Review: Thorns of Gold

I received an ARC for Thorns of Gold from Celeste Baxendell pretty quickly after the disappointing cliffhanger ending from Dreams of Roses. After reading it, it became clearer why this story needed two books. While Dreams of Roses was about Rosalia, the "Sleeping Beauty" character from the Bewitching Fairy Tales series, this book was the conclusion of Aerona's story from Celeste's "Beauty and the Beast" retelling, Beasts of Beauty. Though it is promoted as the conclusion of the Bewitching Fairy Tales series as a whole, I was pleased to find that it ended with a teaser for a continuation called Enchanting Fairy Tales that begins with an adaptation of my favorite fairy tale of all time. It may not be the end of a storytelling era, but it does provide a satisfying conclusion to Dreams of Roses.

Many books from fairy tale adaptation series can be read as standalones. Thorns of Gold is not one of them. At the very least, readers of this book must read both Beasts of Beauty and Dreams of Roses to fully understand and appreciate the plot and characters. There were no references to my favorite Bewitching Fairy Tales book, Cinders of Glass, but I will admit that it provides a satisfying conclusion to the two that it does cover. When we left Princess Rosalia at the end of Dreams of Roses, she chose to enact her "Sleeping Beauty" curse so she could use it as a weapon for political gain over the kingdom that had wronged her. Unfortunately, she did so knowing that the only person who could wake her was a descendant of the Midas family, meaning that his kiss would turn her to gold. When we left Aerona in Beasts of Beauty, she was recovering from years of trauma that nearly stripped her of her humanity and what she believed was the loss of her sister as a baby.

Thorns of Gold re-introduces us to Aerona and her fiancĂ©, Chasen. As it turns out, Princess Rosalia is Aerona's long-lost sister. Unfortunately, Rosalia's sleeping curse prevents Aerona's eagerly anticipated reunion. Aerona and Chasen watch over the sleeping princess while angsting over their inner demons, unaware that Rosalia is able to hear everything they say to each other in her presence. Like many modern stories about true love, Midas banks on Aerona's sisterly love to wake Rosalia without harming her, hoping that it will be enough to break the sleeping curse so he doesn't have to turn her into gold. Much of the book is spent speculating over whether or not Aerona's kiss would work before anyone tries anything. All of this speculation dragged the story out longer than it needed to, but I enjoyed experiencing Aerona's emotional journey of recovery from her trauma in Beasts of Beauty and becoming a loving sister. Like many other books in this series, there were high levels of angst on all sides, which is pretty common for YA fiction.

I admit I was surprised by the shift in focus from Rosalia and Midas in Dreams of Roses to Aerona and Chasen in this book, especially because they were not exactly one of my favorite couples in the series. Seeing how their relationship had developed helped them to grow on me, and I ended up liking them a lot more after finishing this book. Rosalia and Midas were mostly in the background for the majority of the book. In the end, I realized that Thorns of Gold isn't a simple love story but instead a story of a family coming together to heal after a series of unfortunate circumstances that separated them for years. While this has been done before in other fairy tales such as "The Frog and the Lion-Fairy," it is less common than your average "true love saves the day" story, which makes it a unique and creative adaptation of "Sleeping Beauty" with more nuance and complexity than most.

Though Thorns of Gold does not stand on its own, it provides a satisfying conclusion to the stories introduced in both Beasts of Beauty and Dreams of Roses. I am pleased to know that Celeste Baxendell's clever and nuanced adaptations will continue in the Enchanting Fairy Tales series, this will not be the last book to take place in her rich and complex world of fantasy kingdoms. More than anything, Thorns of Gold is an emotional journey about recovering from trauma and learning to start over again and find happiness with the support of a loving family. Like in most of her other books, there are some characters who make questionable decisions here, but love always prevails in the end.


Anonymous said…
You mention Enchanting Fairy Tales, a sequel novel series, with the first novel in the sequel series being an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (Note: I saw the webpage that was linked to this article.). Each novel in this series combines two fairy tales. If the first novel on Enchanting Fairy Tales does the same, what fairy tale would be combined with The Little Mermaid?
Anonymous said…
Let's speculate. What fairy tale would be perfect to combine with The Little Mermaid?
Lisa Dawn said…
I've always wanted to see a combination of "Rapunzel" and "The Little Mermaid" because I love mermaids with long hair and how it flows in the water, but this author already covered "Rapunzel" in her first book. Plus, Barbie as The Pearl Princess was basically Tangled with mermaids.

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