Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Warnings: Death, mild abuse
A Treason of Thorns is, for me, one of the best examples of why it's not always bad to judge a book by its cover.
I had no prior experience with Laura E. Weymouth's books before AToT. In fact, I'd never heard of her work at all! But while scrolling through Kindle feverishly searching for samples to download in hopes of finding some book, any book, to break my reading slump, the cover of AToT caught my eye.
From the very beginning, I was hooked. Of a half dozen samples I've downloaded on Kindle in the past month, this was the only one that captivated me. By the end of those sample pages, I was devastated not to have the full book in my hands. Instant buy. And instant LOVE.
A Treason of Thorns reads like a dark, classic fairytale, set in an alternate historical England where the island plays home not just to a King and his lords, but six Great Houses endued with magic that can both prosper and harm the land.
Next in line to inherit one of the Great Houses is Violet Sterling, a stubborn, tender-hearted girl who's been raised all her live by her Caretaker father to succeed him in his role: overseeing Burleigh House, using its key to channel House magic, and ensuring the wellbeing of Burleigh and it's surrounding lands. But when her father commits treason and is placed on House arrest - a slow, torturous execution - with Violet's playmate and best friend Wyn locked away at his side, Violet finds herself waiting for the inevitable: her father's death.
Seven years later, a visit from the King changes everything. Now Violet has a single summer to fix crumbling Burleigh, with unlikely help from a spunky princess, her bookish beloved, a bitter and broken Wyn - and Burleigh itself. In a race against the King's unscrupulous intentions, Violet and her friends fight to redeem Burleigh before it, the land, and the people closest to it are all consumed.
The cast of AToT was very easy to fall in love with. Each one had a very distinctive voice and manner which made them truly pop out on the page. For the most part, I absolutely loved Violet and Wyn - who are really the central characters. I think my only complaint with Violet would be that occasionally, her going around in circles about Burleigh got a little repetitive. But on the other hand she is a seventeen-year-old thrust into a very hard, dangerous job, and she thinks and acts like it. So to me that was very easy to let slide!
Other characters like Frey, Espie, Alfred, Jed and Mira, and Wyn all played so well off Violet. Equal parts history and growth were felt in each of these relationships; no one person bowed to the whims of another. You could see why each character did what they did, right or wrong. It just all made so much sense!
The relationships ultimately were the heart of the story, especially the broken-friendship-turned-love between Vi and Wyn. Their devotion to each other, to her late father, and to the House were absolutely riveting. And speaking of the late father, George was perhaps the most intriguing character in the book, though we mostly see him through memories; he went from seeming like the perfect father and Caretaker to revealing a darker side through Burliegh's memories of him, and by the end I hated his guts a little bit. But also I could TOTALLY understand why he became the way he did!
The worldbuilding in this book was exquisite. I loved the way the magical fantasy of the Houses wove into the English setting. It honestly felt at times like there could've been six Great Houses touched by magic, lost to time and memory in England.
It was the little things that made the worldbuilding pop, ultimately. The way the House magic works, the way a devastated or corrupted house would taint the world around it....Weymouth clearly put thought into every aspect of this world, and it showed!
The plot is maybe the part I enjoyed least about AToT. It's ultimately a solid story, but there's a lot of waiting and a lot of introspection. For example, when Vi expresses the desire to complete her father's treason by stealing Burleigh's deed, I was hoping for something heist-y, letting her air out more of the talents she waxed on about gaining when she lived in the fens for seven years in exile.
Instead, we get a good chunk of her researching her father's old ledger, other people doing some searching, then she goes to a location and in the course of two chapters, finds what she was looking for with very little outside resistance. It just felt like there could've been a little more action and less research; but ultimately the character-to-character interactions and the growth Vi goes through internally is the backbone of the plot, and in these places the book excels.
AToT takes the cake for prose. This book has a bit of a classic feel in its prose and the word choices are just delectable. There were a few times I had to just shut the book and grin at a particular line or paragraph. It's rare anymore that books do that for me, so the prose was really a delight in this one. Given that alone, I'm eager to read more of Weymouth's work!
I think, really, the only place where the writing style drove me nuts was at the VERY end. The book concludes with a conversation, and then it just...stops. Like, in the dead middle of the conversation. It literally felt like my book was missing a page, a concluding paragraph, something. It's going along and then it just ends, and while that's not necessarily bad, I struggled to feel like the book left me with a final note, a resonation that would stay with me after I closed it. When I compare it to other fantasy novels I adore, along the lines of Brightly Woven, Graceling, any of the Ravenspire novels, etc, it just felt very jarring and abrupt and made the ending itself stand out less in my mind.
A Treason of Thorns is a wonderful book. It can appeal to abroad audience - those who like a spooky read, those who like fantasy, fans of historical fiction, lovers of romance and even those who don't care for it. The heart and soul of this book is Violet's growth and the notion of destiny - how bound we are to what we inherit, and whether it's in our power to do better, to do differently, than those who came before us and the life we were born into.
I'm so grateful for this little book that got me out of my reading slump. And I will always keep rooting for Violet and Wyn. ;)