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A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own

Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.

When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.

But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.

With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.

Includes The Bone Knife, a bonus short story set in the ld of Thorn.

460 pages, Paperback

First published May 15, 2012

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About the author

Intisar Khanani

16 books2,185 followers
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. Born in Wisconsin, she has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband and two young daughters. Prior to publishing her novels, Intisar worked as a public health consultant on projects relating to infant mortality and minority health, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy.

Intisar is the author of the Dauntless Path books (Thorn, The Theft of Sunlight), and her indie epic fantasy series, The Sunbolt Chronicles.

To find out about new releases, giveaways, and so forth, subscribe to Intisar's monthly author newsletter.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,385 reviews
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews154k followers
January 16, 2021

Just released my Top 10 Books from 2020 BookTube Video - now that you know this one made the list, click the link to find the rest!
The Written Review

“We all need our quiet, I think. We all have our unspoken wishes, hopes we cannot mention, choices we may yet regret.”
Princess Alyrra spent her life balanced on the precipice of fear - her brother finds joy in being cruel and her mother could care less.

Her greatest wish is to fade into the background and live her life outside the shadow of her family.

Then one day, a neighboring king visits their small kingdom and with him comes the proposal of the young Prince Kestrin.

With her mother and brother remaining to rule over their kingdom...Alyrra knows this is her only chance to find her own life.
“. . . I've found that acting when you are afraid is the greatest sign of courage there is.”
On the way to her betrothed, a sorceress curses Alyrra - forcing her to swap bodies with Valka (a noblewoman in her kingdom that absolutely hates Alyrra).

While Valka stumbles her way through the difficult role of princess, Alyrra sinks into her new identity as royal goose girl...though the prince seems a bit suspicious of her intentions.

At first, Alyrra couldn't be happier with her new role but this new perspective allows her to see the ugliness of the kingdom in a way she never would have from the palace.

Will Alyrra keep her head down and accept the status quo? Or should she dig deep and learn to speak up?
“Which of us has not made mistakes when faced with more than we can handle?”

The Goose Girl is one of my favorite childhood books and let me tell you - this version of it was stunning.

I am a huuuuuge fan of fairytale rewrites and this one was no exception.

I loved Alyrra's character - her grit and determination was inspiring. Her cleverness and wit made me love her.

I adored the way Alyrra and the prince circled each other - their relationship was such a slow burn but at the same time, I wouldn't change a thing.

Every time the two of them danced on page - it made my heart happy. And the big reveal? It had me grinning like no tomorrow.

The plot to this one was lonnnng. The book itself was over 500 pages and yet, there wasn't a thing I would cut.

There's so much that happened in this book and the plot itself was paced just perfectly for the 500 pages.

All in all, I am overwhelmingly happy that this is the start to a series. I cannot WAIT for the next one!

A huge thank you to Anela Deen and Intisar Khanani for sending me a free copy in exchange for an honest review

Other booktube videos involving this gorgeous book!

I did a little Video Review for this gorgeous little book!
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Profile Image for Intisar Khanani.
Author 16 books2,185 followers
November 11, 2021
This was my first book in so many ways - the first novel I ever drafted, the first novel I took through the revisioning process (omg 16 drafts noooooo), the first book I indie published, and my first traditionally published book. It is very much the book of my heart.

It's also Not Your Traditional YA Fairy Tale. If you are looking for a kick-butt heroine who takes names, this is not the book for you. I wrote this story for myself, because I am not a kick-butt heroine, and if it came down to that, I would most certainly not save the day. But I truly believe that regular girls can save the day--girls who have seen the worst of humanity, who have faced sorrow and fear and hopelessness and were pretty sure they didn't have what it would take, and yet kept on going. Honestly, those are the girls I put my trust in.

This book has a down-to-earth, uncertain heroine who grows into herself; it has men who can't be trusted, and some who can, and some you might not be able to tell the difference between. It has trauma and animal death and violence against women and the very hard work of surviving abuse. It's not a pretty book by any means, and if you find any of these topics triggering, please proceed with caution.

But it also has a lot of beauty. It's about growing into yourself, and breaking your silence, and finding your own power. It's a little bit about justice, and a lot about compassion. It's got found family and moments of joy and a heckuva lot of hope. And it has a girl who saves the day by being herself, wholly and truly, and rocks her world through her own quiet strength and kindness.

Thank you for reading. I hope you love Alyrra as much as I do.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,563 reviews5,865 followers
June 13, 2015
A fairy tale re-telling of the "Goose Girl". I'm very pleasantly surprised at how good this book was.
3.5 stars

Princess Alyrra has never played well at being princess. She just wants to do her own thing and let her abusive brother and cold mother do as they want, as long as she escapes their clutches.
A traveling King shows up at the palace and makes an offer for Alyrra's hand in marriage to his son Prince Kestrin.
Alyrra doesn't have a bunch of choices. Stay and face more abuse at the hands of her family or take that chance and go to another kingdom where she might get into something worse. Her mother of course thinks it's a perfect arrangement so she sends Alyrra off.
On the way they stop at a river to wash and Alyrra's handmaiden shows her true colors and with the help of a Fare Folk she assumes Alyrra's identity and Alyrra becomes the hand maiden.

Upon arrival at the palace Alyrra becomes the castle's goose girl. She works the geese and shovels poop to tide her days. She actually is okay with the switch because it gives her a chance to start her life anew.

Plus she has her horse, who talks with her about her choices.

Alyrra as a heroine is just about perfect. She doesn't have that milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard, she is strong but willing to bend, she doesn't attention whore...and get this NO INSTA_LOVE!
Profile Image for Izza Mae (books&teacups).
142 reviews51 followers
January 17, 2020
Actual rating: 4.5 Stars

I received this ARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

This book was first published in 2012 as an indie book and it is being republished now by HarperTeen because an editor fell in love with it after reading the book. And I can see the reason why.

This book has a slow start, that much I can say. So I didn't notice for a while that I came to love the story and much of its characters. I only did after I got to the middle part.

The story is so mesmerizing and at times heartbreaking. It is more than a simple coming-of-age story. It is about knowing yourself, it is about trust, it is about deception, it is about revenge, it is about politicking, and most of all it is about learning that sense of justice is different for everyone. Moreover, it is about finding your path after a previously rendered road was taken away from you.

The protagonist, Alyrra, is written so magnificently. Although at first, she was described as somewhat a slow, shadow of a self, but other than that, she is caring, intelligent and had a high sense of justness. She had her doubts in her person but after a while, she came to believe in herself which magnanimously helped in the climax of the story.

Moreover, I loved the tandem between Alyrra and Kestrin. What they had is not an instant love between two people who are meant to be wed. They took their time to know each other and in turn trust each other. At the end of the book, Alyrra has not yet come to love Kestrin but is already furnishing the path to get there. And this is the kind of relationship that I love to read about: mutual respect and trust, not just about appearances.

This book is a retelling of the classic Goose Girl. Although I haven't read that particular book yet, I took the risk to read this before the classic. And I am glad that I did that, because this book left me enthralled and I'm sure that it will be one of my best reads this year. Hopefully.

