- Title: Thorn
- Author: Intisar Khanani
- Genre: Fantasy
- Format: Kindle
- Source: Own
- Reviewed by: Olga
- Rating: 4 out of 5
Description: 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, sometimes the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.
Review: A retelling of a German fairy tale The Goose Girl.
This novel is one of the few that have left me divided. On one hand, it’s too intense, too emotionally grueling for my taste. I wanted the heroine, Princess Alyrra (aka Thorn), to have a respite, to have something working for her, but the author wouldn’t oblige. So in my head, I argued with her. I told her that she was wrong to subject Thorn to so many indignities. I told her that the test she devised for her hero, Prince Kestrin, was unfair and unnecessary cruel. I told her that Thorn behaved foolishly. She could’ve found an easier way to deal with her problems. I told her that Alyrra’s friend, Horse Falada, is an inadequate teacher. He knows stuff but he talks in riddles and never explains anything as a teacher should.
Unable to persuade the author and the book to take a gentler road, I did it myself. In my few short breaks from reading, I imagined alternative adventures for the heroes. I gave them additional options and widened their choices. I came to love and respect the heroes too much to trap them into tight corners, as the author has done. So I pleaded with the writer to be kinder, and I raved, and I cried, but I couldn’t stop reading. The novel wouldn’t let me. I felt compelled to finish it even though I can’t say that I enjoyed it. But I can say that I will remember it.
Subjectively, I don’t like so much suffering for the heroes. I like a lighter read. Objectively, I know that this was one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in some time. And I know that this writer is a master of her craft.
Besides my feeble squeaks fueled by compassion for the heroes, I have one serious editorial comment. There are two mysteries in the story that are revealed towards the end. They include the story of Valka’s hatred towards Alyrra and the story of the Lady’s hatred towards Kestrin. Both should’ve been explained in the beginning of the novel. The hatred of those two antagonists drives the plot, but for three quarters of the book, it doesn’t make sense, and the reader wonders where it comes from. What could humble, inoffensive Alyrra have done to deserve it?
Besides that one objection, there are only a few typos to distract the reader from this rich, soulful story. It’s powerful and cathartic; and the cover is gorgeous. I recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.