Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: Alphabet of Thorns by Patricia McKillip

Alphabet of Thorns by Patricia McKillip

Completion Date: January 23, 2015
Length: 291 Pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Deep inside a palace on the edge of the world, the orphan Nepenthe pores over books in the royal library, translating their languages and learning their secrets. Now sixteen, she knows little of the outside world—except for the documents that traders and travelers bring her to interpret.
Then, during the coronation of the new Queen of Raine, a young mage gives Nepenthe a book that has defied translation. Written in a language of thorns, it speaks to Nepenthe's soul—and becomes her secret obsession. And, as the words escape the brambles and reveal themselves, Nepenthe finds her destiny entwined with that of the young queen's. Sooner than she thinks, she will have to choose between the life she has led and the life she was born to lead...
Fiction or Non-Fiction? Genre?: Fiction. Fantasy.

What Lead You to Pick-up This Book?: On Tuesday I posted a list of Ten Authors I Have Read One Book By, Loved, and Yet Have Never Read Again. In the list I mentioned Patricia McKillip because I read The Bell at Sealey Head by her back in 2013, loved it, and have never read her again. I said on Tuesday that if I read more by her she would probably be one of my favourite fantasy authors and that inspired me to put aside everything else and read another book I owned by her.

Summarize the Plot: I didn't know what to read by her, but I just liked the title of this one. I didn't really know what the book was about when I went into reading it. It turned out to be a book essentially about a book and takes place largely in a library. It was definitely a good pick! The novel takes place in Raine where the Queen has recently been crowned and is still learning how to be a queen. In the background there is Nepenthe who is a translator. She is given a book to take to be translated, but is so taken with it that she keeps it for herself. The book and translator play a central role throughout the book, but it takes a while for the true meaning to surface. The book safely intertwines past and present to make a very readable book.

What Did You Like Most About the Book?: That is was a book where another book takes a central role. I also loved the library and wish I could visit! And the mage school. Just like The Bell at Sealey Head I want to experience everything for myself.

What Did You Like the Least?: There were a couple instances where my curiosity was not rewarded. It still made for a good book, but I want to know! Unfortunately these things are spoilers, so I won't elaborate.

What Did You Think of the Writing Style?: I really like McKillip's writing style. She writes in such a way that you get drawn into the story and the experiences. Even when there is not a lot of action, you still want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. You also have a lot of questions that you want answered in her books and I really enjoy seeing how they all play out!

What Did You Think of the Main Character?: I really liked Nepenthe. She was an orphan book translator who worked in a library. What wasn't to love? It was interesting to see how her simple life worked into the bigger picture. And, to meet the characters that circulated around her.

What Did You Think of the Ending?: It seemed a bit rushed, but at the same time tied things up nicely. McKillip's books are often on the shorter side, which works for her, but I wish we had a chance to visit longer. This is why I don't like short stories and novellas because you just get drawn into the world and the characters and then it is over...

Strongly Recommended!


  1. A book about a book and set mainly in a library - definitely have to read this one.

  2. I really enjoyed this one, too. I had trouble picturing the alphabet, but I thought it was such an original idea. Have you read A Tale for the Time Being? It has a somewhat similar premise about the way reading can impact timelines.

  3. I like the sound of this. Exactly like you, I read The Bell at Sealey Head a couple of years ago and have not read a thing by PMc since. I'll look out for this as I like books about books.

  4. She's one of my favorite authors, and I'm so glad to see other people enjoying her books! For your next foray, you could read the Riddlemaster trilogy--being three books, it's longer....another one I like lots is The Bards of Bone Plane.

  5. Oooh, I love Patricia McKillip, but haven't read this one yet. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!


Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

I am so sorry, but I turned anonymous commenting off. I have had it from the very beginning, but that is how the spam is getting by my spam filter at the moment. If it is a big deal I will turn it back on and moderate all comments. I also changed moderation from older than 14 days to older than 7.