There’s been a certain amount of debate in publishing circles as to whether e-publishing means the death of the “traditional” novel. One of my most recent reads, however, is a book which bucks the trend towards e-formatting and pretty much cries out to be read in hard cover – Theodora Goss's The Thorn and the Blossom. This self-described “two-sided love story” utilises an accordion-fold binding (without a spine) as its unique selling point.
Essentially, Goss tells the same love story from the perspective of both lovers, with the reader capable of choosing which version of events they will read first, Evelyn’s or Brendan’s. Much like the accordion-style interwoven format, the two accounts marry together, each supporting the other, with moments of overlap throughout the narrative.
As a prior recipient of the World Fantasy Award and someone whose previous work has included adaptations upon fairy tales (A Rose in Twelve Petals and Sleeping With Bears), it is no surprise the novella utilises the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as its starting point. Goss adapts this subtly, to cultivate the “Tale of the Green Knight”, this being the title of a medieval romance which Brendan hands to Evelyn when they meet. Thus, Arthurian legend mixes with Celtic mythology and the magical realism which forms the basis of much of Goss’s work. Soon enough, this causes both characters to question whether or not they might be the cursed lovers who are the subject of the tale itself…
The novella is brief, at approximately 40 pages for each version, but reads well as two self-contained stories and as a cohesive whole. Whilst some aspects of the lovers’ tale are left unanswered, this does not detract from the tale, serving to add poignancy to its spare story arc. Too, there are nice touches in the artistry of the cover and inside the work itself, with the colour scheme of green and gold mirroring those referred to via the “Green Knight”. You can also discover a small thumbnail image of the Green Knight on peeling back the removable sticker on the outer case containing the book itself, should you so wish.
Clearly, a lot of thought has been given to ensuring the narrative supports its format and should ensure Quirk Books’ latest offering reaches its intended audience. Whilst it is also possible to purchase an e-format, it would be a pity to waste the opportunity to experience the physical version, for this reader at least.