Alphabet of Thorn

Alphabet of Thorn

by Patricia A. McKillip


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Fantasy author Patricia A. McKillip, the 21st century's response to Hans Christian Andersen, has mastered the art of writing fairy tales — as evidenced by previous works like The Tower at Stony Wood, Ombria in Shadow, and In the Forests of Serre. Alphabet of Thorn is yet another timeless fable suitable for children and adults alike.

In the kingdom of Raine, a vast realm at the edge of the world, an orphaned baby girl is found by a palace librarian and raised to become a translator. Years later, the girl — named Nepenthe — comes in contact with a mysterious book written in a language of thorns that no one, not even the wizards at Raine's famous Floating School for mages, can decipher. The book calls out to Nepenthe's very soul, and she is soon privately translating its contents. As she works tirelessly transcribing the book — which turns out to be about the historical figures of Axis, the Emperor of Night, and Kane, his masked sorcerer — the kingdom of Raine is teetering on the brink of chaos. The newly crowned queen, a mousy 14-year old girl named Tessera who wants nothing to do with matters of state, hides in the woods as regents plot revolution. The queen's destiny, however, is intertwined with Nepenthe's ability to unravel the mystery of the thorns.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780441012435
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Patricia A. McKillip is a winner of the World Fantasy Award, and the author of many fantasy novels, including The Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy, Stepping from the Shadows, and The Cygnet and the Firebird. She lives in Oregon.

