Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Genre: Fantasy (retelling), YA
Rating: 4/5 stars
I received this book for free via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: 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 want to start by saying that I am not at all familiar with The Goose Girl, the original tale. I can’t tell you how this book compares to it, or how many elements of the true story are kept in here. I’m sorry to disappoint. However, I can tell you what I thought of this story on its own.
As the synopsis states, this book revolves around Alyrra. She is a princess who will never inherit her own throne -for reasons I don’t want to give away. However, she gets betrothed to the prince of a powerful kingdom. While she travels to his kingdom, and court, she gets betrayed by a Lady of her own kingdom, and switches bodies with her. This magic also creates a necklace around Alyrra’s throat, that prevents her from speaking the truth about who she actually is.
I really liked the story line of this book. Like I said, I’m not familiar with the original tale, so it all felt fresh to me. It was interesting to follow Alyrra’s journey. She goes from princess to goose girl! I mean… I’m not a princess, but I wouldn’t be happy to be shoveling goose poop all day. That’s gross. I was never bored during the read, and I read it in a few hours. I started reading it in Starbucks, because I had to wait for my train for about 50 min. Then followed a 40 minute train ride, and a long hot bath at the end of the day. By the time my day was done, I had finished this book.
I was really intrigued by Alyrra’s journey, always wondering what would happen next. That’s why I read it so fast, I think. Like all of Intisar’s books I’ve read so far, the writing is really filled with action and events. It may not be battle scenes, but there is always something happening. The only thing I didn’t like is that it took so long for Alyrra to decide she wanted to do something about the body switch! I know she couldn’t talk, but still. There’s always something you can do!
Oh, I also enjoyed that the romance in this book isn’t shoved to the forefront. It’s more in the background, which is refreshing. (That’s also the case with her Sunbolt Chronicles by the way).
I may not know a huge amount of details about the whole world, but what I did learn was very interesting.
First of all, Alyrra’s kingdom is a very small one, surrounded by woods. So why does the prince of one of the most powerful kingdoms want to marry her? What would he gain? That’s an interesting question I asked myself often while reading.
Secondly, I loved the critical look on the Kestrin’s kingdom. Alyrra doesn’t know much about the kingdom, so she aspires to learn first hand. She walks around in the neighborhood, asks questions and is always curious. I love that. What interested me the most though, was the look at justice. King’s justice vs Thieves’ justice. The first only goes for the rich. It’s so true though, and even in today’s democracies, this still holds to a certain degree.
Then there is the Horse. It’s amazing. I don’t want to say much more because it’s a discovery while reading, but it’s epic. Lastly, the Faerie. I am not usually a fan of books surrounding the Faerie, because often they are portrayed in a ridiculous way. I liked that this book still held an aspect of it, but didn’t overpower the story.
Alyrra. I really loved her -well, most aspects. She’s hard working, honest and holds to her own morals. All aspects I admire in a person. Especially the hard working one, because let’s be real: princesses don’t really have to work. Yet she doesn’t complain, even when shoveling goose poop. I think what intrigued me the most was her background. I think the author did a great job creating a background for her. She was abused, both physically and mentally. Everyone in her own kingdom treats her like a retarded person, and her brother is basically a psychopath about to turn serial killer. Yet you only find out later in the story why everyone treats her as such. When I found out, I was so weirded out. The characteristic everyone hates her for, is one I greatly admire.
Like I said, the only thing I didn’t like about her was that it took her so long to decide to do something. In a way, not doing anything about it is like not standing up for yourself. And I understand that may be hard due to her background, but still.
Kestrin. Okay, he’s an intriguing character too. He’s not the prince charming you often see in novels. He’s a good man at heart, but also schemes to get what he wants. It’s very interesting, because it creates a grey-area-character.
Valka. Again, psycho much?
Overall, I’d recommend this if you enjoy retellings and YA novels. I certainly had a lot of fun reading it. I was intrigued by the world, the characters and the plot -although I wish Alyrra would’ve stood up for herself sooner.