ARC Review: “The Book Binder’s Daughter,” by Jessica Thorne

Ah, September. The start of the best season of the year. I am a leaf peeping, sweater wearing, cider drinking obsessive, and fall can’t come soon enough. I was super excited to receive an ARC for The Book Binder’s Daughter by Jessica Thorne, since it feels so much like the start of *spooky season.* Magical libraries, goddesses, gigantic trees, and magic?! Yes, please! Thank you, Netgalley and Bookouture, for this spellbinding read!


From the Publisher:

The song surrounded her now, the murmuring of the library insistent, and her foot took the first step on the winding stairs. She knew it wasn’t entirely a dream. It was the library calling her, its magic driving her.

When Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library – the finest collection of rare books in the world, and the last place her bookbinder mother was seen when Sophie was just a teenager – she leaps at the chance. Will she finally discover what happened to the woman she’s always believed abandoned her?

Taking in the endless shelves of antique books, the soaring stained-glass windows, and the grand sweeping staircase, usually shy Sophie feels strangely at home, and is welcomed by her eccentric fellow binders. But why is the Keeper of the Library so reluctant to speak about Sophie’s mother? And why is Sophie the only person who can read the strange spells in the oldest books on display, written in a forgotten language nobody else understands?

The mysteries of the library only deepen when Sophie stumbles upon an elaborately carved door. The pattern exactly matches the pendant her mother left behind years ago, engraved with a delicate leaf. As the door swings open at her touch, Sophie gasps at the incredible sight: an enormous tree, impossibly growing higher than the library itself, its gently falling golden leaves somehow resembling the pages of a book. Amidst their rustling, Sophie hears a familiar whisper…

‘There you are, my Sophie. I knew you’d come back for me.’

An absolutely spellbinding read about long-hidden family secrets and the magic that lurks between the pages of every ancient book. Perfect for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Night Circus and The Binding.


What I Loved:

  • The Ambiance. A mysterious library in the outskirts of London, a dreary town at the end of a subway line that hides all of the world’s rare books and knowledge. A girl with spotty memories and a dark past who speaks the language of the leaves, and who dreams of golden leaves that turn into pages. Book Binder’s Daughter screams spooky, autumn ambiance. I loved diving in right in time for the pseudo beginning of fall. How can you not love a book set in a gigantic library with stunning staircases and expansive grounds while the wind and the rain howl outside? This book allows you to fully imagine yourself there.
  • Will and Sophie. I am a sucker for a “reunited lovers” trope, but throw in a dash of amnesia and sprinkling of fate, and you have the recipe for an epic romance. It helps that Will is adorable like a puppy (but in a good way) and he strikes the perfect balance between being protective of Sophie while giving her enough room to fulfill her destiny and emerge as the strong woman she is destined to be. Sophie, in turn, doesn’t remember Will at first, but instinctively knows he is one of “her people” and knows she can trust him. Watching her remember their sweet youthful romance while also starting the next phase was so beautiful to read.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • The Pacing. While I loved the ambiance and mood of Book Binder’s Daughter, there are places where the descriptions get repetitive. There are swaths of the book that I skimmed because the descriptions of Sophie’s mental state or the beautiful imagery repeated, while in other places, it felt like a whirlwind with how quick the plot advanced. This was particularly true when we approached the climax.
  • The Villains. I don’t need a particularly complex villain in general. Villains are villains, and black and white suits my Scorpio nature. However, Victor is written as such a caricature of a shitty human being, that it is hard to see what Sophie would have ever seen in him. When Victor pops up again later in the book, it isn’t even surprising because he is clearly Big Bad. It makes you respect Sophie less the more you get to know Victor.

Conclusion:

Reading The Book Binder’s Daughter was a dreamlike experience, one that was hard to wake up from. On the one hand, I fell completely in love with the world build, the magic, and the library itself. On the other hand, there are parts I skimmed because they were redundant and unnecessary. However, the pros outweigh the cons in spades. Four waves out of five for a late summer beach day where the breeze is cool and the waves are warm. Pre-order your copy here in time for September 20th!

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