Thorn by Intisar Khanani

thorn

4 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this book.

This is a YA rewrite of The Goose Girl. Princess Alyrra is a shy, abused girl who lives under the thumb of her mother and brother. When a neighbouring kingdom requests her as a wife for their heir, she is nervous, but also anxious to leave home. Her mother sends an unfriendly lady in waiting along. Partway to her new home, Alyrra is attacked by the lady in waiting and their bodies are switched. Alyrra ends up being a lowly goose girl in the kingdom she was supposed to one day rule. She comes to enjoy her new life rather quickly though, and as her appreciation for her new existence deepens, she is going to have to choose whether or not to reclaim her birthright.

The novelty of having a heroine who does not want to fight for what was stolen from her is enjoyable. For Alyrra, being a princess has always meant being bullied and undervalued. Now, as a goose girl, she has friends who appreciate her and she is not pressured to rule or deal with court politics. The only thing that could tempt her back is the moral dilemma of letting a corrupt woman eventually wield political influence.

This retelling incorporates more magic than I expected, but other than that it is a straight retelling of the original. Normally I would dislike something that is so close to the source material, but this fairy tale gets so little attention that it is nice seeing anyone do anything with it.

This story is light on the romance, which I found charming, but really focuses on friendship. For the first time in her life, Alyrra is able to make friends and fit in as a valued member of her community. Those relationships, and what she learns from them, are ultimately what help make her final decision, as opposed to a romantic attachment to one person.

Alyrra is a very passive protagonist, which makes sense for a victim of abuse. I really enjoyed the picture of a princess who enjoys shovelling horse dung and caring for stubborn geese more than wearing silks and ruling, and she does end up finding her own strength in the end. This ends up being a great story for shy young people who are waiting to find their own voices, and a very solid retelling of a more obscure fairy tale.

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