Firstly, a huge thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 28/06/2022
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Fantasy | Gothic | Horror
CW: animal abuse, domestic abuse, mentions of child abuse, graphic depictions of death
Asher Todd comes to live with the mysterious Morwood family as a governess to their children. Asher knows little about being a governess but she is skilled in botany and herbcraft, and perhaps more than that. And she has secrets of her own, dark and terrible – and Morwood is a house that eats secrets. With a monstrous revenge in mind, Asher plans to make it choke. However, she becomes fond of her charges, of the people of the Tarn, and she begins to wonder if she will be able to execute her plan – and who will suffer most if she does. But as the ghosts of her past become harder to control, Asher realises she has no choice.GoodReads
Dark magic, retribution and twisted family secrets combine to weave a bewitching and beautifully written gothic fairy tale.
I adored Slatter’s debut novel All the Murmuring Bones, so when I was sent her next novel I was thrilled to delve back into her writing once more. The Path of Thorns was just as dark and gripping as I hoped it would be.
Asher Todd is a very intriguing protagonist and very mysterious. I loved that the novel was in first person, especially as it heightened the level of mystery: Asher felt no need to overly explain her thoughts and actions which kept me guessing. Throughout the novel she gradually reveals more about why she has gone to Morwood, each reveal is carefully done and always at the right time. It always felt natural when things were explained or expanded upon which made for a mich more satisfying read. I really enjoyed seeing her develop over the course of the novel and the unexpected conflicts that this brought. The way Asher struggled between being certain of her goal, and what she wanted to accomplish, and then the doubt over what she truly wanted, and questioning her own convictions, was entirely believable and felt very genuine, even if you didn’t agree with her.
I also liked the way she interactedwith the other characters, particularly the children. Slatter was able to deftly differentiate the ages of the children through questions they asked and their behaviours, rather than just spell it out to the reader which I appreciated. Even without being told thst Sarai is the youngest, you would clearly be able to tell through her mannerisms and childish questions. I was fascinated with all the different family dynamics presented during the novel. All of them incredibly complex and illustrate the different ways abuse can manifest and how it impacts people in different ways. I enjoyed that only a handful of characters were truly ‘good’, whilst the rest are much darker with more secrets hidden within them.
Whilst not a specific retelling of any particular fairytale, there are hints of them throughout the novel and a much darker, much more adult, tale of Red Riding Hood features. Whether it was due to Asher being a governess, the secrets hidden within the Morwood House and family or the supposed ghosts who haunt the halls, there were definitely moments where I was reminded of Jane Eyre. I really loved the way Slatter seemed to combine such gothic classics such as Jane Eyre and, at times, Frankenstein with dark fairytales and aspects of necromancy and savage wolves. Each influence complemented each other well and it was difficult to imagine that this world isn’t the same one as those in the classics.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I was upset when I had reached the final page. I was so invested in the world and the characters that I’d almost forgotten that the story would have to eventually end. I have very quickly fallen in love with Slatter’s world and writing which I hope to see more of in the future.