Rameau’s review archive: Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds 01) by Emma Newman

Synopsis:

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?

Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds, #1)Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

This review can also be found on Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell-blog.

There’s a difference between theory and practice. In science, theories are meaningless without the empirical evidence to support them. In fiction—no matter how brilliant the idea—the execution of a story is everything. Here, it fails.

In theory, reading about two worlds co-existing in modern Britain and reading about the adventures of the fae in the mundane worlds sounds intriguing. The possibilities of seeing different cultures clash and compete are endless. In practice, every author has to choose a line to walk on. I don’t think Emma Newman has any idea which line she’s straddling let alone how to tread on it.

The problem lies with the characters. It’s not that they’re particularly horrid—I actually liked that they were described either as ugly or dull—and unlikeable. It’s not even the fact that Cathy is the most frustrating, spineless, insipid heroine I’ve stumbled on recently. It’s that their characterisations aren’t properly supported by their actions. Both the fae and the mundane talk and think alike. Even Max, the most interesting character of the bunch, doesn’t quite act like someone whose soul has been disconnected is apparently supposed to act.

It’s like Newman created these rules for herself and then forgot to follow them. That is, if there were any rules to begin with. Never did I get the sense that the author had fully internalised and adopted this alternative world she had created, let alone that she’d fully applied it to the characters she was writing about.

And with that, whatever there may have been unique about the story—about the idea of a few young, rebellious fae touched challenging Nether’s customs and traditions—unravels into an uninteresting mess.

I’m not a fan of fairies, but I never open a book wanting to hate it. Between Two Thorns had its chance to win me over and it failed. I started skimming and speed-reading around 20% mark and only stopped a few times to read scenes with Will in them.

P.S. Every time I wrote the word mundane, I wanted to substitute it with the word muggle.

I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

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5 Responses to Rameau’s review archive: Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds 01) by Emma Newman

  1. Ouch. Fantasy as a genre has its demands and limitations. Some authors seem to think of it as a ‘soft option’. The results are easy to predict.

  2. I liked it a bit more than you but agree with much of this. Especially not following her own set of rules. At one point a character takes a car instead of a train because of a distrust of technology, what?
    By the third book that damn gargoyle starts acting like a bloodhound, sniffing out stuff.

    • rameau says:

      I read this such a long time ago that I’ve blissfully blocked most of it from my mind. Thanks for confirming I made the right choice by flouncing.

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