh, WTF.” Like it was slightly triggering in reminding me of some insensitive and toxic comments made by my own family and relatives. Still, I don’t think either was made with the intent of malice. But they were definitely insensitive. But they do pull through and show that they genuinely care about her and will always unconditionally support her. Marina also does end up correcting her previous thoughts about too and admitting that her family and cousins display sincere love and care for her.

Initially didn’t really like Marina, but was then I was like “Okay, I can see your appeal.”

Still, what got me to like Marina more is the fact that we’re shown she’s incredibly intelligent, like legit intelligent too. I’m not talking about simple things either. First off, this girl is gifted at chess. But the crazy shit is that she can legit come up with solutions for government policies and things right on the spot. I don’t know about you guys, but I can barely come up with a backup plan for when I find out a restaurant I wanted to eat at is closed. This girl comes up with fairly detailed government solutions. So it’s no wonder everyone, including the top seniors — even the elderly seniors like the Chancellor, are impressed. She proves her capability and that she’s definitely made for this job. I will admit though… it is slightly too convenient that she’s OP in this aspect. There’s no real “struggle”… It’s actually pretty smooth for her. But it’s a novel, and I’ve seen way more crazy and nonsensical shit, so I’ll throw my brain out just a bit. She doesn’t really struggle with her work because she’s just that talented and smart. It’s kind of to a point you wonder why she allowed herself to have such low self-esteem and kind of be a doormat when she was with Kyle. At the same time, it’s kind of understandable because she does have such incredibly low self-esteem and trauma. She’s basically traumatized from all the constant gaslighting and bullying to the point where she doesn’t always completely believe in her full potential. I get that. You become conditioned, and it’s hard to break out of a long-formed habit and mindset. So I’m just pleased that she’s earnestly trying to improve herself and use her results as a clap back to Kyle, Elise, and her haters. I’m also just happy to finally not get a soft, weak, and wishy-washy type of female character who only ever relies on others without really putting in effort.

The Conflicts and Romance Aspects

The conflict is kind of minor so far. The conflicts and issues so far are of course cheating scumbag trying to make nice and continue gaslight again, her being bullied by peers in high society, as well as Marina dealing with sexism and misogyny from people from some of the other departments. Of course, the main conflict and goal Marina trying to overcome her low self-esteem, trying to gain full-hearted confidence in herself, and get revenge by proving her haters wrong. It’s also a journey of her healing and learning to trust and put faith in people around her again. There’s also a bit of mystery that needs to be solved, but that’s mostly introduced towards the end and will probably be delved into more in the next volume.

In regards to romance, we got a couple of potential romantic interests here. Marina does seem to kind of hold her first love in high regard. No, it’s not that little shit Kyle. It was some little boy she randomly met many, many years ago. Of course, she doesn’t really remember or know who he is. Of course, we’re not new to rom-fan. So we know one of the potential love interests has to be this kid. Rom-fan cliche trope, check. Anyway, it seems that our possible romance options (or at least those who’ve expressed interest in her so far) include (in no particular order): her cousin in the capital who is a knight, a knight and the chancellor’s son, the hella tsundere Crown Prince, her flirty and seemingly playboy-like colleague from the same department, and her shy work colleague from the same department. Who do I like so far? Sir Adrian, the Chancellor’s son. Clearly, because I can actually remember his name off the top of my head… Why Adrian? I find him sweet, gentlemanly, and pretty smooth. Although, it seems he’s also probably gonna end up being that character with a hidden yandere side. Because fuck…this happens to me every time. I always fall into a trap of liking the seemingly nice sweetheart, only for him to turn out to be a psycho yandere… That or Adrian could be sus. IDK. Honestly, the novel barely touched the romance aspect. It’s more of at the level of just introducing our potential romantic interests. Rather, Marina herself isn’t even focused on romance. She’s literally determined to focus on work and her own self-growth. She’s very unwavering about it too. Also, I love that she’s not at all wavering in regards to her trash ex. Too many times have we had female leads kind of hesitate, dwell on the “good and sweet” memories for a bit too long, and think of maybe giving them another chance. Like these female leads be sweet and all, but a bit too squishy in sense and resolve to the point where it’s a bit frustrating for me. I love that Marina doesn’t go through that. I like that she’s actually self-aware. She does think back of good times, but also instantly remembers the bad shit that happened and how she wasted her time and effort. Hence her staying steadfast and dedicated to herself and her goals. Honestly, I appreciate all of that. I love that she instantly made that realization, and instantly got her mind straight. So I don’t mind slowly building up the romance. Cuz giiiirrrlll, it’s best to put yourself first anyway. I also love that she’s trying to rely on no one but herself. I appreciate that kinda girl boss energy. Although it’s also important to know when to rely on others when you can, and that’s another lesson we’ll probably be going through for Marina. Plus, again, there are some mystery aspects introduced at the end. So we’ll where the story will go from here.


