Sorcery of Thorns Book Review (Part 2)
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Sorcery of Thorns was my first read of 2022, and I’m left wondering how on earth to top it. This is the first of Rogerson’s work that I’ve read, and I fell in love with her gorgeous prose. She had me completely immersed, not wanting to come back into my own world.
If you’re in the market for a cozy, magical standalone, then allow me to enlighten you on all the reasons you should pick this one.
(Note: you can also read Jordan's review here.)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 5/5 Stars
Plot: 5/5 stars
Characters: 5/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
A true child of the library. Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were part of her, and she a part of them.
Elisabeth Scirvener is an apprentice at the Great Library of Summershall, one of several libraries that house grimoires—sentient books of magic made by sorcerers. She awakens one night to a feeling of dread that drags her from her dorm room. She finds everyone in a magical slumber; her mentor, the Library Director, slain; and a dangerous grimoire-turned-monster making its way into town. Without hesitating, Elisabeth takes up the Director’s sword and charges after the Malefict. Though she manages to defeat it and save countless lives, Elisabeth is branded a traitor and accused of killing the Director and setting the Malefict loose.
She was to be a warden, keeper of books and words. She was their friend. Their steward. Their jailer. And if need be, their destroyer.
Nathaniel Thorn is a sorcerer charged with bringing Elisabeth to the Magisterium—the council of sorcerers––for interrogation, along with his eerie, magically-inclined butler. Her multiple attempts at escape seem to confirm her guilt; yet when they’re attacked and Elisabeth endangers herself to save innocents, it becomes evident that while Elisabeth is more than she seems, she is no murderer.
Soon enough, another Great Library is targeted. Elisabeth is determined to find the culprit and bring them to justice, while Nathaniel is determined to make sure she doesn’t get herself killed.
"Of course I would be happy to join you in life-endangering acts of heroism, Scrivener. You must only say the word."
Elisabeth is a bit innocent at the start; she’s grown up in the Great Library and seen little of the outside world. Yet as she spends time with Nathaniel and unravels the plot against Austermeer’s Great Libraries, everything she was taught to believe about magic, sorcerers, and demons is challenged. The way she rolls with it all, allowing her experiences to override her beliefs without too much pushback, is admirable. Elisabeth proves to be adaptable, able to think for herself, fierce, and willing to sacrifice herself as she charges headfirst into danger, protecting civilians and grimoires alike.
Official adusque mortem. Duty unto death. [...] Protecting Summershall was her responsibility, even at the cost of her life.
I don't have to beat it, she thought. If she could distract it for long enough, and make enough of a commotion doing so, she might save the town. After all, disturbing the peace is what I'm good at. Most of the time, I do it without even trying.
Nathaniel's family is both feared and respected for their necromantic powers and the ancient demon who’s served them for generations. It doesn’t help that he lost his entire family at a young age and has been raised by said demonic servant. Despite the whisperings of those in high society, Nathaniel is Austermeer’s most eligible bachelor. The nobility are eager to secure a marriage and produce an heir to Thorn legacy, which has helped protect Austermeer for centuries. He doesn’t let it go to his head too much, though.
I'm ruining your reputation, aren't I?" she asked, watching the spectacle unfold.
"Don't worry," Nathaniel said. "I've been hard at work trying to ruin my reputation for years. Perhaps after this, influential families will stop trying to catapult their unwed daughters over my garden fence. Which actually did happen once. I had to fend her off with a trowel."
Nathaniel is a dreamy book boyfriend—sarcastic, sensitive (though he tries to hide it), smart, suave, and totally open about his bisexuality.
"I like girls, too, Scrivener. I like both. If you're going to fantasize about my love life, I insist you do so accurately."
Unlike many YA love interests, Nathaniel does not bully Elisabeth or treat her as inferior. He respects her, and though he would prefer she kept herself out of trouble, he is willing to help her in order to ensure her safety.
Elisabeth and Nathaniel see each other for what they are and make an incredible team. She sees the toll his early torments and solitary life have taken, and does not balk at any of it. Nathaniel is awed by Elisabeth’s bravery, determination, and selflessness. When they work together and trust one another, it’s so pure and magical. Their banter and slow-burn romance are highly entertaining.
"Scrivener," he said carefully, "I don't mean to be forward, but is that a––"
"A sword hidden underneath my dress? Yes, it is."
"I see. And how exactly is it––"
"I thought you didn't mean to be forward."
But they’re not the only great characters. I adored Silas, Nathaniel’s demonic servant and father figure. As Elisabeth notes multiple times, Silas isn’t a GOOD guy; he just happens to be serving one and, despite attempts to convince her otherwise, he greatly cares for his young master. In some ways, Silas is more intriguing than Nathaniel; his proper manners and meticulous nature contrast with his snark and murderous abilities, making him so much fun to read.
“What is this, master - the third time I've broken you out of a jail cell?”
Nathaniel coughed. “Minor misunderstandings, on both previous occasions,” he assured Elisabeth.
“At least you're wearing clothes this time, master.”
"You're a proper monster, Silas. I'm glad of it."
Elisabeth's friends and fellow apprentices, Katrien and Parsifal, add extra comedic relief and assistance despite not getting much screen time. Katrien is a great best friend who knows Elisabeth better than anyone, believes in her whole-heartedly, and encourages her trouble-making.
"You might as well do it. Provoking the kingdom's most powerful sorcerer, turning Elisabeth loose in a ballroom...what could possibly go wrong?"
Speaking of said villainous sorcerer, like Jordan mentions in her review, he could have been more complex and threatening, but he wasn't terribly written. Luckily, the rest of the book makes up for what this baddie is lacking.
The world Rogerson has created is breathtaking. The magical libraries, full of sentient grimoires that require special treatment ranging from high-security imprisonment or immaculately clean environments to being complimented or scratched just so are enough to hook any book lover. Then there’s the 19th century setting, sorcerers whose power come from demonic deals, a spelled gothic mansion, an array of monsters…
It was always wise to be polite to books, whether or not they could hear you. [...] Books, too, had hearts, though they were not the same as people's, and a book's heart could be broken: she had seen it happen before.
Sorcery of Thorns is an exciting, whimsical journey that keeps the reader entertained with its fast-paced plot, magical action-packed scenes, enchanting visuals, utterly lovable characters, and sweet sub-plot romance. It tackles subjects like the struggles of women in a male-dominated world and society’s treatment of the mentally ill, all without getting too heavy.
She now understood that the world wasn't kind to young women, especially when they behaved inways men didn't like, and spoke truths that men weren't ready to hear.
I would highly recommend this book to lovers of immersive fantasy, strong heroines, hilarious banter, and healthy romance. If you’re looking for something spicy, this might not be the book for you, though in my opinion the lack of spice does not take away from the book at all. It’s that good.