The Path of Thorns by AG Slatter

My Five Word TL:DR Review : I couldn’t love it more

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Wow, this book.  I just loved it.  I really enjoyed All The Murmuring Bones by this author and was super excited for The Path of Thorns which is set in the same universe.  This is the gothic, dark, fairytale that I’ve been waiting for and I loved it without a single reservation.  Think Jane Eyre but with less a focus on the two central characters and the love they develop and more a tale of revenge, difficult promises to keep, witchcraft and much more.  Here are dark woods where creatures stalk at night, dark attics where all sorts of wrongs are committed and even a disused surgery just waiting to be revived.

As the story starts we meet Asher Todd as she arrives at the Morwood Family Estate to take up the position of governess.  Asher is a strong and capable character, determined not to be afraid of whatever seems to be stalking her through the woods upon her arrival.  She carries a carpetbag, many secrets, a few essential bits and bobs and more than one task to be completed.

I’m not going to delve into the plot here as the author plays her cards quite close to her chest and I will do likewise with this review.

The writing is excellent.  Slatter manages to create a wonderfully foreboding atmosphere packed with tension and suspense.  She keeps the twists coming as Asher slowly inveigles herself into the family life and becomes indispensable not only to the family matriarch but also as a protector of the children and their mother.

On top of all the deliciously dark secrets held within the walls of the house Slatter continues to create a fairy tale world where werewolves roam, ghosts rage and witches keep tight lipped about their abilities and she weaves into the tale themes of domestic abuse and sexual inequality.  In fact it’s amazing how much Asher is able to get away with simply because people often underestimate her.

So, I don’t have any criticisms for this story but I would mention that it is dark, and I don’t say that lightly.  There may be a strong fairytale vibe but don’t let that lull you into thinking this is akin to a Disney retelling because nothing could be further from the truth so be warned.  Dark content.

All that being said I couldn’t have loved this book more.  It’s absolutely my catnip.  I loved the strong gothic feel, the setting was perfection, the story compelling and to be blunt, I cannot wait to see what this author does next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Path of Thorns by AG Slatter

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“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: The Path of Thorns by AG Slatter (because I loved All The Murmuring Bones and so was super excited to see this):

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Alone in the world, Asher Todd travels to the remote estate of Morwood Grange to become governess to three small children. Her sole possessions comprise a sea chest and a large carpet bag she hangs onto for dear life. She finds a fine old home, its inhabitants proud of their lineage and impeccable reputation, and a small village nearby. It seems an untroubled existence, yet there are portraits missing from the walls, locked rooms, and names excised from the family tree inscribed in the bible. In short order, the children adore her, she becomes indispensible to their father Luther in his laboratory, and her potions are able to restore the sight of granddame Leonora. Soon Asher fits in as if she’s always been there, but there are creatures that stalk the woods at night, spectres haunt the halls, and Asher is not as much a stranger to the Morwoods as it might at first appear.

Expected publication : June 2022

All The Murmuring Bones by AG Slatter

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A dark fairytale, beautifully written

AlltheMurmuringBefore I really get into this review I would say this one thing : keep your expectations in control before you pick this one up. As mentioned above, this is a dark fairytale, a world where creatures exist and bargains can be struck.  It’s beautifully written and maybe even a little purple in places which I realise won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  As it happens, I enjoyed the writing very much, I loved the fairytale elements and I was interested in the O’Malleys and their dire family history.  However, fast paced this isn’t, It can be a little predictable in places although then by way of contrast can be equally surprising in others, and if you’re expecting a story that takes you into the realm of the merfolk then you might want to adjust your expectations. Merfolk exist here, and we catch glimpses of them, particularly as they have a keen interest in the main character, but they’re more an aside or driver of plot than a central focus.

I won’t overly dwell on the plot.  The story revolves around Miren and her struggles to break free of others expectations.  The O’Malley’s have long held wealth and power, it is believed that long ago they struck a deal which helped them to succeed where others could not.  Their seafaring exploits remained untouched by stormy waters and their coffers overflowed.  The family prospered.  But, all was not as blissful as it seemed on the surface as these concessions must ultimately be paid for.  Eventually, one of the O’Malley’s was going to rebel at the price to be paid and slowly but surely their success would gradually drain away.

Miren is the last in line of the ‘O’Malleys and her grandmother has big plans for her to restore their fortunes.  Whether or not these plans are agreeable to Miren is of no consequence whatsoever – except of course, Miren doesn’t like the plans and doesn’t intend to be the sacrificial lamb.

What I really enjoyed here.  The darkness.  This is not a Disney fairytale by any stroke of the imagination.  The O’Malley’s are a cruel family mostly.  The deal they struck has definitely not brought out the best in them. Arrogant, selfish, cold and calculating this is a family where ‘every man and woman for themselves’ could conceivably be their motto.  Miren herself can come across as single minded and quite ruthless when the need arises and I admit that it can take a little while to warm to her and yet I did get on board with her plan to escape.

I think the author has written a story that is incredibly evocative.  This is a world of vivid storms and unexplained things, kelpies, merfolk and witchcraft to name but a few.  There are ghosts and poppets, wise women and intent and, in the way of all fairytales an eventual resolution of sorts.

We find ourselves with not one, but two gothic style mansions.  One on the edge of the sea with secret caves, forgotten gardens and a crumbling interior.  The other secreted behind a thick hedge that hides a sleepy little village within its borders and a dark secret in it’s cellar.  I enjoyed both settings although I was a little thrown at first when we seemed to go from the frying pan into the fire. But I won’t say more about that at this point.

In terms of characters. Miren is really the main focus.  Obviously there are peripheral characters but Miren really does take centre stage.  Is this a character that you will love?  She is undoubtedly painted in various shades of grey and she takes some surprising action on occasion.  Be warned, if you’re expecting a tale of women helping each other out you won’t necessarily find it here.  Miren has to fend for herself, although she does make a few friendships here and there, and a good portion of the other characters are very much self serving individuals – and that includes both male and female.

In terms of criticisms.  I felt that this got off to a really good start and I was immediately intrigued by the O’Malleys and their history.  The house is a place of secrets and lies and murmuring skeletons in closets.  At this point the tale does move very quickly.  I would say that the pace slows a little in the middle whilst Miren seems to enjoy a brief respite from family pressure and then the pace picks up again towards the end.  I would also reinforce that a lot of the characters here are not pleasant but for me, this reinforces the fairytale feel of it all.

Overall I enjoyed this.  I loved the inclusion of all the short stories that helped to reinforce the sense of ‘fairytale’, the writing was lovely and it was wonderfully dark.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars