Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Between Two Thorns

Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds Book 1) by Emma Newman

This is a book that contains MANY THINGS. This can be tricky sometimes, because while covering all of the things, you can lose connection to characters or slow the momentum of the story. Luckily, that does not happen here. Newman managed to corral the different worlds, characters and machinations to deliver an engaging read that left me wanting more.

And you will want more. This is closer to a part 1 than book 1. However, we don't have to wait years to find out how it all comes together. Book 2 is out in late May/early June, and book 3 in September.

This is a split world story with Fae, Fae-touched humans, mundanes, sorcerers, and Arbiters (a kind of police force). There are also kidnappings, murders, corruptions, threats and betrayals.

Cathy has been living in the mundane world (world #1). She escaped from her Fae-touched family and has even fallen in love with a mundane human. Unfortunately, she is found and must return to her family's home in Aquae Sulis (Bath) in the Nether (world #2), where the social restrictions of the Victorian-era still reign. She also learns that she is betrothed to William Iris. She hasn't given up on her dreams of freedom, though, and she searches for a way out, even as she tries to withstand the unwanted attention of Lord Poppy of the Fae, who resides in the beautiful prison of Exilium (world #3).

William is just back from his last great adventure in the mundane world before settling down and accepting his duty to his family. He is chagrined that this means he must marry the social disaster that is Cathy, but he is determined to try to make the best of it. As he tries to get to know his surly fiancee, he is also drawn into the conspiracy threatening Aquae Sulis.

Max is an Arbiter on an off the books assignment in London. He quickly learns of internal corruption and the abduction of mundanes just before some one tries to kill him. He survives, in a way, has the addition of a gargoyle harboring his soul, and learns he is the last Arbiter left alive in the Bath chapter. This news must be shared with the Sorcerer responsible for Bath/Aquae Sulis. However, the sorcerer has another job for Max, to find the missing Master of Ceremonies of Aquae Sulis.

Sam is an ordinary mundane from Bath in a troubled marriage, in a job he dislikes, and has just gotten royally drunk. He also happens upon a couple of strange creatures removing what looks like a body from the local museum, and they caught him looking.

I liked that although the narrative is split between these characters, the story kept progressing and I felt that I got a good connection to almost all of them. We spend some time with Sam, but it didn't seem like I got as good a feel for him as I did to the others. However, that could just be because I was so interested in the uniqueness of the other characters.

Of course I bonded with Cathy. I really like her spirit, although I hope that her backbone gets a lot stronger. She has her moments, but when put up in front of her parents (I wanted to punch them) she wilts. Understandable, of course. I just hope that she is able to start fighting for the life she wants. She is resourceful.

I was most surprised by William. He is fully on board with how things are in the Nether society. This of course sets him at odds with his future bride (and this reader too). However, he is also a decent person who is not like Cathy's father. You can see him making decisions that show him to be more moderate and very compassionate. Whether he will be able to bend even more is left to be seen.

The gargoyle was fun. Actually, I liked the whole idea of the Arbiters - a police force without the emotional burdens of souls. I'm looking forward to more with Max.

Some parts of the mystery are solved, and the stage is set for the next book. The story moved and kept my attention to the end, when I might have uttered a few choice phrases that I have to wait to see what comes next. It's a bit of a cliffhanger, but like I said, we don't have a long time to wait.

[received review copy]

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