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The Goose Girl: Review of Thorn

Thank you to Hot Key Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book: Thorn

Author: Intisar Khanani

Year Published: 2020

Trigger warnings: physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault (off page), animal death (off page)

  • Plot: 4.5/5
  • Characters: 4.5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Overall: 4.5/5

Thorn was a retelling of ‘The Goose Girl’ (a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm) that slowly unfurled its petals to reveal a tale that had me captivated throughout. Out of curiosity, I read The Goose Girl before reading this novel and I think it truly is a stunning retelling that keeps the best parts of the fairy tale whilst adding some much needed depth and character development.

Princess Alyrra longed to be free of her family’s physical and emotional abuse, her court’s derision and her rank as a princess. She longed to live how she chose to do so. However, that desire seemed impossible when Kestrin, a prince from a vast and powerful land, sent her a marriage request she would not be able to refuse. Until a vengeful sorceress swapped Alyrra’s body with that of an accompanying noble girl in order to achieve her mysterious goals and inadvertently made Alyrra’s dreams came true. Taking on the role of a goose girl, Alyrra forged a new life surrounded by people who valued and cared for her. But as time passed and secrets unravelled she realised her choice to accept her fate would have consequences she wouldn’t be able to bear.

Alyrra’s character development was superb. At the start of the book she was scared, unsure of herself and the world and would rather be passive than stand up for herself. The entire book was about her journey of realising that once she overcame her fears and doubts she could be powerful and she could make a difference to the world. Her strong sense of moral justice and desire to help people no matter what pushed her past her limits to do things she never thought she could before. By sticking to her core beliefs she found her inner strength and overcame seemingly impossible odds. What a power arc!

I also liked Kestrin because he respected Alyrra’s right to choose her own life and while he certainly tried to persuade her to his cause he gave her space to become who he wanted to be. I loved the unwavering support from Alyrra’s friends: Sage, Violet, Ash and Rowan. The way she gradually opened up to them and began to heal from her past traumas with their love was beautiful. But most of all I adored Falada the talking Horse (yes, with a capital H it’s not a typo). He was wise, funny, generally amazing and always had encouragement and advice for Alyrra whenever she needed it. Truly, a legend.

Thorn cleverly explored many complex themes from the notion of justice to slavery, revenge, social hierarchy and much more. However, what I did want more of was world building. I didn’t feel properly grounded in the world created as I didn’t learn enough about its distinctive cultures, customs and places.

Nevertheless, I loved Thorn overall with its complex, empowered heroine, its magical plot and its thought provoking ideas. I can’t wait to read whatever Khanani writes next!

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