Series: Dauntless Path #1
Published: March 24, 2020
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.
A thoughtful fairy tale retelling with complex characters and world building, Thorn is one of the first books I’ve read in a while that kept me turning the pages and reading late into the night to find out what happens next.
When I think about what really made me enjoy this book, it’s hard to pick out a single thing. Its beauty is that nearly everything works together to create a highly compelling and memorable story, from the protagonist–a kind girl who doesn’t know her own moral strength–to the plot that weaves together magic and mystery and some harsh realities to the beautiful prose. I wanted to know what happened next because I was invested in Thorn as a character but also because the plot was interesting and because the book touches on important questions about duty and social justice. If any of this things had stood alone, the book probably would have been good but not great.
I also love that some things are not entirely as one might expect in the novel, including the romance. I wouldn’t necessarily say this book is “swoonworthy” or that I practically fell in love with the love interest myself, but that’s because he, too, is complex. He makes decisions I (and Thorn) don’t always agree with. But he also seems to be trying his best and to genuinely care. YA gets some (generally good natured) mockery for unrealistic love interests, teen boys who smell like pine and always know the right thing to say. That isn’t the case in Thorn. Sometimes Kestrin says and does completely the wrong thing, and I appreciated that.
I did struggle slightly with Thorn’s motivations for not caring about trying to win back her rightful place as a princess. I can see what the author was trying to convey in terms of Thorn having suffered abuse at the hands of her family and, therefore, having no interest in power and not having the self-esteem to think she would rule well, but “Oh, well, I’d rather be a poor goose girl and let people torture me and not live as a princess and help improve the kingdom” was still, at times, a hard sell for me.
I also thought the plot took a bit of a sudden turn halfway through the book when it went from being “just” a retelling of “The Goose Girl” to having what came close to being an entirely separate plot (but which was actually woven into the story pretty well, in spite of my initial misgivings). I do think there are some loose ends (like, no one is going to address the mass kidnappings? or the weird references to memory loss in relation to them?), but perhaps that is realistic, as well. Thorn does reference the fact there’s a lot to be done in the kingdom, so perhaps I can just accept that “address kidnappers and unexplained magic” is on the list of “things that need to be looked into that the characters just haven’t gotten around to yet.”
Truly, however, Thorn is a gem of a book, and I cannot convey how excited I am to read the forthcoming companion novel and, really, anything else by this author.