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Split Worlds Series by Emma Newman – Review of the First Three Books

Split Worlds Series by Emma Newman – Review of the First Three Books
Book Name: Between Two Thorns, Any Other Name, and All Is Fair
Author: Emma Newman
Publisher(s): Diversion Books
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy / Fairy Tale
Release Date: February 23, 2016 (ebooks) August 2, 2016 (paperbacks)

Spoiler Warning! I’m reviewing the first three books of the Split Worlds series. Consequently, when describing the plot of book three, it’s darn near impossible not to say things that are spoilers for book one, but I have minimized them as best I can while still talking about the books sensibly. If you are extremely spoiler-phobic, I suggest reading the review of Between Two Thorns and then jumping to the paragraph after the banner of the first four books where I discuss a giveaway.

As I mentioned yesterday in my interview with Emma Newman, the Split Worlds refer to three worlds: Exilium, a hyper-beautiful world home to the powerful and frightening Fae; Mundanus, our world, which is patrolled by Arbiters to prevent any incursion of Fae magic; and the Nether, a societally stagnated in-between reflection of cities in Mundanus, populated by a patriarchal society who are blessed and cursed by Fae magic (depending on how well they fulfill the demands of their Fae patrons).

Between Two Thorns (cover 2)In Between Two Thorns, we are first introduced to Sam, a regular guy who had a couple pints too many and only wanted an out of the way place to relieve himself on the walk home, but, instead, he witnesses a magical crime. We also meet Max, an Arbiter on the trail of widespread corruption and merciless, magical murder. And then there’s Cathy, the daughter of a powerful Fae-touched family who has escaped to Mundanus and the customs and patriarchy of the Nether—that is, until she is dragged back to be married. And so we also meet William, her betrothed, who wishes he could marry just about anyone other than Cathy if it didn’t mean going against his family and Fae Lord. Oh, and there are also powerful sorcerers, a sentient gargoyle, and the Elemental Court to contend with.

Any Other Name (cover 2)In Any Other Name, the story moves from Bath (and its Nether reflection, Aquae Sulis) to London (and its reflection, Londinium). As the world expands, the intrigue deepens, and the danger grows. Poor Sam gets tangled up with both the Fae and the Elemental Court. Max has solved one crime, but a far larger conspiracy looms. Cathy still feels the desire to escape back to Mundanus, but she also discovers people and ideals worth fighting for in the Nether. And William, under tremendous pressure to satisfy his Fae Lord’s demands for him and his family, does some rash and downright awful things.

All is Fair (cover 2)In All Is Fair, William has climbed high in Nether society, but at a terrific cost. Many now answer to him, but there is also no one left to protect him—it’s lonely at the top, and you become an easy target. Catherine has traded her plans of escape for far riskier plans to force the Nether society to evolve. The struggle between rival sorcerers for control comes to a head. And a minor remark about Sam in Between Two Thorns takes on special significance as Sam must decide what to do after suffering terrible losses and life-changing gifts.

Each of the Split Worlds books runs only about 400 pages. There is a lot of ground to cover, but not a lot of time. Using so many POV characters is bound to turn off some readers. It does slow down the pacing a bit. But Newman stops short of writing unwieldy or overstuffed books. Her intentional subverting of traditional pacing tricks, adds to the tension of the books. For example, Cathy receives three wishes, but those wishes are not used as markers to break up the story into a traditional three-act structure. Moreover, because there is always a lot going on, characters often have to act with incomplete and sometimes outright false information. Of course, this leads to some dreadful acts and costly mistakes.

Nevertheless, despite these horrible acts, Newman’s characters never become completely unsympathetic and irredeemable. In fact, I think her characters are one of Newman’s strengths. Each character grows in remarkable and drastic ways as the series progresses, yet it all feels natural, the consequence of actions taken.

These three books end at a great point as well. Wait, let me rephrase. It’s not an ending per se—more like a pause. The giant boulder has been pushed up the mountain, and it rests for a moment before tumbling down the other side. It’s just a question of who will benefit and who will get squashed. I can’t wait to see what Sam’s future holds, if Max and the Sorcerers can get to the bottom of a malicious plot, and whether Cathy and Will can find happiness in their new positions and with each other. And beyond our immediate characters, there are also some worldbuilding questions that I can’t wait to see if not outright answered, at least explored. If you’re looking for an urban fantasy that also brings in elements of Regency, murder mysteries, and comedy, give the Split Worlds a read.

Split Worlds (first four covers)

And now the giveaway!

[contesthopper contest=”30604″]

Good luck! And don’t forget Between Two Thorns, Any Other Name, and All Is Fair, are now available as ebooks! A Little Knowledge, and the re-released print versions of the first three books will be out on August 2, 2016. The final book, All Good Things, will be released in August 2017. You can read more about the Split Worlds series and Emma’s other novels on her blog or you can follow her on Twitter @EmApocalyptic.


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