“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”
Books are always dangerous things, but especially so in Austermeer’s Great Libraries where magical grimoires whisper beneath iron chains that prevent them from ensorcelling any who stray too near. Releasing a grimoire could lead to disaster if it has time to run unchecked and transform into a monstrous creature of ink and leather.
Elisabeth grew up among these creatures and more as a foundling in one of the Great Libraries. Her dreams of remaining there and earning her status as a librarian are dashed when a grimoire is unleashed and she is blamed.
Desperate to clear her name and discover the true culprit, Elisabeth forms a risky alliance with the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Together they uncover a far-reaching conspiracy to destroy the Great Libraries and possibly the rest of the world.
Elisabeth has always known that sorcerers are evil. Who else would be able to use magical grimoires to summon demons and perform magic? But as Elisabeth realizes Nathaniel might be the only person she can trust, she will have to question everything she thought she knew about sorcerers, demons, and herself if she hopes to save all that she holds dear in Sorcery of Thorns (2019) by Margaret Rogerson.
Rogerson’s sophomore novel is a delightful standalone fantasy filled with all of my favorite things. While the story is often plot driven as Eilsabeth tries to discover the culprit behind attacks on the Great Libraries and clear her name, this story really shines when focusing on the characters.
Elisabeth’s world is very small at the start of this novel. The Great Library is all she has ever known and, for the most part, all she thinks she needs. It is only as she begins to work with Nathaniel that she realizes some of her deepest held beliefs might be fundamentally flawed. This kind of character development could feel heavy-handed or leave readers with a small-minded protagonist in the hands of a lesser author but Rogerson pulls it off expertly.
Nathaniel is the sarcastic, brooding, bisexual male lead of your dreams complete with his undying loyalty to servant Silas who is one of the best friends found in fantasy literature (and also canonically asexual).
Throughout the course of the novel, all three main characters struggle to transcend what is expected of them and their chosen identities to become something better and, in doing so, try to save each other and their world. Sorcery of Thorns is a charming adventure with a carefully managed plot filled with twists and turns as well as thoroughly enjoyable world building and powerful friendships. Highly recommended.
Possible Pairings: Flowerheart by Catherine Bakewell, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, Gallant by V. E. Schwab, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White