I’ve been finding myself picking up more and more adult fantasy books that I wouldn’t have picked up in the past. Books that have more of a literary feel to them. Literary fiction isn’t generally for me, so any books that give me that vibe I always steered clear of. But now I see a book like The Path of Thorns or The House of Sorrowing Stars, and I find myself intrigued. I’m grateful to Titan for sending me this book and introducing me to the works of A.G. Slatter.
The Path of Thorns follows Asher Todd, a woman who has recently joined the Morwood family as a governess. She’s not trained in the skills, but she does understand botany and herbcraft. Skills she uses not only to teach the children but to help those around the estate. But Asher has a secret. She knows things about the Morwood family, and she’s come here with revenge in her heart. But as she grows close to her charges, she finds she’s thrown herself down a path that she can’t stop, and she has no choice but to complete her original plans.
One of the first things I noticed about this summary is that Asher’s character sounded very morally grey, and though her actions could be described that way…it doesn’t quite fit her. She has a good heart. She’s agreed to help someone with her visit here, and finding out what happened to the missing girl is definitely something she focuses on. And on top of that, she winds up helping people around the estate with her cures and medicines. You can easily see what Asher could have been if it wasn’t for her promise, and I’d like to think that after this book, she does begin to follow that path instead. But Asher still does some bad things. Mostly to people who deserved it, sure, but she was also willing to agree to a lot of it to get other people off her back.
As much as Asher’s character intrigued me before I even picked the book up, the main reason I requested this one was fairytales. Just look at the cover. Storytelling features often in this book, and all the stories have been written for this world. Though some of them are based on our own, Slatter has rewritten them and made them fascinating. I think some of them have appeared in some short story collections in this Sourdough world of hers, and I am so eager to pick them up. I adore fairytales so much. I have done it since I was a kid, and I first discovered how dark and magical they could be. This book definitely gave me everything I could want in a book that could be seen as a modern, original fairytale, and I applaud it for that.
I will say I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance in this book. There isn’t much, and I wouldn’t describe it as being a love story. But Asher does develop a relationship and feelings for a man who works on the estate with her. He’s an interesting character with a magical background but from the start you kind of know that this book isn’t going to end with them together. It felt very much like a temporary thing, so though I liked them together, it was hard to get invested. I was much more interested in Asher’s relationship with the children and their mother than I was in her romance. Which was a shame, as I usually like the romances in books best. What I will say though is that this was actually a good aspect of the book. It wouldn’t have made sense for this book to be more of a love story, so I’m glad Slatter didn’t go down that route. It’s just a personal preference that I usually like a bit more.
With this book being more of a literary fantasy, language was obviously a big thing. I expected this book to be floaty and a little slow to read, but it was easy to get into. You still get a whimsical use of language, but it doesn’t stunt the story to any degree. Even the use of the fairytales as the pop up blended seamlessly, and everything worked so well. I definitely want to check out Slatter’s first book and short stories after reading this one as I think she does such a good job of not just writing, but storytelling as a whole.
This book was dark, evocative and beautifully written. If you’re looking for a new fantasy world to dive into, I highly recommend this book.
Title: The Path of Thorns
Author: A.G. Slatter
Age Range: Adult
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 28/6/22