Monday, December 29, 2014

Princess of Thorns

Princess Aurora is a briar born child (the only one besides her brother) set to inherit the kingdom of Norvere were it not for an ogre inheriting it instead. Queen Ekeeta wasted no time after taking over to imprison Aurora's family and insinuate ogres into the castle. Freed and empowered with fairy gifts by her mother's sacrifice, Aurora and her brother Jor escape to prepare for the day they will claim back their kingdom and make it once again safe for humans. Unfortunately, close to the prophesied time, Jor is captured by the ogres and Aurora will stop at nothing to get him back. She poses as him and enlists the help of roguish Niklaas to travel and gather an army. Nothing goes as it should: her plans fall apart; allies betray her; and she finds support in unlikely places. Will Aurora reclaim her kingdom and defeat the ogres?

Princess of Thorns is not what I expected from a fairy tale retelling. The first two pages are confusing with two different prologues kind of smashed together and not well explained. It took me a little while to process that Aurora is not Sleeping Beauty, but Sleeping Beauty's daughter. Having this Aurora and the classic fairy tale Aurora share a name was confusing at first. The story plays out as a retelling and continuation of the Sleeping Beauty story along with dashes of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, The Swan Princes, and other fairy tales. Although drastically different from the original tale, Princess of Thorns retains the fairy tale elements and becomes a unique story. I loved many of these elements that were familiar, but changed for this retelling. Aurora's fairy gifts in the classic tale are benevolent and only serve to benefit her. Not so with this Aurora. While her gifts of enhanced strength, bravery, mercy, and a heart no man she loves can defy are pretty useful, they are also a curse. The strength and bravery are the most useful, but the mercy takes away her free will. She literally cannot be unmerciful even if it is essential to her goals. The last one is weird and really just a plot device, but the effects are devastating. Once she loves and kisses someone, even in a platonic manner, their entire existence is dedicated to serving her. They are a shell of their former self and lose any personality they might have had. I like this double edged sword quality of the gifts and the grisly way in which they were bestowed upon her (which was with her mother's suicide).

The romance aspects are pronounced, but develop organically. Aurora and Niklaas bicker, tease, and fight on their travels and develop a real relationship. Since Aurora is disguised as her brother and she knows the devastated effects of her fairy gifts, romance is the last thing on either of their minds. I found this so refreshing after so many boring instalove teen romances. I also loved the world in general. The ogres were especially interesting with their religious fanaticism and rise to power. Aurora's stepmother was a particularly interesting character because of her doubt ad her ability to think for herself despite being commanded to the contrary. Their religion advocates the destruction of all non-ogre beings as their heaven. I really would have loved to read more about how they rose to power, the intricacies of their religion, and how the stepmother came to her conflicted feelings. A lot of this is glossed over which is a bit more interesting than reading about romance. I could definitely see this one book expanded to at least two to accommodate more of the history of the word instead of those very awkward and confusing prologues.

Princess of Thorns is an enjoyable read that is filled with excitement, adventure, and chock full of fairy tales. I loved the characters, the twisting of fairy tale conventions, and the world. It could have been expanded to avoid awkwardness and show the history of the world and how it got there. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and I look forward to other books by Stacey Jay.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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