Sorcery of Thorns Book Review
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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Rating: 5/5 Stars
Pairing: Herbal tea + tea biscuits
“It was always wise to be polite to books, whether or not they could hear you.”
Sorcery of Thorns follows Elisabeth Scrivener, an apprentice at a magical library full of sentient grimoires that need to be cared for—by diligent people who don’t mind having their fingers potentially nipped off or honoring the books’ odd quirks (like the one that needs to be complimented every day lest he get fussy).
Elisabeth’s dream is to become a Warden of the Summershall Library, where she will be in charge of the apprentices, the care and management of the library, and the more dangerous grimoires—some among them ranking Class Ten, the deadliest of all.
Unfortunately, an attack on the library leaves the current Warden dead, a Class Ten loose, and the entire library asleep except for Elisabeth. She bravely fights and destroys the rogue Class Ten, now transformed into a Malefict (a horrifying, demonic creature), but the very resistance that allows Elisabeth to overcome the sleeping spell is precisely what makes her suspect number one.
The only thing to do is send the young apprentice to be judged before a council of sorcerers, the most powerful members of society who derive their powers from pacts with demons and are the only ones who can create grimoires.
She’s to make the journey with Nathaniel Thorn, a sorcerer she made an impression on when she accidentally knocked a bookcase on him while sneaking around.
The back-and-forth between the two is one of the best reasons to read the book.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You used a demonic incantation to pack my stockings!”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re right, that doesn’t sound like something a proper evil sorcerer would do. Next time, I won’t fold them.”
Elisabeth’s big heart and innate sense of justice make her stand out as a true hero figure, which I greatly admire. She’s quick-thinking, not afraid to fight and give her life to save innocents, and she doesn’t let societal rules or snarky sorcerers get in the way of that.
But I’m glad she has Nathaniel to bring out the lighter side of her, and she to bring out the heroic side in him. The two make such a great pair, which isn’t always the case in YA. I’m used to seeing forced relationships between an unremarkable female protagonist and a larger-than-life dark anti-hero, leaving me shrugging my shoulders at exactly what sets them apart.
I also love that this book’s relationship isn't instantaneous. There’s no initial infatuation—just respect and hilarious banter.
“Scrivener,” he sighed. “I should have known it was you the moment I heard my great-grandmother’s priceless antique vase hit the floor.” He turned his assessing gaze to the Malefict. “And who’s this? A friend of yours?”
That doesn’t mean Nathaniel doesn’t have a touch of darkness in him, though. After all, he gave up twenty years of his life to make a pact with his demon Silas and inherit the necromancy his predecessors have so abused. He’s also an orphan like Elisabeth, except he got to be around for the death of his entire family.
Despite all this and Nathaniel’s insistence that he’s not “good,” Elisabeth refuses to believe there’s anything but a kind heart underneath all the snark.
“Perhaps I haven’t seen what you can do,” she said. “But I’ve seen what you choose to do.” She looked up. “Isn’t that more important?”
Nathaniel’s demon Silas is no exception in Elisabeth’s eyes. By nature, demons are not supposed to have human emotion or feel love, but Elisabeth sees how Silas is with Nathaniel—how he goes above and beyond the call of his pact for his young master, whom he practically raised.
“I will see Master Thorn settled.” Silas paused to sniff the air beside Elisabeth. “Then, Miss Scrivener, I shall draw you a bath. I believe supper is also in order. And—has no one lit the lamps?” He looked aggrieved. “I have hardly been absent for twenty-four hours, and already the world has descended into ruin.”
Besides the main characters that leap off the page, there’s also the fantastical scenery to look forward to. Fans of Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts, The Chronicles of Narnia, and pretty much any escapist fantasy you hold nostalgically in your heart will adore the concept and aesthetic. From a secret break-in to forbidden archives—surrounded by rustling pages, mist, and phantasmal voices and shadows—to grand manors in all their opulence and hidden darkness, this novel nails all the bookish appeal.
On top of it all, it’s a fast read with a tight plot. I could spend forever mired in the scenery and characters alone, but the plot keeps things moving along with well-placed clues, plenty of action, and a villain that is, okay, a little cheesy and two-dimensional, but entertaining nonetheless. Given this book is a standalone fantasy adventure, I’d say it meets its marks exceptionally well. If the villain wasn’t meant to be one-and-done, I’d have more complaints. But, hey, he has way more personality than Dark Lord Sauron who lasted three books, and he reminds me of several one-off villains in the Harry Potter series, so.
THE VERDICT: If you’re looking for a lighthearted, hero-bright fantasy with action, humor, and a touch of mystery and romance, this is perfect for your next cozy-in-bed afternoon.
“But you stayed with me. And selfishly, I was glad—I had never wanted anything more in my life. Damn you,” he said. “You unmanageable, contrary creature. You have made me believe in something at last. I feel as wretched as I imagined.”
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