Tuesday, 15 May 2012

'Thorn' by Intisar Khanani - Review/ Interview/ Giveaway!

Title: Thorn
Author: Intisar Khanani
Genre: YA Fantasy
Princess Alyrra’s strength lies in silence. Scorned by her family, she avoids the court, spending her time with servants. When her marriage is unexpectedly arranged with the prince of a powerful neighboring kingdom, Alyrra feels trapped. As the court celebrates her match, dark rumors spread about the unexplained deaths of the women of her new family. Alyrra begins her journey with mounting trepidation. Betrayed while traveling, she seizes an opportunity to start a life away from court.

Walking away from a prince whom she doesn’t know should have been easy. But from the moment she sets eyes on him, Alyrra realizes that her freedom could cost him his life. Without any magical defense of her own, she is plunged into a lethal game of sorcery and deceit. Now Alyrra must decide whom she can trust and what she’s willing to fight for—before her silence proves fatal.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(I was given this book for free on a read-to-review basis as part of the ‘Thorn’ Blog tour.)
I have to start this review by saying that this book really surprised me, mostly because the blurb is actually a terrible description of this book, and the actual story is totally different to what you expect having read the blurb!

Alyrra is a 15-year-old princess. Her father is dead, her mother is unkind to her, and her brother basically tortures her for fun.

One day a king visits, and Alyrra is told that he has come to seek her hand in marriage to his son. Her mother thinks that the king is a good ally, and so Alyrra accepts the proposal when it is put to her, as that is what her mother tells her to do.

Alyrra sets off on her way to her betrothed’s kingdom, taking with her a maid and a girl called Valka. Valka is the daughter of a member of her mother’s court, but she is in disgrace so they basically send her off with Alyrra to get rid of her.

Half-way along their journey, Alyrra goes off to wash at a stream and Valka follows her. Once by the water a woman appears who Alyrra recognises as a sorceress. The woman casts a spell, and suddenly Alyrra is Valka, and Valka is Alyrra. Valka now feels that she has got her due – she is now princess, while she sends Alyrra off to work as a goose girl once they make it to their new home.

While Valka feels that she has beaten Alyrra, Alyrra is secretly pleased by the swap; now she can do with her life as she pleases, rather than being forced to be a princess and to be a member of the court. The only problem is that the prince, who Alyrra was to marry, seems to realise that something is wrong with Valka and Alyrra, and pays more attention to the real Alyrra than she would like.

Now that she is starting a new life, Alyrra changes her name from Valka to Thoreena, which is shortened to Thorn. Thorn makes a life for herself in the stables and small town, while Valka as the princess is disliked.

The sorceress has not finished her trouble making though, and her next target is Kestrin (the prince). Can Thorn stand by while the sorceress kills Kestrin, or will she find a way to solve this whole mess, and save herself in the process?

As I said I was really surprised by this book, the blurb mentions nothing about the whole body-swap thing, which is one of the main parts of the storyline! I was quite shocked when this happened as I obviously wasn’t expecting it!

Thorn/Alyrra was a very quiet girl, but had strongly held beliefs. Her mother said that her strength was her silence, which showed how little her mother really knew her, as Thorn was actually the one to speak out when she saw injustices being done, and even labelled herself as ‘too honest’. I really liked Thorn for exactly that reason, she just couldn’t sit by while bad things were happening, she took it upon herself to try and right wrongs no matter what the consequences to herself.

I thought that Thorn’s reaction to her body swap experience was a bit of an odd one, but it did actually fit with her character – she’s rarely complained about anything unless it was to aid someone else. I’m sure most of us would have thrown an absolute fit if a similar thing happened to us, but she just took it in her stride, and actually seemed to only see the advantages to swap!

Thorn’s life was not easy by a long shot, and there were several points in this book where the things that happened to her were just so awful that I cried. Throughout it all though she stayed strong and did her best and always looked out for others.

As surprised as I was by this book, I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Thorn was just such a loveable character, and the storyline was full of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. From the very beginning, Thorn captured my attention and held it, and I couldn’t help but love this book.
9 out of 10.
(Book length: 4116 kindle locations)

Interview with the authot Intisar Khanani:

How long have you been writing for?

I've been writing since, well, since I could write. My first "book" was a fully illustrated, nicely stapled creation about a good little fish who went to school. I think I was three. My mom still has it somewhere. Writing has been a constant in my life since then. 

How did you come up with the idea for Thorn?

Thorn is loosely based on the Grimms' fairy tale, "The Goose Girl." The base elements of the plot--the betrayed princess, the talking horse, the wind that comes to the princess's rescue--are still the same, though I've taken some liberties with who does what, and developed new characters including the sorceress and the thief lord. "The Goose Girl" was one of my favorite stories growing up, but I never liked how the princess didn't really come into her own in the tale: she returned to the court because the king discovered her, not because she had made her own choices about who and what she would be. I knew that in novelizing the Goose Girl, this was one aspect that I would have to change: after everything she's been through, the princess has to stand on her own two feet and choose her own path. The king still discovers her, but that doesn't undermine the fact that Alyrra is taking her life and choices into her own hands.

What three words best describe Thorn (the book)?

Betrayal. Silence. Courage. 

What are your favourite things about Thorn/Alyrra (the character)?

She's kind, great-hearted, and learns to be brave even when she's quaking in her boots. Also, she's nice to animals. 

Can you tell us about the cape that you made that you’re giving away?

Absolutely. There are two cloaks that figure in the novel Thorn: an exquisite dark blue cloak, embroidered and lined with fur that the main character receives when she's betrothed, and a much simpler dark green winter cloak that the prince gives her later on in the story. I wanted to give away something related to the story, and I'm afraid I'm not up to the hand embroidery (and I'm not sure how I feel about real fur linings in this day and age!), so I decided to try my hand at the green cloak. A good friend and neighbor of my parents is a master seamstress and cloakmaker. I asked her for lessons, and she helped me make the cloak that I'll be giving away. It is thigh length and made of polar fleece. To see more of what Jan can do, you can check out her store on e-bay: http://stores.ebay.com/Costumes-By-Design. 

Have you written anything else or are you working on anything else?

I am working on a trilogy that starts up soon after Thorn ends. It follows Rae, one of Thorn/Alyrra’s royal attendants, as she tries to find out about the children and young women who are snatched off the streets and from their beds across the kingdom. Rae is a new character; she’s witty, spunky and a born horsewoman who grew up on a ranch in the countryside. However, with Alyrra sending her into the city to find out what she can, you can bet you’ll get a chance to meet some of the other characters from Thorn again.

Random question – what’s your favourite treat?

Ice cream. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, to be exact. :)

Thank you so much Intisar for dropping by! I loved this book and I hope you all love it too! Make sure to get your copy when it's released on May 30th!


Links to purchase options will be made available at the release (May 30th, 2012). Thorn will be available via major e-retailers, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Sony. Amazon will also have a print edition available.


1ST Giveaway -  (US/CAN) Win a green fantasy cloak/cape (click here)

2nd Giveaway - (INT) Win a signed Thorn bookmark! (Click here)

3rd Giveaway - (US/CAN) Win an autographed copy of 'Thorn' (click here)



  1. Hi Sarah -

    Thanks for your in-depth review. I'm so glad you enjoyed Thorn, and that it gave you a few surprises. That's great feedback to know about the blurb as well. I had a lot of trouble developing the blurb, but thankfully since it is associated with the digital edition, it's something I can submit changes to. I'd love to hear from you in greater detail about your thoughts on how the blurb might be improved if you have a chance.

    All the best,

  2. Wow this book sounds amazing I really want to read it great review! I love the cover!