Zacharias O'Bryan has taken some big themes - nature, humanity, multiverse cosmology, ethics, fate, family and more - and deftly weaved them into a charmingly engaging miniature oddessy.
There is always a danger that novels tackling such themes can end up boring the reader with humourless piety, but Spirit Thorn does not suffer this fate. Far from it - even at its most serious moments, the twinkle in O'Bryan's eye is never far from view. The mystical and ecological concepts are never forced or preached - the reader doesn't have to be a tree-hugging ecologist to feel for the plight of Molly Greenfingers (whatever she is!) and appreciate the numerous metaphors and allegories regarding humanity's place in nature and the wider cosmos.
The story follows a teenage boy - Braden - on the cusp of adulthood. His parents have been missing for a year. His attempts to find them, and comprehend the research they were conducting into the multiverse and other dimensions, leads him to encounter Kestrelle, a being who looks and sounds like a girl of his own age, but is clearly something else. An elf? Sure, why not - but your concept of elves probably stops far short of encompassing what she and her kin are.
Spirit Thorn pulls the reader down the rabbit hole and gives glimpses of what might lie behind the thin membrane of our reality that is the perceived uni-verse, but wisely does not attempt to provide too many explanations. Like all great works of science fiction and fantasy, there are enough broad strokes to allow the imaginative reader to paint in their own details and ponder their own questions.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)