Between Two Thorns (Split Worlds #1) by Emma Newman (Angry Robot Books, Feb. 2013)-The Master of Ceremonies for the mirror cities has gone missing, and the new season is starting in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s mirror city. This is a blow to anyone who’s anyone and anyone that hopes to be someone. Did that make any sense? Just think of all those swank parties in the early 19th century and you’ll get a good idea of where things are in the mirror cities. The real world, our world, is called Mundanus by the citizens of the mirror cities, and most wouldn’t think of wanting to actually stay in Mundanus, but one of them does. Inf fact, Catherine (Cathy) Rhoeas-Papaver has been doing just that, having escaped the clutches of an abusive father and a loveless family that considers her plain and a burden on their high society life. Time moves a bit differently in the mirror cities than it does in Mundanus, and Cathy has managed to make it for three and a half years without discovery, and she also found love. Unfortunately, Lord Poppy, her family’s Fae patron, has finally found her, and he’s more than happy to escort her back to her family in Aquae Sulis for an arranged marriage to William Reticulata-Iris, who is part of another prominent family. Cathy is horrified, but she’s not sure if there’s any way to get out of this one, short of suicide. Soon, however, she finds a possible way out in the form of an Arbiter of The Split Worlds Treaty, Max, that is investigating the disappearance of the MoC, but she may be in over her head.
A word on the Split Worlds: Exilium is the beautiful (and insidious) place that keeps Mundanus safe from the Fae (folks that live in the Nether will have you believe that it’s the other way ’round), and where the Fae reside. The Nether is between the Split Worlds and is where Cathy’s family resides. Each building in the mirror cities have anchor buildings in Mundanus, or they can’t exist. It’s really a very cool concept and one that the author uses to great effect. Emma Newman’s Fae are of the kind that are so powerful and scary they can curl your toes, but of course, they’re also disarmingly beautiful. The Sorcerers keep the Fae in check and also are who the Arbiters work for. Cathy knows exactly what she’s dealing with and it’s why she’s scared out of her mind. Cathy is very easy to root for, with her resilience and smarts, but I even grew to like her betrothed, Will. He’s grown up in privilege, and is very susceptible to what society expects from him, but he’s also a rather decent guy and is determined to make the best out of a hard situation. My only complaint is not seeing more of the Arbiter, Max and his stone gargoyle sidekick, which is actually the vessel that houses Max’s soul. It’s awesome. Oh, then there’s the Mundane, Sam, who was witness to the crime that started all of this fuss, and he proves to be an ally to Cathy as well. Will Cathy have to marry Will and leave Mundanus forever? Will the Master of Ceremonies be found safe and sound? And why the heck was he taken in the first place? Don’t worry, you’ll get those answers and more, and you’ll have a helluva good time getting there. Between Two Thorns is a wonderful marriage of the magical and the mundane, with plenty of high society intrigue to satisfy any Downton Abbey fan and more than enough to appeal to fantasy lovers as well. Emma Newman’s world building is sublime, her characters larger than life, and the pages crackle with magic. I promise you’ll want to move right on to Any Other Name post haste!