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Title: Thorn (#1 Dauntless Path)
Author: Intisar Khanani
Published: 24th of March 2020 – Hot Key Books
Format: Paperback – 460 pages
“We all need our quiet, I think. We all have our unspoken wishes, hopes we cannot mention, choices we may yet regret.” – Thorn
Hello Hello! How are you?
Last week went by so fast and my brain turned to mush at the end of it, but I’m glad that’s over and another week can begin! I had a bit of a weird weekend, not really reading as much as I wanted and reading a book that I am still not sure if I want to continue or DNF, but anyway! How was your weekend?
Today I’m bringing you a review for Thorn by Intisar Khanani. I chose this book for the “retelling” prompt for the Trope-ical Readathon, and I actually ended up buddy reading this book with Candyce from The Book Dutchesses. Wow, we were in for a treat with this book, and our buddy reading choices have been so great, so keep reading for my thoughts on this retelling of the Goose Girl!
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.
Thorn by Intisar Khanani is a YA fantasy retelling of the Goose Girl, and also the first book in the Dauntless Path series. I actually got this book as the “second book” in a Book Box Club box at the start of the year when I decided to test it, and I thought it looked quite good, so when I got the chance to read it for the Trope-ical Readathon, I knew I had to give it a shot.
This book is first set in the kingdom in which Alyrra lives, but for the life of me I cannot remember its name, so please forgive me! Alyrra is chosen as the bride to be of the prince of Menaiya, and she soon sets out for this new place. I quite liked how this book started and because Alyrra goes to Menaiya fairly soon in the book, we don’t really get a feel for her own kingdom, apart from the fact that her brother and mother are very cruel to her. I don’t want to spoil anyone, but both Candyce and I remarked on the fact that there is quite a lot of physical and verbal abuse in this book right from the start and it could be triggering to some people, so please keep that in mind if you are thinking of reading this book.
When Alyrra arrives in Menaiya, she is forced into the role of Goose Girl and has to give up her identity as the princess and the betrothed of Prince Kestrin. I felt really sorry for Alyrra at this point, but she was such a strong female lead that I knew she was going to be okay. I actually found the world-building a bit lacking sadly, I could picture the place and the writing style was beautiful and flowed in a lovely way, but I feel as though my brain was making this world up a little bit at times as we didn’t get as much detail as I would have liked. I do think it’s more of a plot and character-based book instead of having a lot of world-building and political intrigue.
Alyrra: Alyrra is the main character of this book, and although there aren’t that many characters, there don’t really need to be because she is such a strong lead. I immediately really liked this character, she is really mature and even though so much happens to her, she remains strong, kind and caring. I loved seeing this character develop and even though she had moments where she wanted revenge and justice, she was never a ruthless character. I think her whole character arc was really interesting to read and I think she is now one of my favourite female characters.
Kestrin: Kestrin is the type of character that you want to like and want to hate at the same time, but you really can’t get a hang of who he is, what he wants or anything else. I really struggled to grasp who he was, I mean he is obviously the prince of Menaiya, but he was quite difficult to get to know. Alyrra also struggles to understand him, and it isn’t until nearly the end of this book that you start to understand who he is. I did end up liking this character and I can’t say much more because I don’t want to spoil anyone, but I’m still fairly unsure of my thoughts on him, although turns out to be a really intriguing character.
Valka: You know I’m not a violent character, but oh my god, I wanted to smash her face into the ground and jump on her. I very rarely hate characters in books, I’m not a hateful person and even characters I despise don’t get this kind of reaction out of me, but the author really did a great job of making the reader hate Valka. I was just so angry at her for the whole book, she is such an awful person, and I’m even more frustrated because I can’t say anything unless I give you spoilers, so you will have to read it, but I guarantee you won’t like her either.
Sage, Rowan, Ash, Violet, Oak: These characters, however, had my heart right from the start. I wanted to go into this world and cuddle each of these characters who work with Alyrra in the royal farm and stables because they are amazing, so sweet, caring, and just amazing. I think my favourites were Violet and Sage, and again, I can’t say much, but there are THINGS that happen and I nearly ended up crying and phew, you need to read this book just for the characters – just not for Valka though. I also love that these characters have plant/flower names, I think it’s so lovely!
