REVIEW: Thorn Jack (Night & Nothing #1) by Katherine Harbour

TITLE: Thorn Jack
SERIES: Night and Nothing, Vol. 1
AUTHOR: Katherine Harbour
PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager
TYPE: Hardcover
SOURCE: Library
RATING: ★★★★

They call us things with teeth. These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town’s mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack’s air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister’s journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack’s family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack’s family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose’s untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

In Thorn Jack, Finn (short for Serefina) Sullivan is struggling to come to grips with the death of her sister, Lily. Several years before Lily there was the loss of their mother. Coupled with several moves about the country with her family she and her father return to the town where he grew up and settle into his old family estate. Finn seems like a pretty cool, down to earth girl with a sense of adventure and undying curiosity. This is what drives the majority of the story.

As she grieves for her lost family members and attempts to settle into this new town, she meets two new friends–Christie and Sylvie. They soon become inseparable and help keep Finn grounded when she begins to get swept away in her curiosities and infatuation with a mysterious faerie.

The Nothing and Night are the mythological folk woven about throughout the story–phookas, sluaghs, ghosts, tree spirits, etc. all make appearances here. I don’t want to give too much of the storyline away so I will just say that they reside in Fair Hollow, where Finn and her father have relocated and her curiosity upsets the usual flow of corruption and evil.

It has been said that this novel is a retelling of Tam Lin, however, since I have never read Tam Lin, I was able to read right along without making any comparisons whatsoever to the storylines. If you’ve read it then perhaps that would not be the case with you (as some reviews have stated). I did really enjoy this novel in any case. I have not previously read any fantasy novels with the exception of Anne Rice’s work so this was a pleasant foray outside of my usual genre choices.

The plot itself was intriguing and enough to keep me engaged. I will say that in the very first chapter or two I was completely lost and only hoped that I could regain my footing in the end and I did. While there were some parts that I felt strayed into creepy romance territory (girl meets boy and falls for him instantly; boy is a creepy stalker that watches her sleep, etc.) it was still worth a read. The story did meander a bit and make me wonder just where things were headed in the end and I felt like it could have been just a touch more concise.

The writing itself was not awful but I would say there is considerable room for improvement, though it wasn’t difficult to enjoy nonetheless. Toward the end of the novel I desperately wanted to hand Harbour a thesaurus and tell her to please, for the love of language, stop using the words “slid” as means of locomotive. Seriously, people “slid” everywhere–out of cars, into bed, into seats, through crowded rooms. Oh, and I really wanted to eliminate all usage of the words “swagger”, “swaggered”, and “swaggering”. I just really despise the word and it was overused.

The book itself was enjoyable and I would love to visit a town like Fair Hollow! The characters were interesting and I am excited to see how this plays out into a series. While there could be some improvements made in a streamlining of the plot and maybe a little less wandering about, I think for those that are fans of the fantasy genre you will find yourself wrapped up in Thorn Jack.

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