Rating: 5/5 stars
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
“You’re a proper monster, Silas,” she murmured, caught halfway in a dream. “I’m glad of it.” (Ch. 16)
This book quickly became a new favourite of mine. At times it was able to make me smile uncontrollably and giggle like a little girl, while at others it was able to bring me to tears. It pulled such a range of emotion from me that I’m both happy and sad to be done with it.
Sorcery of Thorns is a standalone novel but Rogerson packed it full with enough plot and character development that I feel as if I’ve just finished an entire series. Within these 456 pages, I feel in love with characters and I grew to loathe others. Rogerson wrote this world in such a way that it was like reading a piece of artwork.
While there is a light amount of romance in this story, it is a safe read for pretty much any age. Things don’t go much further than kissing and cuddling, so if you don’t like reading about “romance” stuff you have nothing to worry about here.
The premise of a world where books are alive drew my attention right away. I would love it if being a “librarian” (warden) meant wielding a sword and defending knowledge. Sometimes it feels that that’s the role of librarians in our world, too – defending knowledge from people who would rather stifle it. So many places around the world ban books like The Hate You Give and Harry Potter from school because of the messages these book teach their children. I think that it’s wrong to ban books that try to better people. To me, these badass wardens (the main librarians) are protecting the knowledge in the Great Libraries from people who would wish to both abuse and destroy it.
If you’re looking to escape into a world of magic where people fight for what’s right, I think you’ll really enjoy this read. Elizabeth is a protagonist that’s not perfect but does her best to do what’s right. As the reader you get to experience her growth as a person and see how her perspective gets changed time and time again. What could be better?
I was able to pull a plethora of amazing quotes from this book and know that I could have pulled out so many more. Rogerson’s writing was so beautiful I almost feel like the whole book could be a quote! Below I’ve sprinkled in a selection of quotes that I loved, and what chapter they are found in as I read an eBook version of the book and thus don’t have page numbers.
One of the things that I liked about Nathaniel was that he was so open about being bi. While one could see it as a throwaway line, as this didn’t really come up other than in a single conversation, I appreciate the fact that Rogerson made it seem as if being bi is no big deal. Which it isn’t. Casually mentioning that he used to have a crush on the prince was a very natural way to drop this little tidbit into the narrative. To me, this gave Nathaniel’s character – and his choice not to be with anyone – even more depth.
“Very well, you unutterable menace,” he said. “Help me hold them off.” (Ch. 9)
I loved the fact that at the beginning of this story, Elizabeth was terrified of Nathaniel and believed he actually did stuff like drink orphans’ blood. It makes it even sweeter that she went from “accidentally” falling into him to check to see if he had pointed ears to actually falling for him.
While spying on Nathaniel in the reading room Elizabeth was able to show her affinity for sorcery and magic in a couple of different ways. The hint of her being able to scratch the book just so in order to get it to reveal the secret passage was a great sneak peek into what Elizabeth was really able to do. Her ability to smell the aetherial combustion was another nice little Easter egg thrown in there. I have to believe that it wasn’t normal for her to be able to smell it so strongly from the way Nathaniel reacted.
The way the grimoires treat Elizabeth is so different from the way that they treat other people, as well. From the book in chapter 4 that wiggles provocatively at Elizabeth to the one in the Royal Library that never spat ink at her, it’s easy to see why Elizabeth always felt at home in the Great Libraries.
My name is Elizabeth Scrivener. I am from Summershall. Chancellor Ashcroft is my enemy. I must expose him… (Ch. 15)
I’ve got to say, Ashcroft is a pretty good villain. Sure, he did the typical monologue thing where he outlined his whole plan, but the way in which the reader got this information was really clever. While Ashcroft and Lorelei assumed that Elizabeth was glamoured and wouldn’t remember anything, it make sense that they would talk about what they planned to do with her in front of her. Especially that first day when Lorelei brought her to Ashcroft without his say-so.
