Monday, July 6, 2015

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Title: Thorn
Author: Intisar Khanani
Date Published: May 30th 2012
Publisher: CreateSpace

Rating: 4 out of 5

Goodreads Blurb: 

For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed. 
Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future. 
But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself. 
Thorn is a retelling of Goose Girl. It is very well written; the language is exquisite and the characters have depth. The writing style is smooth, and the dialogue natural. 

On a more abstract note, the main plot was centered around the forced identity switch between Princess Alyrra and Lady Valka (lots of cool names in this book). The shift was caused by Lady, an enigmatic sorceress, who had to watch the brutal death of her mother by the hand of a previous King (the great great grandfather of Kesterin); Lady allowed her hatred to determine her actions and used Valka and Alyrra as pawns to achieve her goal to eradicate the entire line of rulers. Most of this story's plot revolved around Lady's drive for revenge. The remainder of it was focused on Thorn's refusal to fight for her rightful position as princess. (To clarify, Thorn is Alyrra's new nickname after she was forced to swap bodies with Valka.) Lady seemed, at first, as the evil villain type, but after Thorn went to rescue Kesterin, we learn that she has much more depth than what was anticipated. She has a heart, and she is willing to listen and learn. I found myself really liking Lady by the end of the novel. 

Falada was an awesome Horse (capitalized for a reason) and his connection with Thorn reminded me of Yelena's connection with her horse (from the Poison Study series by Maria V. Snyder). Falada's loyalty and kindness easily made him one of my favorite characters, and it was an undeniably despondent moment when he died. Another aspect of this book that reminded me of the Poison Study series was that Thorn's soft spot for helping the less fortunate (homeless, hungry children and Robin Hood-like thieves) was quite similar to Yelena's actions to help the poor. 

Although Kesterin's character could have been more present throughout the whole book, Thorn's character more than made up for any shortcomings. Thorn was simple, honest, and loving. At the beginning of the book, everything about her seemed pretty unambiguous but her actions were ultimately spontaneous and unexpected; she was fiercely loyal to her friends and had an extremely humble mien. I loved how her character developed and grew into something brave and confident, unlike the "shadow" it previously was. However, she was not perfect and her biggest flaw was her inability to speak out to help herself. This same weakness was what the Lady used to bind Thorn to the curse and it is the same one that got her into difficult situations multiple times.

Thorn's old life was frighteningly miserable and I was a bit surprised when Thorn didn't jump at the chance to ditch her heartless mother and brother. I, however, still do not understand the King (Kesterin's father) and it's not because he was purposefully made to be enigmatic. I just couldn't understand if the concern he had for Alyrra's safety came from his rectitude or was entirely fake. From Thorn's encounters with him, I found him to be unpredictable and rude but he ultimately ended up helping Thorn, which was wonderful but failed to allay any doubts that he had ulterior motives. 

One aspect of this book that could have been a little more detailed and exciting is the test Lady agreed to, to determine Kesterin's morality. The trials were meant to reveal Kesterin's ability to control his hate for the Lady and avoid turning into a raging murderer but how they were conducted was a bit cliché and expected; the Lady disguises Thorn as herself and pushes both of them into situations in which Kesterin might give into his impulse to kill the person who was responsible for the death of his ancestors.

I also enjoyed the addition of magic to this book; both the Wind and the talking Horse served to add an extra spark to the story. Also, the final reveal that the Wind was actually Kesterin was both sweet and unexpected. 

My Verdict: I like this book; it was sweet, uncomplicated, and picturesque. But it did lack a continuously engaging plot and a stronger set of characters, hence my 4 star rating. I recommend this to anyone who has read Goose Girl by Shannon Hale or The Posion Study series by Maria V. Snyder (although fans of Yelena might find themselves unsatisfied with Thorn's straightforward persona).