Series: The Language of Magic #1
Author: Cari Thomas
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: May 27th, 2021 (Harper Collins)
Synopsis: Within the boroughs of London, nestled among its streets, hides another city, filled with magic.
Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.
Ever since Anna can remember, her aunt has warned her of the dangers of magic. She has taught her to fear how it twists and knots and turns into something dark and deadly.
It was, after all, magic that killed her parents and left her in her aunt’s care. It’s why she has been protected from the magical world and, in one year’s time, what little magic she has will be bound. She will join her aunt alongside the other Binders who believe magic is a sin not to be used, but denied. Only one more year and she will be free of the curse of magic, her aunt’s teachings and the disappointment of the little she is capable of.
Nothing – and no one – could change her mind before then. Could it?
Sixteen year old Anna lives in London with her aunt, and has grown up hearing about the dangers of magic. The day when her magic will be permanently bound draws closer, and Anna will become a Binder alongside her aunt, joining the ranks of those who believe magic is a sin. But when Anna meets a few other witches and forms a secret coven, she discovers a whole other side to magic and begins to question everything she has been told, wondering just how much of it is true.
Threadneedle takes place in contemporary London and the setting works surprisingly well, the magical aspect blending with the more modern surroundings. The magic system in this book was really intriguing, and the author did a great job describing its nature and the various types of magic. I would have really liked to see more of this, except in the areas immediately relevant to the story instead. For example, there was an entire chapter with so much information on plant based magic, which was definitely interesting, but didn’t have any immediate connection to the plot outside of that one situation. The magical locations in this book were lovely, particularly the magical library underneath The British Library that the coven visit and also the May Day fair.
Now let’s move on to what I didn’t like about this book, which, I’m sorry to say, far outnumbers what I did enjoy. I was definitely nervous about picking up this book having seen some pretty mixed reviews, but the synopsis (not to mention the gorgeous cover) had me too curious. Unfortunately, those reviews turned out to be largely correct. This book was far darker than I expected and should come with some serious content warnings for abuse (both mental and physical), bullying, murder and more. These made it a rather disturbing and difficult read for me, and I can easily see how this material might be potentially triggering for some readers. I’m not sure if this is a YA novel or not, given that the setting is largely YA, but it seems to be on the shelves as adult fantasy, but I would highly suggest doing some research if you are considering reading this book since I expect going in with a clearer picture of would definitely be helpful.
As for the characters, Anna by herself would have been fine. She has a reasonable arc, starting out as a completely colorless character with practically no personality – understandable, given that she has been abused and locked away all her life – and as she begins to uncover the truth she becomes more confident and I thought that was rather well portrayed. Her tendency to constantly change her mind every time she found some new information in the blink of an eye on the other hand, became really annoying and I found myself wishing she would just sit down and take a moment to think. Effie, the daughter of a close family friend and also a witch, struck me as an extremely problematic character however. I found her mildly dislikeable initially, but later on she became little more than a bully, practically forcing these girls minding their own business into joining her coven and pushing them into situations they’re clearly not comfortable with. Anna’s Aunt is just terrible and the less said about that the better. All in all, there wasn’t a single character I truly liked in this and only the underlying mystery of it all kept me reading.
However, the main thing that dragged this book down was when it veered off into a high school setting and all of a sudden the focus of the story shifted to petty rivalries and drama and it all felt like so much filler. I found a large chunk of this portion extremely boring to read and must have easily skimmed around 25% of the book. There are many parts of this book that would benefit from being trimmed down as 500+ pages is not necessary to tell this story. Overall, I really don’t know what to think of this book. It was not an easy read, and the only reason I’ve rated it as high as 3 stars is because there was enough in the plot that made me want to finish the book. For a debut novel, the world building and writing were pretty good and it was mainly the content and characters I had issues with. The ending of the book answered the main questions and though there are clear threads leading into a sequel, I’m not sure I will be picking it up.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: