Book Review: A Treason of Thorns
A Treason of Thorns
Written by Laura E. Weymouth
Published by Harper Teen
Publication date: 10th September 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
Each fear surfaces and as they rise, I take them one by one, box them up and put them away on a dusty shelf in the back of my soul. I don’t know what else to do with these thoughts that threaten to choke me, so I keep them locked inside, like last winter’s molding apples or a dragon’s tarnished hoard.
The last fear I tuck away is this: I’m afraid of the king, desperately afraid. But for me, the good of Burleigh House will always come before that fear. It must.
“I want to go home, ” I whisper to myself and the night sky and the stars.
Home. The word tastes like honey and ashes, like hope and regret, and this I know: I would face the devil himself for a chance at getting back to the House I grew up in, and at finding out what fate has befallen the one friend I had as a child. The king is only a little worse than the devil after all, and I would beg or bargain, whichever he prefers, to get back to where I belong. To be what I was born to become – the Caretaker of my beloved House.
First impressions: I knew that I had to read this as soon as I heard that it would exist. I loved, loved, loved The Light Between Worlds, this author’s debut novel. As a result, Laura E. Weymouth has become an auto-read, auto-buy author for me. When I read the summary I became even more excited to read it as sentient buildings is an odd theme that I enjoy in books! I have recently started reading The Glower Castle series by Jessica Day George, where one of the main characters is a sentient castle. Definitely something that I would like to see more of!
This story turned out to be even more complex that I had anticipated (though, really, I should have expected it from Laura Weymouth!), with characters who you will probably love, hate and find confusing in turns, yet who will worm their way into you heart and thoughts as they are so painfully human, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and choices which stray far into grey areas.
Burleigh House, one of the Great Houses around which the story is centred, has hundreds of years of history, magic and memory engrained in the walls, with the blood of its caretakers mixing with the mortar to channel the powerful magic for the benefit of all the land surrounding it. Violet grows up embraced by the house, with it providing flowers to cheer her up when she is ill and leading her to promise, at the tender age of five, that she will always do anything and everything for the sake of the House. Shortly afterwards, her father appears with an orphan boy, Wyn, who Vi believes is to be a companion for her.
Her world is fragmented when her mother leaves and her father is put under house arrest for treason, keeping Wyn with him. Violet knows that the house arrest will only end with his death, as his life force is consumed by the house’s magic, and she is tormented by the fact that the house will be forced to kill it’s own Caretaker, or face complete destruction. Yet, after her father’s death, all is not well at Burleigh. Without the key to channel the House’s magic safely, Vi feels powerless to stop the decay…but, if she fails, the House she loves will be burned to the ground, taking all the memories and magic with it.
Layer upon layer, the story builds up, with each delicate thread adding to an intricate tapestry which paints a complex, compelling story. Our characters make tough decisions, some of which you as a reader may find difficult to reconcile yourself with, but, as events wind tighter towards a conclusion, it becomes difficult to see how they could possibly have done anything else with the hand they have been dealt.
I haven’t stopped thinking about A Treason of Thorns since I set it down. This book has to be experienced to be believed, and I guarantee that it will keep you tight within its grips long after the last page has been turned.
Wind whips the patched fabric of my skirt around my legs as the memory fades and I’m brought back to the present. Briar thorns prick at my wrists, for I’m standing right up against the space where the gate once was, arms thrust into the brambles that fill the gap. Somewhere behind, Jed and Mira are waiting. Above us, thunder grumbles and lightning splits the sky.
I don’t know what I’m feeling. If it’s heartbreak, I never expected it to be such a bodily thing. My chest aches and the back of my neck has gone hot and a rushing noise fills my ears. But there is Burleigh before e, half-wild with what it’s been through, and almost the last thing Papa said to me was that I must be brave for my House.
“Burleigh,”, I say clearly. I force down my own pain because I was born and brought up to b a Caretaker, and a Caretaker puts her House first, no matter how it hurts. “It’s alright, my love. None of this was your fault. You did what had to be done.”
Perhaps my House is broken, but we are a matched set, split apart in the same place, and a broken girl is just the thing for a broken House.
What I liked: The sentient houses at the centre of the story and how the magic surrounding these was developed and built upon throughout the book, Burleigh in particular was such a well-rounded and realistic character (despite being a house!), the relationship between Wyn and Vi, Wyn in general is just such an intriguing character, as are Jed and Mira, Violet;s constants when everything else changes. The magic system and how it is tied up with the monarchy is also fascinating, as well asEspie and Alfred, their relationship and the manipulations of court. Everything about this book was just so creative and engaging to read!
Even better if: I wanted more of Espie and Alfred! This book has solidified Laura E. Weymouth as an auto-buy and auto-read author for me and I cannot wait to see what she writes next. The only thing that could make this better is if the UK version were out already!
How you could you use it in your classroom: I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Light Between Worlds, Laura’s first book, or anybody who enjoys fantasy and thoughtful, nuanced examinations of how people think, feel and how their choices every day shape their lives. There is some gorgeous, atmospheric writing and so much could be drawn out of this if looked at from a perspective of developing your own descriptive writing.
(Thank you to for my e-ARC and to FFBC for inviting me to be part of this blog tour!)
What did other people think?
Don’t miss the other stops on this blog tour:
About the Author
Laura Weymouth is a Canadian living in exile in America, and the sixth consecutive generation of her family to immigrate from one country to another. Born and raised in the Niagara region of Ontario, she now lives at the edge of the woods in western New York, along with her husband, two wild-hearted daughters, a spoiled cat, an old soul of a dog, and an indeterminate number of chickens. She is represented by the inimitable Lauren Spieller of TriadaUS.
Thanks for reading!