Title: Between Two Thorns
Author: Emma Newman
Genre: Fantasy/urban fantasy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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?
Not a bad story, but nothing very memorable either.
Between Two Thorns takes place in a version of Earth where the major cities have mirror cities in the land of the Fae. The land between the human world and that of the Fae is called Nether, and it is ruled by the Great Families. Catherine Rhoas-Papaver is member of one such Great Family, but she finds her life so stifling that she escapes to Mundanus - the human world. Meanwhile, other Great Families are plotting something sinister, and Max - an arbiter whose soul has been separated from his body - must find the culprit before it is too late.
I liked the idea of there being a Nether and mirror cities; the concept of the world was really interesting, but I felt like it wasn't as rich as it could have been. We're told that in order for land to exist in the Nether, it has to be owned by the Great Families on both sides (earth and the Fae world). Other than that, though, there's next to nothing about how this world came to be and how it works. The Great Families are stuffy and pompous, with Victorian era clothing and manners. It's odd to me that they would emulate the human world so much if they see Mundanus with such contempt; and if they were copying people in the Victorian era, why did they never evolve their society afterwards?
The characters were also interesting in concept, but I didn't actually like many of them that much. Catherine was rebellious and smart, choosing her own fate instead of going along with what everyone else told her. That sounds like an excellent protagonist; the problem is that most of the book involves her making foolish blunders and being naive - she's never actually portrayed as a particularly strong or rebellious young woman aside from the fact that she ran away. I liked Max's plot line, since it was a lot more intense (a murder mystery as opposed to a "how can I avoid getting married this time"). Still, Max himself fell a little flat for me. He's been separated from his soul - you would think that he would be very robotic or changed in some way, but he talks and acts just like anyone else would. I did like Will, though. He was annoying at first, but he grew on me - I felt like he was one of the only characters that knew what he was doing.
There are a couple of interrelated plot threads, and while some are resolved, others remain wide open. The book ends in the middle of another murder investigation, and you don't find out what ends up happening with Cathy. I suppose it's the author's way of having you hooked and wanting the next book, but there were so many loose ends that I felt like at least some of them could have been wrapped up at the end of this book. I will probably not be picking up the next one, but I wouldn't discourage other people from trying this one out - maybe you'll like it more than I did.
*An e-copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*