Alone in the world, Asher Todd travels to the remote estate of Morwood Grange to become governess to three small children. Her sole possessions comprise a sea chest and a large carpet bag she hangs onto for dear life. She finds a fine old home, its inhabitants proud of their lineage and impeccable reputation, and a small village nearby. It seems an untroubled existence, yet there are portraits missing from the walls, locked rooms, and names excised from the family tree inscribed in the bible. In short order, the children adore her, she becomes indispensible to their father Luther in his laboratory, and her potions are able to restore the sight of granddame Leonora. Soon Asher fits in as if she’s always been there, but there are creatures that stalk the woods at night, spectres haunt the halls, and Asher is not as much a stranger to the Morwoods as it might at first appear.
The Path of Thorns is a wonderful example of playing the long game for revenge. It’s a story that quickly pulled me into its pages, with the heart pounding opener of Asher feeling followed as she walks up the path to Morwood Grange. Its a path that feels well trodden within the Gothic Genre, as Asher attends the imposing building to act as governess for 3 children, who’s father has wandering ways – however that’s where similarities end and outside of that lies something incredibly well woven. A slow burn of a story, many elements come together under the swirling mists as Asher insinuates herself into the household. In doing so, the reader is given the chance to reflect on Asher’s past of poverty, and how she strove to break free from that, It’s through unlocking the past that much of the mystery becomes clear and that there are many layers to be peeled away to reach the end goal.
Whilst none of the characters can be said to be good, I did like the aspect of the struggles of the morally grey – its an interesting dynamic as resolve starts to change. Asher is a very determined character and there is a lot to love about her, with the retrospective aspect rounding her out. I enjoyed how all the staff had their very distinct personalities and their own little arcs moving alongside of the main story. The villains were really well realised and it was a wonderful piece of storytelling to read their evolution. I enjoyed the reliance on folklore and fairytales to punctuate the beliefs being put forward by each character, an insight into their being, as if the book is set in a world of stories it really helped give the book an ethereal feel, like it could all be a dream
The Path of Thorns is in places a very dark story, however. There are depictions of witchcraft, including animal death, and also a graphic description of child loss during pregnancy. It is not profoundly part of the story but discretion is advised if these are upsetting topics.
Whilst overall i really enjoyed this story as it was captivating and full of intricate plot details, the ending felt a bit chaotic and far reaching which did pull me out of the fantasy world i had been so engrossed in. But, if you enjoy gothic tales of witchcraft and folklore, with a heavy dose of mystery to unravel then i really recommend The Path of Thorns.
Thank you to Titan Books for the review copy.