Thorn by by Intisar Khanani, #24 review

Publication date: 24 March 2020

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Thorn is set in a fantasy world that is similar in theme with YA fantasy books in recent years. We have the fancy, sometimes hard to pronounce names and countries with their systems. Alyrra is the Princess of a poor nation, her family has her in their lowest regards. They think her too stupid for court like because she enjoys spending her time with the servants and helping them out with their chores. I find such a Princess refreshing as we often see stuck-up Princesses or Princesses who care but don’t physically put themselves in the eyes of servants. Because of Alyrra’s empathy towards the less fortunate, the staff is loyal to her and they treat her with kindness when her brother secretly abuses her. This is a retelling of “The Goose Girl”, by the way.

One thing that caught my eye in “Thorn” is the constant theme of abuse throughout the book. Despite being sold to a neighboring country to be their Prince’s bride, looked down upon by her family, abused by her brother and betrayed by a Lady in court, Alyrra is a true Princess that maintains her level of grace and empathy towards all she meets. She treats everyone with equal respect. Now, she is not a dumb little Princess. She is very smart, her smartness comes from her the compassion she impacts on others. In a new country with a new culture and language, she slowly learns to pick up the local tongue and learns about their culture through her work as the goose girl. Because she grew close to the servants, they look out for each other and protect each other against foes despite their indifference. Even when they found out that she was the actual Princess Alyrra and not Thorn (the nickname she gave herself when she first met them), the continued to love her as a friend.

“This is how you survive: one breath to the next, refusing each thought as it comes to you. This is how you get through the worst of things.”

This book is a tad too long for me. In the middle it drags. I felt that some chapters could have been skipped because they were descriptions of her daily work as the goose girl and there wasn’t any significant progress. Going into this book, I had zero expectations as I often approach retellings. The synopsis intrigued me and the cover is pretty dope. This is my second The Goose Girl retelling. I can’t help but compare this retelling with the other one I read. It is called “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale. That book’s plot was exciting and fresh. You have the simple storyline from the original fairytale but with more Oomph. Shannon Hale shaped that retelling to be a story that continued into a trilogy filled with characters of elemental magic powers. In Thorn, it is a different flavour, you get a simple easy to read retelling. For me, I prefer retellings that aren’t retellings at all but rather stories that you fabricate on your own. It’s like a designer taking an old garment and they completely redesigned it into something new that you can’t differentiate from the original pieces.

Thorn is a fairytale that many young reads will enjoy reading the High Fantasy version of the classic retelling. This book highlights friendship in strange places and abuse, also feminism and the cleverness of treating everyone as your equal. Kindness can get you further than ruthless power.

Thank you @definitely.books for sending me an Advance Reader’s Copy, Thorn will be out in 24th March 2020 in all good bookstores. #pansing

By elysianbooksish

The Bookish Faerie who loves to read and write, and bake too

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