Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Thron was included in one of the recent Book Box Club boxes. However, I had it on preorder and didn’t catch that it was the same book, so I got duplicates and gifted a copy to a friend.
Obviously means I was eager to read it, right?
From the start, there is a fairy tale undertone to the story (I know it is based on the story of the goose girl, but some books that are based on fairy tales do not read like one) and it sets the tone for the rest of the book in a wonderful way.
We meet Alyrra as she is preparing to meet her future husband’s family. She is in general a resigned unhappy princess that would rather have a different life. However, she doesn’t want an adventure as one would expect. What she wants is just peace, to be able to be insignificant in a way. And she wants to not have her cruel family over her. As much as she is unsure about the alliance through marriage and who the prince is, she sees this as a way out of her family and country to somewhere that may be better.
What she doesn’t expect is to end up as the lady in company of the princess rather than the actual princess, which puts her into the position of a goose girl as ajob. Which she finds delightful. It is hard work, but it is work and she is gettign exactly what she wants. Plus there’s a wonderful talking horse, Falada, that she has for ocmpany.
The story follows the bones of the goose girl fairy tale but adds to many beautiful layers on top. One of my favourite lines is the concept of family and unity, of found family rather than the given one (which really spoke to me). Another one is the concept of justice and what that may mean. Can justice be truly fair? What does that mean and how is it decided? There is also the way Alyrra starts to figure out who she is outside of the obligations of being a “princess”. And it is interesting to see how she views herself as something but in truth she is ahead of how she sees herself. She calls herself a coward often, but has a lot of courage, and it takes her time to understand that and to see what she is doing as courageous.
I think those layers and the many characters that are very defined in the story, like Sage, Violet, Ash, Oak and Joa make it even better as a fairy tale on it’s own. Vety enjoyable, feels old and as if it has existed for so long and yet it is fresh and has a lot of questions. Probably the best way to describe Thorn is to say that this is what a fairytale ought to be in 2020. Something to become a classic read over and over and seen as a comfortable uncomfortable story with magic woven through it.
Highly recommend reading it and giving it a chance.