Publication Date: May 15, 2012
Based on the fairy tale, “The Goose Girl” by the Brothers Grimm, Thorn tells the story of Princess Alyrra, a royal who is grown up in a very duplicitous and violent environment. While on her way to meet the prince she will marry, Alyrra is the victim of a magic attack and her identity is switched with that of another woman. Becoming someone new is the freedom that Alyrra has always wanted and never had. When Alyrra realizes that things aren’t what they seemed will she summon the strength to save them all?
The author, Intisar Khanani, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
Before reading this novel, I had never heard the Goose Girl fairy tale. For those, like me, who hadn’t heard the story it’s as outlined above, a princess on her way to meet a prince switches identities with another woman. The switched identity makes for an interesting story.
Princesses in fairy tales always have it rough. If we’ve learned nothing else from the truly awesome show “Grimm”, we learn that the characters are going to go through some truly rough stuff before things get better. In Thorn Alyrra, once her identity is switched with that of her escort, is happier than she’s been in a long time. She’s poor, working hard and making friends. For Alyrra the poverty spells bliss and an escape. She was hated and abused at the castle and only accepted begrudgingly in the brief moment when her existence would serve a purpose with the marriage to Kestrin, a foreign prince. From what Alyrra is told about the prince, she’s going from the frying pan into a very similar frying pan.
Readers will perceive Alyrra as a sad victim at the start of the novel, but as we get to know her we realize she has a wealth of inner strength. Khanani writes a character that stands as an example of doing the right thing when the right thing isn’t easy. Khanani also shows her skill in writing Kestrin. The prince is an interesting character in his motivations. Can Alyrra trust him? Will he be able to persevere to his goal? The love story between Alyrra and Kestrin (which may be perceived by some as a spoiler, but is in the books description) is very organic and slow in coming. I disliked when young adult novels present relationships to children as something that is so easy to fall into and life or death and all big emotion and loud noises. Love is sometimes natural and the best lovers are those people who are already friends.
The relationship between Alyrra and her escort Valka, is somewhat muddled when presented. When Khanani does eventually explain things, it seems to me that the narrative would have lost nothing with an upfront understanding with the audience as to what was taking place. Older readers may find some of the loose ends left untied troublesome, but I believe young adults who like the fantasy genre will eat this one up. Younger readers will love the talking horse.
I would recommend Thorn for middle grade to older teens.