Thorn, Intisar Khanani – Book Review

Hello Humans! I am thrilled to have a retelling that I loved on deck for review today. I’ve read a fair few middling retellings of late and the chance to say ‘no read this one’ is always nice!

I’m aware that Thorn has been out for a while but I had a digital review copy to read in time for the paperback release in late March so if you’ve already seen this out on the shelves that’s why!

Goodreads Summary:

A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

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Content warning of rape and sexual assault for the book (not mentioned heavily in this review.)

I will confess to not having the most amazing knowledge of The Goose Girl before reading this – despite being a fairytale fanatic – but I did do my due diligence and look up the plot because I think it’s part of the joy of a retelling to see what makes it in from the original and what ends up changing. I was pleasantly surprised by how this book really kept up the ‘Grim’ nature of this story (both with a capital and lower case G). I find often with YA fantasy retellings authors can shy away from the more horrible nature of some of the stories, particularly where morals and judgement are concerned. While some things do change I was pleased to see that this book didn’t pull it’s punches where some of those elements were concerned.

I liked Alyrra as a character more than I thought I was going to. Often fairytale retellings can feel a bit like the story of something that happens to the main character, but in this case you really get a sense of Alyrra’s choices within the story and why she makes them. Of course there are elements of plot that are totally out of her hands but the way that she opts to deal with them shows a real strength of character that I haven’t seen often in similar protagonists. Alyrra feels like the kind of character you would want to get to know – and not in a ‘oh honey let me help you out’ kind of way.

This story is, in some ways, very difficult to tell to a modern audience. How do you reconcile not wanting to just pit women against one another because that’s easy to do while also staying true to the conflict in the story. I again thought that this was dealt with really carefully and positively. Again I think that’s down to characters’ actions feeling like they have a meaning behind them rather than ‘she’s a mean character because she is mean’ which is something I feel like I used to read a lot in YA (maybe more so when I was reading contemporary).

Top all that off with a very engaging plot and a story that just felt satisfying and, for me, you have a wonderful read. I will say that this book delves into the risks of existing in the world as a woman more than I was perhaps anticipating, but it at no point felt gratuitous and I think it’s clear why it is included in the story. If you’re going into the story expecting those aspects I don’t think you’d have a problem.

This book is absolutely going on my list of recommended retellings (which I will film soon I promise), put simply I had a wonderful time – I must get an order in for the sequel.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.

Thorn is available now

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