A Review: Thorn, by Intisar Khanani

This is a self pub thumbs up!


I stumbled across Thorn on Amazon, and I thought it might fit with my Reading Challenge criteria of an author from Southeast Asia, but, fact not, Ms. Khanani is Pakistani and she lives in the US.  But, what this does fit, is a fairy tale retelling. It is a retelling of the Brother’s Grimm story, Goose Girl.  I started reading it one night as a distraction from my thoughts and it snatched my attention right up. It was not in my blog prep reading queue but that did not seem to matter. I was stolen.

Fairy tales provide a good set of events from which to base a plot, but Ms. Khanani fills out other important themes and makes an empowered heroine out of the goose girl.  She starts off as an abused member of her royal family of origin being sought out to marry the prince of a much more powerful, neighboring kingdom. On the voyage, she is put under a spell where she switches bodies with a young woman whom she grew up with, but dislikes, who has been essentially sent away with her to be disposed of in marriage.  The spell is cast by a sorceress with a vendetta against the royal family.  When they arrive in the neighboring kingdom, the new princess casts the now lady in waiting to work in the stables as a goose girl, where she re-names herself Thoreena, which is shortened to Thorn. The princess changed servant experiences love and acceptance that she did not get from her mother and brother, and learns more through being a servant about what the kingdom really needs to truly serve its people, and has to decide if she will remain in the comfort of her current position or assume her rightful place. It does not help that the prince seems to have an awareness of the switch and requests her presence and seems to be falling in love with her.

Ms. Khanani does not show all her cards at once in this plot. We don’t know why the lady in waiting is being disposed of when the princess is sent into marriage, we don’t really know why this powerful kingdom is so interested in this meek princess of low means, we don’t know what this sorceress’ vendetta is about.  We don’t know how the prince seems to suspect throughout the book that he has been duped.  How could he possibly have already known her well enough to know that the woman who arrives in his palace as his betrothed is not who he has requested?  Is Thorn going to accept where she has found love and comfort, or will she be compelled to try to return to her rightful place?  I like how the book kept my curiosity.

I also liked the reasons that Thorn considers returning to her station as princess.  It is not love or power for the sake of power or birthright.  She has experiences through being a servant where she learns where justice really lies in her kingdom, how life really is for the lower stations, and how the subjects desperately need her inner goodness. She is also pressed by her Horse, Falada, to do what is right and not participate in treason, but he encourages her to consider everything, rather than telling her what to do and making ultimatums on their alliance.  It seems that the usual saying rings true, that those who do not really want power manage it the best when they have it.

I saw on the author’s website, booksbyintisar.com, that she had originally considered making Thorn a trilogy, and while I know there has been a trend toward trilogies in YA, I think there is a reason that her brain wandered off to other projects. As much as I liked this book it, may not have been meant to be a trilogy.  She has a free prequel up, which I have not looked at, but I am optimistic that it will be good.

I have crept away from seeking out self published books to review a little bit. I was thinking recently I need to get back to it, because reviewing good self-published work gets me lovely amounts of blog shares. The authors I have promoted thus far have been very gracious about that.  It is a nice way to promote my blog, without doing anything extra. I could solicit guest posts, and maybe I will at some point, or pay Facebook to dangle my blog in front of unknowns out there.  But I like linking up with self-published authors who are good at what they do.  And, two authors who I have reviewed I am aware have come out with more books, so I guess I will just have to read more.  Sad.

But enough about my sneaky blog promo methods.

I love comments and shares.  Have at it.

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