“Magic is the first sin. It must be bound.”
Anna is an orphan, she is a witch with no magic, she is a nobody.
Raised by her aunt in London since her parents’ death when she was just 3 months old, Anna leads a monotonous life of school, homework, chores and learning to control her magic. Not that she has much magic to control, but Anna has been raised in the shadow of the Binders, a coven who believe magic is a sin and who will bind Anna’s magic when she turns 16. Until then, Anna must not draw attention to herself or the world of magic, she must shrink and she must be invisible. Only when her magic is bound will she be safe…or so the Binders would lead her to believe.
Threadneedle begins around Anna’s 15th birthday, when Anna and her Aunt receive a surprise visit from a family friend (and witch) Selene, her daughter Effie and friend Attis. Anna has idolised Selene since her childhood but I imagine even she did not anticipate this birthday visit to change her life so significantly. Selene, Effie and Attis are the complete opposite of the Binders, using magic freely and unreservedly: they open up a whole new world to the reluctant Anna and even convince her to create a coven with them, discovering new witches right under their noses. However, as Anna practices magic more, a peculiar symbol seems to haunt her; the symbol of the eye – the symbol of a curse.
The majority of Threadneedle takes place within Anna’s home and school. Anna’s life as a nobody at school is turned on its head with Effie’s arrival and she finds that, along with friends, comes the drama of a typical teenage girl. Bullying and body-shaming are key topics here and sort of edged the book into the YA category in my opinion.
Anna as a character is portrayed as an entirely ordinary teenager, if a little meek. Her aunt, in juxtaposition, is controlling and dominating, although she always expresses that this is necessary to protect Anna and comes from a place of love. Aunt is rarely referred to by her name and has an abusive hold over Anna, punishing her with magic if she so much as shows a flicker of emotion. The reader witnesses Anna’s emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her Aunt, with Cari Thomas even beginning each chapter with one of the Binders’ tenets, signifying the brainwashing nature of the coven.
Anna doesn’t remain meek for long though: fuelled by her intrigue of magic and the mystery behind her parent’s death, Anna soon starts pushing the boundaries that she has lived within for so long. Will she succeed and manage to discover the magical world that surrounds her? Or will her magic be knotted before she gets the chance?
Despite being set in present-day London, Thomas really does introduce an entirely new world of magic with different magical languages, different covens and the constant threat of The Hunters. I found the mixture of darkness and realism incredible. I also loved the fact that the magic and non-magic worlds run side by side in Thomas’ world but I am very conscious that any magical book written post-Harry Potter is obviously going to have comparisons made. However, Anna does not have the safety of Hogwarts or a doting headmaster to fall back on. There are no teachers providing an education in magic, she must find her magic on her own. No this is a far cry from Harry Potter; Threadneedle is more like a bubbling mixture of Charmed, with a ladle full of Mean Girls and a teaspoon of The Craft for good measure.
The sheer amount of world building by Cari Thomas means that the first few chapters of Threadneedle can feel quite slow but the novel soon settles into place. Thomas also has almost a rhythmic quality to her narrative, with fast-paced writing in dramatic spots before slowing right down again to represent Anna’s isolation. The final chapters were so captivating, with several mysteries that had been steadily growing finally coming to a head: I couldn’t read this fast enough.
Threadneedle is the first in the Language of Magic series by Cari Thomas and it is one hell of a debut! From prophecies and poison to bullies and love triangles; magical libraries, witch hunters and more plot twists than you can imagine, this book has it all. Thomas’ writing is so clever that towards the end of the book even the reader doesn’t know who to believe any more!
Thank you to HarperCollins, and NetGalley for the opportunity to discover this new world. The hype around this book is going to be crazy and it is completely deserved.