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Alphabet Of Thorn 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was a really great book. It's not very long and there isn't a whole lot of detail, but it's okay because the whole book is very focused on the story. What I mean is, some books go on describing things that don't matter much (not that I mind all the descriptions and detail) but this one focused only on the main story. It's more like when someone tells you a tale instead of you reading it out of a book and it was kind of cool and captivating that way. It was a great story and very well thought out. Very original. The author doesn't give many hints as to what the ending is all about until the last few chapters, so it surprises you. Highly recommended
Guest More than 1 year ago
patrica A. mckillip once again creates a story that is woven together with such simple beauty and mastery that the travels between past and present seem to (as it really is) be one. she is amaster at her craft and draws you into her dreamlike world that strangely rings with reality...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The characters in this book are what make it good, I think the story would be a little too unbelieveable without them. It goes back and forth between past and present, before finally tying them together in the end. Over all I think that it was beautifully written and I would recomend it. on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I should have given this amazing book a five. I would have if the ending had been more satisfying. From the beginning to near the end, the book engulfs the reader into a mystical world. The world is unlike any other you have read about. It is fantasy, yes, but not cliche fantasy that is so typical in books these days. The magic in the book seems real, and powerful, the very book is bewitching!I thought the book was going to be about Nepenthe, and while it is primarily about her, there are many other characters that equally share the spotlight. Kane and Axis, for example, whose story I enjoyed as much as Nepenthe's. Then there is Tessera, the Queen of Raine; Bourne, a mage, Yevena, a powerful and old mage and of course Kane and Axis. They all share the spotlight to transform the book into something unique and interesting.However, the ending was highly unsatisfying. When it seemed all the characters had reached their climax, when finally the reader would realize how important the characters are in the story...the crisis ends and everyone goes back to being happy, before all the chaos happened. While I do hate stories that end with page after page of resolution, the ending of this book seemed like an afterthought. It was as if the writer didn't write the ending, it didn't fit in with the rest of the novel.I don't mind happy, sweet endings...but when I closed the book I had a wretched picture in my head of all the character's standing around with big smiles on their faces and know, like you see in those cheesy movies?
mrgorbachev on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most gorgeous books I've ever read-- every word seemed to be singing in chorus to create a novel that's as much about its lyricism as it is about the plot-- but because of this lyricism, the plot drags a bit in what feels like a lot of extended exposition, taking up about the first 2/3's of the book, though it's worth sloughing through the parts that sing out of tune for the excellent pay-off. There was a chapter near the end where the plot and the style and everything resolved into a truly gorgeous reverie.
ethereal_lad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A dreamy adult fairytale about libraries, language and war.
phoebesmum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Patricia A McKillip will forever labour under the disadvantage that one of her earliest books is her best-loved, and nothing else will ever quite measure up to it, however technically superior it may be. She can also, occasionally, focus so strongly on style that she neglects substance, but this particular title is quite strong on plot, fully backed up by all the rich, lush details one expects from this author.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story of magic and poetry, Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip is a lyrical fairy-tale like story about the Kingdom of Raine. The story focus is on Nepenthe, a beautiful foundling who was taken in and raised in the library deep in the city that is built on and in the cliffs overlooking the sea. Now a trained translator she spends her time in the library surrounded by books. A magical book is discovered and passed on to the library for translation. Nepenthe comes into possession of the book and it¿s language of thorns takes hold of her to the point of obsession. The story now branches out into not only Nepenthe¿s story, but the story of the King and magician that is told in this alphabet of thorns. Eventually these two stories entwine and unveils who Nepenthe really is.I totally admired the writing but never felt fully engaged by this story. I felt the characters were a little one-dimensional and the dreamlike atmosphere, although beautiful, held me at a distance. The book started slowly but the last two chapters seemed to push the reader to the climax. With a plot involving books and libraries, I felt I should have loved this book, instead I have come away just feeling a gentle like.
quigui on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was bought mostly because of its cover. It is simply stunning.What is most fascinating about it is the scenery. A city built on the top of the cliffs, with only a small staircase carved onto the rock to reach the sea; a beautiful forest, everchanging, that houses a magic school.The story is also very good, discovered bit by bit as Nepenthe decipherers the book written in thorns, a secret language. The story told on this book eventually crosses with Nepenthe's own story and the story of the kingdom she calls home.So, why is this not a great read? Because I couldn't care less about the protagonists. I never identified with any of them, and they were not very likeable either. If not for that this book could easily become a favourite.
ncgraham on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One cannot pick up a Patricia McKillip novel and expect it to be like anything else one has read. My first, The Tower at Stony Wood, so confused and befuddled me that by the time I finished, I no longer cared about the characters or the plot. After trying and loving the Riddle-Master trilogy, I returned to her newer books with Alphabet of Thorn, a little worried that my initial experience would be repeated. Thankfully it was not. Though the characters are from very different backgrounds and initially seem unconnected, I found myself drawn to almost every one of them; indeed, if this were a movie, I would certainly nominate it for a Best Ensemble award. There is Tessera, the new queen of Ombria who everyone has labeled an idiot child; Laidley, the stoop-shouldered apprentice librarian with thinning hair who is in love with Nepenthe; Vevay and Gavin, old, faithful lovers who together guard Raine; the legendary Axis and Kane, who in conquering kingdoms and worlds nearly destroyed themselves; and even Axis' forgotten wife, to whom is given this fabulous description: "She grew to become an affectionate mother and a discreet wife. So the poets mention her rarely and without interest. Her life was not the stuff of passion or tragedy, at least as far as they could see." Slightly less compelling are Bourne and Nepenthe, our leading couple. Theirs is one of those love-at-first-sight relationships that might better be described as lust-at-first-sight. Even when Nepenthe expresses worries that Bourne might be a restless nobleman out to take her virginity and break her heart, she leads him dazedly to her bedchamber anyway. In this relationship, premarital sex is treated in such an offhand way as to make it even more offensive than Axis and Kane's near-incest. What has happened to McKillip since she wrote of the pure love between a princess of An and a boy who once put a seashell to her ear and let her hear the sea? Of course, the original concept of Alphabet is stunning. Being a bibliophile as well as a lover of languages, the idea of the fate of a nation being locked down in the royal libraries with a story written in an unreadable language is fascinating to me. More importantly, and what really surprised me in the end, is the fact that the seemingly disparate plot lines suddenly come together at the end of Chapter Twenty-Five in a terribly shocking way. Unfortunately the author only allows herself two chapters after that for the true climax and wrap-up, and the second of the two feels very rushed indeed, with only some of our major characters making an appearance. These objections aside, Alphabet of Thorn is still a wonderful memento of today's greatest fantasy authors.
LaylaStar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautifully told story, yet at times it dragged and it was wrapped up too simply in my opinion. While I enjoyed the characters and unusual nature of the plot, the relationships tended to be very flat in terms of emotion.
Selanit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As usual, McKillip's sublime prose, superb tone, and excellent characterization make "Alphabet of Thorn" required reading for any serious devotee of fantasy literature. More particularly, this book will appeal strongly to the bookish and the scholarly.That appeal derives from the setting and the cast. The heroine, Nepenthe, is a foundling raised by librarians, and much of the plot revolves around her slow progress in deciphering and translating a mysterious book written in a nettlesome language no-one else can begin to grasp. Literally nettlesome - the characters of the alphabet are thorny, coiling shapes interlocked into a dense thicket of meaning. The difficult (and painful) task of disentangling these barbed words absorbs Nepenthe's attention, and the crucial message they carry slowly takes over the screen; there is a brilliant moment, towards the end, where the reader suddenly realizes that the words on the page have somehow become the words of the Book of Thorn itself. And that moment of realization precipitates the climax of the book, a crisis as convoluted as the alphabet of thorn itself.Sadly, the resolution of that crisis felt vaguely unsatisfying, depending as it did on a sudden change of heart by a character previously portrayed as obsessively devoted to one course of action. There was insufficient preparation for that change of heart. Though the change was necessary, it felt vaguely unrealistic. Perhaps this seems a strange criticism for a fantasy novel; yet the best fantasy breathes realism into the most implausible of things, and this implausible thing remained so: a deus ex machina at the end of all things.Still, as flaws go, this one is fairly minor. Indeed, it may well be a product of my own taste more than anything else. And so I can, and do, recommend "Alphabet of Thorn" to any fantasy reader looking to while away a rainy afternoon. If you love books, fantasy, and puzzles, you will surely find "Alphabet of Thorn" as engrossing as Nepenthe finds her Book of Thorn.
sara_k on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alphabet of Thorn tells a complex story that boils down to a basic question of parental love.Nepenthe is an orphan who has been brought up in the royal library and whose talent and job is deciphering mysterious alphabets. As the story begins, she is working on a book written completely in clusters of small fish, each with its own meaning. A book comes to Nepenthe which she is meant to pass on to the master librarians; instead she keeps the book and tries to figure out the complicated alphabet of brambles and thorns. The book seems to reveal a set of stories about a long ago king and his mage but strange things are happening around Nepenthe.(shrug) I felt like I should like this book and story more than I did and I'm not sure why I didn't fall into the story. Some books are like that.
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