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Sorcery of Thorns

Sorcery of Thorns cover


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Book Review

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson details a world called Austermeer, a place where books are alive and can be used for good or transformed into horrific monsters. When Elisabeth is accused of a crime, she must put aside her fears and trust a sorcerer and his demon to help her uncover the truth and save the world.

Plot Summary

Elisabeth Scrivener was abandoned at the Great Library of Summershall as a baby and has spent her entire life being raised among its books and grimoires — living books of magical spells. Now 16, she is an apprentice librarian under the tutelage of the library’s wardens and Director. Elisabeth hopes to one day become a warden herself, as she can imagine no other life than that within the walls of one of Austermeer’s six Great Libraries. Five are evenly spaced in a circle with the sixth located in the circle’s center, the capital city of Brassbridge.

One night, Elisabeth wakes and is convinced she heard a sound. She explores the library alone as everyone else is asleep. She recognizes a peculiar odor, *aetherial combustion*. She smelled it the previous year when a young sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorn, had performed a spell in her presence. As a librarian, Elisabeth has been taught to fear sorcerers because they gain their magic by giving years of their lives to a demon in exchange for the demon’s power. Nathaniel surprised her by being both handsome and kind.

As the smell indicates unauthorized magic has been performed among the grimoires, Elisabeth proceeds with caution. She stumbles across the Director’s legendary sword, Demonslayer, and then finds the Director dead. Picking up the sword, Elisabeth realizes one of the grimoires has been turned into a Malefict — a hybrid book-demon, who is able to walk on its own and kill humans. Terrified, she follows its trail, and after a brutal fight, destroys it.

Although she should be hailed as a hero, a vindictive library warden insists Elisabeth is responsible for the Director’s death and the creation of the Malefict. He summons a sorcerer to take her to trial in the capital. Elisabeth is shocked and unnerved when her escorts are none other than Nathaniel Thorn and his man servant, Silas.

When they reach the capital, they are set upon by lesser demons, called fiends. Nathaniel is surprised when Elisabeth refuses to run for safety and instead picks up an iron rod to fend them off, as demons are weakened by iron and salt. Nathaniel uses magic to fight the beasts, but Elisabeth is injured when she lures a demon away from a young boy. Before falling unconscious, she sees Silas remove his livery gloves in order to join the battle and learns he has claws instead of fingers.

Elisabeth awakens in the guestroom of Nathaniel’s family mansion with Silas preparing her a cup of tea. She remembers seeing his claws and realizes he must be the demon to whom Nathaniel is bound. Silas’ demeanor totally betrays all she has been taught. He is kind and attentive to her needs. He assures her that while lesser demons feed on human flesh, he is high born and only consumes the life force of the human with whom he has bargained. He shows her the morning papers, which declares her a hero and calls for all charges against her to be dropped. That evening, Nathaniel escorts her to Chancellor Ashcroft’s house, the judge in her case.

At dinner, Chancellor Ashcroft commends Elisabeth’s actions both in the death of the Malefict and the battle with the fiends. He drops all charges. What should be a joyous night turns bittersweet when Nathaniel and Silas leave her in Ashcroft’s care and return to the Thorne mansion.

Elisabeth is given a beautiful room and dresses in Ashcroft’s home. He parades her out as his special guest at a dinner with Parliament dignitaries and their wives. After dinner, she tries to find her way back to her room but instead comes upon Ashcroft’s demon, Lorelei. The beautiful creature casts a spell that should render Elisabeth helpless both physically and mentally. Elisabeth, however, conceals the fact that her mind remains clear.

Lorelei brings her to Ashcroft’s study where the demon and the Chancellor converse openly, believing Elisabeth to be devoid of thought. Elisabeth learns that the Chancellor murdered her Director and created the Malefict. She realizes he has brought her here as his prisoner to learn if she knows anything about his crime. Lorelei lifts the spell from her, and Ashcroft tells Elisabeth she must have fallen unconscious after dinner.

In the morning, Elisabeth tries to convince a physician of Ashcroft’s guilt, but he believes her to be suffering an inflammation of the brain due to excessive reading. Although distressed by his chauvinism, she is relieved to learn he does not tell Ashcroft about her suspicions.

