Book Club

Review: Margaret Rogerson’s Sorcery of Thorns

Plot

Foundling raised in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, she grew up amidst the tools of witchcraft: magical grimoires that whisper and rattle chains. If provoked, they transform into creepy monsters of leather and ink. What Elisabeth aspires to is to become a guardian, charged with protecting the kingdom from the threats of magic.
Her desperate attempt to prevent the act of sabotage that frees the library’s most dangerous grimoire ends up turning against her: believed to be involved in the crime, she is taken to the capital, awaiting interrogation. The only person she can rely on is her long-time enemy, Magister Nathaniel Thorn, with her mysterious servant; but everything seems to trap it in a centuries-old conspiracy, which could raze not only the Great Libraries, but also the whole world.
As her alliance with Nathaniel strengthens, Elisabeth begins to question everything they’ve taught her about wizards, about the libraries she loves so much, and most of all about herself. Because she Elisabeth has a power that she would never have suspected, and a fate that she could never have imagined.

My opinion

The first thing that struck me about Sorcery of Thorns was the magnificent cover, this volume certainly looks great and catches the eye. The plot of this young adult fantasy then convinced me to read it, because I can hardly resist stories with magic and romance.
In the world created by Rogerson we find fantastic creatures such as Magisters (wizards), demons, and grimoires of more or less dangerous spells kept by the guardians in the Great Libraries.
The books of this story are real creatures, in fact they have their own soul and personality, an aspect that I found quite interesting.
The female protagonist, Elisabeth, was abandoned as a child outside one of these Great Libraries and lived her whole young life surrounded by books, dreaming of one day becoming a guardian.
Elisabeth is a nice girl and troublemaker who made an immediate impression on me despite her naivety of her. In fact, she has never seen the world and grew up considering wizards to be evil and corrupt by nature. Only after a tragedy will she be able to leave the place where she grew up and question everything they have always led her to believe. She sure she is a character who grows long before the finale.
The male protagonist, who has intrigued me since the first appearance, is the magister Nathaniel Thorn, a young magician, the last of her lineage, who crosses the path of Elisabeth opening her eyes to many things. Nathaniel is sarcastic and gifted with humor, but deeply lonely and with several hidden skeletons. A character to be discovered as the plot evolves.
And then we want to talk about Silas, the demon servant to whom Nathaniel is related? To say that I loved it is an understatement! I was delighted every time he entered the scene, in any of its forms! Silas makes no secret of his real nature (a demon is always a demon), but you love him all the same.
In the plot there is also room for a bit of romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel, once the initial distrust of her who has always believed that magicians are her enemies has been overcome. Obviously do not expect passionate scenes, always young adult it is! But the feelings are, those are there in abundance. The ending is also very exciting.
I found Margaret Rogerson’s narrative smooth and intriguing, the descriptions are present without exaggeration and her characters are all well characterized.
If you like fantasy young adult Sorcery of Thorns is a read that I recommend, especially since there are very few single volumes! I hope to read more of the author in the future!

The protagonist

The initial part set in the Great Summershall Library is the most boring one. Elisabeth, the protagonist, is a girl who grew up in the library and has never seen the world.

Life in the library is the only one she knows and her beliefs are based only on what they taught her there: that’s why she wants to become a guardian (she has never considered any other future) and she firmly believes that all wizards are evil beings; after all, they created grimoires by making human sacrifices. Elisabeth is at first naive and clumsy like most of the young adult protagonists and the first time she meets a magician she will be deeply fascinated, despite her cruel gaze. The protagonist, however, she will grow up a lot, especially when she leaves the library and finally opens her eyes to the world. Although she didn’t particularly impress me at first, I liked her more and more going on in the narrative: she gradually gains self-awareness and demonstrates courage and determination.

The grimoires

In the initial part the worldbuilding is tackled and the classification of the grimoires is described which are divided, according to the level of risk, into ten classes. Those that contain the most dangerous spells – fourth grade and up – are isolated from others and locked up in special areas of the library, not only to prevent them from being read by the wrong people, but also to prevent them from harming anyone.

The grimoires are not in fact simple books of parchment and ink: in order to contain such powerful spells, they were also created using parts of human beings (for example, one of the first grimoires we encounter has on the cover of human eyes). The grimoires are therefore not objects, but magical creatures in this story: they are alive and the more powerful they are the more they have extraordinary abilities. Many can speak, some even know how to perform magic. Everyone experiences feelings and emotions like any living being. Some are friendly, others bite off their fingers.

Nathaniel and Silas

The setting could have been the strong point of this book, there were all the elements for it to be phenomenal, but, unfortunately, being self-contained, the author chose to focus the story above all on the characters. I really liked Nathaniel, a young wizard with a difficult past that follows him like a shadow. Orphaned from an early age, he was raised by Silas. He is terrified of being alone and at the same time he is terrified of becoming attached to others. He comes from a very powerful family that has done questionable actions in the past and is therefore afraid of what he is capable of doing and of his inheritance from him.

However, he is not a sad and gloomy character. There are moving scenes, but most of them are funny: Nathaniel tends to mask his weaknesses with arrogance and irony. The moments where both Nathaniel and Elisabeth are present are my favorites.

A secondary character that I loved very much is Silas, a demon obsessed with order and cleanliness, with a passion for fashion, who has raised Nathaniel since he was a child. The relationship between the two is very particular, always ambiguous. In fact, on the one hand, he seems to feel sincere affection for him, but on the other, he is a demon in all respects.

The antagonist, on the other hand, did not drive me crazy: we immediately know who she is (only the protagonist takes a few pages too long to find out) and all of Elisabeth’s plans are aimed at countering her evil plan. In order to know the reasons for her actions, an explanation is necessary: in my opinion this aspect could have been managed better.

Highly recommended if you love adult fantasy youg

“Sorcery of throns” is aimed at a young audience. In this novel you will find many of the typical clichés of the young adult, from the inseparable friend of the female protagonist to the handsome and mysterious male protagonist, but in my opinion they were all well managed. The setting could have been more in-depth, but I really liked the way the grimoires are represented. I also loved Silas and the two protagonists and the way relationships develop between them.

“Sorcery of Thorns” isn’t one of the most original novels I’ve read, but the plot is well constructed and, with the exception of the first few chapters, it was a very engaging read. It is one of those books that I devoured in a very short time and that I am sure I want in my library to reread it again in the future. I was a little sorry for the hasty ending (I’m referring to chapter 36 which was a bit of a disappointment, for the rest I was really enjoying it). The epilogue leaves a glimmer open despite being self-contained. I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel.

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