Getting that stupid physician to declare that Elizabeth had hysteria was a stroke of evil genius. Using this as his plan to dispose of her once he’d gotten her hidden memory from her was a really smart move. While I hate that she was locked up for “having” hysteria, I have to admit I enjoyed this jerk’s diagnosis being a great segue into being able to talk about the history of hysteria. While what I’m about to talk about is real world history, if you’re not a fan of “sexual” things, you might want to skip the next paragraph. I recommend reading it as if you don’t know hysteria’s “cure”, then you’ll be able to learn a little bit about the history of the diagnosis. You’ve been warned.
While generally used as a catch-all term for any woman that didn’t act in perfect societal standards, my favourite “cure” for hysteria had to be the fact that doctors used to have to stimulate their female patients’ lady bits. Yes, the “cure” for hysteria was believed to be fingering a female and getting her off. This was because having a high sex drive or even just sexual thoughts was thought to be wrong for a lady to have and a sign that they were mentally unsound. While I’m glad that this is understood not to be the case anymore, throughout history this “cure” was performed at different times throughout different parts of the world.
Okay, back to a direct discussion about the story.
Claiming that Elizabeth’s brain was swelling because she read too much was a typical reasoning for diagnosis a woman with hysteria. It wasn’t thought to be proper for a lady to want to read and know things – her job was to keep house and entertain. That didn’t stop me from wanting to punch the physician in the face, though. I understand that in the time frame that this book takes place in these calls were commonplace. And I can’t be happier that the diagnosis is all but extinct.
“It’s been waiting a long time, that one,” it whispered. “So long since the Codex has known a kind touch, an open mind. But I see now that you are not the same as the other humans… you are different, somehow… yes, a true child of the library…” (Ch. 21)
I love the fact that the grimoires are able to distinguish that Elizabeth belongs with them. They’re the ones that are constantly dropping hints about Elizabeth having been changed due to the library’s influence. Even at the very beginning of the story when she met the Book of Eyes for the first time, the grimoire told Elizabeth that she was different from the others. Every grimoire that she came into contact with knew that there was something special about Elizabeth.
Heck, even the Codex opened for Elizabeth when she didn’t know what she was doing. She managed to gain its trust by freeing it from its abandonment in the Royal Library and her special-ness convinced it to let her see Prendergast. Sure Prendergast didn’t understand why it had let her in, and got annoyed basically every time she popped into his little pocket dimension, but the Codex understood that Elizabeth was only trying to help.
“Damn you,” he said. “You unmanageable, contrary creature. You have made me believe in something at last. It feels as wretched as I imagined.” (Ch. 29)
It was really cute that Nathaniel was trying so hard not to have feeling for Elizabeth throughout almost the entire story. I have to believe that he thought she was cute when he first ran into her in the reading room in Summershall, but it was obvious he wasn’t going to act on this attraction. Heck, even though his soft spot for her made him the one to go pick her up and bring her to Ashcroft for questioning, he still didn’t want to help her more than the bare minimum. After the fiends attacked them Nathaniel only begrudgingly allowed Elizabeth to stay at his place.
Heck, when she escaped Leadgate and managed to find Silas walking around town Nathaniel didn’t want her staying with him again – even though she was sick and almost dead. He tried to get her sent back to Summershall until Silas wore him down.
Again, when Nathaniel found out he’d been having nightmares and that Elizabeth hadn’t been sleeping, he tried to send her away. It was hard for her to convince him that she wasn’t scared of him and it was her quest to stop Ashcroft that led to her ultimate exhaustion, not him. It was then, when he realized that there really could be someone that wasn’t scared of him, that I believe Nathaniel finally let himself start to feel his feelings and stopped trying to repress them. Everyone needs someone they care about in order to truly live and Elizabeth was able to show Nathaniel this.
“I fought the Book of Eyes in a nightgown,” she told him, barely a whisper. / “In that case,” he replied, “I expect I don’t stand a chance.” (Ch. 29)
I know I’ve already talked a lot about the relationship between Elizabeth and Nathaniel, so I won’t really go into it here. Just know that they’re adorable together and badass as individuals.
Instead, I’m going to finally start talking about Elizabeth in her mission to stop Ashcroft. Once Elizabeth escaped from Leadgate and found her way back to Nathaniel’s estate, her relationship with Silas only got better. Silas, though a demon, quickly became my favourite character in the story. Even though he’s a demon and thinks himself evil, he proved time and time again that his “evilness” didn’t define him.
