SF/F Read Alongs: Between Two Thorns, By Emma Newman. (Weeks 1 & 2)

This read along of Between Two Thorns was organized by the SF/F Read Along group on Goodreads, and has been broken down into four week chunks, each week participants are asked some questions on what they think so far.

There WILL be spoilers beyond this point – and Squeeing, lots and lots of squeeing!

As I’ve already mentioned, here is the breakdown of chapters listed here.

Week 1: Saturday 9th May, Chapters 1-9 hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow.
Week 2: Saturday 16th May, Chapters 10-18 hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings.
Week 3: Saturday 23rd May, Chapters 19-25 hosted by X+1.
Week 4: Saturday 30th May, Chapters 26-end hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.

The fantastic banner that I have blatantly copied and pasted onto this post was yet again put together by Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings, based on the original cover art of the Diversion Books edition. (Artist unknown at time of posting.)

The Book:

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman.

Between Two Thorns

Beautiful and nuanced as it is dangerous, the manners of Regency and Victorian England blend into a scintillating fusion of urban fantasy and court intrigue.

Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

Crossing paths with Cathy is Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds treaty with a dislocated soul who polices the boundaries between the worlds, keeping innocents safe from the Fae. After a spree of kidnappings and the murder of his fellow Arbiters, Max is forced to enlist Cathy’s help in unravelling a high-profile disappearance within the Nether. Getting involved in the machinations of the Fae, however, may prove fatal to all involved.


Between Two Thorns is book One of the Split Worlds series by Emma Newman. There are currently three books in the series with (I believe) two more to come. (Book four comes out a little later this year!). There are also a small number of short audio (podcast published) stories in the series. Emma Newman has also organized a lavish LARP in Bath based on these books (In 2016). I couldn’t go, but have been told by friends that did – that it was bloody excellent!

Because I’m Lazy/A Horrible Human/Work silly shifts and fell behind (Delete as appropriate), I’m combining my first two week posts into one post.

First, the week One part…

Week 1: Covering Chapters 1-9 hosted by Over The Effing Rainbow.

1. Let’s tackle the setup, first of all. The world of the Nether is caught between the Fae world and ours, and is also apparently too old-fashioned for Cathy, our escaping protagonist, to want to live in. What were your first impressions given her views on her home and family?

From what I can tell in these opening chapters, The Nether is quite the stagnant/unchanging realm. Seriously in danger of being left completely behind by the changing pace of progress in our world (Mundanus). If it falls any further behind, whilst the cultural and technological progress continues in Mundanus, the secrecy of the Nether is in danger of being lost! (Hello CCTV and surveillance tech/state?) Also, you can almost taste the Misogyny coming off of the pages! *fans self to cool down*
2. There appears to be corruption and murder afoot among the Arbiters, a sort of supernatural police, and it doesn’t lead to good times for Max. What do you make of the magical soul surgery that the Arbiters undergo to do their jobs?

The separation of soul and body does (or did) seem to keep them honest. But it’s an extreme methodology to take! It also seems to be a secret – even to Arbiter initiates! When reminiscing about his final assessment and inclusion into the Arbiters ranks, he seemed shocked not just by the pain, but surprised by the action itself!

3. Even more mysterious is Sam’s accidental involvement in the mystery. Any thoughts on the hapless mortal and what might become of him?

Not a clue! But he works in tech… Maybe he’ll be used as a means of dragging the Nether (or parts of it) kicking and screaming into the 19th/20th century! 😉

That’s it for actual questions this round, but do feel free to throw in anything notable that I missed!

I’m kind of liking the Gargoyle half of Max. Kind of makes me want to re-watch the old Gargoyles cartoon series! (Sorry, got a little distracted by the Gargoyles in my head!) 😀

… and Week 2.

Week 2: Covering Chapters 10-18 – hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings.

