Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Alphabet of Thorn” as Want to Read:
Alphabet of Thorn
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Alphabet of Thorn

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  3,510 ratings  ·  261 reviews
Fantasy author Patricia A. McKillip, the 21st century's response to Hans Christian Andersen, has mastered the art of writing fairy tales -- as evidenced by previous works like "The Tower at Stony Wood, Ombria in Shadow, " and "In the Forests of Serre." "Alphabet of Thorn" is yet another timeless fable suitable for children and adults alike.

In the kingdom of Raine, a vast r
...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published February 1st 2005 by Ace Books (first published February 3rd 2004)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Alphabet of Thorn, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Alphabet of Thorn

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Algernon
[9/10]
How do you put together a book of thorns, a three thousand years old emperor, an orphaned transcriptor, a passage through time, and swaths of ancient poetry into simple language? The answer is to let Patricia McKillip do it, with her deft hand at infusing each phrase with beauty, mystery and meaning. With every new book of her that I start, I get a sense of instant recognition, of a stylistic consistency that permeates from one story to another, regardless of the fact that she writes mostl
...more
Jon
Apr 12, 2013 Jon added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: SciFi & Fantasy Book Club March 2009 Selection
Nikki
Firstly, I think I've mentioned this before, but oh I love the cover art so much. It's done by Kinuko Craft, who has also illustrated at least some of Juliet Marillier's covers, so that explains why it seemed familiar.

Alphabet of Thorn is beautifully written. It's one of those books where it's less about making things happen, and more about watching them happen -- there is some degree of "stopping things happening", but mostly people fall in love, and do magic, and learn things about themselves,
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This book has many of the hallmarks of epic fantasy: a mysterious orphan, a teenage monarch, a shifting point-of-view among several main characters, an existential threat from an enemy with utterly unsympathetic motives. But unlike most epic fantasy, which comes in multi-book sequences, Alphabet of Thorn comprises only about 300 brief pages. Perhaps for that reason, it's only moderately successful.

Nepenthe, a teenage transcriptor in the palace library, becomes obsessed with a mysterious book who
...more
Robin
Mar 25, 2009 Robin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Robin by: GoodReads Sci-fi/Fantasy Group
Shelves: fantasy
I'll write a full review when I have more time but a quickie review....

When the book first started I was not "captivated". There were no characters I really fell in love with and the plot seemed slow to get going. That being said I thought the writing itself was very lyrical and poetic and there were a number of pasasages that caught my eye.

I stayed with the book because it was a group read - and around 1/2 way my opinion of it changed. By the end of the book I enjoyed it and was glad I had read
...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This is one of those books I came to reluctantly (for a book club here on Goodreads) and found myself pleasantly surprised by - a bit like the cover, really, which I hated at first and then slowly came to appreciate, especially as you start noticing all the little details in it that correspond so artfully to the story, in particular the city of towers built into the cliff, which you can hopefully see in the background.

Nepenthe is an orphan, found as a baby at the edge of the cliff outside the ro
...more
Sabrina
Every time I read a McKillip book I know I am in the hands of a master storyteller. Her stories have the weight of history and mythology behind them, even if those histories and mythologies are solely of her own creating. Her writing is very prose-like and works wonderfully for her unique storytelling style. I always feel like I am waking from a dream when I finish one of her novels or coming up for air after being underwater for a long time. It's very disorienting, but I think that's why I love ...more
Thomas
Mar 03, 2009 Thomas rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Escapists
Shelves: fantasy
Until I grasped the plot, this was a great book. After I got it, I kept thinking that the author should wrap it up. Eventually she does, in a satisfying way. In other words, it's a pretty good book, but be warned that the exposition lasts until the last two chapters or so. Action fans need not apply.
Nathan
Fantasy Review Barn

Young orphan Nepenthe, adopted into the royal library as a child, works as a translator of ancient texts. While working on commission that appears to be nothing more than a traders list a much more interesting text comes in. Written in an alphabet built around thorns, Nepenthe quickly becomes obsessed, hiding the book from others and seeing things in it that no one else can. Meanwhile the land around her has a newly coronated queen who is already facing a possible rebellion in
...more
LynAnne Smucker
Just a really well written classic fantasy story. One of the great things about this is the description of the library that Nepenthe lives/works in as a translator of strange texts and the richness of McKillip's language. The is a quote about how Nepenthe came to grow up in the library which is below the palace of the rulers of Raine, built into cliffs along the sea. "A librarian had found the baby sitting abandoned on the sheer edge of the world; the librarians kept her. That proved shrewd. Nep ...more
Krystle
Ah, if there's one thing you'll take away from this book, it's the writing. Patricia A. McKillip's prose is quite beautiful, with sweeping descriptions that'll have you in awe, and her light touch that gives everything a surreal and ethereal like feel. It's very befitting of the genre she writes in and I love it.