Edit 16/01/2020

Even Ms. Intisar Khanani liked my review! I am so honored and thrilled! There's no doubt that I'm going to buy the book after its release.
Profile Image for C.G. Drews.
Author 5 books22.6k followers
October 7, 2020
This is delightfully whimsical and thoughtful Goose Girl retelling, a story that tells sharp truths in beautiful prose. I quickly loved Alyrra and her peaceful and contented personality, how she isn’t afraid of hardworking and she’s so loyal and endlessly kind. There are also faeries and curses, princes with secrets, and royalty that refuses to acknowledge the darker parts of its kingdom. I think it had quite a deft and well-said commentary on how women are subjected to violence and men look away.

An exceptionally crafted tale.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,406 reviews9,543 followers
October 19, 2021
I’m so pissed off! I wanted to get the BEAUTIFUL special edition from a book box in December but no… they had to go and do that to the talking horse who/whom was the coolest!!

And I just couldn’t get into the book and skimmed here and there and flopped on the floor!! Did I mention I’m pissed at not getting the special edition!! I’m on a budget and a broke chic anyway so, whatever!!!

Damn it!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books289 followers
August 24, 2012
I loved this book, absolutely loved it. It’s an object lesson for me, actually, in not pre-judging a book, because this one ticks so many of my ‘no’ boxes: it’s YA, it’s a fairy-tale retelling, it’s first person present tense (“I back away...”, “I gaze at him”), it’s more or less a romance, it’s about a princess who doesn’t quite fit in, it has villains with no redeeming characteristics. Had I known all that beforehand, I would never have touched it and I would have missed a lovely, lovely story. As it was, it popped up on a list of free books, I started reading the sample and just kept reading, couldn’t put it down, in fact.

For those who know their fairy tales, this is a reworking of the Goose Girl story. I didn’t know anything about it, so maybe I missed a few subtleties, but I felt it worked perfectly well without any prior knowledge, and apart from a few oddities (like the talking Horse!) there was nothing in there that couldn't be found in conventional fantasy. One of the great strengths of this book is that the characters all feel truly rounded, so even though they are fulfilling traditional roles (the princess, the prince, the witch and so on) they have great depth and believable personalities. The villains seem at first glance to be simplistically cruel and evil, but they all have enough backstory to make them credible, if not exactly sympathetic.

The magic in the book is quite powerful, but the fundamentals are explained clearly enough to be believable, even the talking Horse. The author has thought everything out very carefully, and it works so well that when the heroine is rescued by magical means, it makes perfect sense. Not that she has to be rescued very often, mostly she is perfectly resilient and self-sufficient, and manages to get herself out of trouble and help others as well. I liked, too, that the magic is simply an integral part of life, everyone accepts it and it’s properly regulated. Interestingly, there is also religion, never explained or central to the plot, but just there, as a natural and perfectly normal thing. There are also social customs which are alluded to without full explanations, like a system of debt between people (if someone helps you out, you owe them a debt of comparable value). At one point there’s a discussion of a gift, and whether it incurs an obligation (a debt) or whether it’s just a gift, freely given, and a decision is reached without any attempt to explain the ‘rules’ of such an arrangement to the reader. I rather like this relaxed attitude towards world-building. Some things just are, and don’t need to be elaborated.

The character of Alyssa, the princess, is central to the story, naturally, and the first person narration makes it imperative that she is both likeable and believable. I feel the author pulls this off magnificently. Of course Alyssa makes mistakes sometimes, but she copes well with the strange events which overtake her, and is strong-minded, caring and intelligent without ever turning into the tedious type of kickass female protagonist so often depicted in fantasy these days. On the contrary, she often feels overwhelmed and suffers a great deal, but she always tries to do the right thing, as far as she can. There is a certain amount of angsting, but it's actually understandable, given Alyssa's predicament.

The plot rattles along very nicely, with some unexpected twists and turns. There are villains, of course, so bad things happen, but there are also friends who help out from time to time, just as in real life. Also realistic is that physical encounters have physical effects - if you roll down a cliff, for instance, or get beaten up, there will be cuts and bruises, maybe even broken bones, and time needed to recover. The climax is a bit of a show-stopper, a wonderful outbreak of magical manipulation with everything at stake, and no real certainty of how things will go. And the author neatly side-steps the clichéd ending. It's a fairy story, so of course good triumphs over evil, but the way that is achieved is refreshingly different. And there's not the obvious happy ever after, either. Rather, there's an acknowledgement that a lot has happened and there are bound to be scars, and a tentative sense of moving forward.

This book surprised me. It may be YA, but it addresses some very profound issues, like the nature of justice, the corroding effect of revenge, questions of loyalty and trust and honesty, and the inner goodness (or not) of people, regardless of what they look like, or their rank. The romance element follows a traditional path but with great originality and commendable restraint. The writing style is eloquently literate, and I barely noticed the use of first person present tense. I had a very few minor quibbles - there were a few places early on where I wasn't clear about relationships or what exactly was happening - but nothing major enough to spoil my enjoyment. A terrific read. Five stars.
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,691 reviews1,267 followers
April 2, 2015
Thorn 99-cent Sale For A Cause -

All proceeds from this sale will go towards helping a good friend cover the cost of international adoption of a pair of biological brothers with Saethre-Chotzen Syndrome--a condition that results in brain damage unless treated in the first year. Evan (age 7) and Raymond (age 9) were each given up at birth, and were unable to receive treatment for their condition.

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00869SADQ...
US: http://www.amazon.com/Thorn-Intisar-K...
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thorn...

Find out more here - http://reecesrainbow.org/83163/sponso...

(I was given this book for free on a read-to-review basis as part of the ‘Thorn’ Blog tour.)

I have to start this review by saying that this book really surprised me, mostly because the blurb is actually a terrible description of this book, and the actual story is totally different to what you expect having read the blurb!

Alyrra is a 15-year-old princess. Her father is dead, her mother is unkind to her, and her brother basically tortures her for fun.

One day a king visits, and Alyrra is told that he has come to seek her hand in marriage to his son. Her mother thinks that the king is a good ally, and so Alyrra accepts the proposal when it is put to her, as that is what her mother tells her to do.

Alyrra sets off on her way to her betrothed’s kingdom, taking with her a maid and a girl called Valka. Valka is the daughter of a member of her mother’s court, but she is in disgrace so they basically send her off with Alyrra to get rid of her.

Half-way along their journey, Alyrra goes off to wash at a stream and Valka follows her. Once by the water a woman appears who Alyrra recognises as a sorceress. The woman casts a spell, and suddenly Alyrra is Valka, and Valka is Alyrra. Valka now feels that she has got her due – she is now princess, while she sends Alyrra off to work as a goose girl once they make it to their new home.

While Valka feels that she has beaten Alyrra, Alyrra is secretly pleased by the swap; now she can do with her life as she pleases, rather than being forced to be a princess and to be a member of the court. The only problem is that the prince, who Alyrra was to marry, seems to realise that something is wrong with Valka and Alyrra, and pays more attention to the real Alyrra than she would like.

Now that she is starting a new life, Alyrra changes her name from Valka to Thoreena, which is shortened to Thorn. Thorn makes a life for herself in the stables and small town, while Valka as the princess is disliked.

The sorceress has not finished her trouble making though, and her next target is Kestrin (the prince). Can Thorn stand by while the sorceress kills Kestrin, or will she find a way to solve this whole mess, and save herself in the process?

As I said I was really surprised by this book, the blurb mentions nothing about the whole body-swap thing, which is one of the main parts of the storyline! I was quite shocked when this happened as I obviously wasn’t expecting it!

