Sorcery of Thorns
by Margaret Rogerson
This is another book that I really missed out on. I had this Netgalley ARC months before it was released, and subsequently exploded onto the book community. I think I had been recommended this book more than any other in recent memory, and was very nervous going into this story for that very reason. So many people told me I’d love this. But what if I didn’t? And they said it would be loads better than Margaret’s first novel, An Enchantment of Ravens, but that novel absolutely stole my heart. What if Sorcery of Thorns just didn’t live up to the pressure and expectations that had been placed on it?
I picked this up as my last book in the #stayhomereadingrush and managed to read 92 pages before the clock struck midnight. I was quite enjoying what I was reading, but I had the hardest time concentrating on the words or what they meant arranged in a sentence. I managed to finish the book with a sense that I had just read something great, but I couldn’t remember most of what I had read. I knew to do this book, and myself, justice I’d have to reread it. (I don’t normally get brain fog like this, but corona had really done a number on me emotionally this week).
The reread went excellently. There were so many parts of the story that didn’t completely make sense the first go-round, that were clear as day the second time. Turns out I had ‘read’ entire pages without ingesting a single word from them. That makes it pretty hard to discern who is doing what or why it matters, in my opinion.
Our main character, Elisabeth, had grown up in a magical library. We’re a page or two in and already I’m jealous of her. The books in Elisabeth’s library were all sentient beings, with differing levels of communication and personalities. Some books would sing unsolicited, some would spit wads of ink at passersby, but all the books knew Elisabeth was special, even if she didn’t yet know it herself. I could quite possibly read a whole book just about how the books acted towards each other and other librarians, but I digress.
Then we meet Nathaniel, a sorcerer who uses a demon (Silas) as his conduit for magic. The entire world opens up for Elisabeth when she is forced to leave her library and travel with Nathaniel and Silas to the epicenter of their world.
This book had some really nice representation that I hope becomes a theme among YA books. Nathaniel describes himself as liking both when referring to his sexual orientation, as if it’s not a big deal. Because, you know, who someone likes isn’t a big deal or anyone else’s business, as Elisabeth points out to a gossip one night at a dinner party. I’m pretty sure I fist pumped the air during both of those scenes. There’s also a lot of body acceptance in this novel that I felt was refreshing. One example is Elisabeth herself, who happens to be very tall for a female, but she is never derogatory towards herself, and is never overtly made fun of for her size. Instead it is toted as an advantage during the multiple fight scenes where she kicks absolute butt.
The plot in this novel was very well crafted. While I was reading, I could clearly see all the places where the author had known the ending intimately, and then sprinkled in hints along the way. Hints that never amounted to anything in my brain, however. I was stumped until the very end, even on the second reread since I completely missed the main point the first time.
I really liked the struggles the characters faced as the plot progressed. No, I didn’t love the anxiety I had when Elisabeth or Nathaniel were close to death (MORE THAN ONCE), but I do love how it can be perceived through the reader. Elisabeth grew up in the libraries, being taught that demons and sorcery are evil and have no place near a librarian/warden. The longer Elisabeth spends time with Silas or Nathaniel, the more she begins to question the truth and virility of those sentiments. Yes, Silas has killed countless (literally) individuals, but as the story progresses we see him begin to be affected by Elisabeth, and Elisabeth be affected by him. Nathaniel struggles with his family legacy of necromancy. This is what everyone believes he was born and bred to do, and that he is inherently evil because of it. He even believes this of himself, and doesn’t allow anyone into his life due to his fear that he will be their demise.
Both Elisabeth and Nathaniel struggle to determine what is true for them. Is it the sheltered prejudice from the wardens of years past, or is it a generational curse that seems doomed to repeat itself? While these struggles are tainted with a fantastical viewpoint, they are also incredibly relatable for any reader. Both of these characters go through major transformations of mindset throughout this story, and by the end, it’s like a wight has been lifted off of them.
Reading this book made me think of all the books on my shelves. If they could talk or move, what would they say? Are they sad that some of them have been sitting, covered in a light layer of dust, for years without being read? My little librarian heart can’t think about it too long or I’ll get too sad. I can see why people prefer Sorcery of Thorns over An Enchantment of Ravens. The stories are completely different in so many ways. Both stories have a huge space in my heart: Sorcery of Thorns was so well put together and developed, while An Enchantment of Ravens was so raw and beautiful. I struggle to pick a favorite, so I won’t. I’ll just recommend them both.