This YA Fantasy Is a Love Letter to Magical Libraries

Posted by Marie on June 1, 2019
Maintaining a library is no easy task, but maintaining a library where books can turn into grotesque monsters adds an extra layer of challenge.

Enter Elisabeth: the heroine of Margaret Rogerson's new book, Sorcery of Thorns. She's trained her whole life to become a warden—a guardian charged with keeping the world safe from monstrous books called "grimoires." Yet all her training couldn't prepare her for being implicated in a crime that throws her carefully laid plans off course.

Rogerson talked to Goodreads about how her love of libraries was a key source of inspiration for the world of her novel. "I've always been captivated by magical libraries in fiction," she says. "The Hogwarts library in Harry Potter, the Clayr's library in Lirael… As a lonely kid who sought companionship in books, those places were as close to paradise as I could imagine."

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Goodreads: How did your love of libraries inspire Sorcery of Thorns?

Margaret Rogerson: After finishing my first book, An Enchantment of Ravens, I struggled to come up with a good idea for a second novel. Ultimately I realized that the failed manuscripts I'd been working on were all based on concepts I found interesting but wasn't emotionally invested in.

I asked myself, "What is something I feel passionate about and can truly put my heart into?" I instantly remembered how much I loved magical libraries, and started developing Sorcery's premise from there.

GR: Elisabeth grew up in one of the Great Libraries of Austermeer—which sounds like a book lover's dream come true! What makes these libraries so unique?

MR: The Great Libraries contain grimoires of sorcery instead of ordinary books. Grimoires are sentient (essentially brought to life by the magic on their pages) and are classified on a scale of one to ten based on their level of danger. They have special ways of containing each class of grimoire, ranging from iron chains to interment in high-security subterranean vaults.

The largest of the six Great Libraries, the Royal Library, has a wing devoted to storing forbidden magical artifacts confiscated from sorcerers during a period known as the Reforms. I'll have to cut myself off here, because I could go on forever!

GR: Elisabeth's life mission is to become a warden. What does this job entail, and why does she want this so badly?

MR: Wardens are responsible for containing and looking after sorcerous grimoires. They're guardians of the Great Libraries, a job so dangerous that they need to carry swords. As an orphan who was raised in one of the Great Libraries under unusual circumstances, Elisabeth has never experienced life outside a library's walls.

She views the library's director, who permitted her to grow up there, as a personal hero, and is desperate to prove herself worthy of the director's regard. She also has a special connection with the grimoires, which makes a future as a warden seem almost fated. Because she's constructed her entire identity around this goal, she feels she cannot fail under any circumstances.

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GR: What can you tell us about the prejudices against sorcery in your novel?

MR: Wardens have seen the worst of what sorcerers can create, and are charged with not letting dangerous grimoires (including the spells they contain) fall into the wrong hands. Because of that, they perceive sorcerers as their natural enemies. In many ways their dislike of sorcerers is justified, because magic can be incredibly dangerous when misused, and history is full of examples of dark sorcery.

GR: Let's talk about Elisabeth's "sworn enemy," the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Eventually Elisabeth has to (begrudgingly) ally herself with him. We're guessing this means lots of delicious tension! What did you love most about their relationship?

MR: Delicious tension indeed! I think what I love most about their relationship is how perfectly they act as foils for each other. They're complete opposites: Elisabeth likes to face danger head-on, while Nathaniel prefers to avoid it. She's relentlessly earnest and idealistic, as well as quite serious, while Nathaniel is cynical and relies on humor to avoid taking things too seriously. Misunderstandings between them abound.

For example, at one point Elisabeth is genuinely convinced that he drinks orphans' blood once a week for supper, because he said that as a joke and she took it literally. All of this initially creates conflict between them. But as Elisabeth gets to know Nathaniel, she learns that much of what she’s been taught about sorcerers is outdated or simply untrue.

As time goes on, their differences bring out the best in each other. Even their fighting styles are complementary, with Elisabeth wielding a sword, physically defending Nathaniel as he works powerful magic. I had a blast writing those battle scenes.

