Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
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. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. 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.
Remember when I read An Enchantment of Ravens and fell for it hard? Yeah, that didn’t happen here. Instead, what happened was a slow sort of love that built up and was all the more richer for it.
As with the her first book, Rogerson’s writing is truly a wonder of a thing. Her imagination and her talent of putting that imagination into words is something else. On top of that, this book dealt with something that is very dear to me. Books and libraries. Not just normal books and libraries but magical books that have personalities! I mean, could there be a better idea for a book?
For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque—but so was the world outside. And that made the world no less worth fighting for, because wherever there was darkness, there was also so much light.
Elisabeth Scrivener is an orphan raised in one of the Great Libraries of the Kingdom and it sounds like a delight on its own before you learn that these are no ordinary books. The books the Great Libraries hold are something else, they are not quite of this world and if handled wrongly, they can mutate into something dangerous and catastrophic indeed. Those books are called Malefics.
“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. Grimoires that refused to open, their voices gone silent, or whose ink faded and bled across the pages like tears.”
Elisabeth is training to be a Warden of the libraries when the story starts and she’s learning all sorts of things needed for that career. She has a life there and friends whom she is very, very fond of. However one night she wakes up when something makes a noise and it’s all downhill from there for Elisabeth. It turns out that one of the deadliest books has turned into a Malefict and it turns out the Director who was so kind to Elisabeth has been murdered in trying to stop it. So Elisabeth tries her best to stop it from reaching the nearby village and in the process, does end the misery of the Malefict but also is injured.
When she wakes up, she come to know that she’s been branded a murderer and a traitor in the meanwhile and she’s in shackles. She’s then given to the Magesterium to be dealt with a sentence. It is then she starts to understand that there’s more to the attack on the Great Library than just a mere unfortunate incident. She realises that there’s someone out there who’s trying to gain access to and destroy enough books to create many, many more Maleficts or something worse. When she voices this fear to someone who she thought would help, it turns out that it just made her life harder than before.
She now understood that the world wasn’t kind to young women, especially when they behaved in ways men didn’t like, and spoke truths that men weren’t ready to hear.
In the end, she seeks the help of Nathaniel Thorn, a sorcerer who’s not only powerful in the magical world but also whose family has a history of bringing the dead back to fight armies. Initially, Nathaniel Thorn isn’t overly inclined to believe her but slowly, as story unfolds, the stakes are raised ever higher and with the help of Silas (Nathaniel’s demon), they try their best to unfold the mystery as to why this was being done.
On top of being absolutely magical and simply lush as far as story-telling goes, there are moments like these that make the book much more fun!
“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?”
The Codex bared a mouthful of fangs and produced an ear-splitting shriek. Above them, the chandelier trembled.
“Charmed,” Nathaniel said. He turned back to Elisabeth. “If the two of you feel the need to destroy anything else, I’ve been meaning to get rid of Aunt Clothilde’s tapestry for years. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s mauve.”
As with An Enchantment of Ravens, this one packs quite a punch as far as I am concerned. The writing still remains quite beautiful and this time, it’s given more room to bloom further. I just wish this wasn’t the standalone. There’s such a possibility to expand it into a truly wonderful series.
Elisabeth is a character you just want to root for, her personality shines throughout the book, from her obvious love for the books and the library she grew up in to her dawning understanding of the world outside of her libraries and her interactions with people she meets. Despite having a sort of naivete, she holds her own and when she’s being beaten down, she gets up every time. Sure, there is always a dread in her but that doesn’t stop her. She feels real and because of the secondary characters like her friend from the library, she’s a far better read.
“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”
Nathaniel is such an interesting character, his family history haunts him and his dependence on Silas did sometimes give me a pause into wondering if there was ever anything more but that’s never clarified and I am glad of it. However if I had to choose a favourite character then it’s Silas for sure. Never once does he let anyone forget that he’s a demon and will always be a horrifying and horrible but he’s also the kind of demon who likes things tidy and who’s all proper and despairs of Elisabeth’s wardrobe choices. For me, he’s the true star.
Overall, even though I had trouble in the beginning sticking to it, I devoured it in a day when I picked it up again. Rogerson’s writing continues to be delightful and I can’t wait for more from her. If you love books, libraries, magic and delightful but dangerous demons then this is the book for you.