The juniper tree looked as stolid as a grave marker, unruffled. Under the dirt was the compact and inside the compact was the black sand and in every grain of sand was Sevas, my first secret, my first lie, safe as death
A gruesome curse. A city in upheaval. A monster with unquenchable appetites.
As the last true witches living in a city shifting from magic to industry, Marlinchen and her two sisters are little more than tourist traps as they treat their clients with archaic remedies and beguile them with nostalgic charm. Marlinchen spends her days divining secrets in exchange for rubles and trying to placate their tyrannical, xenophobic wizard father, who keeps his daughters sequestered from the outside world. While at night, she and her sisters sneak out to enjoy the city’s amenities and revel in its thrills, particularly the recently established ballet theatre, where Marlinchen meets a dancer who quickly captures her heart.
But as Marlinchen’s late-night trysts grow more fervent and frequent, so does the threat of her father’s rage and magic. And while the city flourishes with culture and bustles with enterprise, a monster lurks in its midst, borne of intolerance and resentment and suffused with old-world power. Caught between history and progress and blood and desire, Marlinchen must draw upon her own magic to keep her city safe and find her place within it.
Juniper and Thorn is a book perfectly balancing between the line of horror and fantasy for me. A twisted tale that draws on the darkness of this fictional world, Ava Reid has an infinite pool of metaphors and similes which describe the scenes in excruciating detail.
The scenes felt so immersive due to this, all the actions and thoughts and secrets are experience in every gruesome detail. It’s been a long time since I have felt physically immersed in a book.
Marlinchen didn’t often feel like a main character. She moved like a chess piece by the people around her. But she had a silent strength that gradually built throughout the story. Her fear was realistic and her timidness was a barrier she seemed to overcome by experiencing life outside the walls of her family home.
This is a story that will stay with you for a long time, from the original tale up to the books final chapter.
For fans of Mexican Gothic, this is one you won’t want to miss! Trigger warnings are best read beforehand, which includes body horror, gore, abuse and death.