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I knew from the start that Nathaniel was going to be a funny character, but a lot of his dialogue still surprised me. It seemed to write itself. There were a few scenes where I just couldn't believe the stuff that came out of his mouth. I was like, "Where did that come from? Did I tell him to say that?" It was such a fun experience.

GR: How was writing Sorcery of Thorns different from writing An Enchantment of Ravens?

MR: I view Enchantment as a fairy tale, and Sorcery as an epic fantasy. Sorcery took a lot more effort to write, because it's bigger in every way: plot, world-building, stakes, character arcs. It's also substantially longer, at around 460 pages. On top of that, it was the first book I've completed under contract and with a deadline! The process was tough but extremely rewarding. I loved every moment of the challenge.

GR: Do you have any favorite lines you've written from Sorcery of Thorns that you can share with us?

MR: I like something that the deputy director of the Royal Library says to Elisabeth: "There is always more than one way to see the world. Those who claim otherwise would have you dwell forever in the dark."

GR: What's your favorite section of the library?

MR: I'm a hard-core fantasy and science fiction reader across all age categories, so you will find me lurking in those sections regardless of whether they're adult, YA, or middle grade.

If I were to name my favorite section of one of Austermeer's Great Libraries, it would have to be the grand atrium of the Royal Library—which I won't spoil for anyone here.

GR: Which YA books would you recommend to our readers?

MR: As far as classics go, I always recommend Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, my favorite book and a major source of inspiration for everything I write. For more magical library content, check out Lirael by Garth Nix, but preferably after reading the wonderful first book in the series, Sabriel.

I'm also a huge fan of the ongoing The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. A couple of my more recent YA favorites include The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. The last YA book I read was an advance copy of A Treason of Thorns by Laura Weymouth, which is absolutely lovely and coming out this fall.

GR: And finally, what's up next on your Want to Read shelf?

MR: The next book on my Want to Read shelf is an advance copy of House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess, which is about a group of dragon-riding misfits who find themselves unexpectedly having to compete for their kingdom's throne. I've been excited about this book for a long time, and am over the moon about finally getting to read it.

Margaret Rogerson's novel Sorcery of Thorns will be available on June 4. Don't forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf. Be sure to also read more of our exclusive author interviews and get more great book recommendations.

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by heidi belle (new)

heidi belle So excited!!!!!!!

message 2: by Arla (new)

Arla Can't wait for this book!!

message 3: by Robin (new)

Robin Summers Yes!!! I can't wait. Sounds wonderful.

message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Great interview. Will share part of it with the literacy class.

message 5: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Spindle I'm really looking forward to this book! I enjoyed An Enchantment of Ravens a lot and this one sounds even better! I, too, have a particular inclination for books that are set in libraries, they're just so wonderful.

message 6: by Unmesh (new)

Unmesh Amrute good interview...

message 7: by Elyse (new)

Elyse Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) by Rachel Caine and The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library, #1) by Genevieve Cogman are also love letters to magical libraries!!

message 8: by Sasan (new)

Sasan @Elyse thank you for mentioning the Great Library Series, so good and so under appreciated.

message 9: by nitya (new)

nitya So excited for this one!! And yessss Sabriel is underrated ❤️❤️❤️

message 10: by Day (new)

Day As soon as they announced this book I was CONVINCED it was inspired by the Old Levels of the Clayr's Library! I'm glad I was right and I'm SO EXCITED because I've always wanted more stories about it.

message 12: by Elyse (new)

Elyse s.alnasri wrote: "@Elyse thank you for mentioning the Great Library Series, so good and so under appreciated."

I completely agrees!

message 13: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Clutterbuck Kapulkin I loved Rogerson's world-building in Enchantment of Ravens, and I'm so excited for this new book!! Reading this interview has me even more curious, I can't wait to delve into Sorcery of Thorns...

message 14: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Love the shoutout to Garth Nix's books, which also got me interested in this genre! Definitely going to give this book a read!

message 15: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne Just got my copy the other day of her new book Sorcery of Thorns and I cannot wait to dive in.

message 16: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Nieves I have high expectations for this book. Great theme and I am one lover of taboo topics and romance in tough scenarios.

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