Review: Thorn (Dauntless Path #1) by Intisar Khanani

Synopsis: 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.

Genre: YA Fantasy, Fiction, Retelling

Published: March 24th, 2020 

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Length: 460 Pages

My Rating: 5/5

Sometimes those who wish to not be a princess are the ones best suited for the job. Princess Alyrra is just trying to survive her family, and longs for a normal life. Instead, her life only becomes more complicated. After being betrothed to a prince she has never met, Alyrra is sent off to his kingdom of Menaiya, a place of unknown dangers. Before she can arrive, a sorceress, who is somehow tied to her future husband’s family, attacks her. Alyrra is no longer Princess Alyrra, and is welcomed to her new home as a goose girl, a far cry from the royalty she once was. More than willing to embrace this simpler life, honest Alyrra can’t ignore the injustices and darkness lurking in Menaiya for long. Prince Kestrin, who Alyrra soon learns is more than what he seems, is in danger, and she is the only one who can help him. Alyrra must choose between the life she has always wanted and the one she was born to live. 

I devoured this book in less than 24 hours. After getting an ARC of Intisar Khanani’s novella Brambles (Coming out tomorrow!), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Thorn, and I was not disappointed when I finally did. The story of Princess Alyrra pulls you in right from the start. She is a very sympathetic character, and I was rooting for her to succeed as soon as she was introduced. Of course, Alyrra isn’t without her flaws, but that’s what makes a dynamic, believable character. It’s fun to watch them develop and grow as the story goes on.

The plot of Thorn kept me glued to the book with every twist and turn. I knew going in that this story was a retelling of a fairytale, but I didn’t know which one precisely. I ended up looking it up after the fact, needing to satisfy my curiosity because I hadn’t been able to guess which fairytale was being retold. I like to think my background in school has given me a pretty solid foundation in folklore and fairytales, but the one Intisar Khanani chose to retell had somehow evaded my radar until now. I found this very refreshing! ‘The Goose Girl’ (I recommend not looking it up until after you read Thorn, if you haven’t heard it before) is a great choice for a retelling, and Intisar Khanani does a wonderful job weaving it into her story. 

***Minor Spoilers ahead***

Thorn explores a lot of different issues over the course of the story. The one I found the most interesting was the concept of trust and healing after a history of abuse. Princess Alyrra has suffered from physical abuse in the past, and throughout the book she has to confront the scars (both physical and emotional) that this abuse has left behind. I thought this was handled very well by the author, and the scenes where Alyrra deals with her pain were very provoking and emotional. 

***Minor Spoilers finished ***

This book had me hooked from cover to cover. It held my emotions hostage the entire time I was reading, and I will admit it made me cry a couple of times. I knew it was only book one of a series, so I was prepared for some sort of cliffhanger or unresolved ending, but the author spared me that pain. It was satisfyingly concluded, so now I can anticipate the next book happily without feeling like the story is sitting unfinished in my brain until then. I recommend reading Thorn if you enjoy YA fantasy and fairytale retellings. 

(The next book in the series, The Theft of Sunlight, is scheduled for release on March 23rd, 2021) 

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