Book Review of Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

Posted March 1, 2013 by Kara in Lyn / 12 Comments

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Description from Goodreads: 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?

CAUTION: This review has spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Review: Between Two Thorns did indeed live up to its name – I felt like I was split right in half about this story. The fantasy elements were clever and interesting, but the characters and bloated plot killed the execution.

So what was the positive side of the book?  Newman’s ideas and imagination were quite impressive.  Her own fantasy world was very intriguing and it tied in modern living with age-old tales of fae folk and other worlds of mythical creatures.  Her description of the gilded living practices of fae people and the temptations and dangers of living for the sake of vanity and power was spot on and top notch for this genre.  Newman took the idea and ran with it, building a perfect balance of modern versus magic.  

However, the characters killed the charm and luster of the entire world-building. I’ll go ahead and name the culprits, Catherine and Max, right from the start.  Max could have worked if he had not stepped outside of the characterization of his role.  The man had his soul taken away, and as a result, his emotions were taken away as well.  Someone without feelings or emotions does not cuss, and they do not care to help someone out when he has another mission at hand.  I could forgive the dullness of Max, since it went hand and hand with his description, but there were many lost moments for the character and his accidental sidekick.  The entire situation lost the appeal of a great dynamic duo when the weight of the storyline crushed any opportunity of Max’s character arc becoming a stronger portion of the novel.

Catherine was another heavy hit against the book.  I aligned with her from the start, and I was strongly empathetic towards her own dilemma, but insulting your ex’s new girlfriend and developing into a self-centered victim doesn’t tend to win over readers.  Fiction writers – please stop trashing girls based on their weight.  There is no excuse to call a woman a “coat hanger” because she is skinny and beautiful. It hurts to see someone you love with someone new. However, this isn’t a free pass to make a generalization based on what you see from the outside.  Stop it.  Just stop it.  Cathy’s attitude towards Will was also uncalled for.  I felt bad for the position that Cathy had to take towards people in the court, but when someone is trying to help you out of a tough situation and placing themselves on the line to see that you are safe, it is downright disgusting to judge this person because he’s rude to you when he was a boy.  Will’s solution was not ideal, and no one should have to marry out of duty. I completely understand this.  But does Will not deserve to be treated with some respect?  Can a person not grow and change as they become older?  Catherine wore her self pity like a badge, and I became very revolted by her own actions by the end of the story.

The explanations for the world-building and jargon used by the characters irritated me to no end.  I should not find out in the middle and end of a book what some of the terms mean.  I shouldn’t feel like I am constantly hunting for an explanation for the elements of the plot.  The ending was also a sore spot as well.  A sequel is not the other half of the story.  It seemed that this book was one huge tome and the first book simply stopped right in the middle of the plot.  Tie up the loose ends – don’t make them the reason for your next book.

The fact that I kept reading this book out of curiosity saved a star from the rating.  I wasn’t impressed with this one, and I certainly will not be reading the next installation.  If you want a high fantasy book, this one might be for you, but the muddled storytelling and lack of redeeming qualities in the very characters who were to carry the entire plot left me feeling more irritated than enchanted.

2/5 Dragons

12 responses to “Book Review of Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

  1. Hello Lin Kaye!

    I agree with so many points that you’ve said, was quite torn between brilliant world-building and boring characters. I gave the books three stars because I do like it when the reader has to find out things on their own. Wouldn’t quite call it High Fantasy though, but that’s a matter of opinion, I guess. 😉
    Come and check out my review on Between Two Thorns.


  2. Amy

    Bad characters can really ruin a story for me. This isn’t a book I had heard of before, but at least now I know that it’s most likely not something I would enjoy. Great review Lyn!

    • I wish I had liked Catherine. Bah.

      Max could have been really awesome, and his storyline had such potential, but it fell on its face and never recovered.

  3. Well, you said spoilers in the very first line, so how can I read this now?! But I have to say, as much as I like Strange Chem’s covers, they need to come up with a new design STAT. I keep thinking I’m seeing the same book over and over or books in a series. :/

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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