Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani

May 2, 2016 Review 22 ★★★★

Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Self Published
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 246
Release Date: May 30th, 2012
Genres: Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy & Magic, Retelling, Young Adult
For Princess Alyrra, choice is a luxury she's never had ... until she's betrayed.

Princess Alyrra has never enjoyed the security or power of her rank. Between her family's cruelty and the court's contempt, she has spent her life in the shadows. Forced to marry a powerful foreign prince, Alyrra embarks on a journey to meet her betrothed with little hope for a better future.

But powerful men have powerful enemies--and now, so does Alyrra. Betrayed during a magical attack, her identity is switched with another woman's, giving Alyrra the first choice she's ever had: to start a new life for herself or fight for a prince she's never met. But Alyrra soon finds that Prince Kestrin is not at all what she expected. While walking away will cost Kestrin his life, returning to the court may cost Alyrra her own. As Alyrra is coming to realize, sometime the hardest choice means learning to trust herself.

I received this book for free from the source listed above in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When I saw THORN on Netgalley I had to request it because I’d heard so many good things about it and it’s hard to say no to a fairy tale retelling. I can confirm that breaking my requesting ban was a good idea for this book. 


THORN is a solid retelling of the goose girl fairy tale. It has all the typical fairy tale elements (princes and princesses, magic, and talking animals) and delivered a really interesting story with some surprisingly dark moments. It’s not the darkest retelling I’ve ever read (honestly I would have loved it even more if it was darker), but there were some things it insinuated that I couldn’t believe it went there, exploring themes like justice and law.

The plot is a bit slow, but it’s steady. It’s character driven with lots of discussions between the characters on their roles in life and relationships and things, so don’t go into this expecting non stop intrigue and suspense. Despite this, the writing was really addictive. It was incredibly hard to put THORN down and not keep reading at the end of a chapter. And then when plot things started moving, it got intense.

heavy breathing

Fortunately for a character driven book, the characters were great in THORN. I thought each one was fairly well developed (some more so than others) and interesting in their own way. One of the most interesting characters, Red Hawk, really didn’t get enough page time in my opinion. He’s a vague shadowy figure that pops up and I need to know more about him and what he does.

Something I found interesting is the lack of romance in THORN. This is unusual in fairy tale retellings, which are usually heavy romance based. In THORN the romance is really a minimal side plot despite Alyrra’s engagement to the prince. There’s certainly subtext and hints of things there (so much tension!), but it’s never shoved in your face. There’s not even a single kissing scene! The focus is definitely more on Alyrra’s journey as a character and breaking the curse, etc. It was a strange experience but you know what, it fit the characters and the story perfectly.

not bad

Aside from having the story be darker, the thing stopping me from giving this book 5 stars is lack of world building. Lack may not be the right word because it is there, but it could have been more extensive. We know the basics about the world and the countries rulers, but not much about the different cultures, history, etc. These things can be hard to fit into a standalone novel but really would have only enriched the story.

THORN is a book I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of good fairy tale retellings.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.1

22 Responses to “Review: Thorn by Intisar Khanani”

    • Bec

      The Goose Girl isn’t as well known as some other fairy tales but I love reading retellings of it. Glad I could introduce you to it :D

  1. Hannah M

    Officially added to my TBR! I mean the cover is gorgeous enough, but you’re review (and the GIF perfection) makes me want to read this now! I love character driven novels; it’s quite refreshing when the romance isn’t taking over the story.

  2. Jolien @ The Fictional Reader

    I have this book to read for review as well! I’m really excited to read it, especially after your review. I’ve read 2 other books by this author (from her Sunbolt Chronicles) which I’d highly recommend. The first book in that series is quite short, but the second is amazing! And like you said, that book doesn’t have romance shoved in your face either which is really refreshing. Thanks for the great review, I’m looking forward to the read!
    Jolien @ The Fictional Reader recently posted…Review: Memories of Ash

    • Bec

      This made me really want to check out her other books! I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

      I hope you enjoy Thorn as much as I did (if not more!)

  3. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews

    Hmmm, this one is new to me but it sounds super promising, even with the lack of darkness and need for a bit more world-building! I like that it was still dark despite that it could have been darker still. I love dark stories!! The characters, themes, and lack of romance all sound like a fresh take on fairytale retellings to me. YAY! Thanks for breaking your NG ban and putting this on my radar Bec :D
    Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows Reviews recently posted…Review: The Blood of Olympus

    • Bec

      Yeah I’m pretty selective when it comes to self pub books, but this sounded too good and I’d heard too many good things about it to pass it up! Good luck with your NG search :)

  4. czai

    I honestly don’t know the goose girl fairy tale but I”m really interested on this one. I like that it’s dark and is a character-driven novel. I love character-driven stories and I don’t mind the world building for lacking a bit. Great review!
    czai recently posted…APRIL ROUNDUP!

    • Bec

      It’s not as popular as some of the other fairy tales but I do love it… well the retellings I’ve read of it anyway haha.

      Thanks :D

  5. Ethan

    I love when a self published novel finds the kind of good word of mouth and success that this one has. Thanks for the great review!

    • Bec

      It is nice to see! And it’s often the great books that deserve such good word of mouth that receive it.

      Thanks :)

  6. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    Ahhh I kind of love books that don’t have a heavy focus on the romance but instead tease it, I must be a fan of that tension. It sounds really fascinating about the Red Hawk figure and everything though! Glad you enjoyed it Bec.

    • Bec

      Tbh that tension is one of the best parts of romance in books haha. I really hope the companion book (whenever that ends up coming out) focuses on the Red Hawk character because I need to know more!

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