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Julia Brewer Daily
The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch
Emma Rosales is the heiress of the largest ranch in Texas—The Thorn. All the responsibilities of managing a million acres now fall into her fifth-generation hands. A task Emma could handle with her eyes closed…if The Thorn were any ordinary property. The Thorn is home to many things. Clear, cloudless skies. Miles of desert scrub and craggy mountains. A quiet disrupted only by whispers of the wind. And an ancient web of secrets that won’t let Emma out alive without a fight. The Fifth Daughter of Thorn Ranch is a family saga as large as the state of Texas.
Emma Rosales recognizes the significance of her heritage as the last in a long line of Rosales women to inherit her family’s sprawling Texas Thorn ranch. But, facing some daunting challenges, Emma starts wondering whether she’s cut out for the job, never expecting the change she’s dreaming about is just around the corner: on a routine ranch ride, a series of mishaps leads her to discover “The People,” a group in animal skins and leather boots secreted away from the world in caves and deeply committed to staying that way. When Emma stumbles into their lives, they interpret her arrival as a sign from the ancestors that she was meant to join them.

Daily portrays the stunning Texas landscape with a practiced eye in this compelling debut, evoking her love for her home state in striking language while illuminating a fierce and volatile land that confounds even those most familiar with it. Emma, awed by their caverns “as spectacular as the Grand Canyon,” is fascinated by The People’s natural way of living and fearful of their refusal to let her leave. Despite the strong bonds she forms, especially with Kai, the grandson of The People’s eldest leader, Emma won’t succumb to this fate, though another arrival from the modern world changes everything.

Daily’s narrative jumps between viewpoints and times, but the romantic underpinnings eventually lead Emma, Kai, and her family to the realization that the land they claim to own holds more mystery and power than they could have guessed. At the same time, the characters are forced to acknowledge the enormity of what they didn't know about themselves and their loved ones—and those revelations are not always pleasant. Blending the realistic and the lightly fantastic in a mature and original mix, The Fifth Daughter considers what’s most important and what it means, in the end, to weigh the price of that love.

Takeaway: An unexpected encounter on a Texas ranch forces a young woman and man to reevaluate all they hold dear.

Great for fans of: Charles Stross’s The Family Trade, Glendy Vanderah’s Where the Forest Meets the Stars.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-