Book Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Thank you to Harper Voyager for gifting me an advanced copy of this book – I was under no obligation to share but I loved it so much I couldn’t resist!

I have so many thoughts and I’m not entirely sure how to unspool them but let’s give it a go!

This book is a contemporary urban fantasy with witchcraft and elements of fairytale & folklore. It’s a tense, slow build to start with, that unravels into a lush read that I found it hard to put down. Seriously, I read all 555 pages in a day.

I’m a little confused as to why this book is listed as general fiction when it definitely feels like young adult. The tale is largely set in a secondary school, following a young witch, Anna, as she discovers her magic, navigated friendships, family secrets, an abusive parental figure, falling in love for the first time – and all the other usual teenage stuff. It gets to the heart of the complexities of female friendships as a teenager, it feels authentic and raw when it deals with love, lust and romance.

Don’t be fooled though, this book deals with heavier topics, most notably the abuse Anna experiences from her aunt, and the cult like coven that rules their life. The topic is handled sensitively, and it raises questions about what we will put up with, what we believe we deserve, when we’re being led by people we trust.

This book is a gleaming collection of contradictions, and the juxtaposition of Anna’s cold and cruel home life with the glamour and excitement that Effie and Attis bring into it is striking. It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy set in a version of London that we can recognise as ours, I loved the way the magical world was built into the city – and I’m a sucker for a magic library! The magic system itself is authentic and well thought out, I love how magic can be bound through any medium, depending on who casts it. The descriptions of the magic, and how wielding it feels, is where Cari’s writing really shines, the magic feels enchanting and threatening in the same breath.

As far as young adult reads go, this is a good one. The main cast are all teenagers, they’re muddling through the precipice of adulthood with all the chaos and calamity you’d expect of a bunch of sixteen year olds. I loved that there was no ‘assistant’ character in this book, the teens are largely left to muddle through their problems alone – which left it reading as a much more authentic teen experience. The accounts of teen bullying are so accurate they feel real, any teenage girl is likely to resonate with the emotions bought up (Darcey got what she deserved if you ask me).

With any book that’s over 400 pages it’s easy to feel like things should be faster, or to find sections that would have benefitted from being more brutally cut at, but I didn’t feel like this at all with this read. The pacing picks up the further we get into the book, but that fits with the unravelling of events, it doesn’t ever feel too slow but it definitely feels tense! It’s definitely a slow burn but between the character development, magic world building, mystery and drama, there’s a lot to dig into and I was gripped!

There’s something about this book that feels oddly familiar, it was like catching up with an old friend. The story is welcoming and enveloping, I can see myself returning to this as a comfort read. I’ve seen other reviewers say this book is reminiscent of Dianne Wynne Jones and that made me happy, I loved that series as a child and perhaps that’s why the series felt familiar.

This book is the first instalment of the series and it ends in the best way, with the main mystery unravelled but lots of lingering questions to be explored. This was a definite five star read for me, and I’m looking forward to the next one already.

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas is out on May 27th – preorder it from your local independent book store!