Book Review: Thorn Jack

By Jessica Wright

thorn-jack-225Earlier this year Katherine Harbour burst into the literary world with the release of her first novel, Thorn Jack, the first book of the Night and Nothing series. Despite this being her first book, Thorn Jack not only is beautifully written but also is a story that will remind the reader of why faerie tales are timeless pieces of literature. Harbour grew up in Albany, New York and currently resides in Sarasota, Florida. In addition to writing, Harbour enjoys oil painting and likes to keep an open mind about the existence of faeries.

Thorn Jack begins as Serafina “Finn” Sullivan and her father, a professor of world mythology, move from San Francisco to Fair Hollow, a small city in upstate New York, following the suicide of Lily Rose, Finn’s older sister. Fair Hollow is a small, strange town filled with gothic architecture and eccentric people. Finn begins attending HallowHeart, a resident college with buildings that look “imported from old-world Europe,” where she meets her best friends: the charismatic Christopher “Christie” Hart and the chic-goth Sylvie Whitethorn.

With Christie and Sylvie’s urging Finn attends a lakeside party where she meets the mysterious and striking Jack Fata. Finn learns from Christie and Sylvie that the unusual Fata family is very old and very rich. Regardless of the subtle warning from her friends, Finn and Jack enter into a relationship where a kiss has more dangerous implications than expected.

Betwixt and between. They live in abandoned places. They are shadows and light. They are the children of nothing and night.

The underlying theme of the novel that “nothing is as it seems,” is essential to the story’s plot. As the novel progresses we learn that the Fata family is actually a clan of between creatures: not of the human world but not of the undead either. “Betwixt and between. They live in abandoned places. They are shadows and light. They are the children of nothing and night.” These children of “nothing and night,” where the series draws its name from, are a branch of faerie breed. They are hollow beings that grow hearts and bleed, and thus become vulnerable, when they fall in love. Much like the mischievous and often dangerous faeries inspired by druid and Celtic folklore, as opposed to the more homogenized fairies of western cultures, the children of nothing and night feed on tricking humans to the point of madness and, often, suicide.

The plot of Thorn Jack and the dynamic characters make this book hard to put down once started. Filled with twists and turns, the story engages the reader from the beginning until the very last page. Each chapter starts with a quote from writers such as W.B. Yeats, William Shakespeare, and Hans Christian Anderson in addition to an excerpt from Lily Rose’s journal, which plays an influential role in Finn’s life.

Harbour’s language throughout the novel, which demonstrates the power of imagery, results in some phrases that resonate with readers long after finishing the novel. Powerful phrases such as “hugging herself against the solitary cold of being human” and “the sensible world of daylight” leave the readers contemplating their meanings long after closing the book.

The way in which Harbour takes the gothic female character who needs saving and reinvents a gothic female character that is able to save herself is reminiscent of Angela Carter’s feminist retelling of classic faerie tales. While classic faerie tale romances tend to fall flat, lacking any substance beyond whimsy, the relationship between Finn and Jack is like a breath of fresh air. They struggle, the fall, they fail, and eventually they overcome.

This book is perfect for anyone interested in dark faerie tales and I can’t wait to see what happens with the rest of the series.

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