Over the next few days, Elisabeth realizes many of Ashcroft’s servants are actually lesser demons. Every afternoon, Lorelei places Elisabeth under a glamour so Ashcroft can question her about what she knows about his crime, but she is able to evade the truth. Lorelei encourages him to enter her mind and take the memories by force. Because such an act drives the victim insane, Ashcroft wants to wait.

Ashcroft’s patience ends a few days later, and he enters Elisabeth’s mind, seeking to rob her memories. Elisabeth is still able to keep her knowledge a secret from him. Frustrated, Ashcroft pulls himself from her memories, leaving Elisabeth screaming as he tries to destroy the rest of her mind. He intends to have her committed to a mental institution, but she escapes.

After several days of living on the streets, Elisabeth thinks of Nathaniel and wonders if she might be able to trust him. Almost immediately she sees Silas across the street. When she tries to catch up to him, she is accosted by men in an alley. Silas rescues her and takes her back to Thorne mansion.

The following day, Elisabeth tells Nathaniel the truth about what happened at the Summershall Library and Ashcroft’s part in it. At first, Nathaniel refuses to help Elisabeth in her quest to discredit the Chancellor, afraid that she will be hurt or killed.

Nathaniel finally agrees to help Elisabeth in her search for proof of Ashcroft’s duplicity. When nothing turns up, they decide to confront Ashcroft at the upcoming Royal Ball. They can’t make an official accusation, but they can denounce him before his peers and hopefully spark others to be wary of him.

While their plan initially succeeds, Ashcroft uses a spell to lure them away from the crowds and into a garden. There, Ashcroft appears with Silas as his prisoner. He offers to trade Silas in exchange for Elisabeth. Instead, Nathaniel challenges him to a dual. In the end, Elisabeth kills Ashcroft’s demon, leaving him without magic. Silas then steps in front Ashcroft’s sword, sacrificing himself for Nathaniel.

Elisabeth takes Nathaniel home to nurse his severe injuries. He enlists her help to summon Silas back from the Otherworld. The demon comes but is no longer under Nathaniel’s command. Elisabeth sees him for the monster he is, and he admits he only gave his life because he knew Nathaniel would summon him again.

Silas demands Nathaniel now give him 30 years of his life or he won’t enter his service. Horrified, Elisabeth offers Silas 10 years of her life if he will only take 20 of Nathaniel’s. The demon agrees, although he will only serve Nathaniel, not Elisabeth. As Nathaniel heals, the relationship between him and Elisabeth becomes a romantic one.

Nathaniel and Elisabeth continue to work together to fight Ashcroft. They soon learn he has been killing people in the Great Libraries as a blood sacrifice. His ancestor placed the libraries in points on a pentagram, serving as a massive demonic summoning circle. Ashcroft has discovered the secret name of the demon king, Archon.

Ashcroft plans to make one last sacrifice in Brassbridge and summon Archon to the world. He believes it will open up a new era of sorcery and change the world. Nathaniel and Elisabeth learn that this summoning will destroy the world, as Archon’s presence will tear the veil between the Otherworld and earth, allowing demons to invade and kill. No one will be able to stop them.

Elisabeth and Nathaniel’s warnings go unheeded, and Ashcroft succeeds in creating an initial rift between the worlds. Demons flood in and begin to destroy and kill all who get in their way. Elisabeth and Nathaniel find Ashcroft in the Royal Library still in the act of calling Archon to the world.

By growing up with the books, Elisabeth has learned that she has a magical connection to them. She rallies them to fight the demons. But even with their help, it is soon evident that Archon is too powerful to be contained. Nathaniel is mortally wounded, and Elisabeth expects to be killed. They free Silas from their bargain.

The demon servant transforms into his Otherworld form: glowing, horned and evil. Even as Silas prepares to kill them, Nathaniel takes his clawed hand and forgives him. Stunned, Silas goes against his nature and fights Archon. The demon king is too strong to defeat, but Silas ends the ritual and banishes Archon back to the Otherworld, even though it means his own eventual death.

In the following weeks, Elisabeth is given the opportunity to return to one of the libraries as an apprentice, but she is unsure of what she wants for her future. She only knows she wants it to involve Nathaniel. Although the two tried many times to summon Silas from the Otherworld using his true demon name, they were unsuccessful.

