I snagged a copy of Thorn by Intisar Khanani at YallFEST 2019. My friend Grace and I both grabbed a copy and have been buddy reading this book the past couple of days. Reading the premise on the back, I thought it was interesting, but put off reading it and I need to add it to the list of books I regret putting off for so long! This book is so good in my opinion and I need to scream it into the world!
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
So when I picked up this books I didn’t realize it was a retelling of The Goose Girl, which is a story I am not familiar with. You don’t need to know the original fairytale to understand the plot, but part of me wishes I had read it before starting this book, just to know the original tale and know what has changed.
There were some things I was a little pressed with when reading: 1) There is a lot of filler. Not unnecessary filler, but there are several moments in the book where a scene could have been shortened or cut and it would still make sense. 2) I thought the ending was written in a muted way. If that makes sense. Instead of feeling like a relief from the action, it feels like a sort of continuation of the action of the plot, but slightly less alarming. This could be because it will be continued, or it wants to leave off on an uphill kind of feeling. Not sure, but it was new and different, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.
Besides the filler moments, which some may find unnecessary or annoying, the book is beautifully written. Though the filler is there, it does give us some intimate moments with Thorn and other people who will eventually become her friends. We get a context to their friendship and loyalty, which we wouldn’t get if those scenes were cut. I find myself wanting more interaction between Thorn and Valka though – especially since their lives have been switched. Or even more moments where Thorn sees Valka performing as the princess. We get several scenes as Thorn the Goose Girl, or Thorn the Horse Girl, or even Thorn the Peasant and not enough of Thorn the Princess.
Overall, I love the plot, I love the slow build up to Thorn’s relationships with everyone. It doesn’t feel spontaneous or rushed. Thorn’s personality doesn’t change in a dramatic way which I find is a problem in these personality switch books. She’s also a very genuine, sweet person and I’m loving these kinds of characters! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the hardened, badass characters who doesn’t need anyone, but getting a kind, caring main character is a nice change of pace. I also appreciate the idea of a princess who hates being a princess, but hates it for the fake formalities and not because she’s selfish. Thorn as a character proves she wants a real, genuine life with real, genuine people – which is why when she is switched with Valka, she’s happy to hand over the lifestyle. But then she also reflects that she would like to keep her duties to help people, she just wants to do it in a less grandiose fashion.
Can you tell I really love this book?
After finishing the book, I’m still not sure what to rate this book. I liked the ending, though it was a little slow. I thought that everyone got what they deserved and justice, which is often mentioned in the book, was fairly given. Part of me wants to rate this at 5 stars, but there are those slow moments in the books I’m not sure I can let slide. My heart wants to go with 4.5 // 5 stars – it was almost a perfect story.
I think there are several moments when I wish it was sped up. Intisar likes to explain things well, which can slow down the plot. I appreciate the explanation, but the inconsistency with pacing is ultimately what is bringing down my score a little bit.
I’m going to have to go with a .5 //5 stars for this book. It was almost perfect. This book has been published and is available for purchase if you’re interested in reading this well written, exciting new take on The Goose Girl.
If you this book sounds interesting, check out The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh.
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