YA Weekend: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (June 4, 2019)
Length: 456 pages
It’s always great to see an author who is trying to push their own boundaries and reach new heights. Needless to say, I was very impressed with what Margaret Rogerson has done with Sorcery of Thorns and the fact it was such a huge step up from her debut. Not that I didn’t enjoy An Enchantment of Ravens, but it didn’t have near the same amount of attraction or that special kind of magic to make it all that memorable. In contrast, however, I believe Sorcery of Thorns has what it takes to set itself apart from a sea of fantasy YA.
We begin the story at the Great Library of Summershall, which has been a home to our protagonist Elisabeth Scrivener for as long as she can remember. Abandoned on its doorstep as a baby, she was raised among its shelves of magical tomes to be an acolyte by the librarians who work there. As a result, she grew up with a natural thirst for knowledge that frequently got her into trouble with her caretakers, who quickly became used to her way of being too curious for her own good. But one day, during her explorations of the library, Elisabeth stumbles upon a troubling discovery that points to a possible act of sabotage. An enchanted grimoire has been corrupted, turning it into a monster. However, with no other witnesses to the incident, Elisabeth herself is blamed for the crime and is consequently sent away to the city to face trial.
Enter Nathaniel Thorn, the sorcerer tasked to escort her to the capital. Of course, while he’s heard of Elisabeth and her history with mischief, nothing could have prepared Nathaniel for the challenges to come. For her part, Elisabeth is mistrustful of Nathaniel and his demonic familiar Silas at first, raised as she was to view anything and anyone to do with magic as inherently evil. But with every new obstacle they face together, the two of them gradually warm to each other and learn how to cooperate. As they try to uncover the conspiracy threatening the Great Library, Elisabeth and Nathaniel are drawn into a dangerous web of lies and deceit—just two more players in a game of power more immense and complicated than either of them could have possibly imagined.
Since one of my favorite tropes in fantasy is “books about books”, that was immediately a point in this novel’s favor. The world-building was also enticing and well developed, and I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the grimoires at the Great Library and how they almost take on a life of their own and are categorized into classes depending on how dangerous they are. They are a good illustration of how magic is perceived in this world—a powerful tool that can be helpful to society in many ways, though extremely dangerous if used irresponsibly or by the wrong people. Growing up the way she did, Elisabeth was taught to be wary of anything related to sorcery, but it took getting out into the real world for her to truly understand magic’s significance and meaning.
Speaking of which, I was pleased with the way the story developed, beginning with a rather convention premise which gradually snowballed into something much bigger and more complex as Elisabeth’s worldview expanded. I also loved the action mixed in with the magical elements, like the swashbuckling battles and swordfights against fantastical foes like demons and other creatures. At the same time, all this frenetic activity stops just short of being too overwhelming, offering just the right amount to keep the momentum going between sections that focused more on the mystery and speculation behind the conspiracy. The pacing is both comfortable and engaging, providing constant motivation to turn the next page.
And then there were the protagonists. To be honest, neither Elisabeth nor Nathaniel really dazzled, but for all that they were standard characters, I liked the easy way Rogerson got us to relate to them, and ultimately, that’s all that matters. Individually, they felt like genuine people to me, with realistic personalities that reflected their life experiences and personal backgrounds. But together, they were even better. Elisabeth and Nathaniel had fascinating chemistry and I liked watching their relationship evolve. Their romance was honest and sweet, resounding with a passionate underlying intensity, and as you know, I always appreciate a romance arc that doesn’t distract and completely take over the story.
Overall, Sorcery of Thorns is a YA fantasy I can wholeheartedly recommend. Full of magic and intrigue, this standalone novel features great characters, fantastic world-building and a spellbinding storyline. All in all, an entertaining and satisfying adventure.