What I love the most about Margaret Rogerson’s books is how they don’t take themselves too seriously. It was true for An Enchantment of Ravens, and it’s true for Sorcery of Thorns too – the humor in them is effortless and makes everything feel lighter. 16-year-old me would have had so much fun with this.
I mean, I loved this book now too, but it’s the kind of novel for which I want a time machine, so that I could give it to 16-year-old Acqua. This is the way I want YA fantasy to be: funny, and on the lighter side, without needing to shy away from dark themes from time to time; enjoyable for adults but mostly aimed at teens.
Sorcery of Thorns is the story of Elisabeth, who was raised in – and in a way, by – a magical library, and it’s the story of how she got drawn into a scheme much bigger than herself, involving sorcery, demons, and the power of books.
Elisabeth took a while to grow on me. At the beginning, her voice reminded me a lot of Isobel from AEOR and didn’t really stand out to me, but the way she went at things and defeated them, sometimes out of pure stubbornness, made me love her. The romance also grew on me after a lukewarm start – Elisabeth and the bisexual disaster of a sorcerer named Nathaniel are one of the best m/f couples in YA fantasy, and how could I not love them, when Nathaniel started calling Elisabeth “you menace” (I mean, he’s right. Elisabeth is unstoppable.)
But I have to be honest, the main reason I liked this book wasn’t the romance, or the beautiful descriptions of magical, terrifying libraries, or even the amount of casual queerness (there’s an aro side character and I love her).
The main reason is Silas, Nathaniel’s Inherited Demon™, who tries to convince Elisabeth for most of the book that he is a dignified powerful demon who totally doesn’t care about humans,
especially not Nathaniel, no, why would you think that
And the thing is, he doesn’t care like a human would, but in his own way, he definitely does. Margaret Rogerson strikes the “doesn’t feel like a human, but definitely feels” balance perfectly, which I already knew from her portrayal of the fair folk in her debut, but here the dynamic was even more interesting. Silas is such a compelling combination of “terrifying and beautiful and powerful, but also caring (in a demon way) and exasperated by teenage humans”.
When I wrote what I want from YA fantasy, I said that I wanted books to not shy away from difficult themes, too, and this book did that – it talks about how easy it is for young women in difficult situations to be dismissed as crazy, as “difficult” themselves. It was hard to read, but it’s what made seeing Elisabeth succeed even more satisfying.
One thing that didn’t work for me, however, was the pacing. It’s not that this book is slow, I just felt weird about it. Almost as if things took too long to get started and then became too quick all of the sudden, but multiple times through the book. I have to say that overall my favorite kind of YA fantasy is the one that is closer to 300 pages than to 500.
Also, it was a really predictable read, which is why I think I would have loved it even more at 16, when I hadn’t read as much of this genre. However, I didn’t mind that too much, because I don’t consider predictability a flaw when the storyline is what makes sense for the book and the foreshadowing isn’t heavy-handed.
My rating: ★★★★¼