Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman
Author: Emma Newman
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Fantasy / Parallel Worlds / UK / Bath / Fey / Sorcery / Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Angry Robot (3/1/2013)
Rating: Okay to liked, depending on my mood.
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: The world is split into three realms, populated with humans, 'chosen' ones, and the fey, and the treaties and rules dividing and managing those realms are dangerously challenged.
Reading Challenges: E-book
Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- love the colors, the font, the layout, design -- it is dark and mischievous and imaginative. (The story within isn't totally a let down.)
I'm reminded of...: Tina Connolly
First line: That night in Bath was the third time Sam's beer bladder had gotten him into trouble.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow if you like novels focusing on the fairy realm.
Why did I get this book?: The dual worlds of Bath / Aquae Sulis.
Review: Halfway through this book, I found myself describing it to my wife as 'fine' -- a passable fantasy-ish novel, a decent debut -- but upon finishing, I had to revise my opinion. While this isn't an earth-shattering entry in the genre, it is fun and has some intriguing world building.
When done, I jotted down some fairly critical notes, but a week or so later, I'm looking back at this book a bit more fondly. My dislike of our heroine faded -- or maybe I've forgotten how bland I found her -- and I'm really really eager for the next book. Impatient, actually.
It took me some time to get into the story; Newman plunges us right into her world and it takes a few chapters to work out what the rules are. In short, there are three realms: Mundanus, where the humans live and cities like Bath exist; Nether, then the mirror wold stuck in the Regency and Georgian era, where humans age slowly and live for beauty, pleasure, and their fairy patrons, where Bath exists as Aquae Sulis; and Exilium, the realm of the fey, where humans are enslaved for eternity.
Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, from a powerful Nether family, has neither beauty nor grace, but a prodigious desire for knowledge. She hides out in Mundanus to learn but her Fairy Patron finds her and orders her back to Nether, where among the usual social machinations and dramas, a bigger scandal is brewing. Back in Mundanus, Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, stumbles across crimes that indicate fairy involvement, and worse, his emotions have settled in a stone gargoyle who becomes an unlikely sidekick. Humans are kidnapped, social reputations are made and shredded, and Cathy fights to be happy and Max fights to stay alive.
Max might be my favorite character -- he has the delicious grouchiness of a classic private eye -- and Cathy my least favorite. But their world, and the book's drama, hooked me.
There is quite a cliffhanger at the end -- two major plot threads left out in the cold -- so don't pick this up if you're impatient. However, the author has a lovely site where you can sign up for short stories from the Split World universe, which I am all over. The second book comes out in July, and I plan to be all over it.