Thorn/Alyrra was a very quiet girl, but had strongly held beliefs. Her mother said that her strength was her silence, which showed how little her mother really knew her, as Thorn was actually the one to speak out when she saw injustices being done, and even labelled herself as ‘too honest’. I really liked Thorn for exactly that reason, she just couldn’t sit by while bad things were happening, she took it upon herself to try and right wrongs no matter what the consequences to herself.

I thought that Thorn’s reaction to her body swap experience was a bit of an odd one, but it did actually fit with her character – she’s rarely complained about anything unless it was to aid someone else. I’m sure most of us would have thrown an absolute fit if a similar thing happened to us, but she just took it in her stride, and actually seemed to only see the advantages to swap!

Thorn’s life was not easy by a long shot, and there were several points in this book where the things that happened to her were just so awful that I cried. Throughout it all though she stayed strong and did her best and always looked out for others.

As surprised as I was by this book, I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thorn was just such a loveable character, and the storyline was full of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. From the very beginning, Thorn captured my attention and held it, and I couldn’t help but love this book.
9 out of 10.
(Book length: 4116 kindle locations)
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books430 followers
February 6, 2022
"This is how you survive: one breath to the next, refusing each thought as it comes to you. This is how you get through the worst of things."

Thorn by Intisar Khanani was originally independently published in 2012, and it is now being re-released by a publisher in 2020. I was lucky enough to score an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and I'm equally happy to be discussing the book today. Spoilers follow, as well as a discussion of abuse and sexual violence.

So What's It About? (from Goodreads)

"Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.
When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.
But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.
With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for."

What I Thought

When I'm in the right mood, there is almost nothing that makes me happier than a good fairy tale retelling. There's just something so endlessly comforting and magical and timeless about them to me, and I'm delighted to report that Thorn is not just a good fairy tale retelling - it is an exceedingly thoughtful, graceful and deliberate one. The Goose Girl is not one of my favorite fairy tales, partially because it has so many moving parts that never quite gelled to me, but they are actually all integrated seamlessly here in one cohesive tale. Everything from the talking horse Falada (who is a wonderful character) to the queen's protective charm, the sentient wind and the princess telling the true story to the hearthstones is included here. And in the manner of the best retellings, there are new and unique elements as well, breathing fresh life into the story.

In some striking ways I think Thorn is really different from the YA fantasies that have been the most successful in recent years, and I found that to be incredibly refreshing. The romance here is almost entirely weighty, thoughtful conversations and slow-building trust and if I remember correctly, they don't even kiss at the end of the story. The villain is ultimately revealed to be a nuanced character who listens to reason, has clear motivations for her actions and displays compassion at the end of the day. And, similarly to the other stories I have read by Khanani, the protagonist is deeply concerned with matters of personal accountability and justice.

One of Thorn's biggest themes is the examination of violence against women. Alyrra comes from a background of abuse from her brother and experiences attempted sexual assault during the story. In addition, her friend Violet dies after an attack and sexual assault. Finally, the main villain's motivation stems from the way that her mother was viciously murdered by a member of the royal family. This is a LOT of violence, and by now you probably know the standards that I've developed for judging whether violence against women is used in a meaningful, feminist way or an exploitative one:

1) Does the book present trauma in a psychologically accurate way, providing insight into the lived reality of survivorhood?

In Thorn's case the answer is a resounding yes. I think Alyrra is an unbelievably well-written character in all regards, but in this regard especially, and I'm still puzzling over how Khanani pulled off what she did with such a delicate touch. We see Alyrra stuck in silence and shame and absolute disbelief in her own worth and efficacy. There is a huge shift in her behavior after Corbe's attack and we see her initial shock and the way that her symptoms increase afterwards. She experiences dissociation and intrusive memories and can only sleep when she is protected by Falada.

A few of her thought processes in particular struck me as viscerally realistic and relatable. She is initially deeply wary and mistrustful of Prince Kestrel because SCHEMAS - before she knows him as a person she just thinks of him as another prince and princes are dangerous:

"Like my brother, he will either laugh at my anger or hold my impudence against me. I dare not answer him."

In addition, when she defends herself from Corbe's attack and hurts him her main thought after the attack is to blame herself - that she is just as bad as her abusive brother because she has hurt someone else just like he used to hurt her. I can't tell you how common this kind of thinking is in an abuse survivor. Finally, when she finally breaks her cycle of silence and tells her found family of fellow servants about Corbe's attack, the main thing that she feels afterwards is incredibly happy because someone believes her and cares about what has happened to her. To someone who hasn't experienced abuse this might seem like a really strange response to talking about being attacked but I immediately identified this as something that had happened in my own experience as well - there's nothing like the relief of finally being seen and being told that your experiences matter.

2) Does the book examine the patriarchal systems and beliefs that facilitate violence against women?

Again, the answer is yes here. We see this part of the story mostly with when Alyrra's friend Violet is killed. The book as a whole is deeply aware of class divides and the inordinate burden of violence and oppression that the poor people of any society face, and Khanani is very upfront about the way that justice for women is entirely a class-based affair:

"Justice for the poor?" He laughs, sitting back. "There is justice for the rich here, and justice for the powerful. But for the rest of us, there is very little of anything."

The guards are entirely apathetic about the fate of poor women. Violet is victim-blamed for what she was wearing and the guards are more concerned with whether she "belongs" to another man than they are concerned with actually seeking out justice - whether a man's proprietary claim has been violated rather than whether a woman's body and mind have been violated. What's more, privileged (and well-meaning) noble men like Kestrel are unaware of the extent of violence that is happening to poor people, and Alyrra's class mobility as goose girl and lost princess allows her to experience all of this and be a bridge between worlds and a fighter for what is right.

Another thing that I really enjoyed was Alyrra's struggle with the notions of retribution vs. justice. She is initially disgraced at court because of her willingness to stand up for a servant girl unjustly accused of a crime, and this sets the tone for the rest of the story and her concern with standing up for what is right. At first she is glad to have the men who killed Violent killed in turn, but later in the story when she is confronting the Lady she is forced to look at what the unyielding quest for retribution and vengeance may do to a person, and decides that there are other ways of finding justice that may be more effective. She even fights for the girl who stole her identity to be saved from her horrific punishment, although she is not successful in this regard. At the end of the story she states that she is still unsure of what the right answer is and is still trying to figure out the right balance between mercy, justice, retribution and vengeance:

"I don't know what justice really is," I tell him. "But I am trying to get right what I can."

I'm right there with Alyrra in this regard.

Another interesting aspect of the book is the extent to which it is a story about the act of acculturating to a new society. It helps that it is a beautiful Middle East inspired world, and it's especially interesting that while Alyrra loves her new home she is still able to see its flaws and decides to fight to make it a better place.

