Thorn – Intisar Khanani
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling
For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed.
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.
I have not long finished this book and I think I may need to claim another favourite book of the year so far, less than a week after claiming my last favourite book. This book came out of nowhere, an impulse buy from Amazon after it featured on a daily newsletter I receive on Kindle bargains. I did not think much from the description beyond the fact that it was an adaptation of The Goose Girl, one Grimm’s fairy tales, so it would fit perfectly within my fairytale retelling challenge which I was falling behind on. I thought it might be an enjoyable read, but I honestly had no expectations going in and I am so glad I went in blind on this.
Thorn is the tale about a princess who does not feel she fits that royal position. She has spent her life bullied by her brother, looked down upon by her mother and faced general disdain by the people who make up the court. She has never felt accepted by her family, instead living her life distanced from her family roaming their lands and spending time with the servants within her home where she felt more accepted. She has spent her life believing she is of little importance, even expecting to be passed over for the throne if anything were to ever happen to her brother. It is a shock when a king from a much larger neighbouring kingdom comes to visit and proposes she marry he son, she understands it is her duty to accept but expects no care and only further violence at their hands should she reach their kingdom.
It is quite a sad tale to begin with as you can tell Alyrra is a very caring person who has not had the same kindness directed back to her. People of her own rank in the kingdom are cruel to her, they look down upon her and she has learnt to distrust those around her as she expects them to look at with her contempt and she believes those who are the same rank as her to be just as cruel as her brother and those in court have shown themselves to be. The offer to marry a foreign prince is not the beacon of hope that it could be as she has no reason to believe she will face anything better. It is only made worse by the fact she speaks very little of their language and will be leaving with no allies into a land where she believes they already possess powerful enemies whom she could be targeted by.
Alyrra finds herself drawn into the troubles that face the neighbouring kingdom with their enemies becoming her enemies and she is betrayed by someone who travels with her. She is forced into the body of another whilst they claim her place as princess and the future queen. She faces a difficult choice once she changes, to begin a new life afresh, no longer trapped by the decisions of others and caught in court intrigue, or to return to the world she dislikes to help the prince she has never met and is not even sure she can trust.
It is truly an amazing journey, and Alyrra’s choices are not always great, she faces a lot of struggles as she is forced to work as a servant whilst not speaking the native language. You see she is a good a person, so kind-hearted and so hardworking. That is not to say she is always good and right and a beacon of all that is right in the world. She is often afraid and her unwillingness to act can often be frustrating. Also, her continual refusal to trust people when they time and again try and prove to her they can is annoying, but I understand why she doesn’t. SHe has never had much reason to trust others, and those who are trying to gain her trust now don’t always go about gaining it in the best way.
It was only after I finished reading the book and began writing this review that I discovered that Intisar Khanani is a self-published author and Thorn was her first story which she published. That surprises me because it is such a well written book, and such a well thought out story that I did not expect it to be self published. I find that even more impressive, I think, because you can further appreciate the work she had to put in to get this book published to the standard to which it is at, without the same assistance a publishing house can offer.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy and is looking for a fairy tale retelling which is a bit different to what you expect. It is such a great story, and I think I enjoyed it more because I am not too familiar with the majority of Grimm’s fairy tales, so didn’t know the story of the goose girl before I began reading.
Has anyone else read this book, if so did you enjoy it? Do you have any books you’ve read which completely surprised you, tell me about them.