I’m participating in a four week read-along of Emma Newman’s BETWEEN TWO THORNS, the first book in The Split World series. Hosted by Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow and organized via the SF/F Read Alongs group on 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?
This week is our last for BETWEEN TWO THORNS, but check out the read along Goodreads group (linked above) to participate in other read alongs!
Part 1 – Monday 9th May: Chapters 1-9, hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Part 2 – Monday 16th May: Chapters 10-18, hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings
Part 3 – Monday 23rd May: Chapters 19-25, hosted by x + 1
Part 4 – Monday 30th May: Chapters 26-End, hosted by Lynn’s Books
On to the questions. Beware: spoilers for chapters 26-the end.
1. We seem to have a number of separate threads even by the end of the book – what do you make of it all so far. Were you surprised by any of the final revelations?
I don’t know that I was surprised so much as disappointed. I would’ve liked to be a lot more surprised, if that makes sense. After all the amazing theories people came up with during the read-along, the various reveals in the finale were a little underwhelming. We all knew that Lady Rose was behind the disappearance of Cathy’s uncle, and we all knew that the Rosa’s were bad news. We didn’t actually learn anything new beyond what Max and the gargoyle discovered at the former Bath Chapter House: that the Arbiters were killed by sorcery. While that was quite the reveal, I wanted a lot more.
What’s going on with the Sorcerer? Can Lucy be trusted? Will Cathy ever get around to buying a canvas, and what will happen when she does? BETWEEN TWO THORNS felt like a set-up novel for the series’ action, and although I really enjoyed it I do find myself shaking my head at how little actually happened.
2. What are your impressions of the world that Emma Newman has created here?
The world is hands down my favourite part of BETWEEN TWO THORNS. I love a good historical fantasy, especially one set in a Regency-inspired era. There’s something about the stifling social etiquette and class hierarchy that makes for some serious drama when the heroine inevitably says “screw it” and chooses to buck those rules.
But Newman has added something special here, win the parallel existence of Mundanus, with its computers and pollution and women’s liberation. It gives Cathy something to hope for, I guess. I’m actually wondering whether she will continue her crusade for women’s rights in the Nether, now that it seems like she’ll be stuck married to Will. I hope that she will, because I bet a number of women in the Nether would welcome feminism with open arms (even if it is on the sly).
3. Do you have any favourite characters so far? Any characters that you’re still not sure of and who do you positively dislike?
My favourites are Max + gargoyle and Ekstrand and his team. They added some much-needed humour in moments where I really thought that despair was going to overwhelm the story. There are only so many scenes of abuse, bullying, and failing marriages that I can witness without a reprieve. I also like these characters because I’m certain that there’s more about them we don’t yet know…especially Ekstrand. Why is he so concerned with keeping his face hidden? Is it possible that Cathy might know his face? And what’s going to happen to Max as he continues wandering around without a soul but accompanied by one?
I really don’t like Will. I nearly lost it When he took credit for Cathy’s efforts to stop the Rosa’s and find her uncle. No Will, you weren’t doing it to protect her from the censure of Society or her father’s wrath, you did it because you wanted to one-up other young men and make a name for yourself. I pray that Cathy teaches him a lesson soon, because I’m getting real tired of watching her continuously getting smacked down by everyone around her.
4. What are your predictions for moving into the next story?
Clearly there’s no way for Cathy to escape her impending nuptials thanks to her mother dosing her with a roofie. So I think that Cathy and Will are going to get married, Max and the gargoyle (who needs a name!) will continue searching for answers, and Sam and Leanne are going to end their marriage.
I’m not sure what’s going to happen with the various Fae lords, and the brewing conflict between them and the Sorcerers. But I bet it’s going to be big! Now that Lady Rose is no more, there’s probably going to be a lot of jockeying for position among the Fae. At this point I’m not sure if it will be better or worse for Cathy and co. if Lord Poppy comes out on top. On the one hand, everyone in Aquae Sulis knows that Cathy is Lord Poppy’s favourite and that will undoubtedly influence how they treat her; on the other, Lord Poppy is a complete madman and his violent temper is impossible to predict. Whatever happens, I do hope that he’ll be a major player in book 2 because to be honest…I really liked his character! In a villainous kind of way, of course.