Final Thoughts On Volume 1

With all that being said, let’s get to my final conclusions after having finished volume 1. I basically finished this novel in a week due to having a time limit to get my beta reader review out. If y’all know me, I usually use a text-to-speech app on my phone to “read” my novels. I like listening to my reads while I’m working, and find it the most convenient and easy way to catch up on everything since I can multitask. Yeah, the con was that I couldn’t do that with books on Kindle. So I had to physically sit and read it. It was tough cuz I ended up being so slammed at work that week. Still, I’m proud that I managed to do it! It’s actually not a difficult read. You can easily get through it pretty quickly. Especially, if you find it pretty interesting. That was the case for me. I did find it more interesting than I initially thought. I had to read it when it wasn’t busy at work. However, again, it was busy. I constantly had to interrupt my reading because I’d have to go answer the phone or make an order or something. So it took me a bit longer than I would’ve liked. Still, I think it is something you can easily and comfortably read.

Overall, this is Minty approved~

Content-wise, I did find the story much more intriguing than I anticipated. I really did want to keep reading and actually got hella frustrated with the constant interruptions during my reading. If I were to be honest, it follows a lot of the basic rom-fan plots, cliches, and things. Like the cheating lover, a white lotus bitch, a character trying to overcome her status/reputation, stereotypical types of male leads or potential love interests, etc. However, I did find some unique, rather not as common, aspects and charm to it as well. Again, I love that Marina is actually a legitimate intelligent character who is truly competent. I love the girl boss vibes and message. I love that there is no question or hesitation to drop and cut ties with her cheating fiancee. I love that there’s no wavering bullshit. I also just find it interesting that Marina is legitimately focused on her goals, her work, and improving herself. I think it’s refreshing that there’s a focus on that more than the romance. I didn’t really find Marina that likable at the beginning. Which is different considering we’re usually made to instantly like and side with the main character right off the bat. However, I’ll admit it was refreshing, and a different approach in my experience with reading romance fantasy novels. Plus, I did ultimately end up growing to like Marina after seeing her effort to achieve her goals. I found her to be a strong female figure, despite her low self-esteem and trauma. It’s great to see a character with such strong resolve. Admittedly, some things do seem a bit too smooth and convenient, sometimes with just minimal to the passable effort. So this might seem boring for people expecting more complex and detailed shit to exemplify her strengths. It’s okay for me though. I’m a chill reader, and honestly, a lot of complex shit goes over my head. Often times I just speed over and don’t absorb the complex and political stuff in a lot of series. So it really wasn’t an issue for me personally. Though I can see how a bit more detail could build Marina up and prove her as a more complex and interesting character. Still, I’m also just looking forward to seeing that journey for her. So yeah, I like the series so far and I will continue to read it for now. I don’t usually do like a rating system, but I did have to do it for my beta reader review. I rated it at a 4/5 stars. Although, I’d more accurately put it between 4-4.5 for my personal tastes. Granted, I’m not a super nitpicky person and I think I’m one of the people who is pretty chill and generous when it comes to ratings. Still, overall, I do like this series so far.


Again, if you’re interested in this series, this is where you can find it:

Official English Version (Ebook): [Amazon Kindle]
Official English Version (Print): [Amazon], [WordExcerpt Store]
Official English Version (Webnovel): [WordExcerpt]


Anyway, that’s it for this post y’all! Honestly, I’ve been hella swamped. So I was excited for the opportunity to read this book. Yet, I was also lowkey stressed because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to finish the book in time for my beta reader review. Still, I managed it, and I liked it much more than I initially thought. So I just had to do a more detailed post on it as well~ Are y’all reading this? What do you think? Let me know in the comments, my socials, or Discord! Also, let me know if you all have recommendations for me too! Reading is basically my only hobby now and one of the few things that bring me joy lol Things are still hectic for me, but I promise I’ll do my best to find time and blog when I can~ Anyway, take care my loves! We’re entering the hot summer season, so do remember to stay hydrated! Take care, stay safe, and have a lovely day!~


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Hihi! I’m Minty! I’m Thai-American~ เป็นคนไทยค่ะ~ ยินดีที่ได้รู้จักนะคะ~
I’m BAYOG’s hella basic Asian chick, Real People Stuffs expert, K-Novel and Manhwa trash queen, and boba addict. I’ve been a part of the BAYOG Crew since 2017~ I fangirl and mostly rant blog about music, live-action movies/dramas, manga/manhwa/webtoons, and novels~ When I’m not blogging, I’m usually writing/singing Thai-English covers~

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