Welcome to Glendoch!
Hidden to most, this glacial world once crackled with alchemy. Now it waits for war—divided and bound by strict rules. So when twelve-year-old Meylyne falls from a tree onto Glendoch’s sickly prince, she must flee or face imprisonment in the Shadow-Cellars. The only way she may return home is with a cure for the prince’s peculiar disease.
Convinced she will perish, Meylyne and her companions embark on their journey—and before they know it, they are knee-deep in a plot to sink Glendoch into shadow, like other worlds before it. Poisoned guardians, cursed wizards, and cunning witch-spirits bound into wands are just some of the dangers that dot the way of their travels.
And behind it all is the Thorn Queen. Mysteriously magnetic (or murderously vengeful, depending on whose side you’re on), she is always one step ahead of them . . .
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.9 out of 5
18th September 2018 by SparkPress
There was no doubt that Meylyne had the best seat in the house. Perched in a sprawling Orange Willow, she wedged herself between two branches and looked down. Tyr’s town square had never looked so crowded. Hundreds of people jostled and shouted beneath her.
“Is the entire Above-World here?” she whispered.
“Yes,” the tree whispered back. “Prince Piam only visits once a year.”
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I did that thing that I didn’t think I was ever going to do – sign up to NetGalley.
I also did that thing that I didn’t think I was ever going to do – request a whole bunch of ARCs.
Then that thing happened that I definitely didn’t think would happen – I got approved for a whole bunch of what I requested.
That’s a cross between yippee and yikes.
This is my and I’m actually very pleased that I’m doing it as a review for an ARC as it’s all very new and exciting for me.
But enough blathering. Onto my very !
The cover is both beautiful and alluring and the description is of a book that is exactly my kind of thing – heroic journeys, magic, witches, a mysteriously vengeful queen… oh yes!
But sadly this book didn’t quite cut the mustard.
So where did it fall short for me?
First let me say this – this is a book for the Middle Grade audience so I’m not expecting a great deal of complexity and character development so if there’s ever a lack of those components then I don’t consider it a big deal at all.
‘The Thorn Queen’ follows the ‘hero’s journey’ of our protagonist Meylyne who tries to find a cure for a prince’s aging sickness and meets new characters along the way before uncovering an even greater threat to her home world.
Every ‘hero’s journey’ tends to follow a similar route but I felt that this story got bogged down by the attempt to make this more of an epic hero’s journey with an extensive cast of characters, complicated world building and a multi-layered plot. None of these elements are problematic especially for fantasy but in a 250 page Middle Grade book it’s very hard to achieve successfully.
The main reason why this book didn’t work for me relates to something I said earlier:-
“this is a book for the Middle Grade audience so I’m not expecting a great deal of complexity”
I can’t believe I’m going to say this but… this book was too complicated. This made it very difficult to follow and I felt like it took me longer to read than it should ordinarily have done so I started to lose interest.
In terms of the characters – we meet a lot of them. Some of which only once, for an arbitrary reason, before never hearing of them again. I think the juggling of characters must have become an issue for the writer because there were times that Meylyne would travel places with only two of her three new travelling companions.
I believe if this happens enough times in a story where you have to remove immediate characters from the action to off-screen than it means that there are too many characters to handle.
We are also introduced to a vast world in which the characters constantly reference new names, places, magical and historical events and terminology. I felt that something new was added to every chapter and even as often as every couple of paragraphs. One character’s role was solely to act as the audience insert as he was always asking, ‘what is x?,’ and ‘who is x?’ which gave Meylyne the opportunity to drop some exposition.
With the Between World and Above World and the Cabbage-Windians, Garlochs, Grynches and characters called Groq, Grimorex, Trin, Train and Trisdyan, alchemists and queens and princesses and something called sphers… I got confused and then lost.
I got lost reading a Middle Grade book. And I’ve read all the Song of Ice and Fire books.
The plot also throws in some twists and turns leaving plot threads unresolved as the story moves into more complicated territory. Throwaway names that are mentioned once in the middle of exposition talk turn out to be much more important towards the end but there is little build up to it.
Overall I can see what the writer was trying to achieve but I would say either trim down the complex content or expand it, build it up and make it a longer YA piece of work. Then I could see it working.
And this is a mean spirited gripe of me but… there were far too many exclamation marks. I couldn’t handle it. An example… “We’re here!” she hissed. No. No no no no. If you are hissing you are speaking urgently but quietly. Why the exclamation mark? This happens a lot.
Unfortunately ‘The Thorn Queen’ isn’t one that I deeply enjoyed. In a market of Middle Grade fantasy I am sad to say that this doesn’t quite have the sparkle to make it stand out.
I would love to get the thoughts of the audience that this book is intended for because I am 33 and I needed a board with a lot of red string to work out where I was.