Juniper & Thorn takes a turn at retelling one of the Grimm’s lesser-known fairytales, The Juniper Tree, in a gothic form, tackling various forms of abuse.
Let the reader be warned; the novel may be triggering for some as it deals with emotional and physical abuse. However, Reid does an exemplary job of tackling these issues with tact, leaving the characters stronger and the reader hopeful.
Juniper & Thorn follows Marlinchen, the youngest daughter of the town’s only wizard. Progress has come, and the time of relying on magic has left the father bitter. Incredibly xenophobic and against progress and innovation, he keeps three daughters locked away in the house. They take customers and perform their magic under the watchful eyes of their father, but these girls have no freedom from his watchful gaze.
Some scenes are uncomfortable here. Reid uses subtext to indicate Sevas has suffered sexual abuse and grooming from his “agent,” whereas Marlinchen was physically harmed under her father’s gaze. Reid does not get into detail with these scenes, carefully crafting them to highlight the emotional distress and PTSD the characters have suffered due to this. While not explicit, it makes the reader uncomfortable, as it should, and thankfully does not detract from the evolving plot.
Juniper & Thorn can be seen as a survivor’s story. Marlinchen and Sevas are survivors of abuse. Some readers may view the hyper-sexualization of their relationship with distaste, but I found it empowering.
These characters had no freedom, were trapped by their guardians and exploited for their talent and gifts. Yet, together they found the inner strength they had. They choose to be with one another and give their bodies to one another. This is probably the most significant act of defiance these characters can show, empowering them.
By taking this big step and saying “my body, my choice,” these characters find within themselves the power to stand up for themselves, the strength to turn away from their abusers with their heads held high. Such a powerful and complex journey for these characters, even emotionally, leaves the reader feeling triumphant.
Juniper & Thorn is not for everyone. I admired the storytelling and enjoyed the retribution at the end, but this is a novel that will trigger some readers and leave others uncomfortable. So reader, be warned, the narrative is thoughtful and compelling, but the issues it tackles are tactful and emotional.
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|Pub Date: June 21, 2022||Page Count: 320pp||Age Range: 17 & Over|
|ISBN: 978-0-0629-7316-0||Publisher: Harper Voyager||List Price: $27.99|