5th July, 2019

Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (M.K. McElderry Books)

Oh my, I really really wanted to love this book. I received it as part of a montly book subscription box and was so excited about the theme and the general plot summary. But was I in for a surprise! So yes, this is an official "unpopular opinion" alert as everyone on social media seems to adore this novel. Therefore, please consider yourself warned that I will not be gentle here because I simply hated it. There. I said it. :-)

But let's start in the beginning. What is Sorcery of Thorns actually about? Here is a short plot synopsis from Goodreads:

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.

Can you understand why this description made me so excited? The book is about books, about libraries, about bookish independent girls,... all of these should be winners. Then there was this amazing epigraph: "For all the girls who found themselves in books." I felt like shouting a big, loud "Hell, yes!".

However, then followed the cruel drop of horrible disappointment. The first 100 pages had me constantly lose track of the story because they were just so tedious. Yes, things happen and it's actually quite suspenseful stuff, but I found myself not caring enough. I can't even put my finger on it exactly but it all seemed so predictable.

Then there are the characters. I pretty much loathed all of them, except for Silas whose charisma was the only thing that kept me reading on at all. Elisabeth is supposed to be a feisty and independent protagonist but in fact she doesn't do much. Things just seem to happen TO her. She is constantly thrown into action but this action is hardly self-motivated. And honestly, it is quite obvious from the start that she is being manipulated. Also, for a girl who has spent her entire childhood surrounded by and reading books, Elisabeth is definitely a bit of a bimbo and incapable of making reasonable decisions. On the other hand, Nathaniel is described as the sarcastic bad boy and supposed to be enigmatic, fascinating and secretly sensitive, but he only made me yawn throughout. Oh, and then there is Ashcroft who is the villain because, well... obviously, you need one. *snore*

All of these characters are so freaking one-dimensional and shallow that it's hardly funny anymore. I felt like Rogerson had recently read Vladimir Propp's study Morphology of the Folktale and immediately decided to follow all available schematic character constellations. Without giving away spoilers, things - again - just suddenly happen without any build-up. I was constantly wondering "Alright, where did that come from?" while simultaneously thinking that all of it is so generic and predictable.

The novel then tries to be deep by raising questions of the nature of Good and Evil. Maybe sorcerers are only misunderstood and not bad after all. However, Elisabeth basically ruins these tender onsets of a minimum of depth because her motif for questioning old conceptions lies with the fact that Nathaniel is a bit of a hunk. *double snore*

I was deeply disappointed in a book that could have been great if it wasn't full of stereotypes and bland characters. I am sorry to anyone who loved the story, but I want to be honest in my reviews so unfortunately this will only get a...

Rating: 0.5/5 stars

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