Thorn

I adore fairy-tale retelling and this lush fantasy offered me exactly that. It was complete catnip for me, tackling the complex issues of justice and revenge.

Luckily for me, the lovely Tina Mories and Hot Key Books sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review, so thank you so much to them.

Synopsis:

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TW: rape, death of an animal, mental abuse, physical abuse, attempted sexual assault, murder, violence 

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.

My Thoughts:

I really, really liked Alyrra as a protagonist. She was strong and capable, but also had real moments of doubt and utter emotional turmoil that allowed me to connect with her. I wanted so badly for the world to be reshaped by her passion and drive for justice. Her journey of mastering her own inner strength and sticking to her beliefs despite the costs was such a refreshing change from the usual ‘chosen one’ fantasy trope. Here is a well-rounded, flawed female character that would be a worthy role model.

Also I enjoyed how Khanani fleshed out the magic system and general world-building in a way that suspended my disbelief perfectly. I would often find myself nodding along, as everything just made sense. Magic is an integral part of life in this world and is seamlessly normalised, allowing me to be swept up in Alyrra’s story. Khanani also showed her writing skills through a throughly well-constructed plot, with some enjoyable twists and turns. She avoids the cliches of fairytales rather well, with a resolute ending.

One key theme of Thorn is that of violence against women and the culture that allows this to happen unchallenged. There’s a few trigger warnings about this, which I’ve outlined above but I think Khanani deals with this topic sensitively and with obvious care. We see Alyrra’s coping mechanisms and the full psychological effects of trauma play out throughout the course of the story, which I thought was so powerful and important to see. There is no one way to deal with trauma. The intersections with class are also interrogated, showing the true horror of these patriarchal systems interacting with those of capitalism. Privilege is also dealt with, challenging how those with it often are ignorant of the suffering of those without it, either deliberating or through a lack of awareness.

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