When Evelyn Morgan walked into the village bookstore, she didn’t know she would meet the love of her life. When Brendan Thorne handed her a medieval romance, he didn’t know it would change the course of his future. It was almost as if they were the cursed lovers in the old book itself . . .
The Thorn and the Blossom is a remarkable literary artifact: You can open the book in either direction to decide whether you’ll first read Brendan’s, or Evelyn’s account of the mysterious love affair. Choose a side, read it like a regular novel—and when you get to the end, you’ll find yourself at a whole new beginning.
This is a quirky, unique book that wins a lot of points from the first moment you pick it up thanks to its structure. Held within a slip case the book is printed on a long continuous concertina, there are hard covers at both ends, one with an E and one with a B. If you start with the E as the front cover you read Evelyn’s story and if you start with the B you read Brendan’s story. The idea is that you get both sides of the same story, it’s up to you which you start with. The only thing I would say is that I decided to read this with the book on a table – the concertina does have a slight tendency to simply fall open if you’re not holding it carefully. This is very easily got around however and is very worth it for the loveliness of the book.
I read Evelyn’s story first, I found part of her story intriguing – she has a history of seeing other worldly beings and I was interested by the way this was treated as some sort of mental health problem. Brendan’s story is a little more straightforward though sadder, the section of the story where the two stories are not intertwined fill in the gaps for Brendan very well.
I loved the way Celtic mythology was at the very heart of this book, for me it added a whole extra layer of satisfaction. Very quickly you understand how the story is likely to unfold, I found that this pulled me deeper into the book. I liked the ending of both sides of the story and felt that it fitted well with the mythology.
The idea of telling the story from both perspectives adds some really nice touches to the reading experience. It allows you to get to know the characters really well, you get the combination of their thoughts in their side of the story and how they’re seen in the opposite side of the story. The only downside I found to the structure was that at times when I was reading Brendan’s story I found myself scanning quickly through the bits that were virtually carbon copies of the same events in Evelyn’s story.
Overall I really enjoyed the experience of reading this book, it’s a very quick read – both sides of the story are just over 40 pages long – and the novel structure is used really well to enhance the book.
The Thorn and the Blossom is published by Quirk Books in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.