Elisabeth mourns the loss of the demon, and one afternoon in an act more of memorial than summoning, she lights the candles around the pentagram one more time and places a few drops of her blood onto the circle. Then, instead of using his true name, she calls for Silas. A breeze stirs in the room and blows out the candles.

Christian Beliefs

There are only vague references to the Judeo/Christian God. Statues of angels adorn a library. A sorcerer tells Elisabeth to pray, but does not indicate to whom.

Other Belief Systems

Austermeer is a magical world where books are living creatures that must be guarded in libraries. Sorcerers bind themselves to demons by sacrificing years of their lives in exchange for the demons’ power to wield magic. Sorcerers use the knowledge in books to extend their power and abilities.

Sorcerers’ books, called grimoires, are kept in chains or special vaults in libraries throughout the land. The libraries are manned by wardens and Directors who keep the magical books well-guarded. Salt and iron can be used to weaken their demonic energy, but sorcery can be used to turn the grimoires into *Maleficts*, large violent creatures that can kill humans.

Elisabeth grew up hearing stories of how sorcerers drink human blood, turn people into animals and sacrifice virgins. At first, Nathaniel uses her prejudice to tease and frighten her. She learns, however, that most of the stories about sorcerers are false, except for their relationship with demons. Nathaniel gave 20 years of his life to his demon servant, Silas, in order to keep him as a servant and use his power. Silas has served the House of Thorn for centuries. Nathaniel’s ancestor used necromancy to raise an army of dead soldiers to fight against a foreign invasion.

Sorcery is used to bring inanimate objects, such as statues, to life. A scrying mirror can be used to link mirrors in other homes, even across many miles. A person can then communicate with another person or spy on them.

Sorcery uses power from the demon world and leaves behind a smell like burnt metal. This demonic Otherworld is a plane adjacent to the human world that has the source of all magical energy. Lower demons, such as imps and goblins, are not allowed to be summoned because they lack intelligence. Chancellor Ashcroft breaks the magic laws and surrounds himself with these lesser fiends to protect his home. Sorcerers must bind themselves only to high born demons.

Nathaniel and Elisabeth are attacked by fiends. Elisabeth watches in awe as Nathaniel commands nature to fight the demons. She compares him to a god as he uses lightning to kill the creatures.

After Silas is killed, Nathaniel and Elisabeth perform the ritual to summon him back into Nathaniel’s service. Candles are lit at each point of a pentagram. Nathaniel stands within the circle of the pentagram and slits his wrist so that his blood falls on the edge of the circle. He then calls Silas from the demon realm, using his full demon name. When Silas appears, Nathaniel warns Elisabeth not to step within the circle or Silas will kill her.

Elisabeth had thought Silas had sacrificed himself for Nathaniel’s life, but she learns he actually allowed himself to be killed so that he could gain more years from Nathaniel. Elisabeth offers Silas 10 years from her life, in addition to 20 from Nathaniel, if he will return to their service. Silas agrees.

Nathaniel drinks a vial of the blood of another sorcerer in order to harness his power. Ashcroft uses a spell so that he can possess the bodies of Library Directors. This allows him access to their vaults so he can release the grimoires.

Chancellor Ashcroft’s ancestor laid out the libraries of Austermeer in a pentagram. The murders of both humans and grimoires that have taken place within them serve as blood sacrifices to the Otherworld. Ashcroft has spent his life searching for the name of the demon king, Archon. Ashcroft hopes to summon the demon king and use its power to better mankind. However, if Archon succeeds in entering the human world, he will destroy the veil that separates it from the Otherworld. Demons would be able to run free and slaughter humans.

Silas is a demon and explains to Elisabeth that, were it not for his bargain with Nathaniel, he would gladly kill her to feed on her life force. Throughout the book, however, he is seen as noble and caring. After Elisabeth frees him from their bargain, he initially steps forward to kill her and Nathaniel. When Nathaniel takes his hand and forgives him, Silas is able to overcome his demonic nature and fight the demon king to save their lives.

