In Emma Newman’s Between Two Thorns, the first novel in her Split Worlds series, all Cathy wants is to go to college and be with the man she loves. However, her family in the Nether, the sky-less land between Mundanus, the normal world, and Exillium, the magical land of the Fae Lords, want her back home for an arranged marriage. She dreads being property once again and longs to live a normal life. Add to the mix the kidnapping of a high-ranking citizen of the Nether, the taking of normal humans off the street, and a murder mystery among the Arbiters – charged with protecting normal “innocents” from magical intrusion, and you have a captivating story sure to draw you in.
What was really interesting was how horrific the magical worlds were. The Nether, with its charms, curses, and lighting system powered by imprisoned fairies, is ruled by Great Families that are each sponsored by a Fae Lord. The Fae Lords themselves are imprisoned in Exillium, and anyone other than a Fae in that realm is taking his life in his hands. The Fae Lords themselves are shallow, vacuous, and fickle. Anyone who draws their attention, even their “favorites”, need to be on their best behavior. One small misstep could mean eternal slavery or worse.
The worlds and characters were so detailed and vivid that reading about them was pure pleasure. It’s a nightmarish fairytale in reverse. The woman from the magical land wishes to be normal, wishes to have equal rights and to be seen as a person instead of property – a pawn in a political or social game.
Though the book begins with the mystery of the mundanes being kidnapped, quickly followed by a murder mystery, the real hook is the personal plight of Cathy. She had escaped life in the Nether once. Now that her family has caught her again, will she be trapped in the Nether or will she find freedom? My heart went out to her, and while there was resolution to one major plot, two others were left unanswered.
However, if you are a binge-reader, the unresolved plots should be easily forgivable since the next two books in the series, Any Other Name and All Is Fair, have already been published. Emma Newman’s Split Worlds are a delight, so why not dive in and enjoy!