Friday, July 12, 2019

Sorcery of Thorns, or, The One with LIBRARIANS WIELDING SWORDS, SO MUCH YES


Sorcery of Thorns

by Margaret Rogerson

Pages: 456

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication Date: June 4th, 2019

Cover Comments: This cover is gorgeous, and I love that it matches the style of the author's other book, An Enchantment of Ravens. I love that the sword and vines with thorns on them give subtle clues to the story without being heavy-handed. I wish Silas had made it on the cover though, in cat form of course.

Synopsis: All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.


“Books, too, had hearts, though they were not the same as people's, and a book's heart could be broken: she had seen it happen before. Grimoires that refused to open, their voices gone silent, or whose ink faded and bled across the pages like tears.” 

Sorcery of Thorns made it *this close* to my list of all-time favorite books, and definitely tops my list of favorite reads of 2019. Although quite a long book, it pulled me out of a reading slump and I flew through it. The premise of sword-wielding librarians and books that bite back is amazing, but Margaret Rogerson gets so much deeper into the library and grimoire mythology, really making this an amazing book.

The yays and nays, in no particular order:


1) Library magic (cue The Head & the Heart)

Okay, any book set in a library and revolving around libraries and books automatically gets a yes from me. I don't think I've read one that involves those elements that I didn't love. But Rogerson goes even deeper to make libraries and books not just an element of Sorcery of Thorns, but an integral plot point that leads to one of the most touching scenes I've read in recent memory. LOVE.

2) Nathaniel

Best. love. interest. ever. I am head over heels for Nathaniel's dry humor and complicated past. What's a boy without emotional baggage, amirite? *crickets* ...okay, moving on.

Nathaniel's backstory and his relationship with his demonic servant, Silas, is complicated and simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. And the way he and Elisabeth interact is hilarious and touching. For example:

“His severe expression faltered as his hand grazed the cape covering her gown.

"Scrivener," he said carefully, "I don't mean to be forward, but is that a—"

"A sword hidden underneath my dress? Yes, it is."

"I see. And how exactly is it—"

"I thought you didn't mean to be forward." She squeezed his arm. "Come on.” 

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll leave the touching lines for you to discover.

3) Tall, strong female who don't need no man (but she does like one)

Elisabeth isn't afraid to wield a sword or crowbar, fight demons, or take down powerful men if they are doing wicked things. She's tall, brave, and not afraid to make a scene in social situations, which I personally enjoyed greatly.

4) Subtle nod to fluid sexuality

It's a very small part of the book, but it's mentioned that Nathaniel is bi-sexual, and it's totally not a big deal. You know why? CAUSE IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL, PEOPLE. It's nice to see different sexuality types thrown in without a huge plotline being made of it. It's just a natural part of the character.

5) World-building

As the plot unfolds, we get to learn more about the Great Libraries, grimoires, demons, and the Otherworld, and it's all so fascinating.

6) Silas

I LOVE SILAS, probably because he reminds me of Moggett from Garth Nix's Abhorsen series (see more on that below). The duality of his nature is fascinating, with his demon side constantly battling with the side of him that would kill his beloved master in a heartbeat.

“First, I learned how to make tea," he said finally, speaking more to himself than to her. "When humans wish to help, they are forever offering each other tea.” 

Also, his animal form looks a bit like this, I imagine, so ALL THE STARS.


1) Too much borrowing

There's a reason I love Silas and the Great Libraries so much, aside from their inherent awesomeness: I've seen them before. Silas is pretty much Moggett from the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix: great powerful, evil being who can take a cat form (check), can be released, but it might end the world (check), sarcastic (check), great/evil power held in check by a family that it serves (check). The Great Libraries in Sorcery of Thorns are much like the library of the Clayr in Lirael, the second in the Abhorsen series. Lirael herself was raised an orphan in a library, just like Lirael, or even Lazlo from Strange the Dreamer. The biggest difference is that Nix did it slightly better, no offense to Rogerson. Rogerson freely cites Nix's books and the restricted section in the Hogwarts library as inspirations for Sorcery of Thorns, and she definitely expands on the ideas in a new and interesting way, but it was a little too much borrowing for my taste. I probably would have given the book five stars if I had not already read Nix's series.

2) Slightly predictable

There were definitely some twists and turns in there that I didn't anticipate, but I knew who the villain was immediately, and knew how the battle at the end would turn out.

3) Could use some Jenny Craig

Some slight trimming could have been done here - the book is over 450 pages, and there were some parts in the middle that were a little slow and didn't contribute much to the plot. However, I didn't get bored!

I think this will definitely be a favorite for this year, for me and many other readers. I highly recommend for anyone who loves libraries, snark, and demonology (jk on the last one... sorta).

4.5/5 biting books


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