Ultimately, it's the story of a girl who has been hurt learning to overcome her lack of belief in herself to realize that she deserves to exist in the world and can change that world for the better, while also learning that she is worthy of love and connection and kindness for the first time. That is a story that I will read over and over again.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
805 reviews3,775 followers
April 29, 2020
Book 2 completed for #RamadanReadathon

i absolutely love the new and fresh take this book had to offer YA fantasy

- right from the start, i was entranced by the writing
- it's descriptive and lyrical and kept my interest even during the slower parts of the boko
- the main character was great. she was caring and kind and showed her power through friendships and alliances. i thought that was pretty cool to see her hold power in court without having to be a sword wielding warrior
- this is a retelling based off the story 'goose girl' but i have no idea what the goose girl story is and that just goes to show that this book can stand on it's own
- the conversations it brought on justice and revenge were really interesting
- this book got dark at some points so definitely be aware that there are themes of abuse and rape that a character suffers (and oh my god it made me want to cry 😭😭😭 it was heartbreaking to read those scenes and the character was such a precious doll and kfjdlafjla im so sad)
- the magic element of the story was really cool too
- i didn't entirely understand all the implications of the magic and how it worked so rip to me
- there are some really really lovely friendships in this book and i absolutely adored how the book took time to build those and show those trusting, tender moments with us
- the book was very slow burn, the romance is just a hint and holds more future implications than anything (my shipper heart was SCREAMING)
- also there's a magical talking horse and omg !!!!!!!!!! i loved him sm ???
- the main conflict resolution was a hit rushed in my opinion, i feel like it was solved relatively easily and while it was realistic in some ways, i was kind of confused how it just Happened
- overall though, i really thought this was a refreshing take on a fantasy story and i really like how it played out. i'm so interested in the next companion book i cant wait jfkljslfja

“We all need our quiet, I think. We all have our unspoken wishes, hopes we cannot mention, choices we may yet regret.”
Profile Image for JustJJ.
93 reviews127 followers
June 9, 2021
Full review now up @ https://bookerification.com/thorn-by-...

5 stars!

Truth be told, I started this book with low expectations and mid-level interest. 'Thorn' wasn't a book that had fascinated me enough to be added to my 'Want-to-read' shelf nor had I come across a lot of excitement or hype surrounding it. This was a completely random acquisition, but boy am I glad I got it!

"It is rare for someone who wants power to truly deserve it"

The storyline begins with much pomp and intrigue, at a turning point in the life of the protagonist, Alyrra. From there, Intisar Khanani skilfully introduces the main characters and smoothly interweaves the world-building. Her writing style has such a tranquil and calming nature, it's almost like stepping into a nice, warm bath. You know the feeling - all your muscles relax, your mind clears and you never want to get out.


Full review to come @ https://bookerification.com/

5 stars!!
It’s been a while since I’ve given a book 5 stars but this deserves every single star.
Profile Image for Gemma.
58 reviews3 followers
December 2, 2014
This book is based on The Goose Girl, a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. I sort of wish I’d known that going in, because after doing some research it seems like some of the plot points that felt a little random were actually part of the fairy tale and that’s probably why they were included.

Anyway, the first few chapter of this book were so interesting, I was drawn right in. The writing is strong, the world is interesting, and it felt relatively unique compared to other fantasy novels I’ve read.

These first chapters introduce Princess Alyrra’s (AKA Thorn) family, who quickly make themselves out to be great villains. I was firmly in Alyrra’s corner and I was ready to spend a whole novel with that character. The plot really started picking up when Alyrra left her home to meet her prince, and when the big betrayal happened I was totally outraged and heartbroken on Alyrra’s behalf. I took that as a really good sign because I was invested in her character so early in the book.

But then…the plot started to wander. It wasn’t clear what Alyrra wanted, if she was angry that she wouldn’t be the queen, or if she was happy to be free of the responsibility. It seemed like it was a little bit of both, which would have been fine but I wish her emotions had been clearer. As she’s written, Alyrra came off as weak willed and kind of indifferent to what was happening to her. That was frustrating because…if she didn’t care about what was going on in her life, why should I?

There’s also magic in this book, because what’s a fantasy novel without magic? Sometimes it was woven into the story pretty well, but other times I had no idea what was going on, or why the magic was important to the plot. For example, Alyrra’s mother does some kind of spell, I think? That’s supposed to make the prince love her? At least I think that’s what it was. It gets mention a few times in the book but I was never totally sure what it was about. The rules of the magic didn’t seem very clearly defined, and so certain things felt very random. The one thing I really didn’t like was (and this isn’t a major spoiler) the talking horse. Apparently that’s something taken from the original Grimm fairy tale. The horse ends up helping Alyrra, and I wouldn’t have minded a magic horse but it didn’t do much that was significant to the overall plot. I kept waiting for Alyrra’s friendship with the horse to make her do something, but it never really paid off.

In fact, there were a few parts of the book that never paid off. A whole gang of thieves was introduced for little purpose, Alyrra gets lost in the fields twice and finds a weird cavern place where the prince has been practicing sorcery, I think?

Alyrra’s relationship with the prince was fine, and they did get some good interactions, but he wasn’t a very memorable character to me. I wish we’d gotten to see more of him, and I wish Alyrra’s feelings for him had been clearer. The romance between the two of them wasn’t developed very much, which was kind of disappointing.

Overall, the book felt cluttered, like there were too many plot threads that should have been paired down. If the plot had been more focused, I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more. As it was, the middle really dragged and if the beginning hadn’t been so interesting I think I would have given up.
The end wasn’t horrible. There wasn’t a huge cliffhanger or anything like that, which was nice. But it still ended up being a little underwhelming.

Read this review and more at: http://workadayreads.com/
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 56 books14.8k followers
June 15, 2020
*This review is of the ORIGINAL self published version of this book. The new version may have substantial changes.

A retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale as a YA fantasy. This is beautifully written and easy to gobble up with a clean plot and some stunning imagery. At times, I found myself a touch annoyed with the main character, she's quite passive, but this may be a consequence of the source material (after all, that's what most fairy tale heroines are = passive). In the end, I wished the romance thread was a little stronger, but it was nevertheless a hugely absorbing and fun to read.

The most amazing thing about this book is the sense of place. It took me back to my archaeology days and through that back into time, in a way that even working with artifacts never has. Truly remarkable.
Profile Image for Camly Nguyen.
250 reviews41 followers
June 1, 2015
When a king asks Alyrra's hand for his son in marriage, she accepts happily knowing that she won't have to live with her cruel brother and bitter mother.
On her way to the other kingdom, she is cornered by her maid that used some magic from an ancient witch to switch their bodies. At first, Alyrra hated the change but slowly, she learnt to cherish the simple life. No princes, no courtly lessons, no dances... But when prince Kestrin(the dude she was to marry) grew suspicious of the fake princess and ends up discovering Alyrra's identity, they have to do all in their power to save each other from darker forces that threaten to destroy them both.

To be honest, the best part in the book was the romance. The book wasn't centered on it and it didn't feel at all instalovy. It was just the perfect amount of cuteness to warm the heart without making it too cheesy.
What I also liked was the fact that Kestrin was actually suspicious about Alyrra's identity yet he let her Iive her life like she wanted too. He didn't torture her or force her to be princess again. Kestrin, you're awesome balls.
The world building was clear for me, and I really loved the subtle magic that filled the book without overdoing it.

If I could change anything about Thorn, I would make Alyrra a little more... Bad-ass? I feel like even though her character was nice, she didn't have the physical action of say Throne of Glass, Graceling or Eona...
It doesn't make the book any less good though .
I liked it. I'll wait for the sequel.
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,315 followers
January 25, 2021
A cache of vacuous characters who were placed in an indefinable kingdom while writhing in a plot that was as disappointing as it was aggravating.

Moreso with the needless killing and beheading of a horse. What was the point of that?!!
Profile Image for Fanna.
987 reviews499 followers
September 27, 2020
March 30, 2020:

➝ Sum it up in points!

