Alphabet of Thorn (2004) by Patricia A. McKillip

Nepenthe is an orphan who has grown up working in a royal library in the city of Raine. She spends her days translating rare and unusual texts and has developed a real talent for it. During the coronation of the new Queen, a young mage gives Nepenthe a book that appears to be written in a language of thorns. This unique book has resisted all previous attempts at translation. As Nepenthe begins to work on it, something about the book draws her deeper and deeper into its thorny pages.

Cover art by Kinuko Craft

This is one of those reviews that I find difficult to write because all I want to do is type superlatives. Let me attempt to tell you why I loved this book so much. Alphabet of Thorn is filled with gorgeous prose that pulls you deep into the story and makes you forget you are reading words on a page. It’s almost like a portal into another world, as all great stories should be. McKillip offers a wonderful and gradual reveal of her story. The way she carefully builds up the characters as well as the world they inhabit is masterful. There were moments when I was inwardly gasping at the skill of the author.

Alphabet of Thorn is a story about stories and a story that loves stories and all they offer. It is also a story about love, the kind of love that we only seem to read about in stories. That may sound a bit cynical but that’s the way I feel. Maybe I’ve just gotten old and have forgotten the kind of deep and true love that McKillip writes so convincingly about. Phew! Is it getting warm in here or is it just me?

Kinuko Craft’s covers are works of art.

I’m keeping my review vague to avoid any possible spoilers. I just hope I’ve managed to convey a little of what this book means to me. Don’t you just love it when a book reminds you of the beauty of language as well as the power of stories? Patricia A. McKillip’s Alphabet of Thorn is a 5-star recommendation from me. It doesn’t mean it’s a “perfect book”, although some may argue that it is. It was the perfect book at the perfect time for me, an absolute joy to read!

Thanks again to Bookstooge for recommending Patricia A. McKillip in the first place. I was so sad to hear that she passed away earlier this year. Thank you for your stories and may you Rest in Peace.

As always, thank you for reading.

-Wakizashi, *delighted that autumn is approaching, a wonderful time of the year for reading!*


16 thoughts on “Alphabet of Thorn (2004) by Patricia A. McKillip

    • I enjoyed In the Forests of Serre (2003) which was the first McKillip book I read. This book is at another level in my opinion. It got me excited about reading again and reminded me why we do it. But as the old saying goes, one reader’s joy is another reader’s despair!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Really glad you enjoyed this. It’s hard to express what these book do to you, isn’t it? Because it won’t be the same every time. I don’t know what McKillip tapped into to get this magic in her words, but it really resonates.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve still yet to try any of her books but I always love finding new recommendations and descriptions of just how great her writing is/was. I love your descriptions of it, and I think I may understand some of what you say as I’ve occasionally found books that leave me with similar thoughts and feelings. And I’ve always had a soft spot for books about books and stories about stories, so I suspect this is one I’d enjoy. I don’t own it yet, though, so I’ll have to keep my eyes open or one day seek it out. Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your comment, Todd. I’m with you regarding books about books, stories and reading. Through the book within this book we are told a wonderful story that affects the main story. The way the author pulls it off and brings it all together is masterful. This is only the second book by McKillip I’ve read, yet I’m so impressed with her writing style.


  3. Pingback: September Wrap-up 2022 – Snapdragon Alcove

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