But I wasn't totally captivated by the story. Most of it was due to the characters. I didn't really connect with them. There isn't really anything bad about them per se. They all have th
...more
Jessica
This book... this book crept into my heart and tangled itself around it, not like thorns, but like the embrace of a long lost lover. Patricia McKillip is a sorcerer of the written word. She creates worlds and people that feel alive and real even when everything is soaked up in magic. She weaves stories and poetry and magic together with the expertise of a goddess. There is always something about her books that reaches beyond the ordinary life and shakes your soul awake.

Magic and beauty spill ou
...more
Noah
There is a lot to this book that I've come to understand as very characteristic of McKillip: thoughtful, considered characters; a semblance, though not full description, of history as a backdrop for the story; mystical realms where magic is fully integrated into the world though also exist side-by-side and, at times, bound to, the purely non-magical. And, most of all, I appreciated Alphabet of Thorn for what I love about McKillip's writing and books the most: her both lack of attempt to describe ...more
Amy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard
Apr 01, 2009 Richard rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by: SciFi & Fantasy Group 2009-03 Fantasy Selection
(Conceptualizing review.)

This was the Fantasy selection for the Goodreads SciFi and Fantasy Book Club for the month of March 2009. Visit this link to see all of the discussions, group member reviews, etc.



Notes:
Four most significant characters are women:
Nepenthe, Kane, Vevay, Queen Tessera

Three secondary male characters:
Bourne, Laidley, Axis
Four tertiary males:
Felan, Gavin, Master Croysus

Inexperience portrayed well -- Bourne & Uncle think latter is clever for getting a family mage, but to th
...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
This one enchanted me. A young translator who lives in the library in the depths of a castle (okay, I liked that part right away) comes across an alphabet she's never seen before, and it leads her to another world, and to the rescuing of the man who is her one true love. And a prince.
It started off slow and dreamy, and I wasn't sure if I would like it, but it got better and better and just blew me away by the end!
Cathy
Feb 25, 2009 Cathy marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Too vague, not what I was in the mood for. Will try again. Did have wonderful memories of The Riddlemaster of Hed while thinking about it. I still love those books and the main character, even after 25 years.
Magali
My favorite thing about Patricia McKillip is the fey and dreamlike quality of her writing, but when reading some of her other books I've gotten so swept up in the prose that it can be hard to keep track of the story underneath it. Alphabet of Thorn gets four and a half stars for striking the perfect balance between design and execution. (I rounded down from five because I'm not yet sure if this book was just well-written, or a new favorite. Time will tell.)

Just before the coronation of a new Que
...more
Kari Chapman
This was a hard book to rate. There was some very good parts to the book, but most of it didn't really work for me. I almost put the book down after the first few chapters. We'd met different characters almost every chapter and none of them drew me in. Additionally there wasn't a strong plot line - instead each chapter felt almost disconnected from the others. This gave the book a very dreamy feel, but also left me not sure what was going on with characters that I didn't care about.

However, we t
...more
Milli
Looks like this book has plenty of fans and haters both. I'm one of the fans. I thought it was beautifully written, and I especially loved the poems. I liked how the author left some things, such as the nature of Kane's magic, unexplained, which helps the reader suspend reality for a little bit and get lost in her world. And I loved the character of Kane. I've never come across anyone like her in other books and I thought she was brilliant.

I'm giving it four stars, however, because of the horrib
...more
Kristine (fezabel)
I haven't read many of Patricia McKillip's books. I read the Riddlemaster series long ago as a child. I picked this one up out of sheer boredom from the library. I know it's a children's book, but some younger books are still appealing to adults. This one is not.

The characters Nepenthe and Bourne are okay, if barely two-dimensional. The subplot of Axis & Kane is poorly handled and confusing. And the young Queen of Raine is barely tolerable. I didn't like the writing style, with its flowing w
...more
Kathy Davie
I’m not sure if it’s an alphabet or a language of which McKillip writes. She describes an alphabet using thorny lines but when she writes of Nepenthe analyzing the individual “letters”, it sounds more like each letter is a word in a language. A minor detail as the alphabet is simply a background for the tale of the orphan, Nepenthe, and how she and her obsession with the alphabet of thorns affects the lives of everyone around her.

