Goodreads: Princess of Thorns
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm’s fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.
Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora’s throne ten years ago.
Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it’s too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?
Princess of Thorns is an adventure-filled take on the life of Sleeping Beauty’s daughter after everything she has known is stolen from her—her home, her family, and her kingdom. The book takes readers on a wild journey across Aurora’s realm and introduces them to both magic and romance. However, the book also bravely takes a look at the darkness hidden in magic and fairy tales—and also inside of us.
As a teen fantasy novel, Princess of Thorns is wonderfully satisfying. If I had encountered it during my middle school years, it undoubtedly would have found a place among my most-loved books, probably right next to Tamora Pierce’s work, as both feature strong female protagonists, exciting quests, and hot romances. As an adult, I appreciate the strong pacing, writing, and character development.
The world-building is also well-planned, though it does take a little bit of time and patience to figure out how the world and its magic work. The scene is set somewhat ambiguously, but after all the background bits are done—the explanation of how Aurora got to where she is as a teen—the mechanisms of the world are fairly straightforward. And there are no info dumps. Jay gracefully weaves information about the kingdom and its various magical inhabitants into dialogue and thought.
Jay also successfully takes some fantasy stereotypes and turns them subtly, but strikingly, on their heads. Readers get a lot of familiar fare—a girl disguised as a boy, an overly macho love interest, a girl cursed to never fall in love—but none of these things either start or end exactly as one would expect. Readers may think they have general idea of where the whole plot, and various plot elements, are going, but the book always stops short of being predictable and throws in some twist and turns.
My one major disappointment: how Aurora breaks her curse. At the time of reading, I was pretty appalled. Aurora seems to make all the wrong choices in order to get what she wants. After further reflection, however, I understand that that is sort of the point. Magic is dark in this book and tends to work in unexpected ways, ways that no one has to comprehend or like. Aurora also reworks this moment as a learning opportunity and understands, if she had wanted, she could have done things differently. She gets what she wants—but the event is hardly unblemished.
Princess of Thorns is a beautifully strong fantasy novel, full of all things that fans of the genre love: complex characters, a richly developed setting, and a well-imagined set of magical rules and values. It has action, adventure, and romance—and just enough philosophical musing to get readers thinking about love, morality, and friendship. Highly recommended for fans of Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley, or Gail Carson Levine.