‘Between Two Thorns’ is the first in the new ‘Split Worlds’ series of books, this also includes a set of short stories (see more information at the bottom of this review). Currently, there appear to be two more novels in this series ‘Any Other Name’, and ‘All Is Fair’, but there’s no mention of it being a trilogy, so more could be added.
This book is based on the premise that there are three worlds, all very separate, apart from the odd crossing made by those with the right powers. Mundanus is the world that you and I know (as long as we’re both human), Exilium is inhabited by the Fae (fairies but not the kind that twinkle) and the Nether is somewhere in between, hence the title I’m guessing!
Those living in Mundanus are completely unaware of the other two worlds, whereas those in Exilium and the Nether can move between all three worlds. In fact, those from the Nether go to Mundanus to do something similar to a ‘Grand Tour’, popular in Victorian England, which also ages them faster than in the Nether allowing them to move from childhood to adulthood.
Cat is originally from the Nether but has escaped and, with the help of some cunning spells, hides in Mundanus. She finds Mundanus to be far more interesting than the Nether, in which women live the lives of Victorian women, ie not particularly exciting. Cat, along with Max, an arbiter which is like a soulless policeman of those living in the Nether and Exilium and their interactions with humans, have to find out what has happened to Cat’s uncle. This involves trips to Exilium and chatting up a Gargoyle/Grotesque whilst trying to fend off Cat’s new fiancé! There is a lot of book set aside for explaining how everything in the three worlds works. This is interesting but I can see that the second and third book might be a little faster paced having got all this out of the way.
This novel draws you in from the very first, tempting you with magical creatures set against present day Bath. I tried only reading one chapter just to test the writing style, etc but found myself, a few hours later, having read a vast amount of the book equally happy to be enjoying it and unhappy that I’d consumed so much in just one sitting. It sits beautifully within my favourite type of fantasy novel, fairy tale within the present day. I’m always wondering whether there are things going on that we’re unaware of as humans. I love to think that the fairy houses I made as a child were actually used and that those lost buttons and bits of string were now part of the lives of a family of borrowers. Anything of that nature, I’m completely enamoured with and this book really let me enjoy this parallel world scenario. Some people may find this all a little twee and reminiscent of Harry Potter, etc. Myself, I have to admit I loved it!
I really enjoyed how the story compares modern day Manchester and Bath with a romanticised fairy tale version. Bringing characters who would be more at home with our language conventions and think nothing of saying exactly what they’re thinking into the much more straight-laced fairy world makes for some hilarious scenes. I also appreciated the fact that some proper Mancunian slang was used, for example, bobbins! I haven’t heard that used in a sentence for years! Just in case you want to use it in a sentence it means rubbish eg ‘that concert was bobbins’, now you will fit in should you ever go to Manchester.
If you’re interested in reading some short stories based in the ‘Split Worlds’ universe, Emma Newman will give one short story per week for one whole year! I promise you these will only whet your appetite and you’ll end up buying this book as well, but it’s always nice to try before you buy as they say.
(pub: Netgalley. 416 page pdf read on kindle. Price: free! ISBN: 978-0-85766-319-1)