A Lesson in Thorns + Feast of Sparks by Sierra Simone | REVIEW

A Lesson in Thorns + Feast of Sparks by Sierra Simone | REVIEW

Hi, I’m Deboki, and this is okidokiboki, and
today I’m going to be reviewing the first two books in the Thornchapel
series by Sierra Simone. The Thornchapel series is an erotica series, it’s based
around a group of friends who met each other as children at this mysterious
estate in England called Thornchapel because their parents were, for some
secret reason, all congregated there. Now as adults, they’ve all reunited at Thornchapel, and they’ve decided to start digging into its various secrets and
mysteries, you know, through–the like traditional means, like reading books and
going through archives and everything. And because this is erotica, they also
use less conventional means like pagan rituals that involve everyone fucking
each other. There are four books in total in the series, today I’m going to be
reviewing the first two that have come out already. These are A Lesson in Thorns
and Feast of Sparks. The next two books, Harvest of Sighs and Door of Bruises, are
(according to Sierra Simone’s website) planned for a release next year in 2020.
In A Lesson in Thorns, we basically meet this cast of friends through the
perspective of Prosperina, or Poe. She was one of them, she met them as a child,
but then moved back home and now she’s come back as an adult, as a librarian, who
has been hired to catalogue all the various materials in this old mysterious
estate. When she returns to the estate, she’s drawn in particular to two
brooding dudes amongst this group of friends.
The first is Auden, who owns the estate, so he’s like you know, rich English monor
lord kind of figure. And then the other guy is Saint, who is apparently in this
ongoing conflict with Auden that she does not know the source of, and in fact
nobody really is quite clear on. This is erotica, so I don’t think this is
particularly spoilery to say, but the ongoing geometry there is less about a
love triangle and more about the ways that you can arrange multiple people
into various positions. And this continues in Feast of Sparks, though with
more focus on the tension between Auden and Saint, so you get more of their points
of view as they’re coming to terms with their feelings for each other as well as
Poe. While the plot as I’ve described it probably sounds like it just revolves
around these three characters, and I think these first two books are primarily focused on the tension between them, there are other characters who I want to
highlight because they do still play a significant role in the plot, and I think
will probably play more of a role in the future books (I hope). And when I say
plot, I also mean in the smut of this book. So there’s an Instagram influencer
who’s maintaining this very curated presence online while dealing with kind
of darker truths from her own past. There’s also an ambitious architect
dealing with the pressures of being a black woman in her industry. As well as a
priest. So if you’ve read Sierra Simone’s other books, you are probably aware of
the importance of priests to her work as a bit of a motif. Or at the very least I
found her through her Priest series, so that was what I most strongly
associated her with. And what I liked about some of her books, like what I
think makes them really like fun, angsty, like really kind of draw-you-in
sort of books, is that a lot of times the characters that she’s writing are dealing
with taboos that are really put upon them based on structures they’ve walked
themselves into. So in the case of Priest, for example, it’s a strict
religious structure that, you know, the the main character of the priest has
chosen for specific reasons in his personal life, but like he now is dealing with whether or not he really wants that actually. So for me, her books are at
their strongest as erotica novels when that smut that is a part of
the genre matches with like the actual emotional weight of the
characters internal questions. There is however a very delicate balance to that
kind of writing, and I’ll get into that a little bit later because when her books
tipped too much to one side at the expense of the other, that’s when I find
them weaker overall. But before we get into that, let’s start with what I like
about the Thornchapel series in particular. Sierra Simone really knows how
to set a mood. The whole Thornchapell setting has this dark mysterious English
manor thing going on that just works. I mean, not just like dark English manor,
I mean like dark mysterious English manor…but make it sexy, because I’m gonna
guess that most of them are not actually that sexy, but in the world of this book
it feels like a very sexy manor. And so it just feels like the perfect book for
like reading curled up in a couch with like a bajillion candles around you, like
it’s dark out, but you’ve got candles on, it’s a little bit unsafe, a little
cozy. And the mood of the setting is matched by the complicated relationships
between all of the characters. I’ve been watching Loved Island recently, and
there’s like kind of a Love Island vibe to this book. If you’re not familiar with
Love Island, it is this very delightful trashy reality TV show about a bunch of
strangers with a broad range of accents coupling up on an island paradise, and
sometimes even just like fucking each other in the same room while everyone
else is just like also chilling in that room. And like this book feels like that
because that is a thing, because all of these friends are just like coupling up
with each other and sometimes even yeah, fucking each other while other people
are just casually having a conversation. First off, like someone should make the
reality TV version of this. Like instead of Love Island, it’s like Love Pagan Manor or something. But also, it’s just that there’s this really seedy
underbelly to this story that it fully indulges in. This book has BDSM,
exhibitionism, voyeurism, pretty much like every permutation of these friends
boning each other…so if you like your smut not just like smutty, but full-on
dirtym then this is…this is that book. But moreover there’s just so much tension in
this book, like you can feel like that that feeling of waiting for
something to just snap because when Simone decides to go in on a character’s
doubts about it themselves, she really goes in. And so you’re just like really
drawn in to how each character’s internal doubts and struggles or
whatever about themselves plays out, not just for them, but like against everybody
else’s. Like how all of those crises are kind of like bumping up into each other,
both like emotionally, but like because this is erotica, physically. This is this
is my way of showing boning when like… it’s there’s…there’s every kind of
boning, like I don’t know why this makes sense in my head. Also I want to
reiterate something that I said in my Petty Grievances video, I love the cover
for A Lesson In Thorns. I think it’s one of the most striking covers I’ve seen
recently, whoever designed it, like kudos to you because I just really love this
