Thorn by Intisar Khanani

Monday, May 25, 2015

Author: Intisar Khanani
Published by: Intisar Khanani

Side Note: I would just like to mention that if you decide to buy this book, a portion of the price will go to Heifer International which is a charity that provides livestock to families to learn self-reliance. 

When Brothers Grimm stories get retold, newer versions have a way of missing the mark when it comes to the original bleakness. In her debut novel Thorn, Khanani stays true to the darker elements of this Grimm fairy tale.

Khanani is off to a rough start with this novel; the beginning slow and uncertain. When we meet Alyrra we know nothing about her except the arranged marriage between her and Prince Kestrin. When we learn that her brother physically abuses her and her mother is indifferent to her pain, we bind to her...but at a distance. This distance between me and the main character proved harder to cross the more I continued to read.

While traveling to her new home, a sorceress switches Alyrra's body with that of Valka, a vindictive girl from her own hometown. At first Alyrra is scared of the switch but soon she realizes that this may be the answer to all her problems. As Valka she won't have to be a princess. She will be able to live a simple life in anonymity with the other people of Tarinon.

With her plan set, Alyrra arrives in Tarinon and becomes the Goose Girl, one of the lowest positions available. With her true identity secret, Alyrra lives the life of a commoner. Through hard work and a difficult language barrier, Alyrra learns about the city and the people within. She learns about the thieves and the snatchers. She learns about not walking alone at night. She learns who to turn to when you need justice for your family.

It is here where Khanani shines. She does not water down the gross mistreatment of women, the social injustices of the lower class, and the hatred that can harden ones heart in the search for vengeance. Rape and murder seem to be commonplace and the king's court does nothing to stem the numbers of these attacks. Alyrra's first hand view of these occurrences makes her question which life she truly wants to live. The one of Goose Girl, with a makeshift family, a roof over her head, and meager earnings or that of Princess with an ability to change the wrongs and reverse the plight of the people.

The plot speeds up exponentially over the course of the novel. Unfortunately when you reach the end, you find that it finishes more quickly and abruptly than you would like. The answers when it comes to the sorceress are vaguely addressed. The climax takes place within the last 50 pages and Khanani seems to think that a heart hardened over years of anger can change in three days time.

Even to the end, I felt no closer to Alyrra. On the contrary, I grew to hate her judgement the further into the novel I read. Her attitude towards the prince seemed unwarranted. To subtly distrust him in the beginning is one thing but to continuously think him trouble despite his actions are another. I also hated the way Alyrra thought of herself. No compliment, even those that were earned, were ever true in her opinion. She thought she was nothing and could do nothing. Her negative thoughts about herself left me feeling as if I shouldn't have positive emotions towards her. Even if her intentions were good, why would I want to become attached to a person who doesn't think anything of themselves?

Overall the plot of the novel was excellent. I continued reading to learn more about Prince Kestrin and what kind of man he would truly turn out to be. The topics discussed made the novel feel as if it wasn't just a YA. It can easily be considered a novel for adults as well. Khanani did a great job turning The Goose Girl into a modern fairy tale. I just couldn't learn to love Alyrra, which left me feeling like an outsider the entire novel.

I give it three out of five cateyes.

*I received this eBook free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.*

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  1. Based on what you said, I'd probably have trouble connecting with the main character too, but this sounds like a really interesting book! :]

  2. I'm already confused about this character! Great review I think you've rightly shown that it is both interesting and well written, if kind of alienating to the reader.

    might just need to add it to my summer reading list!

  3. I know! I hate when I don't know how to feel about a character within a book, especially someone as crucial as the main character. But I know that lot of people really loved this book on GoodReads so I might just be one of the few.

  4. It is interesting. But yeah, I don't like when I can't connect to the character. It makes me feel like I'm looking at something I'm not supposed to.