‘Sorcery of Thorns’ by Margaret Rogerson is a YA fantasy, and focuses on Elisabeth, who has grown up in libraries hearing about wicked tales of sorcery, as she tries to saves the libraries she desperately loves with a sorcerer, Nathaniel, by her side. I believe this is Rogerson’s second novel and currently has an average rating of 4.15 on Goodreads.
“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”
This is perhaps one of the best YA fantasy standalones I’ve read in a very long time. The story is interesting as is the world Rogerson has created, and all our main characters are easy to love. It’s highly entertaining without dramatising too much just for the sake of entertainment. Whilst I think Rogerson could write a sequel for this story and it could be good, I don’t think it necessarily needs which is really nice feeling.
Elisabeth, our main character, at the start can be a little annoying. She’s very ignorant, but she does grow and learn from what’s going on around her – something I can’t say about all YA characters. She’s quite a courgeous character and clearly smart, and there is a brilliant mix of vulnerability but also strength to her character that makes her feel very real. By constantly challenging Elisabeth, Rogerson draws a detailed picture of our protagonist and you leave the book feeling as if you really know Elisabeth – a feat not all authors achieve.
Nathaniel is a fun character, he is a cliche YA male character who is a little bit grumpy but also comical and likes to flirt. I appreciated however how Rogerson didn’t shy away from the obvious post traumatic stress he suffers from, but faces it head on and reveals how it impacts his behaviours and beliefs, his fears and hopes. It was nice to read about a male YA character whose mental illness was explored within the novel, rather than brushed under the rug.
The real gem in this novel however is Silas, Nathaniel’s demon. Silas is another cliche, he is your ‘sassy’ (I hate that word) side character, but Rogerson wrote him really well – and I don’t mind a YA trope like that if it’s done well. Silas is the much needed comic relief at times and is fun to read, but don’t be fooled – he’s still a complex character. I wish we had explored more about Silas and his character, I feel like there was more to see there; especially as to why he cared for Nathaniel the way he did, despite him being a demon that was only meant to serve him in exchange for part of his life.
The romance in this was sweet and it was a good enemies to lovers, that didn’t cross the lines into abusive assholes to abusive lovers that we sometimes see with the enemies to lovers trope. The romantic side-plot isn’t a main feature in the novel, so if you’re looking for a gooey romance to love, this isn’t the fantasy novel for you. However, I quite liked the romance and how it wasn’t the feature point of the novel, it really showed that to Elisabeth, she didn’t see a potential romance as the biggest problem in her life (which it very much wasn’t).
I enjoyed the villain in this, I thought he was a great evil character and a smart one too and I wasn’t able to immediately guess what he was doing or where the plot was going. He didn’t feel like an one dimensional villain either, and it was nice that neither Elisabeth and Nathaniel nor the villain felt like they could overpower the other easily.
However, the actual evil plot in this novel is based of a centuries old conspiracy theory, and whilst we did explore that I wish it has been explored more – I still have questions. Maybe this is a personal taste thing, as I like to know a lot about the world I’m reading about, and this isn’t a problem to anyone else; but I found the backstory of the evil plot so interesting and we didn’t see a lot of it and I wanted to see a lot of it.
The pacing in this was a bit odd, I found the first few chapters to be very fast and then for me it kind of dragged from there until the halfway mark where it suddenly picked up again. It didn’t ruin the book for me, but the pacing is also one of the things keeping this from being a five star read for me.
Overall, this was a pretty solid read and one I would recommend to YA fantasy readers. It’s engaging and the characters are fun, and whilst it had some quite stereotypical tropes – secretly soft character, snarky love interest, enemies to lover etc. they were all well-executed. There were times I wished we had gone into more detail about certain things, but I’m sure that’s down to personal tastes rather actual flaws in the book. I’m looking forward to reading more from Rogerson.
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