cover. Like I feel like I saw it on Instagram a ton, and I just like every
time you see it, like you’re immediately drawn to it. And like yes, it’s partly
because like the way that the shirt goes, you’re just like, wow, boobs, But like I
I think it’s a very well-done version. I think part of the reason why I love his
cover so much is because I think both like, it manages to capture, both
like the smuttiness of the series. like yeah, there’s titties on the cover, very
much in your face. But like you know, in a style that feels also very appropriate
for like a mysterious English manor. In terms of what I found frustrating about
this series, this goes back to kind of those previous issues that I hinted at
with some of Simone’s books that at least for me exist, is that for me her
writing is weakest when she substitutes sex for a character development and for
conversation. And obviously, this is erotica, like there’s a certain extent
where you have to walk into the book kind of expecting a certain level of sexposition. But it’s tough because I feel like her books sometimes are so good at
that balance between sex and like actually developing the character beyond
just being about sex. And in particular when you’re developing
relationships between characters, there are times in your life where you have to
use words and not just use your genitalia to communicate. And this has
come up for me in previous books of hers in particular, I remember it was
really frustrating for me in the sequel to Priest where there are conflicts
between the characters that are based on them like not telling each other very
important things, and it’s the kind of thing where like sure this is an erotica series, like I know that the sex is a big part of it, and I’m cool with that.
Like I love reading smut. But in terms of like building an actual relationship
between characters, there has to be something more than sex, and if your
conflict is going to be based on a lack of communication, like that is a
core tenant of a relationship. And if the reason they’re not having this
communication is because they’re too busy fucking their way through their
angst, then like I’m not convinced that there’s a solid relationship. In these
books, it’s not quite the same thing in terms of like building a solid basis of
a relationship because I don’t think these characters are necessarily at that
point yet…maybe they are, maybe I’m supposed to buy a deep abiding love
between them. But there is an element of the smut coming at the expense of other
aspects of the book. For me, it’s probably most obvious in the characterization of
Poe, in part because of the frequency of her point of view.
She’s the main point of view character in the first book, and her point of view
is frequently used in the second book. And I loved Poe most when the book
focused on her competence as a librarian, but when it comes to the erotica of the
story, Poe doesn’t just get horny, she becomes like insipid. It didn’t really
bother me too much until the end of the first book where her transformation from
like horny competent librarian to like mewling sex kitten became complete
and very obvious. But it was incredibly frustrating in the second book because
like this is the point at which she becomes the least interesting character
in this series, like the main tension is between Saint and Auden, and so I was
fully drawn into wanting to learn more about the conflict between them, and then
her point of view would come in, and I was like, I can’t deal with her anymore. And
beyond the way that I found that writing frustrating in terms of how it took away
from the characters, I also found it frustrating in terms of what it took
away from the plot. With Sierra Simone’s previous book Priest, at least for the
first book, that’s mostly a book about two characters falling in love, so like
the sexposition for me was like not really that much of a problem.
I understand its role in the plot a lot more, I feel like it gels more with how
the story is actually building up and, you know, I understand the parameters of
what I’m dealing with when I’m not only just reading like romance, but reading
erotica. But the Thornchapel series is a series that clearly wants to have a plot.
There is mystery, there is intrigue, and while I really like the way that those
things are integrated into the setting, I don’t find any of the plot particularly
mysterious or intriguing. Poe’s mother disappeared under mysterious
circumstances, everyone’s parents have clearly been up to something also
clearly something smutty, but like it’s weird because now we’re talking about
everyone’s parents having sex, and that’s just like always awkward, and that kind
of also kills some of the vibe in this book. But beyond that, I just like I don’t
get what the stakes are. I don’t even get, two books in, what answers we’re
really trying to get to. Instead both the first and second book end in
cliffhangers designed to keep you interested as a reader, but personally I
hate books that have to do that. I think that’s usually a sign that the actual
core of the story is not being paced out correctly. I’ll tolerate a cliffhanger
if there’s something else in the book that I’m like really able to hold on to,
that I really like, but in cases like this, I find them very frustrating. I will
probably end up finishing the Thornchapel series. I’m probably gonna wait
for all of the books to be out so I don’t have to deal with the frustration
of cliffhangers and can just finish the series. I think it’s gonna be sort of
like a, “well, I might as well” kind of situation, where I can just
finish it and see like how the series ends. I’m still intrigued enough with
some of the characters, some of these side characters who I think are more
compelling than some of the primary plot of the stories, and also I know that Sierra Simone writes some good smut, so I will read it in some ways just for the
smut. It’s not gonna be a hate read, it’s more gonna be like a frustrated read
because I feel like there’s so much potential in this series, so I’ll only
really want to get back into it when I know that there’s an ending involved.

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  1. Her Priest Series (book 2, especially) gave me life and many more things!!! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿฟ.

  2. Iโ€™m a total Sierra Simone stan. Fated Mates recently discussed Priest and I think itโ€™s true, youโ€™re either going to love her or hate her

  3. I read the first book after seeing you talk about it before… But I always shy away when it comes to reviewing erotica! Well, not always, but I tend to do it on the blog instead of on video, LOL. But I do have a lot of thoughts about this book, maybe I should make the effort.
    Totally agree about the parents stuff killing the vibe. Come on.

  4. Your spot on, especially when it comes to substituting character development and dialogue with sex. This is a weakness in her writing. But for erotica, her books are better than most.

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