Visually, the proof of Threadneedle by Cari Thomas is one of the most stunning advance copies I’ve been sent. The cover looks like embroidery, to match main character Anna’s magic, based on threads and knots. Threadneedle is a story of magic, of forbidden witchcraft. Set in a contemporary London, this world is similar to our own but features a number of covens practicing magic. Anna and her aunt are part of the Binders, a group of witches that bind away magic and only allow elders to practice it in a puritanical fear of it. And seventeen-year-old Anna knows that her magic will soon be bound, having lived with the knowledge that magic drove her father to kill her mother when she was but a babe. But then, family friend Selene returns to London, with her daughter Effie and Attis, a boy their age who joins them at their girls’ school. The newcomers shake up Anna’s life and she begins to wonder whether there might be more to magic and her life and history than her aunt had been letting on.
I loved the first hundred pages or so of Threadneedle. I thought the concept was amazing, and really enjoyed the characters and set up. Stories about witches and self-discovery are my jam, and so this was exactly what I needed. I got stuck in the story and my expectations were high. But what I thought this was going to be was not what it was. After the stakes were set, much of the middle part of the book was used for school squabbles. Threadneedle is a good 550 pages long, and a large part of the middle 250 to 300 pages is fluff that could have used a good trim. Much of what happened in that part didn’t actually do much to drive the narrative or build up the characters further, but rather just seemed to be used as filler to use up story time. Towards the end, the story picked up again, and ended in a way that made me curious to continue on, to see where Anna’s future takes her. Nevertheless, the book as a whole left me disappointed, wanting more. The concept had a lot of potential, and much of it was left unrealized. That doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t have its strengths. I really enjoyed the ways magic worked – how binders used knots, how Rowan’s family used plants and how Effie used rituals among others. The characters were interesting and well-developed, and especially Anna and Effie intrigued me, and the character reveals towards the end of the story make a sequel appealing to read.
All in all, Threadneedle is a story that is far from perfect, but if you are into books about witchcraft and enjoy YA fantasy with a big dash of the CW TV drama this might be a good fit for you.