It’s a rare gift when you get the chance as a reader to revisit the world of a story you loved, but that you thought was closed and finished forever. Novella Mysteries of Thorn Manor offers just such an unexpected delight to fans of Margaret Rogerson’s standalone fantasy Sorcery of Thorns—a basically perfect story that featured everything from sentient, angry books and warrior librarians to a deliciously slow-burn romance and a prissy demon familiar who sometimes happened to turn into a cat. And while the original novel’s ending does, in its way, feel completely right for the story Rogerson was telling, it’s also a bit more abrupt—and features a lot more loose ends—than some might have expected. (Or wanted.)
Not so much a sequel as an extension, Mysteries of Thorn Manor fixes all that, serving as a charming, utterly cozy coda to the original and as its own frothy, romantic romp tempered by moments of genuine depth and complexity as relationship dynamics are deepened and snippets of Thorn family history are revealed. (And if you somehow missed out on Sorcery of Thorns when it was first released in 2019, this is the perfect opportunity to fix your life. It’s truly something special and well worth your time!)
We got the chance to chat with Rogerson herself about returning to the world of Sorcery of Thorns, the demon Silas’ emergence as the world’s preeminent Nathaniel and Elisabeth shipper (we love to see it!), and whether she might ever be tempted to tell more stories in this universe. (Spoiler alert: The answer is yes!)
Paste Magazine: I was SO excited when I found out you were writing a companion piece/follow-up to Sorcery of Thorns! What made you want to come back to this universe?
Margaret Rogerson: Truth be told, I love the slightly open ending of Sorcery of Thorns despite the torture it has inflicted on countless readers (okay, that’s a lie, torturing readers is my favorite), so I never expected I would revisit the world, at least not as a continuation of Elisabeth and Nathaniel’s story. And then the pandemic struck! You can probably guess where this is going.
During lockdown, I found myself gravitating toward comfort reads and struggling to write anything with high stakes. I started fantasizing about how nice it would be to go back to Sorcery’s universe, with all its coziness and whimsy and humor, and check in with the characters like a group of old friends. I sure wasn’t seeing any of my real friends. And so the idea for Mysteries of Thorn Manor was born, beginning with the gobsmackingly original premise, “what if Nathaniel and Elisabeth were also stuck in their house, but in a fun way?”
Paste: I loved getting the chance to see Elisabeth forging her own path when it comes to the person she wants to be, both professionally and otherwise. What do you think that will ultimately look like for her as someone who sits so comfortably in the space between warden and scholar?
Rogerson: My vision for Elisabeth’s future is that she’s going to end up specializing in handling dangerous or uncooperative grimoires that the Collegium has deemed beyond hope, sort of like a book whisperer. Her life’s work will involve championing more humane treatment for grimoires since even though they can be extremely dangerous, they’re still sentient beings who feel emotion and pain. I feel like she has many adventures ahead of her.
Paste: How do you feel Elisabeth and Nathaniel have changed since when we last saw them? I know it’s technically only been a few months since Sorcery of Thorns ended but obviously, they’ve had a lot to process both separately and together. How has their relationship been impacted by transitioning to the real world?
Rogerson: Their relationship has been tested in some key ways since the end of Sorcery of Thorns—Nathaniel has faced a long recovery from an injury that’s left him permanently disabled, he lost his magic for a time, and most importantly, they both spent weeks believing Silas to be dead. In a lot of ways, Silas was central to their relationship, so they had to figure out who they were as a couple without him. (Thankfully, that part was only temporary. Nathaniel is now back to wearing a properly tied cravat. Everyone can relax.)
Meanwhile, Elisabeth has been trying to figure out her future career within the Great Libraries after casting aside her dream of becoming a warden. So they’ve supported each other through loss and frustrations more typical of adult relationships than starry-eyed young love, which has matured them to some degree. Possibly still not as much as Silas would like, especially after that incident with the blackberry jam…
Paste: I love the cozy mystery vibe of this book – the colorful hidden rooms in Thorn Manor and low-stakes problems to be solved (and the semi-sentient house that gets mad when Elisabeth and Nathaniel make out, I can’t!) What made you choose such a more deliberately lighter tone for this follow-up?
