Friday 19 March 2021

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Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Published: 30th June 2020 | Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books | Source: Gift
Margaret Rogerson's Website

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer's Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery--magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library's most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she's been taught--about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
From The StoryGraph

I've wanted to read Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson for quite a while now, so I was so excited when I was recently gifted it by a friend. Unfortunately, it was quite a disappointment.

Sorcery of Thorns had an intriguing premise, a plot that seemed very original, but it just fell completely flat for me. It had very little of what I come to expect from high fantasy, and a lot of it has to do with worldbuilding. There is magic because sorcerers have control over a demon. Magical books are sentient. When damaged, they become Maleficts, monsters. There are Great Libraries around Austermeer whose job it is to protect/guard these danagerous books. That's it. That's the world building.

We get no real history (When did sorcerers first start summoning and controlling demons? How was it discovered they could do so? When did the Magisterium form and why? What do they actually do?), no idea how magic actually works (Nathaniel literally mutters some words and things happen. That's it), why grimoires are sentient, or what makes them so ("magic" is not a good enough answer), why they become Maleficts, why there are still sorcerers if the world is convinced they are evil, and no answers to many other questions. Honestly, it's a poor excuse for worldbuiliding. It makes me wonder if the Rogerson thought more in depth worldbuilding as required because it's YA. Which is insulting to teen readers, and to the genre. You can have YA high fantasy that has fleshed out worldbuilding, such as the Girls of Paper and Fire trilogy by Natasha Ngan, the Shadow of the Fox trilogy by Julie Kagawa, the Strange the Dreamer duology by Laini Taylor, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton, For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig, and many others. The worldbuilding in Sorcery of Thorns feels incredibly half-baked.

Worldbuilding aside, there was still a lot about this book that left me wanting. I didn't particularly care about either Elisabeth or Nathaniel. Other than the fact that she is an orphan that was left at the steps of a Great Library, has grown up around books, and wants to become a warden to protect the books, and that Nathaniel is a magister, is the descendent of a particular powerful and terrifying sorcerer, that his family died when he was very young, and he's been alone with just his demon companion, Silas, ever since, we know nothing about the characters. It's all surface. Which is why the romance wasn't at all believable. They just fell for each other out of nowhere, based on nothing.

Then there was the story itself. It was predicitable. I knew who the villain was going to be very early on, and they are a caricature of a villian, wanting power for power's sake. We've seen this villain so many times before. And despite the fact that a number of things happen throughout the story, for the most part, it's very low stakes and feels very unexciting. I kept reading because it was a gift from a friend, and because it's a very easy read, but I honestly didn't care about where the story was going. I wasn't emotionally invested in the story or the characters. Sorcery of Thorns' only saving grace was Silas, Nathaniel's demon servant. I liked what Rogerson did with Silas and the idea of demon servents, and I actually really liked him. But otherwise, Sorcery of Thorns was just a huge disappointment for me.

Clearly, Sorcery of Thorns wasn't for me, but it might be for you. Do read some other reviews before deciding whether or not you'll read it.

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