Book Review: Thornbound by Stephanie Burgis


tb-coverCassandra Harwood scandalized her nation when she became the first woman magician in Angland. Now, she’s ready to teach a whole new generation of bright young women at her radical new school, the Thornfell College of Magic…

Until a sinister fey altar is discovered in the school library, the ruling Boudiccate sends a delegation to shut down Thornfell, and Cassandra’s own husband is torn away from her.

As malevolent vines slither in from the forest and ruthless politicians scheme against her, Cassandra must fight the greatest battle of her life to save her love, her school, and the future of the young women of Angland.



I think if you loved Snowspelled, you’re really in for a treat with Thornbound. (And if you haven’t read Snowspelled yet, you should consider picking it up–you can see my review for that one here.)

Some time has passed since the ending of the last book and Cassandra is a busy bee getting ready for the grand opening of her new school. She’s taken on a huge responsibility putting all of this together and has worked herself near to the point of exhaustion when she gets some terrible news–the school might not be allowed to stay open. She’ll have to endure a selected group sent by the Boudiccate to observe the school in action and make a final recommendation so her fate, and those of all her students, lies in their hands. And, unfortunately for Cassandra, one of them is an old tormentor of hers.

I really loved the pace of this book. Right away we’re thrown into a flurry of activity as Cassandra is finishing up last minute preparations. From there it’s one crises after another, Cassandra trying to handle everything herself, juggling all of these balls up in the air. And despite being surrounded by friends and family, it feels like she’s all alone, especially as Wrexham has been away for work since they married.

At first I was a little upset that Wrexham was out of the picture for so much of the book because, well, he’s kind of awesome. (I had to laugh though because he totally reminded me of Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon–all ‘you can do it!’ and then is away for most of the book for reasons…well, and those of you that have read/watched Sailor Moon will get it and probably also get a chuckle. :D) But anyway, Wrexham is great, I loved him in the first book and I continue to love him here because he’s such a supportive person and he loves Cassandra so very much. Which is probably why it was so important to have him out of the picture because this book is all about Cassandra learning how to let go of control and not feel so guilty for relying on others. It’s less a journey of self-discovery and more a journey of knowing when to be able to ask for help and not feel guilty about it. And because Wrexham is the first person she’d probably turn to, it was important for her to learn that other people in her life are happy to help her too. She takes so much onto her own shoulders and is so afraid of how she’s hurting her friends that she doesn’t think about how much she’s hurting them by shutting them out, and it’s a hard lesson to learn for someone who is used to being in control.

This book gave me a lot to think about as well. At one point a character brings up what the success of the magic school for women would mean, what if suddenly men want to move into the political sphere? What would happen to the women in power there? Because of the way gender roles are in this society I felt like this was an interesting way to examine privilege, and man did it leave me with a bit of a gut-punch. For a second I thought, ‘oh no, what would happen to the women in power, what if they lose it?!?’ and then I was thought, ‘oh wait, stuff would just be equal and fair’. That moment of panic really had me checking myself and doing some self-examining. I didn’t expect to get so much self-exploration out of this book, but the fact that it made me think about these things is a mark of greatness in my opinion!

I continue to love the characters and the setting. I feel like we got to know a little bit more about the world in this one too, especially in regards to the fae and the way some of the magic works. If there’s one small detractor it’s that I did pretty much figure out what was going on before everything was revealed, but I don’t think that took away from the story in general. Overall this book was fantastic and I’m very much looking forward to reading more in this world. 4.5/5 stars.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with an ARC for review purposes. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

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