Rogerson: Thank you! The hidden rooms were some of the most fun parts to write. Oh, Thorn Manor, always clutching its pearls!
I think I mostly answered this question by accident earlier, but I will say that in general, I love writing lighthearted stories. I feel that my writing is at its strongest when I’m being a little silly. I’m hoping that Mysteries will be a runaway success and my publisher will stroke their chin wisely and think, “hmmm, yes, maybe we should let Margaret write even more stories with evil underpants.”
Paste: For me, Silas is probably the real stealth MVP of Mysteries of Thorn Manor. Tell me a little bit about how you see his story post-Sorcery.
Rogerson: I’m so glad you think so. It’s probably no secret that he’s my favorite character. Readers will learn early on in Mysteries that Silas was injured during the climactic events of Sorcery of Thorns, and has been hiding his condition from Elisabeth and Nathaniel. He’s having to learn to navigate the world as a less powerful being, which is difficult for his pride. He isn’t quite ready to accept help with the laundry yet, but I think he might get there eventually.
In a minor spoiler, we also discover that as a result of his actions in Sorcery of Thorns, he totally burned his bridges with the Otherworld. There’s no going back for him. A question I find interesting for his future is, how does he find a place within a human society that fears him and views him as untrustworthy and evil? That’s something he’s going to have to face in the years to come.
Paste: On the subject of Silas, cannot believe I never figured out he would be the biggest Nathaniel/Elisabeth shipper! Tell me a little bit about how you see his evolving bond with the new lady of the house.
Rogerson: Ha! He is the biggest shipper. Writing about his deepening relationship with Elisabeth was by far my favorite part of the novella.
Silas was obviously devoted to previous ladies of the house, including Nathaniel’s mother, Charlotte, and the mysterious owner of the ostrich room. (Aunt Clothilde is firmly excluded from this list.) And now he’s developing a bond with Elisabeth that isn’t romantic, exactly, because there isn’t an element of attraction, but it feels similar to a romance. It’s hard to define. He deeply respects her as a person of virtue and integrity whose fundamental nature is opposite to his own. And he is REALLY looking forward to helping her pick out her wedding gown.
Paste: What was your favorite thing you got to include about Nathaniel’s family history here?
Rogerson: I was grateful for the chance to discuss the circumstances under which Nathaniel’s mother and brother died, because that information never found its way into Sorcery of Thorns, only that they died in an unspecified accident.
Without getting into spoilers, it’s based on a real incident that happened in 1800s London. Also, I loved getting to develop Aunt Clothilde a bit more in all her prudish glory.
Paste: Do you think you might ever want to write any more stories in the Sorcery of Thorns world? (The thought of Silas, Demon Wedding Planner, is literally killing me!!)
Rogerson: Honestly—I would LOVE to! Now that I’ve had a long time to think about what might happen next for the characters, I have loads of ideas. We’ll see…
Paste: What’s next for you as an author? Are you working on anything right now you can tell our readers about?
Rogerson: Ha! Nice try! You’ll never reveal my secrets!
Paste: And finally, my favorite question, always: what are you reading at the moment?
Rogerson: I recently finished reading the Market of Monsters’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy on audiobook and re-reading an old favorite, Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. Next on my TBR: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett, The Wicker King by Kayla Ancrum, and an advance copy of Painted Devils by Margaret Owen.
If I’m allowed to ask—what are YOU reading?
Paste: No one ever asks me this! I love it!
And oh, goodness, so many things — I’m in the middle of an advance copy of The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell, which is basically “what if there was a murder mystery in the middle of The Great British Baking Show?” and also an ARC of Samantha Shannon’s Priory of the Orange Tree prequel A Day of Fallen Night, which is positively massive—I think it’s pushing a thousand pages?—but every word feels so rich and necessary.
Margaret, thank you so much for chatting with us! This has been such a pleasure!
Rogerson: Thank you so much for having me! I appreciate how much thought you put into these questions. This was truly a standout Q&A, and I had a fantastic time.
Mysteries of Thorn Manor is available now from Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.