We’re participating in the Leap into Books Giveaway Hop and are pleased to be hosting a giveaway for Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman. This is Book #1 in the Split Worlds series and, if it’s an indication, this is going to be a fun thrill ride of a series! It features a world split into two (doh), with humans none the wiser about the other side. The Fae in this novel are not sweet little flower fairies but more the type who would leave a changeling in your baby’s bed if no one were keeping an eye on them. If you like sci-fi/fantasy mixed in with mystery and thriller elements then you’ll want to check this one out. And you just might win an advance readers copy (ARC) thanks to the publisher’s generosity!
Bath, England has a sister city of sorts in the Nether world that humans know nothing about. Aqua Sulis is a Fae city hidden from them that is almost an exact duplicate in the Nether world. Those charged with keeping the Fae from causing havoc in the mortal lands (known to the Fae as Mundanus) are the Arbiters, robotic seeming men in black with no remaining emotions who follow all rules to the letter. The Fae despise them but they are a necessary evil. If not for the Arbiters, humans would have all been enslaved and chaos would rule in both worlds.
It’s the beginning of Aque Sulis’ social season but there’s a problem. The Master of Ceremonies has disappeared. That may just sound like an inconvenience but in the Nether world, it’s a catastrophe. The very fabric of the Great Families’ society depends on the Master of Ceremonies.
“He [Sam] heard the body being dumped and the two men were there faster than he thought possible. They looked like identical twins, but up close they seemed less human. Their faces were long, in keeping with the rest of them, with sharp features and thin, cruel lips. In the dim light, their eyes looked like blackened almonds.
‘What are you doing here?’ the one on the left asked.
‘Nothing. I didn’t see anything!’
The faerie [with them] started to laugh, until it was batted away.
‘No one will miss a mundane, they kill each other all the time,’ the one on the right said.”
In addition, Max, an Arbiter from Bath, has come to London because he suspects something is very wrong within the Arbiter ranks. Humans have been disappearing in London and none of the Arbiters seem to know anything about it. That’s peculiar enough that he smells an insider rat. While spying from a rooftop, he sees what he has suspected; an Arbiter watching but doing absolutely nothing as a young woman is absconded in broad daylight on a busy London street. That goes against everything the Arbiters stand for.
But it gets worse fast. When he tries to report it to his office in Bath, no one is there. They’ve all been killed. Someone is rapidly and systematically getting rid of all the Arbiters and he’s next if he can’t escape. The only sanctuary he knows about is the home of the Sorcerer. If Max’ life weren’t in imminent danger and there weren’t a job to be done, he’d never go near the mad Sorcerer Ekstrand, but now he has no choice. He must fulfill his duty as Arbiter to ensure the treaty between the two worlds is upheld, no matter what.
Catherine Rhoeas-Popaver, a young Fae woman who has taken the human name Cathy, has been hiding out and living as a mortal while she attends a human university. She loves living in this world and has taken great pains to obtain the strongest charm/amulet possible to ensure her family can’t find her. In return for this potent Charm, she helps organize and do the bookkeeping for the Shopkeeper of the Emporium of Things In-Between and Besides. It works for a number of years and her love for the freedom of the mortal world continues to grow.
Unfortunately the Shopkeeper is no match for Lord Poppy, the Fae who rules the noble Popaver line, and Cathy is not only found by him but her charm/amulet is destroyed so her family can reclaim her and bring her kicking and screaming home to the Nether world. They are determined to marry her off in an advantageous match and she believes she will never see the mortal world again.
“’What do you need?’
‘Nothing for me…you’ll see when you go in there.’
He [the Shopkeeper] didn’t say it like it was a surprise present, more like he’d found a giant spider in there and couldn’t bear to get rid of it.
…A beat later she smelled a gentle floral fragrance and then she saw Lord Poppy, leaning on an elegant black cane and smiling broadly.
Feeling like all of the blood in her body had dropped into her toes, Cathy scrabbled for the door handle, instinctively wanting to bolt out of the room again. She stopped when he shook his head. No act could be more futile than trying to flee a Lord of the Fae Court.”
Because Lord Poppy chooses to be amused by her stubbornness and her imagination in keeping herself hidden, he grants her three wishes, none of which can be that she be sent back to the mortal world. But he cautions her that if her wishes do not amuse him then she will pay for his boredom. Talk about a rock and a hard place!
Her family has made an arranged marriage for her with William “Will” Reticulata-Iris, who has just returned from a Grand Tour of Mundanus with a friend as a coming-of-age present. He loved his travels but, unlike Cathy, knows his duty requires that he marry into a prominent family for alliance purposes and work to better the family’s interests. He doesn’t bargain for Cathy though, who not only seems immune to his charms but wants little if anything to do with him.
As if Cathy’s depressing return to the Nether world weren’t bad enough, Ekstrand and Lord Poppy both seem to be playing a deadly game with her. She’s quickly drawn into Max and the Sorcerer’s need to find the Master of Ceremonies while trying to find ways to evade physical abuse by her father and find some way to discourage the attentions of the handsome and oh-so-charming Will. If that isn’t enough to make a woman crazy, I don’t know what is!
Can Cathy escape back into Mundanus, where the human she loves lives or will that just endanger his life? Can she evade her father’s ever increasing rage? Can she fend off Will and should she? Is he as bad as she thinks he is? Can she find three wishes that will amuse Lord Poppy or will she fall into the mortal trap of being tricked into dubious wishes? Can she help find the Master of Ceremonies and the culprits behind the Arbiter murders?
Cathy, Max and Will are all set upon by circumstances beyond their control and each handles it very differently. Cathy, who is strong, book-smart and persistent, tends to only see one way to solve her problem. She’s still got a lot of growing up to do but she’s a character I loved to root for. Max has literally been robbed of his emotions for his role as Arbiter and he knows he’s missing a very important part of himself. Even though he knows how vital his role is, he can’t help but want to be whole. Will shares elements of both Cathy and Max. He loves the freedom of Mundanus but he has a stronger sense of duty. Like Max, he knows he’s giving up an important part of himself to fulfill his duty but he’s determined to see it through. I loved seeing how all three of these characters grew within this first book and look forward to seeing how they continue to evolve. Oh, and did I mention the gargoyle? You’ll just have to discover him for yourself.
There is something about a novel like Between Two Thorns being set in England that just seems appropriate to me, so suspending disbelief was a lot easier than if it had been set in Missouri, for example. I would classify this more as a fantasy novel with sci-fi elements that make it all the more interesting.
A lot of times the world building necessary for a sci-fi/fantasy novel gets in the way of the story but not so with Between Two Thorns. It’s interwoven with the action in such a way that there’s no stop in the flow and it works effortlessly. Thank you for that, Emma Newman! I enjoyed every minute of these split worlds. The fairy-tale mythology, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, police procedural, romance, and all the other genre-bending elements worked together seamlessly. Now I just have to hang on for Book #2, and luckily I don’t have a long time to wait. Book #2, Any Other Name, is scheduled to be published in July, 2013, and Book #3, All Is Fair, is scheduled to be published in October, 2013, so keep an eye out for them. I know I will be!
Can’t wait to read it?
Between Two Thorns was published in the U.S. on February 26, 2013 and will be published in the UK on March 7, 2013, so it should be available for purchase or pre-order from your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it. As an example, Amazon has it priced at $9.60 for the paperback and $5.38 for the e-book.
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One lucky reader will win a trade paperback advance readers copy (ARC) of Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman!
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