1. We get to meet Will and see a couple of different sides to him. What do you think of Cathy’s betrothed?

It’s early days yet, but he appears to have a taste for life outside the Nether, just like Cathy. Time will tell if Will and Cathy will see eye to eye on their positions with regard to life in the Nether. Will they fall for each other? Will they hate each other? No idea, but it’s going to be fun to find out!

2. The Sorcerer seems to be acting a bit inconsistently, any ideas what is going on with him?

I’ve got a theory… It could be bunnies! (Sorry, was watching that episode of Buffy!) – I think it’s possibly normal for the Sorcerer. His staff/household didn’t seem surprised by his behavior. Maybe great magical powers that can rival the Fae has consequences on the human mind?

3. Things are starting to link up now that we have context for the events at the beginning of the book, but how do you think it all connects together? Could it really be all coincidence? How do you think Cathy will tie into Max’s story?

I’ve got a theory… A serious theory! 😛 That even though the Families of the Nether have grown stagnant in their lack of progress/forward thinking, the Fae have been not so idle! I think Sam (The witness who was inexplicably protected by a Fae Lord) is an unwitting pawn in a Fae plot to use Human Technology/Science (via the tech start-up Sam works for!) to free the Fae (or at least some faction of them) from Exilium. This might be why the Arbiters are being corrupted/attacked to divert/remove their attentions – to prevent them from stopping them. Max will thus meet up with Cathy somehow and try to use her/recruit her to the Arbiter cause? It’s a theory. You know what they say about a theory in a read-along, It will probably fall apart by the next week of the read-along! 😀

4. We get up close and personal with Cathy’s family. What do you think of her brother Tom and sister-in-law Lucy? Her parents? Do you think she’ll have any allies going forward?

Tom, comes across as very different (slightly) from Cathy’s recollections/musings. I think he’s  adapted to the traditional family lifestyle and is now indoctrinated. Lucy, his wife (*gasp* An American!) hasn’t been seen enough for me to have a firm opinion upon yet. I think there might be a LOT more to her in the future – we shall see! (Sidenote: Are we going to discuss the possibilities of Nether society in the Americas? What form would it take, it will be completely different to English Nether society somehow, but how?). Cathy’s sister is a bit of a bitch! As for her parents… I wouldn’t be upset to see them meet an unfortunate fate…


Well that’s my week one AND two post for the Between Two Thorns SF/F Read Along.

As ever, what did YOU think?


13 thoughts on “SF/F Read Alongs: Between Two Thorns, By Emma Newman. (Weeks 1 & 2)

  1. Oh bravo! I’m in awe of your theory, and I rather like it. I may now be disappointed if it’s all a bit less ambitious 🙂

    …and the hints that Nether society is global are fascinating, right? Because of course there must be regional differences; there’s even suggestions of differences between British cities (Amelia Alba-Rosa certainly doesn’t behave like the daughters of Aquae Sulis). I bet America (especially California) isn’t so straight-laced – and I’d like to see more of Princess Rani to get a glimpse of India too!

  2. Whoa, that’s quite the theory on how the stories are going to link up! It would certainly be nice to see Sam play a more prominent role than he has been so far (since he seems to just stumble onto things that are bigger than him).

    Cathy’s family members are terrible. I really want her to “live up to her full potential” by kicking their asses. Side note: I wonder what buying a canvas/painting will have to do with Cathy reaching her full potential? Magic, perhaps? Hmm…

  3. I quite like your theory and I do hope it holds up over the course of the story. I’m very interested in how other Nether societies work as well since Lucy seems very laid back. I found myself wondering if that’s more how the American society works, which I suspect since she makes a blanket statement about the English societies caring too much about what people think, or if she’s an anomaly herself. And even though we only meet a princess from the Indian society, I’m curious to see how that would work with India’s belief system.

  4. I think that’s an interesting theory, but I’m actually thinking more about the sorcerers and technology than the Fae and technology. Didn’t we see something that suggested that the Sorcerer was more progressive towards technology than most others? There’s those glasses he invented, and I feel like there were some other things in his house that might suggest it.

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