Review: Thorn

"The Goose Girl" by the Brothers Grimm seems to be one of the hottest fairy tales to adapt right now. It is one of the only fairy tales featuring a princess that has not been turned into a Disney movie. Thorn by Intisar Khanani is the fourth adaptation I've read of this identity-swapping fable, but I can't say that it's one of my favorites. It is the most loyal adaptation I have read, incorporating darker elements that had been graciously removed from other versions, such as the slaughter of the princess's prized horse. Though I appreciate Intisar's attempts to stay true to the tale as well as her incorporation of her culture within the language of the story, the book seems to drag on for ages before anything interesting happens. The climax of Thorn has a big payoff that conveys a strong anti-violence message, which implies that it may have been more enjoyable if it were a little shorter.

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

For the most part, Thorn is a faithful retelling of "The Goose Girl" with extended magical elements. Princess Alyrra is betrayed by her lady-in-waiting, Valka, who hires a powerful sorceress to switch their bodies. Alyrra is distressed by the betrayal, but not terribly surprised because Valka had always seemed to dislike her. In fact, Alyrra has an abundance of enemies, which makes her difficult to relate to at times. Her brother beats her, her mother calls her stupid, and her people barely acknowledge her leadership. She finds companionship in odd places such as a magical wind that protects her, a talking horse named Falada, and a couple of serving maids. Two of these companions suffer horrible fates, leaving Alyrra even more alone in her submissive torment. She does her best to protect her kingdom from criminals in spite of her unfortunate predicament, but this is easier said than done when she is unable to reveal herself as the princess.

The best character in this book by far is Prince Kestrin, who Alyrra is betrothed to. He is the first to discover her true identity even though she is unable to confirm his suspicions due to a magic choker that prevents her from revealing her identity. I was eager to see how their romance would unwind, but Alyrra takes such a long time to trust him that she has very few opportunities for romance. I grew bored as I read through pages and pages of her struggling to keep her secret and ignoring Kestrin's advances. It isn't until the end of the book that Alyrra is finally able to confront Kestrin, but she must do so under the guise of another curse. The two undergo numerous trials and tribulations that test every ounce of willpower they have before they are finally able to be together.

The supernatural elements in Thorn are developed well. Princess Alyrra is cursed by a sorceress known as the Lady who is bent on revenge against the royal family. The Lady's powers are just as fascinating as they are terrible. The chapters that feature her are by far the most engaging parts of the book. She is a complex and multi-dimensional character who is more interesting than Alyrra or Valka. That is probably one of the reasons I got bored during the middle section of the book where she is all but absent. She possesses the ability to trap people inside their own minds, a concept that has always intrigued me. Falada, Alyrra's talking horse, is an element of the story that was brought in from the original fairy tale. One might expect a talking horse to add some light-hearted humor into any story, but the dark elements of Thorn remain strong even with Falada's presence.

Thorn is a decent adaptation of "The Goose Girl" despite having a slow start. It does not shy away from the darker themes of the fairy tale by presenting a protagonist who must struggle with abuse and injustice. Kestrin and the Lady were the most interesting characters in the book, but their presence is downplayed for a good chunk of it. Intisar Khanani wrote in the footnotes of her website that the original version of Thorn was released to an indie audience before it got rewritten multiple times with an addition of 20,000 words. I can't help but wonder if her previous draft was less draggy. Nonetheless, if you are a fan of cultural fairy tale retellings, you many enjoy this version of "The Goose Girl."


Popular posts from this blog

Review: Unicorn Academy (Netflix)

Princess Fashion

Review: My Sweet Monster

Review: The Spanish Princess/White Queen Trilogy

Fans "Wish" Disney Had Used These Abandoned Concepts

Review: The Princess Twins of Legendale

Deconstructing the Wicked Stepmother

Disney's Descendants Makes Even Less Sense Thanks to The Rise of Red!

Review: Throne of Elves

Ariel Makes a Splash on Disney Jr.!