Genre: YA-fantasy Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books, June 2019
My rating: 5/5 stars
“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”
Whether we like it or not, it’s hard to argue that YA Fantasy has become one of the most oversaturated genres currently on the market. As such, it’s becoming increasingly harder for a new release to stand out among the sea of strong-female heroines, battling injustice in a magical world. Yet every once in a while, one of them manages to do so, making its way to what I call my “YA-surprises of the year” (a.k.a. The ones that remind me why I still read this genre after 20).
Margaret Rogersons sophomore novel Sorcery of Thorns is one of those books for me.
In a world where books hold magic even greater than in our own, Elisabeth is raised a child of the library, growing up amongst the singsong voices of novels, and the howling roars of beasts grimoires (powerful monsters of leather and ink). When an attack on the library takes place and Elisabeths act of self-defense implicates her in the crime, her whole world is changed. Forced to team up with a sorcerer and his demonic servant, Elisabeth must fight a conspiracy that proves to go deeper than anything she knew from her books before.
The plot as a whole was as entertaining as it sounds, well-paced and well thought out. There was a moment around 350 pages where I felt for a moment like we had landed at the end, and I was worried about how Rogerson would fill the remaining 150 pages. She did so perfectly, by resolving some secondary plotlines and circling back to the main one, creating an ending that was even more satisfying than I could have hoped for. There are no loose ends in this novel, and almost everything that is mentioned has a baring on the story at a later time. I don’t know how Rogerson outlined this novel, but she did an outstanding job at it.
It’s safe to say that this world was clearly created by a booklover, with booklovers in mind. The great libraries and their sentient books (monstrous or not) are part of a world that felt completely different, yet very welcoming to me as a booklover. The worldbuilding was one of the books greatest strengths to me: its strikes the perfect balance between foreign, yet easy enough to get into without needing endless pages of exposition about the intricacies of it. Margaret Rogerson clearly knows what she’s doing here; you can tell that she knows every detail about this world in her mind, yet choses wisely what parts of it to explain, and what parts to leave up to the reader to figure out for themselves.
Our main cast consists of three major players, the villain, and a few side characters. To avoid any spoilers I will only talk about the three main characters in more depth.
To start off: let’s talk about Elisabeth. She’s in many ways your typical YA heroine: headstrong and independent, intelligent, but also a badass swordswoman when the situation calls for it. Unlike many of her fellow-heroines, she has her priorities straight and makes decisions with her head instead of her gut. To me, that made her relatable, in and an easy protagonist to get on board with for the ride.
She sustains this “headstrong-and-priorities-straight-mentality” throughout the story, even as she meets the male lead. I won’t lie: when he was introduced first, he set off my “broody-mysterious-YA-a~hole-meter” bigtime, and when their banter started I was preparing myself for a cringe fest. Rogerson subverted that expectation however by writing actual entertaining dialogue, while never letting the romance get in the way of the plot. If you are looking for a YA fantasy novel that’s a little lighter on the romance: this might be it for you.
A short word on Nathaniels demonic servant: he actually stole my heart somewhat! I can’t say too much about it without spoiling key-plot points, but I will say that I really enjoyed the dynamic between demon and master, with all the sorcerers.
Why you should read it: Margaret Rogerson has proven herself to be a YA author I should watch in the future. Although I haven’t read her debut (and have no interest to, because it’s so heavily romance-focused), from what I understand from other reviewers, she shows incredible growth as a writer since that. I can’t wait to see what she does next. Sorcery of Thorns was a surprising YA-fantasy that reminded me why I still read and enjoy the genre. If I had to recommend a single YA title released so far in 2019, it would probably be this one!
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