Royalty: I love a good fantasy book with royalty, a kingdom, political intrigue etc, but I don’t really think we got much of it here, however, that wasn’t bad. We got a look at royalty, the king, princess and prince, but from the eyes of a now servant, a Goose Girl and from the other servants and poor people living in the city, and I think that even though we didn’t have the ins and outs of palace life, we got a really good insight into how royalty is viewed from the outside. I’m used to reading books where the characters are princesses, princes, kings and queens, and even though it’s still the case here, I loved how the author completely flipped this theme upside down and I am pretty sure it’s going to be the case again in book 2.
Losing ones identity/betrayal: This bit is added in the blurb, and honestly until it happened, I really wasn’t expecting something quite like it. I was really shocked at how this happened and I can’t talk about it much, but wow, Alyrra really comes through as such a strong and resilient character when her identity is “stolen”. I actually think that it was very beneficial for her though, as her character arc had amazing development after this event, she was already a really good character, but this just pushed her to be such a kind and caring person and really become her true self away from the palace and royalty. There is obviously betrayal in this book and injustice, but I think it was handled well, especially with how this book ended.
Going from princess to Goose Girl/retelling: This is like the previous point, but I had absolutely no idea what the Goose Girl tale was, and I loved learning about it and reading a retelling of it here. I think this book was really unique and I love retellings, so it was sure to be a win for me. I also loved how Alyrra seamlessly went from being a princess, betrothed to Kestrin, to a Goose Girl, working as servants and living like servants.
Magic: Obviously, this book wouldn’t be a good fantasy book without some magic. This book has more of a focus on sorcery, there are also some Fae in here and mages, and even though we didn’t get much of an insight into this other than the Lady, I am hoping that it was all building up for book 2. There were some really interesting magical elements, such as Falada and the Wind that I enjoyed quite a bit too.
Domestic violence/abuse/violence/death: I’ve added some trigger warnings just below and I touched on this slightly previously, but this book is quite a bit violent, it has domestic abuse both on the page, remembered/referred to, and it’s fairly explicit, especially when Alyrra thinks about it in detail, so if you are sensitive or trigger by these elements, I would NOT read this book. It’s a heavy book for sure despite it being YA and a retelling, so just bear that in mind also. I think that for these themes, it could almost be called an adult fantasy book as it really does have some moments that can be triggering, I’m not easily triggered and don’t have any triggers as such, but I can imagine someone who does would really struggle with a few parts. There are many instances of violence, injustice, some death both human and animal, verbal and physical abuse, sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, and it’s just a lot for someone who gets triggered by these things, they didn’t bother me in the least, but they need to be mentioned.
Trigger Warnings: domestic abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse (on the page and referred to), murder, rape/sexual assault (referred to), a form of identity theft, animal death, violence, betrayal, injuries, attempted sexual/physical abuse.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATINGS
This book was a really complex and unique one, I was really surprised by this one and even though the pacing is a bit slow and it really works its way up to the events and the action. This book is definitely more on the character development and slow plot revelation side, so if that’s something you like and you are not triggered, then I would give this one a go.
I really liked the characters and I thought that Alyrra’s character development was really well done. I literally wanted to shake Valka and scream at her and many other worse things that I will not mention, this is definitely a frustrating and annoying book on that front. However, Sage, Violet, Ash, Oak and Rowan were just so great and they made up for my hate of Valka.
I have to say that although the pacing was slow and the world-building wasn’t really to my liking as it was quite sparse and left me filling the gaps by myself, the writing style was absolutely perfect. This is definitely the type of book that I like and can get caught up in because of the way it is written, I don’t really know how to describe it, but it flows and has body and style and I just really enjoyed it.
I gave this book 4.5 stars, it was just missing the 5-star spark for me and I had a few tiny issues with pacing, world-building, some characters who were a bit too vague for my liking, but overall, I really did enjoy this book, I think both Candyce and I had so many thoughts and were both very surprised by it. I don’t know why I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it because it’s definitely a book worth reading and I highly recommend to YA fantasy fans, and retelling fans, as long as you check my trigger warning list before you dive in. You can find my ASPECTS rating breakdown below.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review, see you soon, stay safe,
Atmosphere – 7
Start – 6
Pacing – 7
Ending – 8
Characters – 8
Theme – 8
Style – 7
Total = 51
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Audible FR (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Audible UK – Scrib’d – Kobo