✔ retelling of the Grimm's fairy tale: The Goose Girl
✔ female protagonist finds her strength & purpose
✔ societal themes of justice and entitlement
✔ free-thinking Horse + sentient Wind
✔ slow-building, genuine romance
✔ villainous witch & robinhood-type thief

Thorn is YA dark retelling of a fairy tale that doesn't confine to the mere recounting of fantastical occurrences but also explore themes important enough to discuss in a world of injustice, royal hierarchy, and risks imposed by hidden slavers and a revengeful witch. A wonderful storyline that empowers the female lead to strengthen her backbone for others and oneself, it definitely shows women empowerment without the usual support by males deemed necessary in such context. Shocking twists that are largely inspired by the original story, this fantasy hooks anyone interested in secrets capable of exploitation, regretful actions from the past, lost and found identities, and a serving of emotions with all of the above. Another aspect is the commendable representation of trauma that has risen from childhood familial pressure and grown because of constant comparisons to create bad impressions. The slow-pacing of the story is essential to its atmosphere but was a personal drawback. Overall, an emotionally heavy story that depicts excellent character development, especially of a female finding her purpose.

➝ Trigger Warnings

✔ domestic abuse
✔ belittling & bullying
✔ animal death (off-page)
✔ choking & authoritarian questioning
✔ physical & emotional abuse
✔ sexual assault

March 29, 2020: This took me so many days because I had to keep it aside at around 35% for the tough, traumatic, and slow-paced story line but once I returned, I was hooked because the plot does create more peaks during the later half of the story and I understood the representation from another perspective. Full review to come!

March 10, 2020:

✔ retelling of the Goose Girl story
✔ royalty & sorcery
✔ grounded, naive but strong female protagonist
✔ themes of finding one’s voice and standing up for others

February 2, 2020: So excited to be a part of the blog tour for this fantasy retelling of the Goose Girl fairy tale. Received a digital review copy via Edelweiss!
Profile Image for Marquise.
1,692 reviews295 followers
July 31, 2018
A wonderful retelling of The Goose Girl fairy tale, that I liked tonnes more than Sharon Hale's unimaginatively entitled "The Goose Girl" retelling, which was too cloying, "fluffy" and unsubstantial to me.

This one has a very palpable Middle Eastern flavour, probably due to the author's background, which in itself was a very welcome change of ambiance from the European-like setting of most retellings, and though the world isn't especially complex or developed in every single painstaking detail, it does feel real and relatable enough even for those who've not set a foot in any country from the Levant. Ms Khanani has even infused her book with "local" words and phrases in Menaiyan, the language of the kingdom where the story happens, not sure derived from which real language. The setting is urban, but not purely so, in case "Middle Eastern" has summoned mistaken visions of deserts, sand, and Oriental decadence. It's a world with magic, but magic in just the right amount as to not feel overwhelming and too Fantasy.

The characters are the best part, I loved the heroine and hero both, something not always possible for me. The heroine, Princess Alyrra, a. k. a. Thorn, whose first person POV in present tense narrates the whole story, is a teenager, but you'd not remember that from her "voice." I certainly forgot immediately that she's only fifteen or so, as she sounds older and mature. Maybe too old and wise for her stated young age, which theoretically should be a flaw, but given that girls this age are generally depicted as idiots or... too adolescent to be likable, I'll look the other way in this case. The romance is, thankfully, angst-free, instalove-free, contrivance-free, and handled credibly for the circumstance of royal arranged union that originates it. Besides, in this relationship, it's the girl who does the heavy lifting, if you get what I'm hinting at.

The world is just begging for more stories to be set in it, because we don't see that much but what's shown whets the appetite for more. Fortunately, I had the short story The Bone Knife together with the novel, so I know there's more coming.
Profile Image for Umairah (Sereadipity).
201 reviews109 followers
April 7, 2020
4.5 stars

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.

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

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!

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.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,004 followers
May 25, 2015
A beautifully-done retelling of 'The Goose Girl.'

As in the original Grimm brothers' fairy tale, a princess, on her way to meet her betrothed, is betrayed by her maid, who uses magic to force the two to change places. 'Thorn' adds an extra element of magic in that the women don't just exchange clothes; but actually switch bodies.

Prevented by a curse of speaking of what has been done to her, the princess Alyrra must make the best of her new situation and adjust to living a life of privation and hard labor - like so many of the kingdoms' subjects take for granted. Luckily, she is an adaptable and resourceful individual - and has the advice of a wise horse to help her through.

However, the story does not shirk from the cruel and tragic elements of the original tale, and Alyrra's troubles are not at an end, even when she resigns herself to her fate and makes the best of it. Not to mention - does she have a responsibility to the kingdom to make sure that her cruel former maid, now drunk on her new status, does not get the opportunity to keep on deceiving the Prince and grabbing for power?

Fans of this book may also wish to take a look at another take on the story, Shannon Hale's 'The Goose Girl.' https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Profile Image for J.
677 reviews67 followers
August 16, 2022
“Which of us has not made mistakes when faced with more than we can handle?”

First of all, thank you so much to Intisar Khanani for giving us a different kind of heroine who survived physical and emotional abuse. I know the YA fantasy genre already has so many characters who are abuse survivors, but Thorn's special for me because she fought back in a quieter way and her recovery process was gradual and believable.

"Thorn" was an emotionally harrowing read because violence against women is one of the hardest topics for me. Since the entire novel was written from our heroine's POV, I had to watch her endure cruelty and feel homicidal rage towards her abusers. Even worse, there were other female characters in this book who suffered terribly. Looking back, I can say that the vicious cycle of abuse and injustice due to lack of action are important themes in this book. These are the reasons why reading this got exhausting for me at times even though I loved the writing and the heroine.

Sometimes when we read fairy tales where the heroine does not speak up and fight back, we tend to get frustrated and angry at the heroine. I myself used to feel that way when I read stories with heroines who seemed to be striving for martyrdom. "Why do you let these jerks hurt you like this? Why don't you leave them? How can you forgive them too easily?" Back then I raged because I felt like those heroines deserved better and I wanted them to realize that. Well, I still rage, but I've had a better understanding of those heroines for a while and my anger is now concentrated on their tormentors. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that "Thorn" is one of those books that might help you understand and appreciate those heroines more.

“We all need our quiet, I think. We all have our unspoken wishes, hopes we cannot mention, choices we may yet regret."

The harsh reality about abuse is that it's so insidious. It tears you apart little by little. Suddenly the day comes that you start to believe all the horrible things your abusers said about you and you lose your voice. Sometimes you just want to run away from that life, responsibilities be damned. That was the Thorn we met in the beginning of the story. She did fight back in her own way, but she did it half-heartedly. I understood why because the author clearly showed that Thorn didn't want that life for herself anyway. She fought back only because she felt like it's the right thing to do for Prince Kestrin. Remember those peaceful (tedious for some of you) chapters where Thorn was enjoying the life of an ordinary goose girl? They were quite boring for me to read, but at the same time I can see why those chapters had to be there. Thorn desperately needed those moments of quiet and comfort considering the constant fear she had to deal with in her homeland. Why fight Valka for the princess role considering all the responsibilities and problems that came with that life? Like Falada, I didn't think Thorn made the right decision back then, but I could definitely sympathize with her feelings. Give the girl a break. You can't expect her to be a noble heroine right away when she still needs to recover from her traumas. (Don't tell me about those feisty heroines who set aside their traumas to save the world. People cope with pain in different ways. Other kinds of abuse victims deserve representation too.)

