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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Alphabet of Thorn

McKillip, Patricia A. Alphabet of Thorn. An orphan librarian named Nepenthe and a royal library where she translates books - now, how could I resist that?

Taken in and raised by the librarians, Nepenthe shows a distinct talent for translating foreign languages. When a young mage from the floating school gives her a book in which the text looks like brambles, thorns intertwining and separating, Nepenthe is strangely enthralled and instead of giving it to the librarians, decides to keep it secret and translate it herself. The story she begins translating only continues to draw her in.

As Nepenthe struggles with the translation, things in the kingdom of Raine are not going smoothly. The new queen seems dull and uninterested in governing. Her mage tries to guide her, but Tessera is young, still grieving for her father, and can't seem to muster the the effort. The question of the queen's competence has some of her powerful nobles wondering about their own ability to seize power. The kingdom is in danger from both natural and supernatural threats.

I enjoyed this book which read very like a fairy tale. There is a twist to this tale that also adds interest.

Fiction. Fantasy. 2004. 314 pages.


  1. In some ways it sounds similar to McKillip's Atrix Wolfe. In both there is a book that needs translating (or understanding) and while the main character is working on that the kingdom falls apart. Strange, huh? I'm sure there are lots of differences, tho.

    I've heard other good things about this book and have it on my TBR list.

  2. Sounds good. Just went online and ordered it to read after I finish Heart Shaped Box.

  3. I have had this book forever (bought it the day it came out I believe) and have yet to read it. And I call myself a Patricia A. McKillip fan! For shame!

  4. Mmm, I love me some fairy-tale-style books.
    Hey, I got 'Immortal' in the mail today! Wheee! I love getting real mail, especially in book form. I have to ask you, do you mail books so cheaply? Because every time I mail out a book, even in my own country, it ends up being around $10, which kind of negates the awesomeness of BookMooch.

  5. Oh, I think this was one I ordered for the school before I went on my leave...Now I'm looking forward to reading it when I go back to work at the end of the month.

  6. I just finished McKillip's The Riddler-Master's Game. It was good. Right now I'm wondering how else of hers to read.

  7. Fantasy, books and a library - how can I resist. This had better be available in the UK!

  8. Booklogged - I will look for Atrix Wolfe at the library. I like stories with books and translations!

    Scott - It is very much the fairy tale sort of fantasy. I need to read Heart Shaped Box myself.

    Carl - I knew you were a McKillip fan...and she always has lovely covers.

    raych - Glad Immortal arrived safely. Sometimes I mail them "media mail" which is often, but not always, cheaper. Still, I think our postal service, regardless of how much we complain, is much less expensive than Canada's.

    Esther - I hope you will enjoy it! It is a nice one for a school library, too.

    Orpheus - McKillip has written a huge amount of fantasy, hasn't she? I might look for The Riddler-Master's Game next time.

    Ann - It is a nice combination, I think. Hope you can find it! I noticed it on the library shelf because of the cover, but when I saw the jacket synopsis, I immediately put it in the bag.

  9. I think I have read one or two of her short stories which I enjoyed. This book sounds like just the kind of novel I enjoy so thanks for the revoew!

  10. Oooh, this sounds really good. Onto the list it goes!

  11. You had me at "raised by librarians" :P Sounds lovely.

  12. I enjoyed this one too. Of course, I really like McKillip, and have read most of her work. This one is a particular favourite though (for obvious reasons, me being a librarian and all)

  13. Rhinoa - I haven't tried any of her short stories, but I probably should!

    Lesley - Oh, those lists, those never-ending lists! Mine are never-ending, anyway!

    Nymeth - books about books and the people who love them. Oh, yes!

    Melanie - Liking McKillip and finding a story about a library - a perfect situation for a librarian!