If you’re looking for a YA fantasy that is dark and wild and imaginative that also has great LGBTQ+ rep, look no further than Adan Jerreat-Poole’s recent release, The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass. The world-building in this story is beyond imagination (I got some Wrinkle in Time vibes). Read on for my review in which I struggled to capture exactly why I couldn’t put this book down.
I was provided an eARC of this book from Dundurn Press via NetGalley for review purposes; all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
The Deets:The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole
Published by Dundurn on October 6, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Wizards & Witches, LGBT, Paranormal, Occult & Supernatural
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Enter a wicked cool fantasy world of witches and their assassins, where a group of renegades battle to capture the Heart of the Coven.
“A unique, gripping, engaging book by a voice that the genre has been waiting for.” — Seanan McGuire, author of the Wayward Children series
Even teenage assassins have dreams.
Eli isn’t just a teenage girl — she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven living blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother.
Terrified that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli seeks refuge with a group of human and witch renegades. To earn her place, she must prove herself by capturing the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers — and earn her freedom.
The book synopsis for The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass intrigued me on several levels. I was interested to see what Jerreat-Poole’s take would be on the made girl. The cover was beautiful, and I liked that it was an own-voices story with what sounded like interesting characters.
Well, she definitely didn’t disappoint me! I really enjoyed this book, reading it nearly in one sitting. It is weirdly, wildly imaginative, dark, and beautiful, with lyrical prose and complex characters.
I was fascinated with the characters (despite being left with a few questions). Eli was a made creature – a teenage assassin created by a witch out of hawthorn, glass, granite and obsidian, pearls and rose thorns, blood, and human bones. She is bound to the witch who created her, and was sometimes terrifying, magical, and lives with fear of being un-made. Her dreams are dangerous, and she possesses seven very dangerous and powerfully magical knives. She’s complicated and interesting.
Tav and Cam are supporting characters and I loved them. Tav is nonbinary, Black, and a little mysterious. There’s definitely more to their story than what we learn in this one (and at times, I wasn’t sure what they were. They’re human…but more.) Cam was sweet, earnest, and provided a bit of levity and lightness.
The world-building is extensive and yet, in some ways, incomplete. It’s wildly, weirdly inventive, layered with strange landscapes and fantastical settings. There were a lot of really cool concepts, such as some of the traditions (witches going to earth to steal a name), the “vortex” (how they traveled, and the seams between the worlds. There was also the witch children and the labyrinth where they played, the upside-down rules of the City of Eyes, and the world in which Eli lives. While the writing was very visual and image filled (this would make a really cool movie), I still struggled to visualize different elements of the story, such as the labyrinth.
I suppose this is the risk with really wildly inventive world-building. In fairness, I had similar struggles with A Wrinkle in Time. This IS a fantasy novel and parts take place in a wholly imagined world unlike our own, so I was ok with not always being able to fully picture some elements.
Tav is nonbinary and what I loved about them is that there is no explanation given of their pronouns, which are normalized from the start, as it should be. Cam is gay, but this is revealed in part of his backstory and not revisited. It’s lovely to see the representation made as normal as hair color or eye color – it’s simply part of them.
In the introduction, the author writes that they wrote the novel in the middle of a depression, anxiety, coming out, and falling out, and back into love again. They write that the book is about, among other things, living with pain and fear, and about monsters of all kinds.
I think they did a spectacular job of representing all of that, as well as that the monsters aren’t always who we think they are. This is also a story about how we are more than what other people make of us, and how our story is our own to write.
I really enjoyed this The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass. It was definitely a weird, dark, engaging escape, and I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series!
If this sounds interesting, you might want to check out my review of Prelude for Lost Souls. It’s also a YA fantasy with LGBT rep, but where this book is pure fantasy, Prelude has a very different, contemporary fiction feel.