Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

Just finished reading Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman.  This is a book that I’ve been looking forward to reading and I really enjoyed it.  Newman has brought to us an original take on the fae concept which was intriguing to read about.

Basically we have different worlds, layered and lying within each other.  That’s probably not very well explained.  So, put basically we have three concepts.

Mundanus – is our world.  We go about our ordinary business unaware, usually, of the world living alongside us or the existence of magic.

The Nether – this is a strange place to pin down.  It’s like a reflection of our world.  The same place and houses but almost super imposed over the top  with a whole different set of people.  The inhabitants of Nether  are a society of upper class families each serving a fae lord or lady.  Their world is old fashioned and almost frozen in time – they don’t use computers or modern gadgets, they have servants, ride in coaches and speak and behave in a manner reminiscent of the regency period.  Their touch with magic gives them a long life and the ability to use charms and suchlike and they also have the ability to use portals to gain access to Mundanus.

Exilium – the world of the fae.  I’m not going to go too much into this for fear of spoiling the actual concept which I thought was quite unique.

On top of this we also have powerful sorcerers who use arbiters to police the areas for which they are responsible for and prevent misdemeanours being perpetrated on us innocents.

The story begins with Cathy.  Cathy is the daughter of one of the most powerful families within the Nether but tired of the constraints she has escaped the Nether to live in Mundanus, assisted by a powerful charm to keep her hidden.  That is until somebody finds her.  Somebody with plans in store.

Cathy is returned to the old fashioned world she managed to temporarily escape.  Her father has arranged for her to marry Will, the son of one of the other powerful families in the hope that this would cause a strong union between the two.  But Cathy doesn’t want to return, she likes Mundanus, she likes the freedom and the way of life without strict social rules.  She’s desperately trying to return but her every move is now watched.  However, Cathy is about to become very involved not only with her scary fae Lord, but also with the sorcerer responsible for acqu sulis (Bath) and his arbiter Max.  Something is going on in the world of Nether.  Strange politics are at play and a strange bid for power is taking place involving one of the families from Londonis (London).

I liked the characters.  Cathy is easy enough to like.  I mean she’s not all kick ass or anything but given the way she’s been brought up and the fear she lives under she manages pretty well.  You have to bear in mind that she’s been brought up in a world similar to that written about by the likes of Austen.  She’s a young lady and has to behave and whilst she broke the mould there for a bit by living in Mundanus she isn’t under any delusions about how much she can really achieve – although I think she probably surprises herself.  I thought Max and is gargoyle were great.  I really liked their part in the story.  Sam is also a likeable mundane character who through a simple happen chance has got sucked into this strange world.  Now, Will, who is Cathy’s intended, I had mixed feelings about.  I partly liked the way that even though he’s been bargained away into a marriage that he doesn’t particularly desire, he does try to offer the olive branch of friendship.  But, he is a bit, okay quite a bit, of an annoying sexist so and so.  He makes a very obvious play for an attractive young lady in the Nether – even though he’s now betrothed and quite openly thinks about her being is mistress!  I suppose I can chuck him a bone in that he was quite understanding with Cathy – which when you consider he’s part of this very constricted world also I suppose he’s also going to be a bit of a product of his own upbringing.  I can see some potential for him but I don’t like him at the moment and I think it will take quite a big leap to turn that round.

The Fae are much as you suspect they would be.  Tricksy.  Sinister.  Bored with their lot and looking for any opportunity to use humans for their amusement.  But quite suitably bad I thought although I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of an appearance.

I also liked the setting, predominantly based in Bath or the Nether version with links to London and Manchester – come on though, give me a break with the deepest darkest Manchester thing! !  I guess it was very easy for me to picture the world and I think there is a certain element that readers will step into the worlds fairly easily because there are no real descriptions offered and I thought they probably weren’t really necessary to be honest.

The ending, I can’t deny, is not totally complete!  A lot of loose ends were tied up but clearly we have more yet to come and I’m looking forward to reading the next instalment.

I didn’t really have any criticisms – I have one, which I feel is a major, question, but I can’t put it here because it will be a definite spoiler – and perhaps we’ll have an answer to that in No.2.  I mean, yes, I didn’t like quite a few of the characters in this – there was a lack of sympathetic characters in places where you would expect there to be and vice versa.  Obviously the arbiters are not supposed to be likeable, they’re supposed to be scary and emotionless, carrying out the will of the sorcerers and feared by both the fae and the inhabitants of Nether – but in spite of this I did like Max and in particular his gargoyle – special plea to author: ‘please don’t write the gargoyle out’!  Cathy’s family were awful – but they were supposed to be really – otherwise why would she have run away?  So, yeah, no major criticisms.  Basicially, you don’t like certain people – but that’s intentional.

Overall, I felt this was a very positive start.  Definite flavours of other fantasy which you can’t help drawing upon – Rowling and Gaiman spring to mind – but the story isn’t trying to mimic anything and I think it can stand on it’s own two feet very well and I’m looking forward to No.2

I received this from Net Galley in return for a honest review.  The above is a reflection of my own thoughts and has not been influenced in any way.

6 Responses to “Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman”

  1. mmn37

    Didn’t read the whole review, so as not to learn too much, too soon. 🙂

    But I do want to read this book.

    Thank you!

    • lynnsbooks

      I hope you enjoy it. I think it was a great debut and a good start to the series.
      Lynn 😀

  2. TBM

    Rowling and Gaiman–that’s interesting. I think for fantasy writers it’s hard not to be compared to or thought of borrowing concepts. Sounds like this one isn’t a case of that. Some are more blatant about it.

    • lynnsbooks

      I think it’s probably very difficult to come up with a totally unique concept these days, everything seems a little bit borrowed from elsewhere – that’s probably one of the things about reading so much. If I read less that wouldn’t happen!!
      Lynn 😀

  3. May: My month in review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman […]

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