The Mysteries of Thorn Manor by Margaret Rogerson (Sorcery of Thorns #1.5)

Elisabeth Scrivener is finally settling into her new life with sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Now that their demon companion Silas has returned, so has scrutiny from nosy reporters looking for the gossip about the city’s most mysterious sorcerer, as well as the woman he’s now chosen to spend all this time with. But something strange is afoot at Thorn Manor: the estate’s wards, which are meant to keep their home safe, are acting up and forcibly trapping all the Manor’s occupants inside. Surely it must be a coincidence that all of this happened just as Nathaniel and Elisabeth started getting closer to one another…

With no access to the outside world, Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas—along with their new maid Mercy—will have to work together to discover the source of the magic behind the malfunctioning wards. Not an easy task when the house is filled with a number of unexpected secrets, and all Elisabeth can think about is kissing Nathaniel. But when it becomes clear that the house, influenced by the magic of Nathaniel’s ancestors, requires a price for its obedience, Elisabeth and Nathaniel will have to lean on their connection like never before to set things right.

PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Audioworks/Simon & Schuster, Inc.
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 186 pages (3 hours 53 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance

Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s), Ace/Aro Minor Character(s).

MYSTERIES OF THORN MANOR finds Elisabeth and Nathaniel trapped in the manor with Silas and their new maid, Mercy, unable to leave and having difficulty figuring out what’s going wrong. Aside from getting out, the main focus is on figuring out what the dynamic will be between the four of them in one house. Silas previously has not had to abide with a human servant in his space. Nathaniel has a tendency to forget that just because something seems obvious, it is good to say things specifically. Elisabeth is worrying about everyone and trying to figure out what to do with her life now that she’s not a normal Librarian. This is the first time Mercy has had her own life outside of the asylum, and she is still terrified that Silas will eat her because he’s a demon.

As a novella following a novel, THE MYSTERIES OF THORN MANOR tells a pretty self-contained story whose significance is within the context of the first book. The specific tale is very self contained in a way that would be understandable to someone who started with this and hadn’t read anything else in the series, but most of the worldbuilding is done by reference to things explained in much more depth in the first book. It shows the next phase of what happens to Elisabeth, Nathaniel, and Silas after the first book, as well as more fully introducing Mercy who briefly appeared in SORCERY OF THORNS. It's not particularly wrapping up anything, but specifically moving a few things forward and making the new status quo clear. There’s a new storyline which wasn’t present previously, for something magical has gone awry and trapped them all in the manor. They have to solve it and get the doors unbarred before the Midwinter Ball that Nathaniel is hosting. While as of the time of this post this is the newest book in the series, it seems unlikely to be the last, with an ending that clearly telegraphs that more to come. 

This is excellent as a brief story set an established world. It stokes my eagerness for a full length sequel to follow, whenever that appears. I already love Nathaniel, Elisabeth and Silas as a trio, and I like that a novella gives space to show what has changed in their dynamic since the very traumatic events at the end of the first book. It also serves to integrate Mercy into their household, keeping them from being quite so insular. As is often the case with sequels, and especially with a sequel novella, it doesn’t make sense to start here, and it would be much better to read the first book before this one. If you came across this without reading the first book and enjoyed it, definitely go back because the heart of this series is the relationships between the characters, and those are wonderfully displayed here. I like the audiobook narrator, generally, but I love their voice for Silas. It forms an excellent contrast with the others in a way that conveys his personality instantly.

I like the plot, I like the setup, and I love the characters. This is perfect for anyone who enjoys the first book and wants to spend more time with them.

Moderate CW for grief.

Minor CW for alcohol, fire/fire injury, sexual content, blood, self harm, child death, parental death, death.

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