Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Published: June 4, 2019
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
Get the book for yourself: Amazon
“All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.”
This is a book I had no expectations for going into it. I heard it mentioned from a few channels on YouTube, and the way it was spoken of highly almost across the board intrigued me enough to the point I had to pick it up. I have to say that after procrastinating on the purchase for some time I am glad I finally got to this one.
The thing that stood out to me most was Margaret Rogerson’s writing style. She so eloquently described settings and objects, as well as people, in a way that captivated me throughout the story. What was most impressive to me though, was the fact that she was able to do this without making the book feel bloated. Too many times I read descriptive text and dialogue and feel as though it is a slog to get through but with Rogerson’s writing she kept the pace and nothing felt worse for it. She used descriptions I would never have thought of for the grimoire’s and she painted a striking dichotomy between the demons and humans. The story stands tall on it’s own but it is bolstered by the beautiful descriptive writing, and I felt that needed to be called out.
The story itself follows Elisabeth, an orphan girl who was raised in one of the Great Libraries. She is a unique case as this is not something that has been allowed to happen before, and she is treated accordingly. It seems as though many in the library have a distaste for her and her antics and the only one who seems to truly believe in her is the Director. I can’t get to far into the story summary because it takes off at a quick pace and anything more than a brief overview would steer into spoiler territory. Believe me when I say the story is one that will grip you from beginning to end and have you turning pages faster than you realize.
I need to talk about the characters, and how much I loved almost all of them. They were all fleshed out and realized wonderfully, thanks in part to her apt for descriptive writing, and they were all deeper than any of them originally seemed. Nathaniel Thorn is the other main character we run into in the story and his growth from what Elisabeth originally perceives him as to the sorcerer he ends up being is fun to experience through Elisabeth’s eyes. He, along with the other sorcerers come from long familial histories of magic. They all have a demon in the service of their families and it’s from this demon that they draw their powers. The pact with these demons leaves marks on their bodies which in Thorn’s case means a silver streak in his hair. I thought these small touches made each character feel more real and I appreciated the attention to detail.
The magic system in this world was interesting, it placed more of an emphasis on contemplation to draw out the power rather than some books where the power was able to be manifested and used immediately. I felt like this was more of a grounded interpretation of a sorcerer and it seemed interesting that they needed time to fire off spells. They learned these spells from high class grimoires that had a life of their own. If handled incorrectly these books could manifest into Maleficts, creatures made of leather and ink, that would rampage and cause horrible damage. The great libraries are used to handle and store these grimoires for the sorcerers and make sure they don’t turn into these monsters.
With every sorcerer comes a demon with whom they have entered a contract. The demon will be there when they die, as Silas puts it “one way or another”. The relationship between sorcerer and demon is unique to each pairing but when push comes to shove the sorcerer is in charge and the demon will have to listen to any orders it is given. The way the two had to work together was something I thought added a lot of depth to the story and the characters. The demons, namely Silas, were some of the most well written and thought out characters I can remember reading recently. In Silas’ case the cool calm demeanor juxtaposed with his ability to kill and get his hands dirty in the way a demon is expected to added a chilling gravitas to his character. He did everything without emotion and it all felt almost surgical, he was detailed and exact, but when something happened which led to him needing to take action he did so swiftly and brutally.
One of the other main demons we come in contact with was Ashcroft’s servant Lorelei. Unlike Silas, she was more of a traditional servant for her master. She didn’t seem to go out of her way to do anything and stayed in line with what Ashcroft needed her to do. This is how I imagine most demon/sorcerer pairings operate in this world, Silas and Nathaniel being the clear exception. At one point Lorelei even mentions Silas as being notorious in their world, adding that it takes something special to become notorious in a world of demons. Thinking about what Silas must’ve done to earn such a reputation leaves us thinking about his character in a more menacing light. We have another experience with Silas later in the book that reinforces this feeling as well, which I think goes a long way to cement him as one of my favorite characters in a long time.
The story was well crafted and had me engrossed from start to finish. The settings were captivating, as were the characters. The action sequences felt grounded and real, never feeling like something over the top or outside the realm of what was established as possible in this world. One complaint I usually have in regards to the fantasy genre is that the fight scenes sometimes evolve into spectacles that feel out of place in the world that has been set up. Even with the magic in this world everything felt plausible and real.
I loved that there was a reason for everything. Nothing was left unsaid or unexplained, nothing was done or presented without purpose. Oftentimes in fantasy novels we are left wondering about certain things, but I never felt like I was left in the dark by Rogerson, she did a great job of making sure everything was put together correctly.
Overall the attention to detail in this book was amazing and it made for an enjoyable read. I have no problem recommending this to anyone who loves fantasy and magic or is looking for a story following a strong female character. Elisabeth is a character to remember, strong without being overwhelming, she is someone we can all root for and relate to. This book took me by surprise and I loved every word of it.
As always thanks for reading, if you have any thoughts on the book or what I had to say about it let me know in the comments below! Reach out to me on Twitter and let’s make connections in the blogging and writing community. I post (at least) every Wednesday and Saturday, subscribe via email to make sure you don’t miss anything!