Sam was just looking for a place to empty his beer-filled bladder when he stumbles onto something he should in the grounds of the museum in Bath. Meanwhile, in London, Cathy is living a nice normal life with a nice normal boyfriend, until the day her secrecy charm is removed by Lord Poppy, patron to her family. For Cathy is fae-touched and is hiding out from her family and their parochial views. The there’s Max, a soulless Arbiter who is tasked with keeping the Mundane safe from the fae and trouble is brewing but he doesn’t know what…
Between Two Thorns took a while to get into but by the end I absolutely loved the characters; even the ones I hated at the start. There are a lot of characters, the narrative jumping from story to story and until it starts to weave together, it is a lot to take in and remember. I would have liked a bit more time spent on character development of a few rather than trying to give equal parts to so many. For instance, there was quite a lot of time establishing Sam’s relationship with his wife which didn’t pan out into anything. Perhaps it’s meant for another book, especially the mystery around his wedding ring. Max’s circumstances were confusing at first too although I loved his gargoyle sidesick. To be honest, I kept getting Sam and Max mixed up, I think it was the three-letter names as their characters are not meant to be similar at all.
The fae of the Split Worlds are an ironic take on flower fairies. Each family is assigned a flower name but in true faerie fashion, they are anything but benevolent and rather fond of mischief and mind games. I did quite like Lord Poppy though; he seemed fair and at least found Cathy interesting, whilst the rest of her society thought her a bit odd for having Mundane values.
The contrast between Mundanus and the Nether is central to the story. Cathy is from a society family (think of Austen era) and is expected to be a meek, obliging woman and be married off to a match that would further their standing. Having learned about the freedoms of Mundane women in forbidden books as a child, Cathy runs away and goes to university, very much against her family’s wishes. Whilst she is a perfectly normal, modern woman to the reader’s eyes, she is seen as an outcast in the Nether. As her basic rights are taken away from her, you feel her frustrations.
Overall, it’s a fun and, at times, charming book if you don’t expect too much from it. The series has potential to be quite interesting and as said before, I really did start to love the characters and their world. And then it stopped. It’s one of those books where I felt I had to check I wasn’t missing pages because it didn’t feel like an ending at all. I don’t mind loose ends but, I don’t know, it was all too sudden, just when the pace was picking up.
Between Two Thorns is published by Angry Robot and is currently available in paperback and ebook formats. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.