Book Review of Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Posted April 18, 2014 by Kara in book review, Lyn / 6 Comments

Book Review of Thorn by Intisar KhananiThorn by Intisar Khanani
Published by Self Published on January 13, 2014
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 234
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Buy on Amazon

Princess Alyrra's strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation. Betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court. Walking away from a prince whom she doesn't know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she's willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.

When I first saw Thorn featured on another blog, I lightly skimmed over the review and then bought the novel because OMG that cover. I liked some of the aspects of the story.  It seems, however, that missed out on the description.  I had no idea that Thorn was a retelling of The Goose Girl fable until I was well into the book.  Even though I only read one Goose Girl retelling, I was familiar with the elements of the story.  I like fable/fairy tale retools, so I was highly pleased with the surprise. However, the author also took some huge liberties with the story, which tended to put the story in a favorable light.

What worked

• Fairytale retellings are going to get more love from me – no lie.

• I enjoyed Alyrra’s seemingly passive personality.  At times, I noticed that meek female protagonist get quite a bit of hate, but they exist, and they can also serve a purpose or stand in as a relatable girl role. Face it – we can’t all be Katniss.  Alyrra eventually finds her inner strength, and I find that this archetype should play a role in young adult fiction.

• The love interest (more on that soon) was also likable, and I very much appreciate that paragraphs were not devoted to the god-like good looks of the character.  In passing, we surmise that Kestrin is handsome, but it is his actions, no so much his appearance, that eventually gives the character a backbone and a reason to favor him.

• The romance is entitled to its own section.  I think many of you know how I berate the romance sections.  I tend to frown upon the seemingly needed flings that crops up in 99.9% of books.  However, HOWEVER, here is a romance plot that I gains my approval. Why? Because it is a very shy, budding, and strained romance.  Here is a book that doesn’t color a relationship as a sweet reward at the end of the struggle.  For the purpose of preventing spoilers, I’ll just stop here and say that it was pleasant to break away from the usual.

• The themes of rape and abuse do come up (trigger warning for our audience).  The reader isn’t exposed to anything overly graphic (save for one scene during the climax – very traumatic and horrible).  Instead, the story tends to focus on the result of abuse and neglect.

• The secondary characters become entwined into the story, and adds a new layer of charm to the book.

• The main antagonist of the story has landed on my list of top villains.  The reasons for her actions was chilling and horrifying, yet the reader could sympathize with her and understand her role and her origin.  Creative, stunning, depressing, and welcomed, the Lady really helped this novel set itself apart from the crowd by fleshing out the opposition. Kudos!

• Cover lust. No shame.

What Didn’t Work

• Some of the logic failed to win me over. I found it hard to swallow the ending, and the reasoning for some of the twists were just lost on me.  I felt that there was quite a bit that wasn’t brought up for the sake of the story, and it bothered me that some of the surprises was just an explanation away from revelation, when there was very little to keep such shocks in the dark.

• Alyrra was maddening in her coldness towards some of the characters.  There is only so many times I can read about one character rejected by another before I find it wearing on my nerves.  Either one side needs to forgive, or the other needs to get the point and back away.  

• The sparring between Alyrra and Kestrin tended to exhaust me.

• The writing felt stiff and unreachable, especially in the beginning.  I read up on the author’s background, and it seemed that she was a grant writer, so this one might simply be the style of the author, and no so much a lack of storytelling.  However, I felt out of touch with the characters at the start.

• I wanted a bit more culture in the book.  The commoner lifestyle was described, but when the worldbuilding has potential for a rich diversity, swerving away from the typical Anglo European decent, please run with it!



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Well done and authentic with real emotions and problems, Thorn is a refreshing twisted fairy tell with a perfect balance of dark and light elements.



6 responses to “Book Review of Thorn by Intisar Khanani

  1. I’m in love with that cover, it’s stunning! I completely forgot it was a fairy tale retelling, but for that reason alone it’s on my list 😀 I agree, sometimes it’s good to have less kick-ass girls, because that is realistic too 🙂 Sometimes it’s easier to connect with them, because they act like how I think I would act. It’s good to hear it’s not all about his dashing, gorgeous looks. It can become very annoying if the MC keeps swooning over his looks every page. I think I will like this one 🙂

    • Agreed, Mel! We need girls from all walks of life. Reading should connect with everyone, even the girls who have yet to find their inner lion.

      I hope you do read it!

  2. I do agree, the cover is great. It’s that kind of book you pass by on the bookstore and then when your eye stumbles upon it, you go, “Wait, what?! This kind of book exists?! How’d I not know?!”

    And yes, less kick-ass girls are good every once in a while. Not everyone is superhuman, not everyone is that strong and confident enough, and a normal one is definitely easier to relate to. I just hope that when I get to this book, the lack of logic in the world-building wouldn’t deter me too much. Great review!

    Faye at The Social Potato Reviews

  3. Thanks so much for this wonderfully comprehensive review! I am so honored that you enjoyed Thorn! I think a large part of this book was me learning to find my voice. It was exceptionally hard to mentally break out of the standard medieval European fantasy setting–Thorn was my first attempt to move in that direction. If you pick up my second work, Sunbolt, I hope you’ll find I’ve managed to move more in that direction. Writing is such a journey in so many ways! Thanks again for such an awesome review.

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