Banner by Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

I am participating in a four week read-along of Emma Newman’s BETWEEN TWO THORNS, the first book in The Split World series. Hosted by Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow and organized via the SF/F Read Alongs group on Goodreads.

Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.

The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer. View Spoiler »

It’s not too late to join in! Here’s the complete schedule for the read-along:

Part 1 – Monday 9th May: Chapters 1-9, hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow
Part 2 – Monday 16th May: Chapters 10-18, hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings
Part 3 – Monday 23rd May: Chapters 19-25, hosted by x + 1
Part 4 – Monday 30th May: Chapters 26-End, hosted by Lynn’s Books

On to the questions. Note: the following contains spoilers for chapters 1-9.

1. Let’s tackle the setup, first of all. The world of the Nether is caught between the Fae world and ours, and is also apparently too old-fashioned for Cathy, our escaping protagonist, to want to live in. What were your first impressions given her views on her home and family?

As an unabashed lover of historical fantasy, I felt a thrill when I realized that this book will – at least in part – contain both magic and Regency-inspired social customs. There’s something about that repressed, staid culture being exposed to magical shenanigans that delights me. And you can bet that the second Cathy is re-introduced to Aquae Sulis’ society, shenanigans are going to go down. She is not the sort of person who appreciates having decisions made for her.

I’m intrigued by the apparent family dynamics at work in Cathy’s life before she left home for Mundanus. Newman does an excellent job hinting at the relationships between Cathy and her various relatives without ever actually introducing us to them on the page. I’m eager to meet Cathy’s “odious” sister and her eldest brother Tom, in particular. Something tells me Tom won’t be mad that Cathy ran away like she expects he will…I’m hoping that he’ll be mad she’s getting dragged back instead! The poor girl could really use an ally at this stage. A strange cult of weirdoes, indeed!

2. There appears to be corruption and murder afoot among the Arbiters, a sort of supernatural police, and it doesn’t lead to good times for Max. What do you make of the magical soul surgery that the Arbiters undergo to do their jobs?

The Arbiters and their sub-culture are fascinating! I’m a very expressive reader, and I’ll admit that I let out a small gasp when I read that would-be Arbiters have their souls severed from their bodies…at age 13! WHAT. That’s insanity! I do think it’s interesting to suggest that souls are what make people corruptible, though. I guess if you consider a person’s soul the thing that gives them free will, then it would be connected to how impartially they can do their jobs.

There are a number of supposedly “incorruptible” police forces in SFF, and somehow they always seem to end up getting corrupted. The one that comes to mind at the moment is the Blacksuits from the Craft Sequence books by Max Gladstone. Those police officers take on a new persona while they’re working to mitigate bias and deter corruption; even though it doesn’t always work, at least they get to keep their souls! A much better deal than the poor Arbiters if you ask me, especially since they appear to be hella corrupt.

3. Even more mysterious is Sam’s accidental involvement in the mystery. Any thoughts on the hapless mortal and what might become of him?

The introduction of Sam was amazing. As ridiculous as the situation seemed at first, if you were to stumble upon a highly organized secret society of Fae and their human underlings, you would do so while trying to take a drunken piss in public. That just rings true to me!

When he stumbled upon the Fae body-snatchers, they said that he was “protected” after spying his wedding ring and stated that if they were to hurt him Lord Iron would know. Is his wedding ring made of iron? Based on Max’s reaction to the titanium put in his leg and his fear of Lord Titanium’s reaction, I’m thinking that maybe there are elemental Fae connected to metals who can sense when they’re being used or misused by people linked to the Nether. In that case though, Sam’s wife Leanne would seem to be the link, since Sam himself isn’t Fae-touched.

I don’t know y’all, I have a lot of theories about Sam! So far I’m really enjoying all of the characters but Sam’s secretly my favourite because he’s just such a normal guy.

Additional Thoughts:

The characters in BETWEEN TWO THORNS are completely on point so far. I especially love the rapport between Max and the gargoyle/his soul…such an odd, yet humorous, dynamic. I’m also intrigued by the Sorcerer, and his seemingly addled state of mind…or at least his complete inability to prioritize. Just another case of the eccentric genius, or is there more going on here? I guess we’ll find out next week!

Who is your favourite character from BETWEEN TWO THORNS so far? What do you think of my theories – agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!