2.5 out of 5 Stars
I am a Caretaker, and a good Caretaker puts her House first. Before king. Before Country. Before her life an her heart.
Review copy provided by the publisher through Edelweiss.
Seven years in exile after her father’s act of treason have left Violet Sterling bitter and longing to return to her ancestral home, Burleigh House. A sprawling grand country estate, Burleigh is no ordinary home – it is one of the remaining five Great Houses of England. Filled with magic and bound to the King, the Great Houses are responsible for the prosperity of their county. Vi’s father was Burleigh’s Caretaker, entrusted by the King with Burleigh’s key and tasked with mitigating the House’s magic. Vi loves Burleigh more than anything else, and Burleigh loves Vi. Seven years of separation, the toll from years without a Caretaker and a new danger from the Crown has threatened their bond. With time running out and the walls of Burleigh falling, Violet has to decide if she can put her House before her own life and heart – as a good Caretaker should – or if she can find her own way.
A Treason of Thorns is an incredibly written, really beautiful book but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. I found I had this same issue with Weymouth’s other book, The Light Between Worlds, another great book I just couldn’t get in to. I think this is one of those It’s not you, it’s me situations you sometimes find with a book.
There is very little I love more than a good book about a haunted house, magic and difficult choices and A Treason of Thorns provides these in spades, though not exactly how you would expect. Burleigh is haunted, but not by ghosts. Magic is in play, but it is hardly good or helpful. Difficult choices abound, but decisions tend to play out not quite as you would expect.
Our heroine is Vi Sterling, the last in the great line of Sterling Caretakers. Vi is smart, strong and hopelessly devoted to her House. I feel like I could have enjoyed Vi’s character more if I weren’t so fatigued by her constant talk about how important the House is. Vi had some really fun scenes early on that pained her as quite wilful and sassy but much of this was lost as soon as her House came into the picture. Unhealthy relationships abound in YA but I can safely say that this is the first time I’ve read about a heroine in an unhealthily dependant relationship with a house. The uncomfortable relationships didn’t end there, but I found Vi’s devotion to Burleigh to be my least favourite part of the story. I think the worst part was that it was hardly challenged in story and as the reader, I felt we were expected to buy into Vi’s zealous behaviours no matter how nonsensical or damaging it became. At least that’s how I felt coming out of it.
By far my favourite character was Espy and I would loved to have seen more of her. She was a lot of fun to have around, and complimented Vi well. Where I felt Weymouth may have lacked in her main characters, she made up for in a host of interesting side characters. Though there was one character who felt like a caricature of a Bad Guy, most were thoughtfully crafted and brought some interesting perspective to the story. I particularly liked seeing the depictions of Judaism and Christianity in a fantasy world, something that I also liked seeing in Spinning Silver.
A Treason of Thorns was a beautifully and intricately crafted novel that just wouldn’t end. Where The Memory Thief felt like it was tripping over itself to finish its story, A Treason of Thorns felt like it was taking a winding path to an inevitable conclusion. This gave time to flesh out characters and motives but I felt the story suffered for it. I just felt like there were a lot of issues with pacing. Much of the story is told in flashbacks of the House’s memory, the concept of which was interesting but the execution was not. The story takes place over the course of a summer, yet the final 25% takes place over the course of a few days. Particularly frustrating for me was when the story could have been resolved almost immediately, only for the characters to put off any resolution favour of a dinner party. Decisions like this left me so frustrated. You could almost have tacked the final 25% at the 45% mark feel satisfied with the conclusion. Again, this is one of those personal preference things and there will be people out there who love this subtle and prolonged storytelling.
While not my cup of tea, A Treason of Thorns is an intriguing and unique take on the story of the haunted house. Much like Burleigh it’self, it is a grand and sprawling story heading towards an inevitable disaster that may just capture the love of a worthy reader. Alas, that was not me. What I liked about this book, I really liked but there wasn’t enough of it for me to love it as a whole. I would be interested in reading whatever Weymouth produces next, but A Treason of Thorns wasn’t for me.