This book was so beautiful…and so messy. I went in wanting to love it so badly; it sounded like it had been written for me! But it ended up being a serious struggle to finish, and to be honest if it had been any other book I would have DNF-ed it. I gave this one way more chances than I do most of my reads.
Eli was made, not born, by the witches of the City of Eyes – another world not so very far from our own. Eli’s task is to hunt down ghosts in the human world and kill them with her seven magical daggers, each of which has its own special power – and Eli is very, very good at what she does. But one day a hunt goes wrong, starting Eli on a road that will uncover the darkest secrets of the City of Eyes and entangle her in the cause and fate of an underground rebellion.
There’s so much to love about The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass; the world Jerreat-Poole has created is weird and wonderful, full of fierce and otherworldly magic. There’s the living Labyrinth that overlays the City of Eyes, the Children’s Lair, the gemstone books in the Coven’s library and Eli’s daggers of pearl and glass and thorns. When Jerreat-Poole turns on the descriptions, they’re lovely and different, not falling back on familiar similes but making strange and dazzling new ones. And there’s so many bits of the worldbuilding that I adored; the wild, feral children hiding in the depths of the Labyrinth, the truth about the ghosts, the fact that witches have to go on quests to the human world to steal themselves names, since they’re born without any of their own. And Hawthorn and Glass is casually but powerfully queer, with non-binary characters at the forefront and a deeply important f/f relationship in Eli’s past – not to mention Cam, who was drawn into the world of magic when he fell hard for a male witch.
It feels like this book just isn’t finished. It moves too quickly, and too much goes completely unexplained. The mysteries presented to the reader aren’t the kind that make you want to keep reading to get answers; they’re just frustratingly confusing, and the answers, when they come at all, aren’t satisfying. Vital pieces of the worldbuilding are dropped into the narrative without explanation – the Heir, the Heart of the Coven, the Warlord; I still have barely any idea what any of them are or how they work, despite all of them being intrinsic to the plot and its conclusion. None of the character motivations/drives felt very developed, except maybe for Tav’s; Eli requires almost no convincing to turn on everything she’s ever known, and I honestly have no clue whatsoever what the hells Kite was up to the entire time.
And there’s just. No explanation for why, or how, Tav breaks all the rules about magic. Maybe that’s meant to be explained in the sequel, but as-is it was just maddening, and came out of nowhere.
I wish there’d been more introspection, more description. I wish the book were longer, so that it could have moved more slowly; the plot feels so rushed, which is such a shame when the bones of a really incredible story are there beneath everything.
I still think that a lot of readers are going to enjoy the hell out of this one; there’s enough here to really appeal to readers who aren’t as obsessive or nit-picky as I am. But for me, this one was a disappointment.