Sorcery of Thorns

Sorcery of Thorns was written by Margaret Rogerson and first published in 2019. It is a fantasy novel which focuses on a wrongfully accused apprentice who teams up with her sworn enemy in order to investigate a murder. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Elizabeth Scrivener has always known what she wants from life. Raised within one of the Great Libraries of Austemere, she has been apprenticed directly to the Director to learn how to be a Warden. It is the role of these skilled warriors to protect the public from Grimoires – dangerous magical tomes which have been confiscated from Sorcerers. Only Wardens are powerful enough to prevent Grimoires from transforming into Maleficts – monsters intent on taking human life.

However, Elizabeth soon learns that her future is not assured. When the Director is killed after a Malefict is let loose in the library, Elizabeth finds herself under suspicion of murder. As the crime involved a Grimoire, she is banished from the library and escorted to the capital in the company of Nathaniel Thorn – a young sorcerer – and his mysterious butler, Silas. For Elizabeth, there can be no worse fate. Every librarian knows that sorcerers are monsters. In fact, Elizabeth suspects that Nathaniel may have had a hand in the Director’s death.

As Elizabeth sees the larger world, she starts to realise how sheltered her upbringing was. While the sorcerers are dangerous, the populous at large see them in a very different light. Still, it’s not long before Elizabeth begins to uncover evidence of a deadly plot that threatens every library. Yet who will possibly believe her accusations when it is just the word of a young woman against the most powerful man in all of Austermere…

Before I begin, let’s talk a little about the photo at the top of this review. I actually received my copy of this book as part of an Owlcrate. In case you haven’t heard of this before, Owlcrate is a monthly mystery box targeted at young adult readers. For a very reasonable charge of $29.99 (+ shipping), this box delivers a brand new hard-backed book and associated goodies right to your door.

The theme for this box was “Library of Wonder” and the contents really did fit this well. Alongside the book, I received a set of Chronicles of Narnia bookends, a Strange the Dreamer book bag, a pin badge, a pen, a set of coasters and a coffee blend inspired by Belle’s library from Beauty and the Beast. All in all, I felt that everything was of high quality and certainly great value for money. What made it better still was the fact that Sorcery of Thorns turned out to be an utterly compelling read.

Really, my biggest problem with Sorcery of Thorns was that it stands alone. While some elements of its world-building seemed a little familiar, they combined to create a wonderfully memorable tale. The thing that I loved most about the novel was the way that it portrayed the complex relationship between the librarians and the sorcerers, creating a world that existed in shades of grey. While sorcerers don’t seem to be as inherently evil as the wardens believe, their very nature (and potential applications of their power) prove that they certainly have the potential to hurt people.

At its core, Sorcery of Thorns is also a story about the power of literature. It truly is a novel that will speak to book lovers, illustrating how Elizabeth draws strength from libraries and shares an almost spiritual connection with the books that she reads. While this could easily have felt over-saccharine, I did love the way that Rogerson presented the Grimoires as being intelligent, magical and soulful entities. While some of them could certainly be bad, all were worthy of respect and did not deserve mistreatment. This analogy is certainly one that will resonate with any bibliophile.

Sorcery of Thorns is very quick to find its feet and draw the reader into its decadent world, doing a fantastic job of setting out its core concepts without resorting to exposition. The prose flows well, always been easy to read due to the fact that it feels so natural. Elizabeth’s world is perfectly captured through Rogerson’s concise descriptions and light humour. While I did think that the story stalled a little around the middle, there was certainly enough action to keep me reading and leave me curious about what would happen next.

The plot takes the form of a mystery – a race to find whoever is targeting the great libraries and learn what their endgame is. While the villain is very easy to deduce from their first appearance, the novel still keeps the reader on their toes. The bigger question is precisely why they are orchestrating such seemingly random attacks when they never leave the capital. It’s not long before the plot builds to a fast-paced climax, utilising Elizabeth, Nathaniel and Silas’s individual abilities to battle an all-powerful foe. This ending was incredibly satisfying as it neatly tied up all loose ends. While there is possibly scope for a sequel, the novel reads perfectly well in its own right and could just as easily end here.

In terms of character, Sorcery of Thorns was also incredibly strong. While Elizabeth did initially worry me a little due to her tendency to be a bit of a shrinking violet, she more than finds her strength in the second act. Despite not possessing any active powers, she is still more than capable of holding her own against demons and sorcerers. You also feel her struggle as an woman in a man’s world, trying to make herself heard in a Regency setting where most would think that he intelligence was an unseemly quality.

Elizabeth’s male counterparts were also very strong. While I did find Nathaniel’s mode of speech to be a little jarring at times (he constantly speaks to Elizabeth as though she is a small child, despite them being close in age), he still made a great love interest. Although generally laid back, it soon becomes apparent that this is because he hides a dark past. While I did think that more could have been done to make his control issues a bit more frightening, you certainly did feel for him as Rogerson revealed the unfortunate fate of his family. Nathaniel is also an on-page bisexual character, which is always nice to see in a young adult novel.

Silas is similarly memorable, bringing to mind Sebastian from Black Butler. He is elegant and sophisticated, yet cold and ruthless at the same time. This left me very curious to find out whose side he was really on, as so much of his motivation was left ambiguous until the story’s climax. His complex relationship with Nathaniel is wonderfully presented, though I do wish that we had seen more of it beyond their wonderful banter.

The only character that did disappoint me a little was the villain. While this character was well written and clearly the hero of their own story, I did feel that their motivation was just a little too simple. Their very misguided plan was so obviously a bad idea from the start, it seemed incredibly unlikely that an experienced sorcerer would make such stupid (and potentially word destroying) mistakes.

Anyhow, that’s about all that I have to say. All in all, I really enjoyed Sorcery of Thorns. The story was imaginative and engrossing, containing a gripping plot and wonderful characters. It is definitely one that I would recommend and I will certainly be reading more of Rogerson’s work in the future.

Oh, and you really should check out Owlcrate too. If you’re a fan of young adult literature, it provides an exciting selection of new releases and bookish goodies. I will certainly be getting more of these boxes in the future.

Sorcery of Thorns can be purchased as a Hardback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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