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Mix the moody dark academia of Victoria Lee’s A Lesson in Vengeance with some anti-witchcraft hysteria and a little dose of secret curses and magical communities and you begin to have a grasp of Cari Thomas’ debut YA contemporary fantasy novel, Threadneedle.
Sixteen-year-old Anna Everdell is a nobody. She purposely flies under the radar of the brutal social politics of her London prep school while preparing for her Binding — a locking of her magical powers — under her cruel aunt’s watchful eye. The one bright spot in her life is Selene, a friend of her deceased mother who lives a life of freedom and indulgence that Anna can only dream of. Just before the school year starts, Selene comes to visit with her daughter Effie and a boy named Attis. Effie is everything Anna is not — beautiful, independent, defiant, and magically powerful. Selene announces that they are moving back to London from New York, with Effie and Attis attending Anna’s school.
Despite warnings from her Aunt, Anna is inexorably pulled into Effie and Attis’ orbit, discovering a coven of young witches within her class who introduce her to a London she never knew existed. There are dangerous libraries, spell-fueled nightclubs, and a magical community that is welcoming, not restrictive. However, Anna’s burgeoning freedom and self-discovery also drive her to finally confront the mysterious and horrific death of her parents and a growing hysteria in the wider non-magical community over claims of witchcraft.
Behind a familiar coming-of-age in academia story, Thomas handles difficult themes of familial abuse and manipulation with a sensitive and deft hand. The heaviness of watching Anna break from a childhood of abuse veiled as “love” is balanced by the friendship she finds in her teenage coven and the exploration of her burgeoning sense of self. The result is a slow-burn, immersive read with some truly fantastic plot twists.
Threadneedle is the first volume of a planned trilogy, The Language of Magic. Without giving too much away, I’m very excited to see the follow-up novels, as there certainly are some loose ends that I am eager to see Thomas explore through the series. For anyone – teen or adult – who enjoys moody — and magical! — London vibes and a unique twist on established tropes, this is a novel to check out.
Carla Nordlund is a freelance developmental editor, book coach, and writer. She works with authors of fantasy, historical fiction, and romance to strengthen both their manuscripts and writing practice. You can find her on Twitter at @silverrunedit for writing tips and puppy nose boops; and at Silver Run Editing to collaborate on a developmental edit, manuscript assessment, beta read, or coaching.