5 out of 5 stars! (for the whole series!!)
Where do I begin? You know that feeling you get, after you have read something so incredible and feel empty once it is over? That is how I feel with The Split Worlds. Over the summer, I happened upon book 1, Between Two Thorns by happy accident. I will be honest. I judge books by their covers. If a cover or title is not remotely interesting or captures my attention, good chance I won’t give it more than a passing glance. Between Two Thorns stared me down like a showdown in the Wild West, and I my friend, lost. I am saddened, excited, confused and a slew of emotions right now with the conclusion. I have done some extensive research, and this series MIGHT continue depending on sales and reviews. I hope it does…or I might have to start shoving this series in the face of everyone I encounter. I enjoyed it that much.
Firstly, I find it amazing that this series actually started out as a series of short stories. In reading each book, it is definitely evident where each story would begin and end, but when put together as a whole part, it flowed amazingly. When I first started Between Two Thorns, I will say, I was extremely confused. The entire series is set between 3 “mirror” worlds set in the UK. Between Two Thorns takes place primarily in the mirror world of Bath called Aquae Sulis. Any Other Name transitions the key characters (Cathy and Will) move to Londinium which is where All Is Fair primarily takes place, with a few odd trips to Oxenford.
A little bit of where my confusion started were mainly understanding the differences between the “Split World” (the Nether) where the Fae-touched lived, and Mundanus where the innocents lived (us every day normal human beings). The Fae-touched never aged, never died (unless murdered), never anything when they lived in the Nether (but they could if they stayed in Mundanus too long). The Fae-touched are archaic, Victorian-esque, gossipy, and extremely patriarchal. Women were only meant for children, looking pretty, and gossip. Each of the Great Families had a Patroon, which is one of the Fae. (Lord Iris, Lord Poppy, Lady Rose are a couple you meet in this series at various times). These Fae are evil, manipulative, and any other horrible name you can think of. They are the reasons that the Fae-touched (the Society) are corrupt and “behind the times.” Many of the famous wars or “hostile take overs,” in Mundanus (William the Conqueror, War of the Roses…etc), were driven by the Fae-touched and their Patroons. The Fae-touched tend to be called “puppets.” Other character types in the books are Sorcerers, each having their own section of the land. Such as the Sorcerer of Essex, Sorcerer of Wessex, Sorcerer of Mercia (again all male, because a female knowing or having the ability of magic would be catastrophically dangerous). Each Sorcerer has a band of “police” called Arbitors. They were once Mundanes/Innocents, but were chosen to be tested for this particular police agency. Their job was to protect the innocents from the Fae and Fae-touched. This was all very confusing to understand at first, but it didn’t take long for it to click and get going.
There are multiple story lines going on at once. In Between Two Thorns, I was ready for it come together so I could help make sense of my confusion and understand how each story related. If it was going to be multiple story lines the entire time, with no connection between any of them, then I probably would not have finished. Around page 70, I was sucked into the Split Worlds and finished the entire book within a few hours. I devoured each book since.
This book touches on so many topics when it comes to equality. Women in the Nether are married off, not for love, but for how that marriage (meaning potential children) could benefit the Patroon of the family. Cathy had been desperately hiding in Mundanus for a couple of years before her Patroon finally found her and eventually played a part in her being dragged back to Aquae Sulis so she could be married off to Will. Cathy was taught as a young girl about Suffrage, and women’s rights, and that women could be so much more than what women in the Nether believed or were taught. This teaching was forbidden and once it was discovered that Cathy was being taught these ideals, the Governess was removed from the home. But the damage had already been done. Cathy had knowledge of freedom, of wanting more, of doing more, and that is what she wanted for herself.
This series has so much going on all at once, but it is written in a way that it makes sense. Each main character of the book has their own narrative flowing through the series. Each character has their own part to play, and though each one of them get to their potential in different ways, every character connects at the end. Every story falls in place. Everything comes together. You love Cathy from the beginning, especially as a female reader that knows how it feels to be able to do, study, read, wear what she wants and voice her own opinions. To read about a culture that doesn’t allow for it, well, you automatically fall in love with the character who wants and knows of freedom, but can’t seem to get it for herself. I liked Will as well. Even though he was just as forced into his marriage with Cathy, and he is a prick, I couldn’t help but like him. It is evident that Will did as he was told, even though he didn’t necessarily agree with it, because that was how things were. He had to listen to his Patroon. So he did his duty, married Cathy, and attempted to make the best of it, that is the reason the men in the Nether had mistresses still, yes?
Cathy and Will have to keep secrets from each and from everyone else, while still attempting to keep it together. Cathy eventually accepts her fate to be married to someone she didn’t love, but eventually, could she love him? It was fun to watch the two of them grow, up and together. This series doesn’t necessarily include romance, but there are some aspects of it. I will give a spoiler, yes, Will and Cathy do fall in love with each other. Another spoiler, Cathy stops trying to run away for her freedom and instead, attempts to change Society as a whole.
I feel that no review I could write would justify the amazing-ness of this series. The series is humorous, political, aggravating, and heartbreaking. All in one. There is violence, fantasy, romance, some smut, corruption, mystery…every genre all rolled into one plot line. It was hard to get bored. Right when you would be getting to an awesome part, that particular character’s story line ended for the chapter and it went on to the next character! It was hard to put any one of these books down. I could never find a place to stop so I could go to sleep, or start work, or eat my dinner. I read each of these books within a day of starting it. They were that good. And sometimes, it is such a rare find, to find something by happy accident.
I highly encourage giving this story a read. I only spoke of two characters. There are too many, and too many stories, and too many connections, we would be here all day, even though, I could talk about it all day. When I move to the UK, I hope to happen upon the opportunity to meet Emma Newman at a signing, or again, by a happy accident.
*NOTE* The Author, Emma Newman, made a few clarifications for me 🙂 So I am going to pass them on :). The Split World grew from short stories, but the novels were written as their own. There are about 55 short stories that help seed plot lines, do a bit of foreshadowing, and help further information about the characters.
I will add the link for the Split Worlds if you wish to join in 🙂 thesplitworlds.com