**spoiler alert** Alphabet of Thorns is a coming of age story for several different characters. There's a young translator Nepenthe. A young mage, Bou**spoiler alert** Alphabet of Thorns is a coming of age story for several different characters. There's a young translator Nepenthe. A young mage, Bourne. The newly crowned queen, Tessera. And a couple from ancient history, Kane and Axis. The way the characters and the story are presented is interesting. The points of view keep shifting from character to character. One point of view describes historical characters; the conflict of this novel hinges on how the historical characters relate to the cast of modern characters. An interesting theme is how all of the young adults are slowly getting to know their skills and character. Bourne does not realize the extent of his magic talents; he is also in a difficult situation because his uncle is engaged in a treasonous plot against the Queen. He is also in a budding relationship with Nepenthe. Nepenthe is compelled to translate a book in private, keeping the results to herself as much as possible. Tessera is a young queen and is developing a strong magical talent, unbeknown to her adviser. Her adviser just thinks she is silly and not skilled enough to deal with the political challenges of running a large kingdom. Kane is a young woman very much in love with a powerful king, Axis, but unable to have a normal relationship with him. Instead she becomes a powerful mage and helps him conquer numerous kingdoms. The repeated use of words, alphabets,text, translation, and language is a very powerful theme throughout this book. Nepenthe is a foundling adopted by a library; her name starts with N because the children found before her were named for the previous letters in the alphabet. Words come to life for Nepenthe, Bourne, and Tessera in their attempts to understand their various parts of the world. The book that Nepenthe is translating is the key that ties the whole story together. Another thing I liked is the way historical figures assumed to be male are found to be female. Kane, the most powerful magician of all time, and a legend, is found to be female. Mermion, the legendary ruler of Raine, is a woman. And in this story, despite the naked agression of Axis, the most powerful characters are the women - Nepenthe and Tessera. The descriptions of magic are mystical and mysterious. There doesn't seem to be anything scientific about the magic in this world; the study of magic seems to be more philosophical. The ability to travel through time that Kane discovers is used in a horrific way, to let Axis find an infinite number of kingdoms to conquer.
Nepenthe showed great bravery and loyalty to her friends in rejecting her parents' attempts to conquer her world. And Tessera's use of magic to hide her kingdom also shows promise of her future leadership potential. I was somewhat dissatisfied with the mercy shown to Kane at the end of the story. Although I can have some sympathy because of the impossibility of the life she led, she was basically an enabler of a very immoral, power hungry king. She seemed to be the only one he truly cared about; she could have been a stabilizing influence, but instead she just kept finding new worlds for him to conquer. Although I guess it is pragmatic to want an all powerful mage to be close to you and happy, so you know she's not plotting to try again to conquer your kingdom.
I liked this book. It was a quick read (less than a day) and it had several well-developed characters I'd like to read more about. I recommend it for any adult who likes fantasy. Bourne and Nepenthe are involved in an obvious (to me as an adult) sexual relationship - nothing specific or graphic is mentioned, it was just very much implied. But that's not why I will not give it to my daughter yet. (She's nine but reads Harry Potter, Inkheart, etc.) I think the narrative style is too complex for her to understand. Hopefully she'll be ready for it in a couple of years. ...more
I don't have time or the emotional ability to write a good review right now. I'm just going to make some observations oWow. This book was incredible.
I don't have time or the emotional ability to write a good review right now. I'm just going to make some observations on format. I listened to most of it on an audio cd; I read the last few chapters to finish. The narration on the audio cd was wonderful, and I think that it really helped establish the right tone for this book. I read faster than I talk. I noticed that the last few chapters I read did not have quite the same feel. A few times, I consciously slowed myself done to match the pace and style of the narration on the audio cd. I needed the extra bit of time for reflection on the words, and to make connections throughout the book.
So my advice for fast readers - slow down, or try the audio version. ...more