The Bookbinder’s Daughter by Jessica Thorne

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An electronic copy was supplied by NetGalley for review purposes.

Sophie’s mother, a talented book binder, went mysteriously missing while working at the Ayredale Library when Sophie was 15 years old. Her memories of the Library, the finest collection of rare books in the world, are missing and hard to grasp – a result of the trauma of her mother’s disappearance.

All grown up, a bookbinder herself, living in the shadow of her controlling boyfriend and mourning the death of her Father, Sophie is approached by her Uncle and offered a job at the library…a chance to discover exactly what happened to her Mother and escape what her life has become.

What I liked about it?
Who doesn’t love a magical and mysterious library? If a magical library is mentioned, I’m there! Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, the library at Hogwarts, Rachel Caine’s The Great Library series, Garth Nix’s Lirael, Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next. Offer me a library with magic and I am there!

The Bookbinder’s Daughter introduces the Ayredale Library as a place of magic, mystery and tragedy for Sophie. At first, it makes you wonder if it is a magical place, or if the whispering, the dreams and the secret language are just Sophie’s history re-emerging as she returns to the Library. Then, Thorne takes you deep into the Library where an impossible tree feeds the magic of the world.

Sophie is a good narrator. A little nervous, overwhelmed by the changes in her life, but she blossoms under the shelter of the Library, under the teachings of the Keeper and in her relationships with Will and Tia. Her decision making is sometimes questionable – but that just made her character feel natural, a good person but flawed.

I often complain when reading fantasy books that the magic of the world feels disconnected. How does it work, where does it come from? In The Bookbinder’s Daughter, the magic – The Art – is not at the heart of the story, but it is used to influence events and is explained enough not to distract from the plot.

I loved that I didn’t predict the twist – I could see the intentions of certain characters but I couldn’t foresee their actions or guess at their motivations. It made the climax of the story more intense and enthralling.

What I didn’t like: I struggled with the Victor narrative. I didn’t see his purpose – I think his role could have been filled without the intimate connection with Sophie. It’s hard to tell if I didn’t like the use of the character, or if he was so real that he made my skin crawl and I just didn’t like him.

Cover thoughts: It caught my eye on NetGalley when combined with the title. It is beautiful but I would have been happier with a library scene.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

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