Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (A REVIEW!)
There are those books which you read and the reading experience is like rowing a boat across calm water. “Nice language,” you observe, “I liked the characters”, you add. You sip elegantly bland tea in a bone-china cup and the sun shines benevolently down on you. Birds are tweeting in the distance. Everything is perfectly insipidly nice.
Then there are those books that violently tear you off your boat, dunking you head-first into a world so enthralling you forget you’ve been underwater until you emerge gasping for air. This is how I felt reading Margaret Rogerson’s “Sorcery of Thorns”
The story is primarily about a girl named Elizabeth, who was raised an orphan in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries. These libraries are not ordinary libraries however, holding magical grimoires with characters and spirit of their own. If even slightly damaged, these books will transform into grotesque monsters of leather and ink called **Malefics, which must be destroyed, the knowledge in their pages destroyed with them. Elizabeth, an apprentice warden (who’s job is to protect the books from the world and the world from the books) lives a charmingly average life for an orphaned librarian of living books, chilling in hidden passageways, managing unruly grimoires… That is until the library’s most dangerous grimoire is sabotaged and Elizabeth is implicated in the crime. From there she is thrown into an ancient conspiracy seething with sorcery, politics and demonic power, and she must turn to her sworn enemy, a sorcerer called Nathaniel Thorn who is always accompanied by his mysterious servant Silas.
**Note: Malefics are basically me when my sister even touches my books
For me, there were two main stand-outs in the story. The compelling characters and the worldbuilding.
“Was that a thing people did-just gave up? When there was so much in the world to love, to fight for?”
Elizabeth was an absolute bad-ass, and I loved her determination and fire to take action and stand up for what’s right, even with all her beliefs overturned in a page (pun intended). Also, a pet peeve of mine regarding the majority of YA protagonists is how their realisation of a crucial fact to the plot takes chapters even with obvious clues. However, what I loved about this novel is that Elizabeth as an intelligent character actually demonstrates her intelligence and awareness by unravelling some of the most important mysteries of the story. Her character’s blend of child-like naivety and world-wearied suspicion hurtles her into a mess of schemes, plots and political machinations, yet she manages to stay true to herself and continues to face every challenge head-on.
“Of course .” A wicked gleam entered his eyes. “But I only turn girls into salamanders on Tuesdays. Luckily for you, it´s a Wednesday, which is the day I drink a goblet of orphan´s blood for supper.”
Nathaniel was the personification of the dark, mysterious, witty-without-being-too-annoying love interest trope, (also he’s bisexual!) given a new fresh take with Rogerson’s writing. However, although he only truly shone when placed with Elizabeth I still managed to cringe and laugh along with the flirtatious banter and jokes.
“Do not see compassion where there is none… You see sacrifice when there is only selfishness”
Silas was my absolute favourite character and I would have loved for him to get more page time. He is Nathaniel’s servant (and also a demon) and in the book, he is the only character in the grey area between hero and villain. You can’t help wondering whether he is truly motivated to help the two main characters out of his own free will, or if he is simply doing so for his own benefit and he can also turn into a white longhair cat who is just lazy, posh and adorable.
The world-building was amazing and original, and although I think the whole sorcerer lineage subject could have be a little more clear, I truly felt like I had been alongside the characters in Austermeer for a few precious hours.
★★★★★ (4.7 stars)