"Perhaps I cannot fix everything in this moment. But I can do this: start somewhere and keep going."

Now this was the empowering part of the novel and a big part of the reason why I loved it. As I mentioned above, Thorn's recovery process was realistic and beautiful to see. She made new friends, learned to use her voice more, developed new skills, and found a bigger purpose. The best thing about these amazing changes was that they didn't happen overnight. Right from the beginning, it was already established that Thorn's kind, fair, observant, and hardworking. Those positive qualities just became more and more obvious as Thorn became stronger.

Also, let's talk about how Thorn earned the love and respect of her friends. That's another important recurring theme in this book. Kindness is NOT a weakness. By the end of the novel, I wasn't just looking at a princess - I was looking at a future queen who would consistently do her best to fight for what's right and protect her kingdom.

"I cannot yet tell him I love him, because we need more time without games and deceit between us to find such love."

To those of you who hate contrived romance, you can rejoice now. There was no insta-love and the romance was never the focus of the story, which I liked because that did not take away the focus from Thorn's character arc. You wouldn't be given the stupid idea that true love fixed all of Thorn's problems. On the contrary, the romance was a big part of the conflict, which was a refreshing take on a fairy tale where princes tend to save the day.

In conclusion, I am aware that this was more of a character analysis than a book review, but true to the title, Thorn's the beating heart of this retelling. I needed to speak for her and "every girl who has ever doubted she has what it takes" (taken from Intisar Khanani's dedication).
Profile Image for Katerina  Kondrenko.
498 reviews826 followers
January 5, 2021
8 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog
Living A Thousand Lives
(please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Genre: fantasy, retelling, YA
Stuff: a la The Goose Girl
Fail: a bit passive MC
WOW: prince, atmosphere
POV: 1st person, female
Love-Geometry: none

"I am the Lady who has lost her soul. I am the princess who has lost her self. I am the goose girl who has lost her way. I am the child who can scream no more."

We're all familiar with the fairytales by Grimm. But does everybody remember the plot of Goose Girl? If you forgot it (just like me), then don’t re-read it, ‘cause Thorn is really close to the original story, and thus you’ll spoil for yourself all the plot-twists.

So, MC is a princess of a tiny country which is decayed after its king’s death. Her name is Allyra. She’s skinny, brown-haired, and very timid. No wonder! This girl has no respect among court nobility, her brother used to beat her and her mother does nothing to protect her and thinks she’s a waste of space.

The book starts with arriving of a delegation from another, rich and powerful, Kingdom. Emissaries are looking for a bride for their prince named Kerstin. There are many other princesses thereabouts but the foreign king wants Allyra. Why? Good question. For Alyrra his choice is a chance to start a new life but she’s afraid of it. Her old life is bad but usual, the new one is unknown and unpredictable. BTW, at the start, our MC is pitiable and even silly but don't be fast to judge her. She'll grow up.

The night before Allyra’s departure, she sees a man in her dream; they are having a nice conversation about different dangerous things when a sorceress breaks into the room. The witch has plans for the stranger and for Alyrra as well. The princess has been already warned that in the country of her soon-to-be husband people don’t live long: members of the royal family disappear, common girls miss on the streets, the prince itself is cruel and stuff. Now the sorceress who wants to possess her or something like that… Such great perspectives our dear MC has.

But the marriage arrangement is already signed and there’s no way back. Allyra is leaving with Valka (pretty but bitchy red-haired devil), a daughter of a mean lord Daerilin, an escort, and a new white horse. As I said, this beast is very similar to the one from Rapunzel’s cartoon, but our horse is not only witty, it can speak. The horse's name is Falada, he's wise and kind, plus has a snarky sense of humor.

On the way to the prince's kingdom, Valka lures Allyra to the river, where the sorceress is waiting for them. The witch switches the girls' souls and puts an unseen chain around Allyra’s throat: if she tries to tell anyone that she is the princess in Valka's body, she'd die.

I was so frustrated! The princess had already endured this much and now that. I had to suffer with her quite all the book and I hated it. But after several pages Allyra thought something like that: I’m not a princess anymore? Wow, no evil brother, no politics, not a foreign prince. I’m free! I’m happy! And I was like, 'Wow if you're happy, I'm happy too'. BTW, the horse had seen what was done by the sorceress and with Falada Allyra could be herself.

Upon arrival to the palace Allyra (as Valka) is given the cold shoulder (a figurative one) and is sent to the geese barn. The princess adjusts without problems with hard labor and new conditions, she starts to enjoy her life, gets stronger and wiser, but our story is far from over. The prince suspects that Allyra is not Allyra...

Thorn isn’t an action-packed book or a steamy romance or an adventure novel. But the story is interesting and page-turning. At the very start, you might feel bored, since the story is told from the first-person POV and Allyra isn't the party-girl with a lot of friends: unhappy thoughts are a hell of a joy. But it won't last long.

I can't say that this tale is totally my cup of tea. I'm not a fan of non-stop hard-times. But I loved how it was written and what it was trying to say. Intisar Khanani is a really good author and I'd love to read her other books in the future.

Warning: it’s a dark retelling.

*** Thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC for review ***
Profile Image for Ivana - Diary of Difference.
552 reviews702 followers
November 29, 2022
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#0.5 Brambles - ★★★★
#1 Thorn - ★★★★★

Thorn by Intisar Khanani is such a powerful story about finding your true self, fighting against the injustice and loving with your whole heart. 


Princess Alyrra grew up in a cruel family, fearing that her brother might hurt her every day. She despises the fact that she needs to behave in a certain way to appeal to the court. Her despise grows even more when she learns that she's been betrothed to the powerful Prince Kestrin, a stranger from another kingdom.

But when a sorceress robes Alyrra of her true identity, she sees this as an opportunity to start a new life as a goose girl, where she doesn't have to pretend in front of everyone and be her true self. 

Soon enough, she realises what is actually going on with the regular people in the kingdom. The poverty, the crimes, the fact that the royal guards don't care at all. The fact that the street thieves have to make their own sets of rules in order to keep the peace on the streets. 

When a big tragedy hits home, Alyrra knows she needs to make a choice. Stay here and give up the identity of the princess forever, or go back to being a princess, only for the sake of saving the people.

"It is rare for someone who wants power to truly deserve it."

My Thoughts:

Thorn is the first book of the Dauntless Path series, and I am so happy I had the chance to read it! Very powerful book, with a very strong female character, who is not afraid to say what she thinks and fight for what she believes in!

"I've found that acting when you are afraid is the greatest sign of courage there is."

What I loved about Alyrra's character is that it shows us how much of a hardship it can be to make a certain choice. It is not just black and white. At first, we all root for the - get your identity back. However, Alyrra has been abused all her life. Her brother abused her physically and her mother mentally. She then had to deal with the pressure of being a princess. Following rules. Not saying what she really thinks, but what others want to hear. She is then promised to marry someone she doesn't know and pretend to be someone she is not, again. 

And suddenly, she can be someone else.

She has the chance to start a brand new life. A person that is not in the spotlight. She can think and speak freely. And that is why I understand her choice to want to stay as a goose girl forever.

"We all have our unspoken sorrows, hopes we cannot mention, choices we may yet regret."

But then she sees the true picture of how people are treated in the kingdom. How people live. The injustice that happens on the streets every single day. And then she also gets the attention of the prince and being who she is, she is not afraid to say her mind. 

