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
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Currently Reading: Alphabet of Thorn (2004) by Patricia McKillip

Gorgeous cover art by Kinuko Craft

Taking a leaf from Bookstooge’s book and having some time to kill at work, here is a quote from Patricia McKillip’s 2004 novel Alphabet of Thorn:


“What else did you see?” he asked the odd young woman, who seemed more woodland animal than human. A useful quality in a mage, he thought. Some of us have a harder time forgetting our humanity.
‘Things,’ she said vaguely, remembering them. She took an unconscious step toward him. ‘A tree spoke to me. It looked like a very old man, twisted and slow, with mossy hair down to its ankles and eyes like dead leaves. It did not say much, just my name. I think that’s very strange, that a tree I have never met would know my name. And there were the stags with the fire in their antlers. They did not speak. The warrior followed them.’
‘The warrior.’
‘Fully armed, on a white war horse. The warrior wore a great sword with a crosspiece laid with uncut jewels; it looked too long and heavy for anyone human to wield.


A recommendation from Bookstooge, I read Patricia McKillip’s In the Forests of Serre back in July 2020. Her lyrical prose and layered world-building really impressed me and I determined to explore more of her writing. It has only taken me two years to get around to it.

I’m currently about a third of the way into Alphabet of Thorn and I really like it so far. I feel transported to another world when I read this book, and that’s one of the main reasons I love reading works described as “speculative fiction.”

Q. What are you currently reading and how is it so far?


Thanks for reading!

-Wakizashi, *wallowing in the rare luxury of being able to read all day at work; just for today*

In the Forests of Serre (2004) by Patricia McKillip

Beware of old women in the forest; especially if they live in a hut that can sprout chicken legs and run! I first came across Baba Yaga in an issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic. The story was titled “The Hunt” and was¬†published in issue #38 back in June 1992. She wasn’t as scary as when I later encountered her in a couple of issues of the comic book¬†Hellboy.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia’s page on the character:

‘In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed or ferocious-looking old woman. In Russian folklore, Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs.’

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