Wednesday 13 March 2013

Best explain my review ratings -

Unfinished - self explanatory really, it was so bad I couldn't finish it

Average - an OK book but one I wouldn't really recommend

Good - a good example of the genre, one I'd recommend

Brilliant- books that everyone should read, really outstanding and memorable

First review on the blog is for - Between two thorns by Emma Newman


The first book to be set in the split worlds which consist of Exillium (the Fae realm), The Nether (Neither here nor there) and Mundanus (the “real” world). At some point in the past the sorcerers banished the Fae from the world (Exillium is Latin for Exile) and thus created the split worlds. The sorcerers and Arbiters still seek to keep the influence of the Fae and their human puppets that live in the Nether from meddling too much in the affairs of mortals in Mundanus (yuck, what a horrible word that is!). The human puppets have patrons in the Fae like Lord Poppy and Lady Rose and there are several families of Rosa for example, as a neat way of avoiding silly fantasy names Newman has just used the Latin names for the flowers that the families are themed upon, for example Rhoeas-Papaver (a species of Poppy). Living in the Nether means that they do not age and seems to be stuck in a regency style culture, at least in Aquae Sulis (shades of Pride & Prejudice perhaps?).  

In this first instalment we follow three main protagonists; Sam who lives in Mundanus Bath (Aquae Sulis in the Nether) with no idea that the Nether or the Fae exist who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver who has run away from the Nether to create a life for herself in Mundanus Manchester and Max an Arbiter on assignment in London (Londinium in the Nether). I do wonder if the choice of cities are for ease of introducing the books to the States being three of the most well known cities of the UK. Newman drops you straight into the story with little to no expositionary world building which was nice, although 200 odd pages in one of the characters explains how the world works to a Mundane which is a bit of an odd choice as by then you’ve picked it up from what’s been going on.

There’s a lot to like here, I thought the arbiters a neat idea and especially liked the split soul nature for them & being able to use statues to communicate. I liked that some of the action was in Bath which I know quite well. I really liked that you have to work at the world building rather than have everything on a plate and that the characters are plausible. There are a few things that made me raise an eyebrow though, some of the Fae stuff is a little twee - the Tinkerbell style Fae for example, although they are like the quote from Sandman in Midsummer Night’s Dream about Puck – “I am that ‘ giggling-dangerous-totally-bloody-psychotic-menace-to-life-and-limb” The swearing seemed a little incongruous also, I understand, or think I do anyway, that Newman is using it a shorthand way to differentiate between the overly formal speech of the folks of the Nether and the more plain, modern speech of Mundanus but since some folks here don’t like cussing it may alienate a few potential fans. In summary though the little things that detracted seem a bit nitpicky and I would unhesitantly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys modern fantasy.

It’s very much a “first in series” book though and although one of the plotlines is resolved (although bound to have repercussions in the later books) others are not and the book ends with a hook drawing you to get the next, which is not available yet so be warned if you like to read series in a glut as I do. Newman also wrote a year of stories set in the split world that are available on her website  either as text or audio and you can find out more about the split worlds here: I feel that Emma Newman is going to be a big name with these books and there is a definite feel of rising star (she was recently featured in SFX).


Overall – First in what promises to be a great series in a great world

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