But to truly change things, she needs to become a princess again. And making such a choice comes not only with consequences, but with huge sacrifices too. 

The ending of Thorn was very well written and very satisfying. I am looking forward to reading more about Alyrra's story and get more answers in the next book. I cannot recommend Thorn enough!

Thank you to ReadersFirst and Hot Key Books, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books464 followers
June 6, 2021
I appreciated this book even more the second time around. It's a beautiful, character-driven story that defies expectations and easy pigeon-holing, feels much more grounded and realistic than the majority of YA fare, but still hits with powerful emotions.


As luck would have it, I became a raving fan of Intisar Khanani's fantasy right around the time that THORN was withdrawn from circulation preparatory to being traditionally published. So...let's just say I've been waiting for this one for a while.

And it did NOT disappoint.

THORN is gorgeous, mesmerising, leisurely, deep, and gutwrenching. I knew it was also a retelling of the Grimms' fairytale The Goose Girl, which I have always loved and never seen retold before. It is that, and it hews surprisingly close to the original fairytale, but it's also very much its own creation, something startling and new and very far from simple. It's both darker and more mature than fairytale retellings tend to be, but despite (or perhaps partly because) of that it also falls into the category of "YA books I would actually give to young adults."

I'm doing a bad job of this. Let me talk about some of the things I really loved.

I really loved how the book was challenging and deep and honest about the bad things that happen in life, while maintaining a deft touch that never becomes explicit or melodramatic, and equally gives such things the weight of grief they deserve. It's HARD to walk that line well, but Intisar does it gracefully and I'm so happy that there are books out there like this.

I really loved the strong theme of justice - what it is, what it isn't, and why it is important. Everything about it rang so true and went far beyond simple answers and again, I'm so happy this book is out in the world.

I absolutely adored the...I almost don't want to call it a romance? Because the heroine is not in love with anyone at any point in this book. THORN is not a love story so much as it's a respect story. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that love stories aren't fantastic. But no amount of love can build a healthy relationship if there isn't a ton of respect, and I think respect is a ton more romantic than it's often depicted as. (Jane Austen knew it. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is explicitly about the importance of respect, yet how often does anyone point that out?) THORN is all about our heroine learning to trust and respect someone who, at times, I despaired of. Their interactions were my favourite scenes in the book because the stakes were so high, and the heroine so vulnerable. I did not know if it was going to work out in a way that would satisfy me, but it did and I'm applauding.

THORN is surely one of my favourite reads of 2019. I did think the book could have been a little shorter and tighter. The heroine seemed a whisker passive at times and some of the story elements could have been either utilised more or trimmed - eg., the main villain has a fascinating backstory, but she and her motivations are sidelined for much of the story while smaller conflicts play out. These are issues that I can be super impatient with, so it's a testament to everything this book does RIGHT that THORN kept me eagerly turning pages. I loved it, and I can't wait to read whatever Intisar writes next. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Christina (Ensconced in Lit).
984 reviews289 followers
January 8, 2020
It isn't often that I pick up a book that grips me as much as Thorn did. It was highly unexpected, and I sobbed in many parts because it touched me so personally. I will be completely frank. It isn't a perfect book. But it is one of those rare reads that because of the way I feel about it myself, I rate it as a perfect 5 star because I don't really care that it isn't perfect. It's a raw and compelling story and the fierce and unyielding main character compensates for any other missteps. This is the ultimate underdog story. It is based on a story called the Goose Girl and adheres pretty closely to the tale. But although the framework is there, the characters are all Khanani's. No one is black and white (except for possibly 1-2 characters). There are no right or wrong decisions. But there is hardship and rising to overcome impossible odds. That even in the face of no hope, a decision is made to keep going, because it is the right thing to do. I'm choking up just writing these words. I don't think this will be a book for everyone. I don't think everyone will love it as much as I do. But the ones that do will treasure this book forever.
Profile Image for Renaissance Kate.
236 reviews123 followers
January 26, 2021
The beginning of this book started off so well that I was sure I was going to fall in love with it. Yes, it was a bit slow at first, but it also introduced a heroine I could root for, intriguing side characters, and a unique world and magic system. I couldn’t wait to see how it all unfolded.

Thorn is a retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale “The Goose Girl”.
In this version, Princess Alyrra is sent to marry a prince in a distant land, and while she’s happy to leave her abusive mother and brother behind, she worries about her new life in this foreign kingdom. When her conniving maid works with a dark sorceress to switch bodies with Alyrra during their journey, Alyrra sees her new role as a goose girl as an opportunity to start a different life. However, when it becomes clear that her maid will sacrifice anything to the sorceress to maintain her status and power, even the prince to whom Alyrra was once betrothed, Alyrra must choose between the new life she’s grown to love and the difficult one she left behind.

There were many twists and turns in this book that I didn’t see coming, so they really pulled at my heartstrings; that being said, I wasn’t familiar with “The Goose Girl” before reading this, so if you do know it you will likely see some of these twists coming. Still, there are other twists that aren’t related to the original story, so whether you know the fairytale or not you’ll still find elements that keep you on your toes.

From 1st person POV, I really liked Alyrra as a heroine and the opportunity to be in her head. I think most people can relate to the idea of struggling to do what’s right in the face of fear, or taking a risk even if they feel they’re not ready or strong enough. This story is definitely character driven, and it was a pleasure watching Alyrra’s character arc play out from beginning to end.

I will echo some of the other reviews in saying the overall plot and pacing often felt like a winding road. Many subplots were introduced throughout the story, and while at times this kept things interesting, overall it meandered too much. Certain elements that were crucial to the mainframe of the story would be ignored in lieu of another subplot, ultimately lowering the stakes around the central conflict. The book snaked down these side paths, some of which felt unnecessary or overdramatic, just long enough to develop Alyrra’s character before zigzagging back to the main road. This got old by the end of the book and weakened the impact of the story threads and even the romance (which is not a slow burn, no matter what other reviews say…it only feels slow because it’s practically forgotten at certain points). This is ultimately what led to my rating this book 3 stars instead of 4 or 5.

Overall, Intisar Khanani is a talented storyteller. At times, I was swept up in Alyrra’s whimsical yet dark world, coming to care for her friends and agonizing as she did over the difficult decision she had to make. And while I did not appreciate this retelling as much as I hoped, you might find that you really enjoy it, so give it a try. I can’t wait to see how the characters and conflicts from this story are woven into book #2!
Profile Image for Sophia Sardothien.
155 reviews522 followers
May 14, 2015
Thank you Intisar Khanani and Netgalley for sending me this book in exchange of an honest review

Having never to read Goose girl, I pleasantly enjoy reading this book.

The plot was alright, interesting enough to kept me reading for the entire time. Despite the fact that the synopsis seems to empathise a lot on the romance, but the main focus was definitely beyond that. I would have elaborate more but I think it would be better getting in the story without knowing much.

The writing style is extremely beautiful, it gribs on the themes of the books perfectly.

"Justice is not men beating each other up," Laurel says quietly. "Justice is teaching men that there is a law and, if they don't abide by it, there is an established punishment."

I really do like the Princess Alyrra, she's mature beyond her ages as well as that fact that she never acts irrationally. But most of all it's her personality that really sparks my love for this book. She's an extremely kind hearted girl, in defiance of being a princess she is not a spoiled brat, if anything she's considerate and generous always doing things with her best intentions.

