… and why I am now addicted to Threshold

a book review of Threshold by Sara Douglass

My poor, hapless friends have repeatedly had this book thrust under their noses, followed by angry demands that they find this book and read it. This book renewed by affection for the fantasy genre, and for that I am ever grateful. Sara Douglass, you have now been elevated to one of my favourite authors. Congratulations. I absolutely adored this book.

Threshold is a great stone Pyramid erected by the Magi – an order of sorcerers in Ashdod which seek a union with the One, and believe Threshold will act as a bridge to Infinity. As they near the end of its construction, the Magi purchase Tirzah and her father, two glassworkers sold into slavery to pay off debts. Tirzah has a remarkable ability to cage the glass for one so young, a gift that is quickly noticed by the most severe Magi – the Emperor’s nephew, Boaz.

Upon her arrival, Tirzah realises that there is something seriously wrong about Threshold. She can hear the glass scream. But how can she convince the Magi, especially Boaz, that there is something evil waiting in Threshold, and Boaz is the only one who can stop him.

This was not a book I could put down easily. I found Tirzah to be a strong and curious soul, with a kind heart forged from a youth of communing with the Soulenai through the glass. She is intelligent, yet often naive – a mark of a peasant without any education. She is incredibly practical, and effectively aids in pushing the plot forward without being directly central. As the novel progresses, you begin to really see her youth and uncertainty – Isphet and Zabrze in particular begin to play a greater part in her decisions as she walks a dangerous and serious path. Some have critiqued this ‘destruction’ of a strong character, however I felt the shift to be far more purposeful, and gave Tirzah a lot of depth. Perfect characters annoy me – you can only really relate to one with flaws.

However, it was Boaz who I found the most remarkable. His initial development from the severe Magi into the kinder cantomancer is brilliantly subtle, and then dramatically fast at the end when the capping of Threshold forces Boaz to chose between the two very distinctive sides of himself. The relationship between Boaz and Tirzah is a little dark, and sometimes sent a cold shiver down my spine. From Tirzah’s point of view, it is very much developed through Stockholm Syndrome. Boaz may become a great man at the end, but in the earliest stages of his relationship with Tirzah, he is cruel and manipulative, and a character that could almost make Christian Grey blush. However, this did not detract from the story itself. Threshold is at times a very dark novel, full of the touch of destiny and a power beyond any of the character’s control. This relationship mirrored the general arch effectively, and made Tirzah seem more vulnerable and human that she otherwise may have been.

Despite the strength of the characters in this novel, it was the storyline which drew me in. The sorcery of the Magi contrasted with the magic of the Soulenai, the awful demon Nzame, the sense of helplessness as his influence powered across the city, the sense of foreboding as you waited in Threshold. Everything combined into a heart-pounding ride, full of suspense and intrigue. Physically, it is a light read, emotionally it may feel much harder. Whether you love fantasy, or just want a break from reading Game of Thrones, this is something I would suggest for everyone.

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