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Between Two Thorns (Split Worlds) by Emma Newman
Review by Mel Jacob
Angry Robot Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780857663207
Date: 26 February 2013 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

In many ways, Emma Newman follows in Frieda Warrington and Max Gladstone's footsteps in her Split Worlds debut novel Between Two Thorns. However, in her world, the Nether is anchored in the heyday of Bath and London with all the glitter of elegant period living, but also its cruelty and injustice. When certain crimes committed in the mundane world spill over into the Nether, an Arbiter, the equivalent of a police officer, is sent to stop them and punish the wrongdoers. He is attacked, almost killed, and assumed dead by his enemies.

Meanwhile, Cathy, a young woman of the Nether upper class, has escaped the cruelty of her father and the restrictions of life in the Nether to establish herself as an independent woman in contemporary society. She has also found love. However, her family is determined to recover her and force her into marriage to cement their alliance with another family.

Lord Poppy, one of the powerful Fae lords, locates and demands an explanation from her. Fearful of his powers, she struggles to keep her life and her freedom. He tells she must return to her family, but grants her three wishes.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints: Max, the wounded Arbiter along with the gargoyle holding his soul; Cathy the willful, daughter; Will, her intended fiancÚ; and Sam, a computer whiz, who had the misfortune to witness a crime. Most readers will identify with Max, Cathy, and to a lesser degree with Will. Each is bound by their societal roles, although Cathy seeks to escape hers. Another discontinuity is the character of Sam. Passive at the start, by the end he is take-charge type.

The setting is interesting and used well. Unfortunately, while one crime with major ramifications is solved, the main threads remain hanging. Luckily, readers won't have long to wait before the sequels: Any other Name will be released in June 2013, and All Is Fair in October 2013.

Personally, I liked the gargoyle as a wisecracking foil for Max and Cathy. However, despite her original escape, Cathy reverts in some ways although remains determined to escape. Petra, librarian to the Sorcerer Ekstrand, is certain to play a larger role in the sequels.

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