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Briefly Noted: ‘The Thorn and the Blossom’ by Theodora Goss

When Theodora Goss’ novella The Thorn and the Blossom: A Two-Sided Love Story was released last year, the book’s imagery, dual stories and unique construction created a bit of a stir. In the story, Evelyn Morgan and Brendan Thorne meet by chance and become lovers after he hands her a copy of a medieval romance.

In her Bookslut review, Colleen Mondor said: “Slipcovered and with an accordion-fold binding, “The Thorn and the Blossom” is designed so it can be flipped and readers may thus enjoy Brendan and Evelyn’s separate perspectives of the same tale. While the publisher’s work is impressive, it is Goss’s handling of the story itself that really blew me away. You do not have to read these perspectives in any particular order; you can start with Brendan or Evelyn and either way you will not ruin critical moments or spoil the ending.”

Publishers Weekly said: “The fantasy elements are light, revolving mostly around Gawan’s story and Evelyn’s visions of fairies and trolls. Overall this makes the tale align more with old-fashioned romance than pure speculative fiction, but Goss’ appealing characters and modern magic atmosphere will continue to attract a following.”

Some reviewers on Amazon liked the unique look of the book, but found the accordion-style presentation difficult to read because the pages easily fell away in long folds. Other authors with two stories to tell in one book have solved this problem by formatting the stories from alternate ends of the book but with standard binding. Needless to say, the issue becomes a non-issue for those reading the e-book version.

Nonetheless, showing the same story from two points of view is an age-old technique that’s been handled in multiple ways, and whenever it appears it adds both drama and depth to the material. Readers naturally feel some stress when they are told it doesn’t matter which account to read first and also when they see that there will be no resolution to the contrasting viewpoints. The depth, aided in part in this case by Goss’ evocative language, comes from understanding that people see events and relationships differently rather than via the single, linear viewpoint commonly used in most fiction. So, the dual stories show us what we often miss in fiction, though we experience it in our lives.

Available in hardcover and e-book, “The Thorn and the Blossom” is likely to enchant lovers of fantasy, romance, and well-told tales.

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Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy, including the gritty, magical adventure “Sarabande.” His paranormal Kindle short story, “Moonlight and Ghosts” was released last month.

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