Authority Roles

Elisabeth was raised as an orphan but had a deep respect for her library’s Director. The Director regularly championed Elisabeth’s position in the library.

The leader of the sorcerers, Chancellor Ashcroft, is driven to betray the laws of the land due to his need for power. He possesses and kills people without remorse and attempts to drive Elisabeth insane.

Profanity & Violence

God’s name is used in vain alone and with the words: my and *thank*. D–n and h— are used as well as the English word bloody.

One of the wardens regularly whips his apprentices. Elisabeth grew up on legends about how sorcerers drank blood and sacrificed virgins to demons. Most of the tales were untrue. Nathaniel’s ancestor raised an army of dead soldiers to fight an invasion. The act decimated two-thirds of an ancient forest as that life had to be drawn from somewhere.

Elisabeth finds the Director of her library dead. She then must battle a Malefict — a grimoire that has been turned into a monster. The Malefict is the size of a bear and covered in eyes. It attempts to squeeze her to death, but fails. Elisabeth uses salt to momentarily incapacitate it, and then stabs it. Instead of blood, it bleeds ink. The creature ages rapidly, and then pieces of it fall off and turn to fiery ash until it disintegrates entirely.

A man holds a knife to Elisabeth’s throat before Silas kills him. Lesser demons, in the shape of huge hounds with armored scales, attack Elisabeth and Nathaniel in hopes of eating them. Nathaniel uses magic to fight them, primarily in the shape of a whip of light, while Elisabeth uses a metal rod. Silas eventually fights the other demons to save his master’s life. Elisabeth has another battle with a demon. She swings an oil lantern at the fiend, causing him to catch on fire, giving her enough time to escape.

Elisabeth learns that Nathaniel was only 12 when he witnessed Silas kill his father. Later, she understands it was done to save Nathaniel’s life, as his father had lost control of a spell trying to bring his wife and son back from the dead. Nathaniel regularly has nightmares of that night. It causes him to lose control of his magic and make the walls of his mansion drip blood.

Chancellor Ashcroft tries to steal Elisabeth’s memories, a painful process that usually leaves the victim insane. He is also responsible for the deaths of many people as he turns grimoires into Maleficts and releases them in the different libraries.

A group of men follow Elisabeth with the intent of attacking and possibly raping her. She strikes one with a board studded with nails. Silas then comes to her rescue and kills them all.

Although the grimoires are books, they are also alive. They call out to people to try and put them under their spells. They can also attack people, hoping to gain their freedom. The grimoires are kept chained up or locked away. One was kept inside a spiked cage. Another had an iron bit shoved between its pages. Iron causes demons and grimoires immense pain.

Nathaniel challenges Ashcroft to a dual of magic in order to free Silas. Nathaniel wields his whip of light while Ashcroft turns his hand into a clawed weapon. As the sorcerers dual, Elisabeth battles Ashcroft’s demon, eventually killing the demon with a sword. Ashcroft then takes his own sword and prepares to kill Nathaniel, but Silas steps in front of the blade. Nathaniel is severely wounded in the battle by Ashcroft’s claws.

As Ashcroft continues his plan to release the king of demons, he kills more people and creates bigger and fiercer Maleficts intent on destruction. As the veil between worlds collapses, Elisabeth, Nathaniel and Silas all battle lesser demons, trying to keep them from killing innocent people. Nathaniel turns statues to life in order to create an army to fight. Then he and Elisabeth try to stop Ashcroft.

Inside the last library, Elisabeth releases the grimoires so they can aid in the battle. Fueled by Archon’s strength, Ashcroft lashes out at them with potent magic. Elisabeth frees Silas from his bargain, and he returns to his most powerful demon form. As Silas prepares to kill his former master, Nathaniel takes his hand and forgives him. The act causes Silas to sacrifice his life for theirs. He cannot defeat Achron, but he can force the demon king back to the Otherworld. As Archon retreats, the library collapses around Nathaniel and Elisabeth, but they survive.

Sexual Content

Elisabeth and Nathaniel share several passionate and graphically described kisses. Nathaniel admits to Elisabeth that he is bisexual.

Discussion Topics


Additional Comments

Alcohol: There are several instances where characters drink wine or champagne at formal galas and dinners.

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