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Between Two Thorns
The Split Worlds, Book One
by Emma Newman
Diversion Books, $14.99, 325pp
Published: August 2016

The world between Mundanus and Exilium is the Nether, where all the Great Families live in grand Victorian style.  Here there is old money, women are property, and marriages are arranged to improve social standing.  Mundanus is where humans (mundanes) reside in our current (and quite normal) 21st-century world.  Exilium is the home of the Fae Lords who rule coldly and cruelly over the Nether families, treating them as puppets to play with to further their own selfish political agendas.  In mundanus and the nether, Arbiters police the split worlds to keep the mundanes safe from the often treacherous magic of the Fae. 

This story takes place in the Aquae Sulis and Londinium territories, the magical mirror cities of Bath and London. 

Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver is all about equal rights, knowledge, and independence.  She is not pretty by Nether standards; she’s stubborn and sarcastic, and has never been able to effect the social graces.  In Aquae Sulis, her family’s social standing and her virginity are her only marketable traits (and her father has placed a curse on her to ensure her virtue remains intact). 

It’s been more than three years since socially-unacceptable Cathy has escaped her family in Aquae Sulis to live in mundanus London.  She’s attending college, is in love with Josh, and has a job with The Emporium that supplies magical charms to the Nether families.  It is because of her relationship with the Emporium (and a really good Shadow Charm) that she has enjoyed her freedom for so long.  Unfortunately, her fairy tale happiness is about to end!  Lord Poppy, the patroon of the Papaver family has found Cathy and removed her Shadow Charm.  Her brother Tom is now forcefully returning her to the Nether just in time for this year’s social season and her contracted marriage!

As the first in The Split Worlds series, “Between Two Thorns” gives a good introduction and begins an interesting tale of the main characters:  wayward Cathy and her infinitely patient fiancé Will Iris, incorruptible Max the Arbiter whose dislocated soul now inhabits an emotional and rather feisty (and mobile) marble gargoyle, and Sam, a mundane who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is now under the employ of a very eccentric sorcerer named Mr. Ekstrand.  And there are the crazy and egotistical Fae Lords whom everyone tries to avoid.

I had a bit of difficulty following the different storylines around the main characters -- I actually put this book down several times within the first 50 pages.  Suddenly, the stories began to knit together, the comparison between the Nether world and the modern world became quite intriguing, and I finished reading it in just two more sittings!  I am really looking forward to Book Two to find out what happens next.  I do believe I’m hooked!  ~~ Marie Davis

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