"Murders make one cold." ..... "It takes away your soul, piece by piece. It turns your heart to stone. Is that what you want?"

Prince Kestrin is alright too, not exactly swoon worthy but he definitely makes the book less tense. I love his relationship with Princess Alyrra, they're interactions were extremely rare but cute. Also there's no insta love, which made me love this book even more.

"It is easier to be strong when you have a friend supporting you."

Overall I give this a full 4 stars :D Hope this helps

Profile Image for Miss Naseweis.
236 reviews18 followers
August 15, 2020
I bought this book because of its cover (just look at it, it’s so beautiful!) and expected more or less mediocre YA fantasy. I was surprised to find something completely different.

This book isn’t about a kick-ass heroine who’s a trained murderer as it seems to be common these days. It’s about a quiet, insecure and humble princess that learns to face her duties. Sure, sometimes she frustrated me (I sometimes wanted to strangle her and force her to effing TALK), but I guess I’m just so used to characters overcoming their fears so easily that I lost my patience along the way. But looking at real life, overcoming your fears is a long process full of struggles, full of doubting yourself and taking two steps backward after taking one step forward. So, this was a nice change and actually portrayed real character growth very well.

This book isn’t about an immaculate prince the princess falls for instantly. This prince is full of flaws, but virtues as well, and the princess faces all of it. And he isn’t the hub of her world, she has so many other things to care about that a romance isn’t on top of her list and that is SO refreshing!

All in all, I really liked the story and the writing style. Minus one star because the pace sometimes was pretty slow and the MC frustrating, even if I understood her behavior.
Profile Image for mads.
333 reviews338 followers
July 21, 2020
“I've found that acting when you are afraid is the greatest sign of courage there is.”

Actual Rating: 3.75⭐

TW: abuse (physical & emotional), assault, human trafficking, off-page but discussed rape, death of an animal, hangings, death of a parent.

I don't have much to say about this book except MAN IT GETS GOOD IN THE SECOND HALF. For the first 50-ish% I was enjoying it enough, but there wasn't much to set it apart from the other Goose Girl retellings I'd read. By the end, however, it was a different story (no pun intended). It went from a pretty simple story of a girl finding herself to a discussion of true justice vs performative justice, and what it means to exist in this world with pain. Which, if you know anything about my reading tastes, that's right up my alley.

Plus, there was a certain spoilery thing I can't mention that kind of shocked me and I absolutely loved it? It was precious?? So, so precious.

In the end, I didn't enjoy it enough to give it 4 stars but I still enjoyed it and I'm interested in reading more from this author.

Reading Rush: Day 1
Fulfilled the birthstone prompt. (October = Opal) ((I kinda cheated and used dark opal.))
Profile Image for Cee (The Mistress Case).
253 reviews161 followers
June 8, 2015

I wish safety for Krestin, as little as I understand him— safety for him and from him.

I just— this one line— hit mehhh in the feels— I can’t.

Okay, okay, in all seriousness, let’s get started.

If you read and liked The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale like I did, don’t be afraid to pick up Thorn by Intisar Khanani. The storytelling is different, as I hoped it would it be. For one, there are Fey and sorcerers in Thorn and I don’t recall any in The Goose Girl (which I read years ago, so I may be mistaken). Thorn is confusing and complicated to follow and you may get tired of it because truths are kept in the dark and are revealed very late, but the story won me over in spite of my complaints. Nothing’s perfect. Therefore, I will leave the flaws up to discussions with other reviewers and won’t address them in my own review.

You witness today that Princess Alyrra aka Thorn has become one of my favorite princess heroines. She’s strong, but she’s not concrete. She’s submissive, but she’s not a doormat. She’s clever, but answers don’t come effortlessly to her front door. She’s selfish, but she’s not self-interested. She’s suffering, but she’s not wallowing in her pity party. She’s ashamed of herself, belittle her self-worth, and doubts her power, influence, and strength to a point of exhaustion. She has insecurities. Insecurities that aren’t all about how fat she is or how unattractive she is. Thank god! YA authors, learn something from Intisar. Even though at times I found Thorn’s actions and beliefs unreal and far-fetched, I forgive her because I like her too much to battle with my common sense. Describing her is a challenge, so let me just say I was genuinely surprised by her character. She’s not a saint, and yet she’s pretty damn close to one and she makes me feel like a devil for wishing the worst fate upon the bad guys. It’s not her forgiving and merciful attitude I admire about her, but it is her acceptance and eagerness to learn about a new kingdom and its language. She doesn’t coward away (HA! This sounds like a lie!) and her progress is shown throughout the book in a improvement of her understanding and responses to more complex conversations.

Aside from the characters and the morals, there is one other thing I really like and that is— the dialogues.

There are the brilliant dialogues.

Exhibit A: “Your father offered me passage home if I informed him of certain matters concerning the princess. When I refused, he sent me to my new duties, assuring me that should I wish to betray her, there will always be a willing ear. As for Your Highness, you care for me only for the knowledge you believe I have. Each time we speak, it is only that you may try to pull some fact for me you are convinced I know. You would not help me to better my situation any more than my father, for you need me to feel that I need you, that I will be in your debt for your help. Is this not the game you play, or have I— have I mistaken you?”

Exhibit B: “How are the stables treating you? Still shoveling dung?”
“An honest living often involves dealing with others’ filth.”

Exhibit C: If you are not tempted by power, wealth, rank or an offer of flawed protection, or by a personal concern for justice to be carried out for yourself,” he looks up and catches my gaze, “then what else is there?”

The humorous dialogues.

Exhibit D: I wouldn’t have thought a bump on your head would improve you so. The next time you walk around looking like a rainy day, I’m taking you to find another youth to save.” Said the Horse after Arylla injured her head due to rescuing a boy.

Exhibit E: “And Laurel,” Violet responds, “sat up half the night listening to you stomp circles in your room not because she was worried about you but because she prefers to sleep sitting up with her eye open.” One of the best sarcasms I’ve heard so far.

And at times, the poignant/heartrending dialogues.

Exhibit F: “Thorn, let me tell you about dangerous. Dangerous is cutting your finger on a rusty nail and getting lockjaw. Dangerous is walking behind a skittish a horse and getting kicked against the wall. Dangerous is walking anywhere in this city at night. Dangerous is not helping someone stay safe.”

Exhibit G: "I cannot protect you so far from court,” he says. “Will you not return?”
His words release me from the spell of his touch. I pull my hand free. "There is nothing for me here,” I say, my voice shaking.”

A character can say so much more than the words they speak, making their implication run deep and far. There aren’t endless amount of redundant and pointless dialogues/monologues jumping out of the page to beg for my attention saying, “Look at me! I’m quirky with my sarcastic remarks.” Or “I’m so philosophical and smart. Love me!” Do you get where I’m coming from? Because I am honestly tired of books overdoing the sarcasm and wittiness of the characters and having these characters act and talk like childish idiots one minute then spout philosophies the next. Boo!

Therefore, Intisar did an amazing job with giving life and meaning to her characters and her retelling. Well done. Well done, indeed.

By the way, I need someone to fangirl with me. The last paragraph that ended the book was so friggin adorable. Way to make me desperate for more Kestrin and Thorn. I NEED TO SEE THEM FALL IN LOVE <3 Fulfill my needs.

ARC via Netgalley
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