Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson was an impulse read.
I was in the library (one of my favorite places), and picked it up. The premise sounded interesting, and I’m certainly a sucker for books about people who love books.
Elisabeth has always known that all sorcerers are evil as surely as she knows anything else. She was raised as a founding in one of the Great Libraries of Austermeer, and grew up with the tools of sorcery — magical grimoires that whisper on the shelves, rattling the chains they are confined under. If the grimoires are provoked, they turn into grotesque and dangerous monsters made of ink and leather. Elisabeth aspires to be a warden, one who protects the kingdom from their power.
One night, an act of sabotage sets the library’s most dangerous grimoire loose. Elisabeth tries her best to avert a crisis, but her actions make it look as though she was involved. She is taken from the library and brought to the capital to face justice. She has no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his demonic servant, as she finds herself wrapped in a conspiracy dating back several centuries that threatens not just the Great Libraries, but the whole world.
As Elisabeth is forced to trust Nathaniel, she starts to question everything she’s learned and believed about sorcerers, about the libraries, and even about herself. Elisabeth has a power she never realized, and a future she never even dreamed of.
Sorcerers commonly appear in fantasy novels, but this book also makes use of libraries and the wardens within them who guard the grimoires as a counterbalance. The way the author depicts the grimoires themselves made me long to visit these libraries!
“‘But this is a library,’ she replied in surprise. ‘What do they expect — that the books won’t try to bite off their fingers?”
The grimoires each have their own personalities, ranging from mildly sassy to downright evil, and those in the library treat them respectfully because of a love of books, as well as out of necessity.
“It was always wise to be polite to books, whether or not they could hear you.”
Grimoires that have been freed or damaged become maleficts, transforming into malevolent creatures hell-bent on causing harm to the people around them. The grimoires are sorted by a classification system as well, based on the information within them and the potential to do harm, and I loved the idea that they could whisper, ruffle pages, or even get into people’s heads. The magic system was clear, logical, and easy to follow. This all takes place in a world that is strongly reminiscent of Victorian-era Britain.
Elisabeth is a strong, intelligent, and stubborn young woman, making her the kind of heroine I like to see best in a book. Women in her time have strict standards of behavior, and she most certainly does NOT fit into the box of proper ladylike behavior. She’s a total badass, and there are people who don’t appreciate that as much as they should.
“Surely it was better to face evil than cower from its presence, learning nothing.”
Nathaniel is witty, sarcastic, and capable of possessing and controlling immense magic. It doesn’t hurt that he’s handsome and charming too. He has his own issues (of course, because who DOESN’T love a tortured hero?), and he’s willing to accept behavior that many deem inappropriate for a young lady. At least, to some degree. He’s not exactly warm and fuzzy, but he’s got reasons.
This book was endearing and fast-paced. I was hooked from the first sentence:
“Night fell as death rode into the Great Library of Summershall.”
My attention held as the story intensified. I had a lot of emotional attachment to the main characters, and it only grew as I got deeper into the story. The book was full of action and included plenty of beautiful descriptions, while the plot was evenly paced. I didn’t feel bored at any point, and couldn’t read fast enough to satisfy my curiosity. I’m amazed at how creative and unique this story is. There were a few questions I had while reading, but they were all answered in the course of reading, and the only thing I didn’t like was that this was a stand alone book. I would have loved to see where these characters go after this book!
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 16
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars