The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass by Adan Jerreat-Poole
Even teenage assassins have dreams.
Eli isn’t just a teenage girl — she’s a made-thing the witches created to hunt down ghosts in the human world. Trained to kill with her seven magical blades, Eli is a flawless machine, a deadly assassin. But when an assignment goes wrong, Eli starts to question everything she was taught about both worlds, the Coven, and her tyrannical witch-mother.
Worried that she’ll be unmade for her mistake, Eli gets caught up with a group of human and witch renegades, and is given the most difficult and dangerous task in the worlds: capture the Heart of the Coven. With the help of two humans, one motorcycle, and a girl who smells like the sea, Eli is going to get answers — and earn her freedom.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED OCTOBER 6TH, 2020
The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is, at its, heart, about anger.
I’m distinctly reminded of The Hazel Wood in a lot of ways. This, I think, is the better book of the two, but the similarities are hardly insignificant. An angry teenage girl discovers her world is more lie than truth, and she finds herself questing to set things right. In this case, there are more witches than fairy tales, and more queer characters than not. Plus, the anger isn’t carried by a single character. This time, everyone has a reason to be angry.
Everyone has a reason to demand change.
“‘You want to fix the city, or break it?’
‘Sometimes, it’s the same thing.'”
The world Eli lives in is a strange one. Ruled by a chaotic magic and witches who seek to bend that magic to their whims, it’s not a conventional world. Walls shift, pathways change, and magic has a price. More often than not, magic requires an exchange, a bargain, and nothing in the world is without some degree of life. As a result, walls that swallow people whole are not uncommon, and endless wastelands with shifting, elastic concepts of time are perfectly within the realm of possibility.
To accommodate these fantastic elements, The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass has to exist at a disconnect. On the one hand, I loved it. It allows the reader to decide how they feel for themselves, while also crafting a world at once familiar and uncanny. On the other hand, in a book where anger is the driving force behind all change that the main characters push for, that disconnect lessened the effect of that anger.
Eli, Tav, and Cam find themselves acting as pawns in some larger scheme. They’ve endured all manner of lies and abuse, and they have every right to be angry. But the nature of the prose, locked in a rather distant third person, makes it much harder as the reader to share that fury. Believe me, I want to. And in some aspects, I do. But I can’t help but imagine how much stronger that emotion would be in first person instead.
The queer rep, on the other hand, is delightful.
Adan Jerreat-Poole is queer, an enormous relief to me, and they don’t shy away from broad representation. Eli is obviously queer, taking into account the previous love interest and the current one, while Kite could safely be described as sapphic. Meanwhile, Tav is non-binary and Black, and Cam is an East Asian gay man (though there are no further cultural specifics than that). I really enjoyed this, especially since stories featuring queer anger are rather personal to me.
That said, I do think that Tav and Cam missed the mark, not in their queerness, but in the way the author handles race. If Adan Jerreat-Poole had not described their physical appearances, there is very little to clue me into the fact that these are not white characters. That’s not to say they needed to be cultural stereotypes (because they absolutely shouldn’t be!), but it does feel like they’re simply white characters with a coat of paint slapped on for diversity’s sake.
If this book might be for you, there’s still time to place a pre-order!
While originally meant to release May 2020, The Girl of Hawthorn and Glass is now publishing on October 6th, 2020. Hopefully in the next few months, the existing issues will be addressed. As it stands, however, it’s still an interesting read, curious and somewhat unsettling. It’s also a duology at the very least, leaving on the cusp of upheaval. You won’t have to wait years and years to see the conclusion, but you’ll have time to digest it all the same.
CW: violence, gore, graphic injury, racism, transphobia, homophobia, deadnaming, animal death mention, self-harm