Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Page Count: 464
Release Date: June 4th, 2019
Rating: 5/5 stars – LOVED IT
Note: A free ARC was provided to me by the publisher. It has not affected my review in any way.
Elisabeth has spent her whole life living in a Great Library. An orphan left on the steps as a child, she was raised as an apprentice, and is destined to eventually begin training as a warden. You see, books in this world are created through magic, and as such, they have varying degrees of sentience and abilities, with content ranging from history to spellcraft. The mildest books simply want things like a polite hello before they’ll open themselves to be read. But others, made with far darker magics and intent, may try to warp your mind or worse. And should a book become damaged, it will transform into a Malefict, intent on killing whomever it can find. The purpose of the libraries is to contain and guard against these books, for even though they pose a great danger, their knowledge is too valuable to lose through destruction.
When Elisabeth wakes up one night to discover wardens dead and a Malefict on the loose, she stumbles into the middle of a conspiracy involving all the Great Libraries in Austermeer. Accused of being a traitor and with no one to believe her account, Elisabeth soon finds herself turning to help from the unlikeliest of allies – a sorcerer named Nathaniel Thorn. Elisabeth has been raised her whole life on the knowledge that sorcerers are evil, that the demonic pacts that give them their magic (and which in turn were used to create these magical books in the first place) have made them corrupted individuals only barely tolerated for the protection they provide Austermeer against other nations. But only a sorcerer can help Elisabeth understand the forces at play, so she’ll have to accept his help if she’s to save the libraries she loves so dearly.
I have been waiting to read SORCERY OF THORNS ever since I first saw the cover reveal and synopsis last November. I did not get the book I expected. I thought, at best, I would get a pleasant adventure with magic books. I did not anticipate a story that would warm my heart, steal my breath, fill my heart with swoons, before causing me to unexpectedly burst into tears in public as I read the closing words. SORCERY OF THORNS was more than I hoped for, and is an easy lock for my top five reads of 2019.
SORCERY OF THORNS is a gothic fantasy adventure romance with a heroine who is independent and determined, while still being vulnerable. Elisabeth will throw herself between a demon and a child with nothing more than an iron bar, and is also capable of questioning her world views when presented with new evidence. Nathaniel, her sorcerer compatriot, has a wry sense of humor balancing out the brooding heart that he attempts to embrace the second anyone gets close to him. And helping them both through thick and thin is Nathaniel’s servant Silas, a man with a surprising number of tricks (and secrets) up his sleeve.
As much as I love the characters, the ambiance of the world itself went a long way to cementing this book in my heart. The aforementioned gothic tone is aided by a few subtle nods to Beauty and the Beast mythology – a heroine who loves books, a forbidden wing in the library, the rose motif. This is NOT, however, a retelling of that tale, it is a wholly original story, full of magic spells and thrilling fights. The romance blends seamlessly into the action and is the kind of love that blossoms over time instead of coming from head-over-heels infatuation. And it is not just a romance of humans; its also a love story about books and their power. The image of a book nuzzling up to me, begging to be read, or demanding that I talk to it politely before it can be read is simultaneously absurd, delightful, and an encapsulation of the emotions any avid reader feels towards the books on their shelves.
SORCERY OF THORNS is an utterly captivating novel, one that will slowly pull you in until the pages are flying by. The stakes build from personal calamity to realm-breaking disaster in an incredibly satisfying manner, and the characters are forever etched into my pantheon of favorites. I nearly lost a limb trying to secure this ARC at YALLWest; in the end, the book made off with my heart instead.