Book Review and Blog Tour: The Bookbinder’s Daughter by Jessica Thorne

About the book:

The song surrounded her now, the murmuring of the library insistent, and her foot took the first step on the winding stairs. She knew it wasn’t entirely a dream. It was the library calling her, its magic driving her.

When Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library – the finest collection of rare books in the world, and the last place her bookbinder mother was seen when Sophie was just a teenager – she leaps at the chance. Will she finally discover what happened to the woman she’s always believed abandoned her?

Taking in the endless shelves of antique books, the soaring stained-glass windows, and the grand sweeping staircase, usually shy Sophie feels strangely at home, and is welcomed by her eccentric fellow binders. But why is the Keeper of the Library so reluctant to speak about Sophie’s mother? And why is Sophie the only person who can read the strange spells in the oldest books on display, written in a forgotten language nobody else understands?

The mysteries of the library only deepen when Sophie stumbles upon an elaborately carved door. The pattern exactly matches the pendant her mother left behind years ago, engraved with a delicate leaf. As the door swings open at her touch, Sophie gasps at the incredible sight: an enormous tree, impossibly growing higher than the library itself, its gently falling golden leaves somehow resembling the pages of a book. Amidst their rustling, Sophie hears a familiar whisper…

‘There you are, my Sophie. I knew you’d come back for me.’

An absolutely spellbinding read about long-hidden family secrets and the magic that lurks between the pages of every ancient book. Perfect for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryThe Night Circus and The Binding.

My review:

When I hear “bookbinder,” I think of someone who does just that – binds books so that they can be published. But the books being bound here aren’t just for sale at your local bookstore, though. Oh, no. They are so much more.

Sophie’s mother died under mysterious circumstances when she was a teenager. Her father took her away from the Ayredale Library, only home she’d ever known, thinking he was saving her from…something. She’s got a good job, but she’s starting to question her relationship with Victor. Her uncle, Edward Talbot, reappears unexpectedly in her life after her father’s death, with an offer of a job at the Library. Sophie takes it, leaving behind the manipulative Victor and all that she’s known for years.

When she returns to the Library, memories begin to return in bits and pieces. Sophie hopes she can learn what happened to her mother. She also remembers the attraction she and Will, the Library’s guardian, once shared, and wonders/hopes that can be rekindled. The Library is starting to feel like home again, drawing Sophie in, and she’s finding her place there, remembering who she was and who she is, when her past comes crashing back in unexpectedly.

The atmosphere Thorne creates is enthralling. It calls to mind The Night Circus and Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe for me. Her word choices are exquisite, and she builds a lush, fantastical world for her characters to inhabit. The magical system she envisions is intriguing, with chaos willingly sacrificing itself for creativity to thrive, and the ideas going forth into the world, to be seeded and discovered and used. And how can you not be sucked in by a description of a tree with leaves glowing gold, swirling and falling into Sophie’s hands?

The romance with Will feels a little rushed, especially as Sophie has just broken free of an abusive relationship. I understand, though, that it’s made to fit the confines of a story, and there are allowances to be made. I also would have liked to know more about Will – what actually happened to turn him into the Library’s guardian?

And Victor (said abusive relationship) is just SO ROTTEN. I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Sophie (just a little) when she turns away from Will to go with Victor. I know abusers can be very charming and manipulative, and I know Sophie was a young woman wounded by her past. But it’s hard to imagine how she ever saw anything in him worth her time, because he’s written as such a positively awful character.

Tia may have been my favorite character. So much about her seems baffling, until things click into place and her true nature is revealed.

I might have enjoyed this as book one of a duology. A second book might have given Thorne room to expand more on the characters, tell us more of how they came to be part of the Library. But overall, I found it engaging and a worthwhile read. Recommended for people who like magical realism and are willing to suspend their disbelief while they read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for an advance reader copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Jessica Thorne saw Star Wars at an impressionable age and life was never the same. She’s loved fantasy, romance and science fiction ever since and spends her time looking for adventure – in the pages of her books.

Sometimes she is Ruth Frances Long and won the European Science Fiction Society Spirit of Dedication Award for Best Author of Children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015.

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