June 26, 2014

Review: Thorn Jack

Thorn Jack The First Night and Nothing novel
By Katherine Harbour
Available now from Harper Voyager (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Finn Sullivan and her father move to the small town where he grew up in the wake of her older sister's suicide.  There, Finn attends college and makes two good friends, Sylvie and Christie.  She's finding the rhythm of life again.  Then she meets gorgeous Jack Fata at a concert.  The Fatas are beautiful, strange, and scary - soon Finn, Sylvie, and Christie are in over their heads.  They must be clever to save themselves.  But Finn doesn't just want to save herself; she wants to save Jack as well.

I felt that THORN JACK started slowly.  For one thing, the college sounds nothing like a college and it really bothered me.  It's called HallowHeart.  What kind of name is that?  It's even a college with a phys ed requirement.  Plus, Finn and her friends all live at home and generally seem more like high schoolers than college students.  I don't think it would've changed the story to put them in high school, and several little things would've made more sense.

I did enjoy being slowly pulled into the mythology of the Night and Nothing series.  It's fairly traditional, as THORN JACK is based on the Tam Lin ballad.  But it incorporates a few non-Celtic traditions and has its own spin on things.  I also liked that the danger to the main characters felt very real.  They mostly survive because the Fatas have plans for them, although they do a little better once they learn how to protect themselves and to fight (with poetry).

Katherine Harbour is a debut novelist, but she has strong control over her language.  THORN JACK is very lush and lovely, although she repeats some of her best images until they become almost meaningless.  Generally, however, the beautiful imagery enhances the horror elements. 

If you're familiar with Tam Lin, you know where everything is headed in THORN JACK.  But Harbour makes the story worth reading.  Finn is a heroine who is somewhat foolhardy, but also loyal, determined, and inventive.  Jack may be dangerous, but he's protective of Finn.  (For a moment, it did look like THORN JACK was headed for the TWILIGHT mode.)  Finn's best friends are great additions to the story.  I am eager to read the next two books in the Night and Nothing series and to learn more about the wolf-eyed man.


  1. I don't know anything about Tam Lin so this sounds potentially unique to me. I like that you included that note about Twilight. With so many books being like it you do wonder if your next will be too!

    1. Oh, there are several great Tam Lin retellings! I like Pamela Dean's.

  2. I'm super hesitant to wander into New Adult territory... but I do like a good retelling! I shall have to look for this one the next time I'm in a bookstore.

  3. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought the characters were closer to high school students than college students. Even if they are college freshman, they seemed a little young.

    Please feel free, if you would like, to link up your review to mine: http://fromguttertogilt.com/2014/07/17/thorn-jack-by-katherine-harbour/.



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