Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman. Yes, absolutely.


Read January 2017
Recommended for people that like Regency romance and elven politics

** spoiler alert ** Do not read this review. Unless you are Carol., and unless you are not fond of regency romance and portal worlds. No, this is not a riff on Grover’s Monster at the End of This Book (whoops! Spoiler!)

Carol. You will hate this. Oh sure, it starts promisingly. Sam, looking for someplace unauthorized to pee, accidentally witnesses two very strange-looking men removing a body. His scene ends with a whopper of a spell put on him by Evil Tinkerbell. We switch to Max, an Arbiter lawman, who is tracking down some shady Fae dealings and ends up being ambushed by another Arbiter. The absolute best part about him is that his soul is given a new home in a gargoyle. Then we switch to Cathy, a Fae woman living in Mundania (!), hiding from her family so she can go to school, live a mundane life, and basically not be the compliant, living doll the Fae seem to expect of their women (except when we actually meet the women, they seem pretty much as scheming and power-focused as the men). There’s a moment of interest when she’s in an emporium and encounters the Lord of Fae, who gives her three wishes.

I know, right? Gargoyles and a woman struggling for independence, right? Three wishes? It sounded good enough to get you through the first third or so. But the woman’s character is so 1950s, it’s a serious drag. You rolled your eyes at “A zillion reasons,” she sighed. “If I tell you, will you promise not to tell anyone else?” He could see she was trembling. “I promise.” “My father…is violent when people aren’t as accomplished as he wants them to be. I’ve never been very accomplished.” Trembling. Bah!

She commits the cardinal Carol. sin of manufacturing a fight and telling someone she loves it was all a sham so that she can force him away before she hurts him (!?). Bah! I say again! She ends up going from doormat to aggressively verbally attacking the one man in Fae who is nice to her, to suddenly growing a spine (sortof) and hoping she can manipulate a favor into an escape. Bah! I hate romance tropes. I hate the phrase “words tumbled from her mouth.” What are they, acrobats? Kate Daniels never has tumbling words!

Then there’s the wild inconsistencies. I know, I know. You’ve heard a ton of positive buzz about Newman, especially the Planetfall series. I really hope this isn’t representative, because it’s just silly. How silly? Well, at one point, Cathy carefully memorizes all her account numbers, locations of storage and so forth because she knows she won’t be able to take anything back to Fae from Mundania, and she thinks it could be years before she is back. But then, “She just hoped she could remember how to use them; the Arbiter’s hurried instruction had been given almost a week before.” Alright, so she can do a random bank number but not a plan to activate a device.

Or this piece of writing: “Mr Gallica-Rosa,” she said, with a small curtsy that felt ridiculous in jeans and trainers. “Good day to you. Has your car broken down? Do you require assistance?” The words felt so wrong, like someone else was speaking them. Why would those words feel wrong? Because no one in Mundania says, “good day?” Or “did your car break down?” So strange that that feels wrong. Good day! I say. Good day, sir!

Other building doesn’t make sense. We have Max thinking “Max had no idea how it worked. It wasn’t his place to understand sorcery” and and then literally, one second later, “The Sorcerers, unlike the Fae, were able to embellish an anchor property’s reflection in the Nether, and from the cloister’s design Max theorised that…” What? I thought this wasn’t his place? Can you make up your mind, please?

About 70% into the story, Newman does this HUGE explano-babble by Cathy to explain the world of the Fae to a Mundane. It honestly felt like it should have been earlier or not at all. If we didn’t figure it out by 70%, it doesn’t belong there.

Then there’s a tiny little ‘whilst’ snuck into to perfectly normal modern speech patterns: “I was thinking about this whilst you were asleep,” the gargoyle said. “We need to find out if that kind of corruption is in other places.” Oi! But not a ‘thee’ or ‘thoust’ or ‘Faust’ to be found.

The world-building is horrible. It’s like that Elfland book you hated coupled with Terry Brooks’ Landover series. Portals, blah-blah. There’s the Nether, Exilium where the true Fae live, and Mundania. And the inconsistencies stack up. At one point Cathy thinks “She was thankful she’d been given a refresher lesson on surviving Exilium by her mother, just in case she was summoned back to their patron. It was the longest interaction she’d had with her since returning home.” Okay, first of all, nice ret-con for a section that isn’t going to matter, because, secondly, there is no special trick to surviving in Fae except “don’t touch anything, eat anything or drink anything.” Except a handy silver platter, which is just sitting around a picnic table in Fae, even though they are allergic to it. Which is weird, because I do the same thing, even though I’m allergic to peanuts. They’re always sitting on my dinner table in case I want to accidentally eat them.

One review described it as a cross between Regency Romance and UF. Wish I had seen that review, because Regency is Not My Cup of Tea, and I wouldn’t have started this. I’d recommend it for people that like Karen M.’s Fever series but thought that there was too much graphic sex. And, btw, this really isn’t urban fantasy, because it’s about Fae relationships and politics and has very little impact or action in ‘Mundania.’ Ugh.

There’s also some weird shit about blonde-blue eyed people in Fae that you couldn’t be bothered to read closely enough to work out.

Just don’t.


P.S. Honestly, might be far more enjoyable for people who enjoy that whole ‘regency romance’/court politics set-up. The writing isn’t terrible. (But ‘trembling.’ Bah!)

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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9 Responses to Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman. Yes, absolutely.

  1. M. says:

    Oh wow. What a mess. Thanks for the thorough review, Carol. I never would’ve guessed it’s that bad. From what I’ve read about Emma Newman, all rave reviews and praises were for her Sci-Fi book; there’s almost no mentions of this series, and now I know why.

    • thebookgator says:

      Yes, I was surprised it was the same writer. I think if I had saw this was a court politics/ romance, I would have avoided it. It is a cross of genres that isn’t going to appeal to very many.

  2. Karl says:

    Thank You kindly for this insightful review, I dont thing this book will even go near my TBR mountain !

  3. Philip Carron says:

    Poor Carol. I’m sorry you had to go through that. We’re here if you need us to recover.

  4. neotiamat says:

    Once again, I am impressed in a “Wow you are determined”/”Wow you are insane” way by your willingness to read awful books right through to the end. I normally drop them at page 40 at the latest.

    *pat pat* Poor Carol indeed.

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