When he killed Nathaniel’s father it was because he realized that the ritual would kill not only Alistair but also Nathaniel. He might have rationalized that he did it for a selfish reason, knowing that keeping Nathaniel alive would mean that he also got to have part of his life force, I truly believe that he acted this way because he care for Nathaniel. He might claim that he only learned how to care for Nathaniel in order to keep him alive, but I believe he actually enjoyed it right from the beginning.
One of his reasons for calling himself evil was that he took 20 years from Nathaniel during the first summoning. The fact that he ended up taking 20 from him and 10 from Elizabeth during the second summoning probably made this belief even stronger in his mind.
The fact that he sacrificed himself again and again in order to save Nathaniel – and Elizabeth – just goes to show that he wasn’t evil even he thought himself so.
Heck, even though its name is literally “Demonslayer”, Silas eventually gave the sword to Elizabeth. Master Hargrave showed how awesome he really was by smuggling the sword and Elizabeth’s gatekey out of Summershall and gave Silas a chance to show his awesomeness by trusting Elizabeth not to use it on him.
“I’m sorry.” / … “You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.” / “You’re right. I would be alone in my study, utterly miserable, spending my final hours unaware that demons were about to overrun the world.” He returned and slumped beside her, tipping his head back against the stone. “I like this version better. The one with you in it.” (Ch. 32)
Elizabeth was able to use her knowledge about the libraries and the librarians so many times throughout this book. Heck, she was able to convince the director at Harrows to meet with Nathaniel and herself. It was her knowledge that made Parsifal and others at the Royal Library to see her for who she truly was and not who she claimed to be. And ultimately, it was her knowledge about the Great Libraries that allowed the crew to stop Ashcroft in his goal to summon and trap the Archon.
“It’s an honor to fight by your side, Elizabeth, for however long it lasts. You’ve reminded me to live. That’s worth having something to lose.” (Ch. 32)
Nathaniel felt this way even during the sorcerer’s duel that he challenged Ashcroft to. The second that Lorelie and the fiend got the upper hand on Elizabeth, Nathaniel lost his concentration. It was more important to him to ensure Elizabeth’s survival than his own. And this was before he even admitted to having feelings for her!
“I knew you talked to books. I didn’t realize they listened.” (Ch. 35).
Katrien’s realization that Elizabeth is immune to sorcery more than the regular person because she grew up in the library shone a different light on the differences Elizabeth showed. I can’t imagine it felt great to be compared to a booklouse, but the benefits are certainly worth it. The books talked to her because, in a way, they were she’s one of them. Sure, she’s a living human, but Elizabeth has the same magic coursing through her veins. It’s this magic that got the Royal Library to reconfigure itself in order to help out in the final fight. It’s the reason that the pale grimoire and the Illusarium stopped trying to steal her face and actually helped her in her quest to rescue the Codex Daemonicus from where it was slowly dying on the shelf.
It showed how much a part of Elizabeth the Great Libraries really were as she was almost unable to steal from one even though it was her only choice at being able to save their world. It was only knowing that the Codex was suffering that allowed Elizabeth to do the deed, which just goes to show how pure of heart she really is.
I have to wonder whether the Director (Irena, not Finch) had any inkling that the library had changed Elizabeth in a genetic way. I believe that she thought the library had an impact on the way that Elizabeth was since her childhood was so different from the other orphans’, but how deep did the Director’s conclusions run? She stated that she was surprised that Elizabeth held of the Book of Eyes for so long the first time that she met it – was this because she was testing a hypothesis that Elizabeth was different from the rest of the orphans? Or simply because Elizabeth was her favourite, her one true charge?
There’s so much more to this book that I’d love to go on about, but I’ve already rambled for a long time already. I could go on about Katrien’s cunning genius or how much I disliked Finch. I could go on about how crazy Ashcroft’s plan was and how he almost got his way so many times over. But I’d like to leave talk about those things to you.
If you’ve gotten this far, I have to assume you’ve already read this amazing book. What were the things that you enjoyed reading about? Was there anything that drew you out of the story? Is there anything that you would have liked to be different?