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Saturday, June 1, 2013

“Between Two Thorns” by Emma Newman (Reviewed by Sabine Gueneret)

Order “Between Two ThornsHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Emma Newman was born in a tiny coastal village in Cornwall during one of the hottest summers on record. Four years later she started to write stories and never stopped until she penned a short story that secured her a place at Oxford University to read Experimental Psychology.

In 2011 Emma embarked on an ambitious project to write and distribute one short story per week—all of them set in her Split Worlds milieu—completely free to her mailing list subscribers.

A debut short-story collection, From Dark Places, was published in 2011 and her debut post-apocalyptic novel for young adults, 20 Years Later, was published just one year later—presumably Emma didn’t want to wait another nineteen… Emma is also a professional audiobook narrator.

She now lives in Somerset with her husband, son and far too many books.

FORMAT/INFO: Between Two Thorns is 400 pages long and was published by Angry Robot in the US & UK on February 26, 2013 and March 7, 2013. The cover artwork was provided by Sarah Coleman.

Between Two Thorns is the first volume in the Split Worlds series and will be followed by Any Other Name on May 28, 2013/June 6, 2013 in the US/UK, and All Is Fair on September 24, 2013/October 3, 2013 in the US/UK.

OFFICIAL PLOT SYNOPSIS:Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.

The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.

There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.

But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?

Victorian Aquae Sulis—whose fae-touched society lives by very strict rules and know their place—is the perfect setting for this YA novel in which we follow Cathy (or Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver), a teenager born into one of Aquae Sulis’ most eminent families who refuses to live her already chosen future. To escape her family and destiny, Cathy hides in our world and soon embraces its ways, but is eventually taken back to her world by her family who cannot imagine any other future for her. She is then forced to help Max the Arbiter who is investigating several disappearances in our world that could be linked to the missing Master of Ceremonies in Aquae Sulis . . . but the conspiracy might go well beyond what even Max can handle...

ANALYSIS: Between Two Thorns was a really good read. For starters, Cathy’s character is very likeable even if she is a pretty generic heroine trying to escape her destiny, but thanks to Emma Newman’s great writing, Cathy feels very real and you can’t help but become emotionally connected to her. You also can’t help but hate her family who is so obsessed with society rules and appearances that they seem devoid of emotions and humanity!

Yet not all of the fae-touched characters in the book are frozen, hateable people; Will (Cathy’s fiancĂ©) for instance is a subtle character, though not quite likeable! However, he gives us a contrasting point of view on the Aquae Sulis society, while also bringing depth to the otherwise shallow society of Aquae Sulis. I love historical fiction and I really like what Emma Newman has done with the Victorian backdrop, imagining a society which hasn’t known the industrial revolution (and why would they, when they have magic to suit their needs?) but has somehow frozen and hardened around the edges (again, normal evolution for people who literally freeze in time and never grow old).

The Split Worlds are beautifully crafted, and fascinating: the idea of three separate worlds—one for fae, one for fae-touched and our own—is once again not completely original; yet a great writer can take common elements of fantasy fiction and bring them to another level, and that’s exactly what happens in Between Two Thorns.

Don’t take me wrong, not everything in the book is archetypal. Far from it in fact: the idea of the Arbiters (think guardians of the peace between the Split Worlds, who have their souls dislocated) is absolutely brilliant and the passages in which Max addresses his gargoyle-impregnated soul are often hilarious. The latter interactions bring a nice balance in the story, offering a bit of lightness to an otherwise quite dramatic plot.

CONCLUSION: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman is a very promising start to the Split World series, with beautifully crafted characters and worlds and an exciting cliffhanger...an absolute must-read!

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