GENRES/ SUBJECTS: RETELLING, FAIRYTALE, YA
Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family’s cruelty and the court’s contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.
But powerful men have powerful enemies–and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman’s, giving Alyrra the first choice she’s ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she’s never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.
The cover! The cover! The cover! …Ahem.
Thorn is a retelling of the Grimm fairytale, The Goose Girl. I think the most well-known retelling of this story in Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, but I haven’t read that (it’s on my list though) or the original, so I came to this with no ideas about the plot etc. I don’t think this hurt me at all as the story made complete sense to me as a standalone piece.
I thought Alyrra was such an interesting and unique character, a princess who’s honest no matter the consequences, forced into a whole life where she has to lie to everyone about who she really is. It’s also the only story that I can think of where, being robbed of their crown, birthright etc., the protagonist makes no attempt to win it back and is happy to settle down into a ‘real’ job with no glory and hard labour. Alyrra is a likeable character, who makes plenty of mistakes and choices which she regrets. But the key is that they’re not silly-annoying-MC choices which make you scream, and she learns from them, growing as the novel goes on.
The writing manages to be at once simple and beautifully descriptive. The plot moves along steadily, focusing on the everyday things that are important to Alyrra (now Thorn, the goose girl) rather than veering off into the wider world. Although justice in the city, the politics of the nobility and an intriguing sort of thieves guild are touched upon, they’re never allowed to steal the attention from Alyrra and how they relate to her problems. Prince Kestrin, who I suppose is technically the love interest, appears very little for the majority of the novel and Alyrra never lets her guard down around him, keeping her wits about her and questioning his motives. Even at the end, there are no sweeping YA-typical declarations of undying love. They come to an understanding of each other and there’s an obvious affection there, but the author is restrained, hinting at a future together rather than rushing their relationship for conclusion’s sake.
I loved this story, as a retelling and on it’s own, and I’ll be on the look out for the author’s other works.