Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman is a combination of Regency-period romanticism (with lots of lords and ladies, and minuets and arranged marriages) with modern day action, with a little steampunk chucked in for good measure.
In essence: Between Two Thorns
Follow the trail of Cathy, a fae-touched member of one of the Great Families of the Nether, as she tries really hard to run away from her ‘responsibilities of birth’ by entering and living in the world of men, known as Mundanus … and more commonly known as Manchester, in her case. Well, Manchester, London, and Bath. But Cathy’s story is only incidental to the main tale, which is one of kidnap, murder, magick and mayhem, as an influential family try to infiltrate the Nether version of Bath: Aquae Sulis, for their own nefarious power purposes.
This is a tale that includes an animated gargoyle, dislocated souls, and a sorcerer who gives off the air of a mad scientist-cum-surgeon. There are visits to the deeper world of the Fae: Exilium, with all the trickery you might expect from the Lords of the Fae, and even the magick and tricks of the classic three wishes.
What’s special about it?
What isn’t special? This writer has managed to split her worlds beautifully, giving us fancy Regency-style conversations alongside frank, unmistakably Northern utterances, bringing the characters and their realities to animated, glorious life. There’s no one alive that could misunderstand Cathy’s desire to escape the bonds of ‘do the right thing for the sake of appearances’, and the reader can live vicariously through Cathy’s frustration, and feel happy that we don’t have to go through that kind of thing any more (mainly).
In fact, it is the way in which the worlds are merged that makes this book so special. It isn’t just a case of getting on a magickal train and going to a ‘special’ school to learn how to live magickally … it’s about freedom and enslavement, magick and mundaneity, and overall about living your own life the way you want to live it, no matter what the outside influences are that prevent you from doing so. There are oodles of bravery, dashing bravery, and a depth in some of the characters that you wouldn’t have suspected when you first met them.
Will you like it?
If you like it weird, you got it. If you like steampunk, fantasy, and sci-fi … you got it. It ain’t hardcore. If you like hardcore sci-fi or indeed, any of the above-mentioned genres, you won’t find it here. Instead, you’re delivered likeable, understandable characters, in an unusual and yet recogniseable world. Or worlds. Three worlds, to be precise.
And if you like long books, this one is satisfactorially long and winding. I remember being surprised at 23% that I’d only read that much. At 61% I felt happy that this book was not going to be over soon … then suddenly, I had reached 91% without any realisation of where the time and pages had gone. This book flows. It has shape, format, and interest. It’s funny, clever, and full of detail, and as we all should know, the Devil’s in the detail.
Oh yes, and guess what? Between Two Thorns is the first in a trilogy! Hooray!
Enjoy, DRM-free, thanks to Angry Robot Books.