McKillip writes so lyrically of a kingdom undergoing political ch
...more
Susana
Another beautifully written story by one of my favorite writers.
Obsession. It rules the world and the people who live in it. Sometimes it can even control time itself. If one has enough magic for it.
Some people are obssessed with knowledge. Others with power, and there are others that will do anything in the name of love. Or, for what they call love: "She had finally eased the painful hunger in her heart for Axis."(Kane, on page 163)
Just like a chessboard game played through time, different pie
...more
Sara
This book kind of sneaks up on you. It has a slow beginning; there were a couple times at the start where I thought, "who are these people again and why should I care?" I can be an impatient reader at times. So if you are one too, take it from me: be patient with it. Just let the language soak in. McKillip has such a way with words. Her words are lyrical and rich and vivid, and you need to slow down to appreciate it. Once the words are soaked in, you look up and realize you are completely immers ...more
Margaret
Nepenthe is an orphan girl who was raised by the librarians of the kingdom of Raine; she lives in the great library below the palace and translates difficult texts in unknown languages. When a mage gives her a text written in an alphabet of thorns, a chain of events begins that affects not only Nepenthe, but the entire kingdom.

I always enjoy McKillip's elegant, lyrical writing, but I sometimes find her plots a little difficult to follow. For a change, Alphabet of Thorn boasts a fairly straightf
...more
Linda
"You came into my life and not the way a casual visitor might (you know, `without removing one's hat') but as one enters a kingdom, where all the rivers have waited for your reflection, all the roads for your footfall" - Vladimir Nabokov in a letter to Vera

This book really reminded me of that quote. It has this sense of things coming into being and falling into place but in an unwinding and mythical kind of way, where all the pauses in the journey are part of it, rather than in a hectic, call-of
...more
Kris Larson
This is a fantasy novel about a tall woman who works in a library, falls in love and (in her spare time) saves the world through reading. I'm not sure I need to explain any further why this book made my list. I also love McKillip's prose style, which is rich but never swamped with detail, not unlike the Kinuko Craft covers on her books.

"Within these stones she had grown her weedy way into a young woman, long-boned and strong, able to reach high shelves without a stool."
Aleitch
On a seaside cliff near a castle which houses the kingdom’s library, a baby girl was left to be raised by the old librarians. The girl’s name was Nepenthe. While translating a book whose language was written in fish and similar tokens, when she is told of an ancient book needing to be translating. Deep in the nearby woods is the mages’ floating school, where a handsome young man gives Nepenthe a book that will change her life, a book written in a language of thorns. As she learns to decipher the ...more
Amy
Setting/World Building: 5/5
Main Character: 4/5 (There are multiple "main" characters so it's a bit tough!)
Other Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Triggering/Issues: 5/5 (None!!)

AVERAGED TOTAL: 4.3 out of 5, rounded to 5.

Time travel, magic, orphans, queens, bad ass females, librarians, epic love... this story manages to have all of them and somehow makes it work still! I think I've officially found a new favorite author in McKillip, to be honest. Which isn't a surprise, older female YA Fantasy
...more
Isabella
After many a recommendation from fellow fantasy readers, I finally caved in and checked out Patricia McKillip. I would have liked to start with the much acclaimed Riddle-Master trilogy, but when you don't have easy access to books in English, you take what you can get.

The plot, slightly reminiscent of The Fall of the Kings, unfurls through old books, dead kings and ancient magic while history acquires new life in the present in a distressingly literal sense.

Like many of the female fantasy writer
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Fudoki
  • In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan's Tales, #2)
  • The Anvil of the World
  • A Fistful of Sky  (LaZelle, #1)
  • A Scholar of Magics (A College of Magics, #2)
  • Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • The Innkeeper's Song
  • Thomas the Rhymer
  • Elfland (Aetherial Tales, #1)
  • Earth Logic (Elemental Logic, #2)
  • The Raven Ring (Lyra, #5)
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
  • Tooth and Claw
  • The Silence of Medair (Medair, #1)
  • Chalice
  • The Element of Fire (Ile-Rien, #1)
  • The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, #2)
  • Except the Queen
25
Patricia Anne McKillip is an American author of fantasy and science fiction novels, distinguished by lyrical, delicate prose and careful attention to detail and characterization. She is a past winner of the World Fantasy Award and Locus Award, and she lives in Oregon. Most of her recent novels have cover paintings by Kinuko Y. Craft. She is married to David Lunde, a poet.

According to Fantasy Book
...more
More about Patricia A. McKillip...
Riddle-Master: The Complete Trilogy (Riddle-Master, #1-3) The Forgotten Beasts of Eld The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master, #1) Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master, #2) Winter Rose (Winter Rose, #1)

Share This Book

“That's the beginning of magic. Let your imagination run and follow it.” 12 likes
“Do you become in visible?'
'No. I'm there, if you know how to look. I stand between the place you look at and the place you see. Behind what you expect to see. If you expect to see me, you do. I listen in places where no one expects me to be.”
9 likes
More quotes…