This is one of the only times I have wished so hard that Goodreads allowed for half stars. Because it doesn't though and I use its rating system, 5 stars it is! I truly did love this book; so, it more than deserves the bump.
Jack of Thorns manages to be a love-at-first-sight story featuring the slow, slow burn that comes with the building of a lasting, loving, complex relationship between individuals that each bring their own incredibly heavy baggage. This book proves that love-at-first-sight (and even lust-at-first-sight) does not have to equate to an instantaneous visit to the nearest bed/couch/kitchen counter/hay loft/bathroom stall. (Take your pick or choose something different. Don't let me hold you back.) The slow burn of this novel's romance verges on the edge of torturous at times but is oh so satisfying. It's almost like I could hear a constantly looping soundtrack of Can't Help Falling In Love being sung by Elvis Presley playing in the background while reading this book.
Despite being saturated with paranormal and fantasy elements, this tale felt grounded and realistic. The heart of this book is a well-crafted contemporary romance that just happens to have magic expertly weaved throughout it. I'm also left with the distinct impression that Faulkner is either a magical practitioner or a capable and meticulous researcher, or perhaps both. I mean what person unfamiliar with the ins and outs of divination gives advice like this to someone who can see glimpses of "the future"?
"[Y]ou cannot allow yourself to be ruled by futures which may or may not come to pass. You must seize the moment. You are alive now. The past can always be walked away from, and the future is nothing more than a choice of different paths, but the here and now?...This is where we live. This is where we experience joy, happiness, love, heartbreak. You must do what you can to make your now a better thing."
(Ok; perhaps a Buddhist might give the same advice, but we're going to move on with this review as though that were not the case.)
This novel is told in the third person, but from alternating perspectives, jumping back and forth between the two main characters - Laurence and Quentin. Within this structure, there isn't too much backtracking or overlapping of time period coverage despite the perspective shifts. I think this did wonders for the book's pacing, as having to see every event play out from each perspective would have become tedious and unwieldy. While it's true that the book was a bit slow to start, the pace really picks up. By midway through the book, it pained me to put it down to do things like work or sleep or walk from one place to another. I may even have forgone halting my reading for the latter activity...
This narrative structure also allows for the reader to get into the head, life, and backstory of each of the main characters. If this novel is any indication of her larger body of work, characterization is one of Faulkner's strong suits. The characters in Jack of Thorns felt solid, realistic, and relatable, despite the heavy touch of the fantastical. Nowhere is this more apparent than with our two main characters. Laurence and Quentin ceased to be words on a page for me and became living, breathing people.
I lost track of when in the book I stopped considering Quentin's speech patterns to be pretentious affectations and started to find them utterly endearing. I had a visceral feeling of pride at Laurence's ability to find patience and control deep within himself to successfully navigate a relationship with someone whose approach to relationships is so utterly unlike his own. (Although not stated in such explicit terms, I believe that Quentin is written as somewhere on the asexual spectrum. Finding this type of representation in a romance novel made me super happy.)
I got lost in their moments of witty banter and vulnerable tenderness and, somewhere along the way, I fell head over heels in love with both Laurence and Quentin. Now, I'm left with the question: Are they looking for a third in this relationship? If so, I might be game...
I stand poised and ready to devour the next book in this series, Knight of Flames. After you read Jack of Thorns, you will be too; I'm fairly sure. Quite so.
Trigger warning: This book contains depictions of and discussions about abusive relationships as well as drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.
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