Book Review: Princess of Thorns
By: Stacey Jay
Published By: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Page Count: 400
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Fantasy
Have you ever wondered if Sleeping Beauty truly got her happily ever after? Well, according to Stacey Jay - she didn't. Princess of Thorns is loosely based on fairy tales, but it is not a retelling and there are no Disney tropes lurking within these pages. This is a story of violence, a broken kingdom, secrets, and torrid romance. There are no damsels in distress wearing pink dresses waiting on a handsome prince to do all the work in saving the kingdom. Rather this story is gritty and far more entertaining than the fairy tale retelling I was expecting.
In this world, Sleeping Beauty is a minor blip. Her daughter, Aurora, is the main character. Aurora has been dealing with the suicide of her mother and the ogre overtaking of her kingdom since she was a child. Her mother's sacrifice allowed Aurora to take on her mother's fairy blessed gifts including the ability to be a formidable warrior and the ability to show mercy even against her better judgment. There are other gifts as well, but those gems can be uncovered as you read. Needless to say, Aurora is not your average meek and mild cartoony version of a princess. She kicks a lot of butt and doesn't let anyone push her around. I was hooked on this character from the moment I met her. I loved her courage, bravado, and stubborn streak. Aurora is independent and has a mind of her own. She has no desire to lose her identity in order to fall in love. We need more strong, independent females in YA literature.
Once the evil ogre queen takes Aurora's brother, Jor, hostage, she decides to take matters into her own hands to get him back. Her ventures through the countryside to gather an army have been fruitless, but her luck changes when she meets Niklaas, a handsome and desperate prince. There is just one problem - Aurora has disguised herself as a boy for her quest and Niklaas believes that she is Jor. The strike up a partnership of convenience and begin an epic adventure.
The characters are what make this novel shine. I loved both Aurora and Niklaas. The dual narration allows insight into the minds of both characters. In many ways, Niklaas is the male version of Aurora. He's brave and headstrong, but underneath it all there is a lurking vulnerability that fills him with self doubt from time to time. The true beauty of this novel is that two lonely and hopeless characters find a way to thrive. I loved watching the relationship evolve between these two. The banter is hilarious and brought me much needed smiles during a hectic and stressful week.
In addition to the characters, I loved the setting. The interactions between fey, humans, and ogres was interesting and added an element I wasn't expecting. I found the various societal structures of each of the groups to also be interesting. Aurora even remarks on the stark differences between fey and humans when she comments that in fey lands it is not odd for a woman to be strong and brave while human men only see women as objects of lust that need protection. I loved watching Jay break apart gender stereotypes and flip them on their head.
Princess of Thorns is the ultimate literary escape. I loved the adventure and suspense. This one is full of hard headed teens hoping to change their fate, crazy ogres who feed on human souls, trees that feed on ogres, passionate kissing, fairy tale allusions, and a memorable pair of protagonists. This one often felt more fantasy than fairy tale, but I still loved every moment. That's saying a lot since high fantasy has never been my cup of tea. Jay has created a magical world full of intriguing possibilities. This one has earned a spot on my 2014 favorites shelf.
One Last Gripe: There were moments when I wanted to shake both Aurora and Niklaas. Their stubbornness was a bit ridiculous at times, but it served to create an infuriatingly delicious sense of tension.
Favorite Thing About This Book: I liked that Jay used fairy tales loosely and crafted her own world and characters. She didn't stick with the original stories which made this one more compelling for me. Her creativity and strong writing have convinced me she is an author who needs more of my attention.
First Sentence: Having discovered the secret to eternal life, and jealous of his throne, immortal king summoned a witch to the castle and ordered her to curse his eleven sons, ensuring none would live past their eighteenth birthday, the age at which a Kanvasol prince may become a king.
Favorite Character: This is so difficult because I loved Aurora and Niklaas, but I'll go with Aurora. Niklaas' lewd comments in the beginning often grated on my nerves. It took me some time to warm up to him, but I liked Aurora instantly.
Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one. I even loved to hate the villains in this one.
Game of Thrones meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.
Though she looks like a mere mortal, Princess Aurora is a fairy blessed with enhanced strength, bravery, and mercy yet cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as a boy, she enlists the help of the handsome but also cursed Prince Niklaas to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago.
Will Aurora triumph over evil and reach her brother before it's too late? Can Aurora and Niklaas break the curses that will otherwise forever keep them from finding their one true love?