If you’re looking for a book that embodies dark whimsy…A Hunger of Thorns is calling to you. It gave me huge vibes of “what if alice in wonderland was sapphic and full of witches and corrupt magic” and it delivers just that. This is a tale of fairy tales turned toxic, love turned obsession, desperate quests and unlikely allies. It lingers on the edge of horror tbh, and since I’m in a horror-mood, I really appreciated that angle.
The story is told by Maude who is a witch who has lost her magic…and she’s also lost her best friend to a mysterious shut-down power plant that is festering with corrupt magic. Maude and Odette’s relationship is complicated and bordering on toxic. Maude has been deeply in love with Odette ever since they were children, but Odette has grown up sharp-edged and crass. They haven’t been friends for a while when she goes missing, but that doesn’t stop Maude pledging to find her. Plus there are pieces missing in Maude’s memory and also in the history they’ve always been told about magic and witches. Throw in a complicated relationship with Maude’s long-dead mother (a twisted, possibly bad witch–or was she?) and two sapphic grandmothers who love Maude deeply but maybe are keeping things from her…and you have a plot threaded in mystery. Maude is also a very morally grey character, driven by a creepy obsessive love but who is also very loyal.
The world building was super interesting too, as it’s a similar-to-our-world-but-not-quite. It feels a bit like Britain/Ireland but it’s a world separate to our own.
The writing is super lyrical and reminded me of fairy tales, but again, with that twist of macabre whimsy. Egg moons and thrupenny biscuits and all the tea you could ask for (because doesn’t tea fix everything!!). When we end up deep in the toxic wasteland of the power plant, the descriptions grow wild and woolly just like the atmosphere and there is so much to explore. There are plenty of monsters to face–but physical and metaphorical.
Definitely a story to pick up if you like fairy tales on the darker side and sapphic witches and falling deep into worlds of twisted magic and wild, wild sentient forests. The sticklewood is here and it will get its hooks in you.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy!
published 18 Apr 2023