Goss' 'Thorn and Blossom' a two-sided Arthurian love story

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 15, 2012 

ENTER BOOK-THORN-REVIEW 1 MCT

"The Thorn and the Blossom" is a modern fairytale by Theodora Goss (Quirk Books, $16.95). (Courtesy Quirk Books/MCT)

HANDOUT — MCT

Double the love story, double the fun for fantasy readers.

“The Thorn and the Blossom” is an accordion-bound two-sided romance. Readers have a choice of whether to first read Evelyn Morgan’s story or Brendan Thorn’s story.

It could be written off as a gimmicky young adult fantasy with lovers lost in time except that the author, Theodora Goss, raises it a higher level with her eerie writing.

It’s a contemporary story of boy (Brendon) meets girl (Evelyn) as she visits Cornwall. She runs away after their first kiss. They meet again years later but obstacles stand in the way of a happy ending — her second sight and his comatose dying wife.

Their story is interwoven with a Goss-created fictional legend concerning the Arthurian knight, Sir Gawan; his love, Elowen, and a curse thrown by a witch that parts the couple for ten generations.

As the dying Elowen says:

“Have patience, love, and we shall meet again

As surely as wild roses have their thorns

For weary years eventually pass.

The modern character of Evelyn comments dryly, “Who wants to wait around for that long for a boyfriend?”

Goss wrote both stories as a diversion as she was finishing her 400-page dissertation on “The Monster in the Mirror: Late Victorian Gothic and Anthropology.” She saw writing both sides of “The Thorn” as a challenge. “It can’t just be stories from just her perspective. You actually have to read both of them to get the whole story, to understand what’s going on,” she says.

She comments that there has been a trend in the last 10 years of fantasy growing out its genre roots towards more literary fantasy. “I think when I was growing up fantasy wasn’t given credit and now it’s being given a lot more credit for sophistication. (“The Thorn”) is a literary fantasy.”

Brendon hopes Evelyn will get back in touch with him. “They would not live happily ever after, because no one did that. But they would be together, and that was enough.”

At the end, Evelyn goes back to the cliff where the legend of the lost lovers was set and muses, “The ninth life would end sadly, with grief and loss. But the tenth life — perhaps that life would end well. Perhaps Elowen would find Gawan again. Sappy, yes. But then, real life was sometime sappy.”

Will they end up together? All the young romantics out there will want to know.

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“The Thorn and the Blossom” by Theodora Goss; Quirk Books, Pennsylvania (82 pages, $16.95)

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