Goodreads: A Treason of Thorns
Published: September 10, 2019
Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.
Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.
When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.
Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.
A Treason of Thorns is a beautifully written book that explores the relationship between a young woman and the magical Great House she grew up in. However, the premise of the novel often overshadows the plot and character development, as if the author never fully moved past the “idea” for the book to truly turn it into a story.
The first half of the novel felt incredibly slow to me, as the protagonist fixates on a few simple ideas that get repeated over and over: she grew up in a Great House she expected to be Caretaker of when she was an adult, she loves her Great House, she wants her Great House to be happy and well, etc. and so forth. I think this portion of the novel could have been cut down considerably to help get to the heart of the story.
Strangely, however, what exactly a Great House is is never fully explained. There is a scholar in the novel whose area of expertise is Great Houses, both the ones in England and ones in other countries, so readers do get glimpses of their history, but the whole matter remains incredibly vague. They’re just…magical houses (and grounds) that seem to have always been around and that somehow work their magic on the surrounding land. If the House is doing well, the land and people flourish. If not, crops fail, animals die, people get sick. That’s basically all readers know. Why the Houses exist, what powers or motivates them, what their investment is in the surrounding land, and a number of other questions are left unanswered. And while I can normally appreciate some ambiguity in fantasy to create a sense of mystique, the vagueness feels off in A Treason of Thorns because the author seems to have settled on “I am writing about a magical house!” as the crux of the book. If the answer to the question of, “What is the book about?” is “a magical house,” then I expect to have a fuller understanding of said house.
Weyworth does attempt to give readers an interesting protagonist to live in and deal with the house. Her loyalty to it is ferocious, as is her loyalty to the boy she grew up with—now an attractive young man she has not seen for the past several years. Readers will likely admire her dedication and generous spirit. They, like the people in the character’s life, simply have to come to terms with the idea that she has an obsession with the House that will always come first.
The plot, then, is straightforward enough. She loves the House. The House is in danger. The only way to save the House is to locate its deed. Thus, she goes on a quest to do exactly that. The pleasure of the book is not in being surprised by plot twists or unexpected happenings, just in watching the characters go about their tasks in various states of determination and reluctance.
I liked that the idea of A Treason of Thorns is fairly original; I can’t think of a book I’ve read that was quite like this. However, I do think that the idea itself could have been developed and then…moved past, so to speak, so that the characters and plot could equally shine.