I am currently composing a little song that goes like this: 'I love The Split Worlds, I love The Split Worlds, Emma Newman is fab, read this book.' OK, so I probably am not destined for a cool music award anytime soon, but I think it conveys my enthusiasm. In case there is any lingering doubt in your mind: Between Two Thorns is brilliant, I loved it, please read it.
Down to the serious business of the storyline then. Sam is an average bloke who's had a skinful and sneaks behind a tree to answer a call of nature. Even in his inebriated state he hadn't expected to see a scary spider-like man and a glowing dragonfly hoisting a very suspiciously body-shaped package through the trees. It's OK though, because he can't remember a thing about it the next day.
Cathy is not an average young woman, balancing study with work in an emporium. The Emporium of Things in Between and Besides to be precise, a shop that sells charms and the like. She's avoiding her family quite successfully until Lord Poppy catches up with her. He's fae by the way, sinister yet compelling with his dramatic looks and curious charm. Cathy is not exactly local, she's from Aquae Sulis, the Nether 'reflection' of Bath. She's from one of the Great Families, and they want her back with them, not running around free in Mundanus (or the real world as we call it).
Max is an Arbiter taking a risk investigating some strange disappearances in London. He shouldn't be there, and some people will do whatever they can to make sure he too disappears. But Max is made from stern stuff, like granite maybe, impassive, unyielding, determined.
Missing people, kidnap, three wishes, charms, deception and Grand Tours collide in a story that's part fairytale, part fantasy, part Jane Austen, with a sprinkling of bonkers brilliance. There are talking gargoyles, sorcerers, duels, and souls in jars. Nether is a bland looking world, still and silver, filled with stuffy mannered, repressed, status-obessessed people. It's all very stiff, over-polite, formal, and an absolutely rubbish place to live if you're a woman with an idea in her head. No wonder Cathy had alternative plans for her life. But, if she is to have a hope of getting back any independence she will need all her wit and a big dollop of courage as she gets drawn into the games of the fae nobility.
So much happens in this book, yet there is still so much more to know about the Nether. Little hints are thrown in about certain events or characteristics but are not picked back up on. There's stories and stories to tell yet, thankfully for me. I'm imagining a future in which I have a Split Worlds shelf, with them lined up ready for re-reading and pressing into the hands of grateful friends and family. I love a good daydream, clearly so does Emma Newman - and she's written them down for our delectation. Cheers!
My most hearty thanks to Angry Robot for the advance copy via Netgalley. Between Two Thorns is available right now. Emma Newman's website can be found here.