Thursday 10 August 2023

Book Review: The Thorns Remain by J.J.A. Harwood

The Thorns Remain by J.J.A. Harwood book cover

AD* | A dance with the fae will change everything...

1919. In a highland village forgotten by the world, harvest season is over and the young who remain after war and flu have ravaged the village will soon head south to make something of themselves.

Moira Jean and her friends head to the forest for a last night of laughter before parting ways. Moira Jean is being left behind. She had plans to leave once – but her lover died in France and with him, her future. The friends light a fire, sing and dance. But with every twirl about the flames, strange new dancers thread between them, music streaming from the trees.

The fae are here.

Suddenly Moira Jean finds herself all alone, her friends spirited away. The iron medal of her lost love, pinned to her dress, protected her from magic.

For the Fae feel forgotten too. Led by the darkly handsome Lord of the Fae, they are out to make themselves known once more. Moira Jean must enter into a bargain with the Lord to save her friends – and fast, for the longer one spends with the Fae, the less like themselves they are upon return. If Moira Jean cannot save her friends before Beltane, they will be lost forever...

Dancing on the delicate line between reality and enchantment, The Thorns Remain weaves a mesmerising tale that once again showcases the author's mastery of blending magic with the mundane. Having previously enjoyed J.J.A. Harwood's The Shadow in the Glass, I approached this new book with eager anticipation, and it did not disappoint.

Set against the backdrop of a forgotten highland village in the aftermath of war and disease, the novel transports readers to a realm where the mystical and the ordinary entwine seamlessly. Harwood's prowess lies in capturing the essence of life in a tight-knit, isolated community, where relationships and secrets are as dense as the surrounding woods.

The narrative's tempo mirrors the gradual shift of seasons as it unfolds at a deliberate pace. With a slow build and a slow burn, it casts a growing sense of unease that mimics the disquiet Moira Jean feels. As Moira Jean and her friends gather one fateful night, the boundaries between realms blur, and the fae emerge from the shadows, casting their spell upon the unsuspecting group. Harwood's storytelling makes you question reality alongside Moira Jean, intensifying the narrative's eerie allure.

The richness of fae lore and myth woven into the story sets The Thorns Remain apart. The meticulous entwining of folklore, superstition, and ancient tales breathes life into the fae, rendering them as enigmatic and unpredictable as the mist-laden woods they inhabit. The vibrancy of these elements deepens the atmospheric magic that pervades the novel.

Central to the story is Moira Jean, a character both vulnerable and resolute. Her determination and selflessness, even in the face of her own grief, propel the narrative forward. Still mourning her lost love, Angus, her courage and tenacity shine as she faces the enigmatic Dreamer to save her friends.

However, the novel's crescendo doesn't blend seamlessly with its gradual tempo. The conclusion feels hurried and disconnected from the slow pacing maintained throughout. The sense of dissonance leaves the reader slightly unsatisfied, craving a more harmonious resolution that mirrors the earlier rhythm.

In The Thorns Remain, J.J.A. Harwood invites us to step into a world where the fae dance on the periphery of human existence, and the barriers between reality and fantasy dissolve. With a steady hand, the author crafts a tale that resonates, capturing both the enchantment and the peril that come with brushing against the otherworldly. Moira Jean's journey into the heart of the fae's domain becomes our own, as we traverse the delicate threads of enchantment, loss, and courage, emerging on the other side, much like Moira Jean herself - forever changed.

Rating: 4 stars

The Thorns Remain is available to buy now.

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* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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