Courtesy of margaretrogerson.com
by Zac Soper, Columnist
Margaret Rogerson, author of “An Enchantment of Ravens,” hit the New York Times bestsellers list once again this summer with her sophomore novel “Sorcery of Thorns.”
The main character of this book, Elisabeth Scrivener, is an orphan, who was raised in a library of magical tomes and is sent through a whirlwind of psychological torture and imprisonment. She is thrust from the safety of bookshelves, and into the world of evil sorcerers and demonic monsters. She must uncover the identity of the sorcerer who has been stealing the tomes and using their power to wreak havoc across the kingdom.
This story surely surprised me in plot direction. After the first grimly toned chapter, I was expecting bleak traveling through dark woods and many, many sword fights with ancient monsters. Instead, I was met with the story of a girl who was captured and imprisoned in an unfamiliar world. There was exploration for sure, but exploration of a corrupt government in a seemingly safe society, rather than exploration of new lands.
Though I was surprised by the tame nature of the plot, I was not disappointed. The exposition takes off with action, and the plot is driven by Elisabeth’s stream of consciousness as she struggles with morally corrupt power holders and solving a string of murderous crimes for a land of people she has never met.
The simple layout of the kingdom and straightforward rules of magic makes the story easy to be drawn into. Many fantasy novels take chapters and chapters of long, info-dumping exposition in order to set the world within a scope that the reader can understand, and that turns many people away. Who has the time to read a 900-page tome of a fantasy book? Rogerson has a way of packing great magic systems and world building into a simple story that remains on the shorter side of page count for a fantasy novel.
Because the story is shorter than average, there remains a scarcity of subplots. Subplots are great for adding depth to the story, but “A Sorcery of Thorns” had very few main characters, and even fewer side characters, leaving the potential for subplots to be very small. I was not upset by the lack of depth because this is a high fantasy novel that only took me two weeks to read and isn’t part of a series.
A star was lost from my rating because of yet another unnecessary romantic side plot in a young adult novel. While Nathaniel was a well-rounded, emotionally damaged character with a morally gray area that kept him interesting, the relationship between him and Elisabeth could have been removed and the plot may have remained the same. I find that authors like Rogerson don’t realize that their characters can be compassionate and willing to self-sacrifice without love being their motivation. Nathaniel and Elisabeth could have worked together because they were facing the same enemy, their love for each other was an unnecessary motive and took time away from the intricacies of the politics in this world.
That being said, the plot resolution was handled well and Rogerson allowed for a long enough epilogue to provide closure for these characters, allowing this book to serve as a great stand-alone fantasy.