Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman
I picked this book up out of curiosity, and I have to say I was more than a little pleased with it. The basic premise is that there are two interconnected worlds, the normal everyday world of Mundanus (i.e. our world) and the faerie prison of Exilium, and in between both is the realm of the Nether, where those mortals touched by fae magic live out their somewhat prolonged and anachronistic lives.
On to this stage are cast Sam (a mundane who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up getting glamoured by some fae), Max (a mortal who’s had his soul sucked out and works as a sort of magical policeman), Cathy (a mortal born into the fae-touched world of the Nether, but who wants to escape the shackles imposed on her by the society she belongs to) and Will (her betrothed, from the same background, but far more accepting of his lot in life). Together, these four protagonists become embroiled in a complex and convoluted plot involving the Fae Lords and Ladies, the fae-touched ‘puppets’ of those same antagonists, and the Sorcerers (and Arbiters) charged with protecting the mundane world from Fae interference.
There’s a lot going on this book, and the multiple characters and factions introduced make for a satisfyingly good read if you like that sort of thing. The juxtaposition of the stratified and institutional world of the Nether with the normal, everyday world of Mundanus works well, and it’s easy to see why Cathy would want to escape a society that treats women as nothing more than the property of their fathers and husbands. However, the world of the Nether as presented by the author also allows for some truly delicious political and social intrigue.
If I have any criticism of this book it’s that it ends too soon. As it’s the first in a trilogy it’s fair to say that I will definitely be reading the other books in the series.