Back in 2016, when I was desperately scraping around for diversion to help me cope with my mother's terminal illness, my friend Suz told me about indie writer Grace Draven. Then we both, through Grace Draven's recommendation, stumbled on Intisar Khanani, another indie author. Intisar had written several shorter works and I read her novel Thorn with delight. What seemed like a writing exercise at the start (it's a Goose Girl retelling of the Brother's Grimm tale) became much, much more. Honestly, it was one of the best fairy tale retellings I'd ever read. I quickly snapped up Sunbolt, Memories of Ash and The Bone Knife and became completely enchanted with her beautiful writing style. Eventually, I struck up correspondence with her and joined her special band of readers (The Shadow League). It was a delight to hear last year that HarperTeen agreed with everyone else that Intisar's work is something special: they are releasing a new edition of Thorn on March 24th, 2020. I can't wait to read it and review it for you. But, alas, that won't happen until early next year. To whet your appetite, I want to give you a peek at the redesigned cover! Plus, Intisar is offering a giveaway, for which you'll find a link below.
First, let me give you the book's synopsis, and take a look at my review from 2016.
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
A princess with two futures. A destiny all her own.
Between her cruel family and the contempt she faces at court, Princess Alyrra has always longed to escape the confines of her royal life. But when she’s betrothed to the powerful prince Kestrin, Alyrra embarks on a journey to his land with little hope for a better future.
When a mysterious and terrifying sorceress robs Alyrra of both her identity and her role as princess, Alyrra seizes the opportunity to start a new life for herself as a goose girl.
But Alyrra soon finds that Kestrin is not what she expected. The more Alyrra learns of this new kingdom, the pain and suffering its people endure, as well as the danger facing Kestrin from the sorceress herself, the more she knows she can’t remain the goose girl forever.
With the fate of the kingdom at stake, Alyrra is caught between two worlds and ultimately must decide who she is, and what she stands for.
My review from June 2016 was:
"A delightful re-envisioning of the story of the Goose Girl by the Brothers Grimm. In the beginning, it felt as if this novel started as an interesting writing exercise. But the character development was so rich that the reader becomes transported by the story, even though anyone who knows of the original fairy tale knows of its happy ending. This is a story in which magic can be found simply, in a kind heart and a desire for true justice. My only loose end was that we lose track of Falada, the beloved and wise Horse. Where is his head?
An enchanting read by an author I'm so glad to have discovered."
I'm so excited to see this new edition of the story. The novel has doubled in length! And I love looking at how writers grow and polish earlier works. (Ask me some time about Patricia Briggs' first novel Masques!)
Without further adieu, take look at Thorn's beautiful new cover....
And here's a brief excerpt...
I lead the king down to the back entrance to the gardens, and we walk along between plots of dill, thyme, and chives. I wait, knowing he will speak when he is ready.
“How much does your mother confide in you?” he asks as we near the middle of the gardens.
I slide a look at him from the corner of my eye. “Enough. My lord.”
His lips quirk, the first true smile I have seen from him. “Is that honest?”
I pause beside a bed of borage. “How much do I need to know, my lord? You are here seeking a wife for your son.”
“I am,” he agrees. “How often do you participate in the discussions between your mother and the council?”
“I don’t, my lord. You should know I am not . . .” I hesitate, aware that I have no place telling this king what he should or should not know. Or jeopardizing such an alliance for my land.
I struggle to find an appropriate way to finish. “Not—it is not thought my place to attend such meetings.”
“You would never inherit the throne?”
I could inherit, it is true, but I doubt the council would allow it given my history—and certainly not now that I might marry into another royal family, one that would be happy to add our lands to their own. Either way, should my brother die, the council would certainly pass over me in favor of our nearest cousin. “It is unlikely,” I say finally.
“I doubt that,” the king says. “It has been my experience that even young men die. What you mean to say is your council would not accept you should your brother die without issue and you were yet unwed. Why?”
If he knows all the answers, why is he asking? I look him in the eye and quip, “Perhaps I am too honest, my lord.”
He laughs. “And too straightforward. You will have to learn to play with your words more.” He reaches out, his fingertips brushing my arm where my brother held me. I flinch back reflexively, as if the bruises have already darkened—as if he could see them through my sleeve. He watches me, his eyes glinting in the sunlight. “Once you are Menaiya’s,” he says, “your brother will never hurt you again.”
~ from Thorn by Intisar Khanani
Of course, I'm not alone in my praise of Intisar's writing.
“Thorn is a lovely atmospheric fairytale fantasy about a girl and her found family. I loved it!” -
Gail Carriger, New York Times-bestselling author of the Parasol Protectorate series
“Intisar Khanani is in my top five favorite authors writing today. A stunningly talented
storyteller whose lyrical writing just blows my socks off every time I read her.” – Grace Draven,
USA Today bestselling author Eidolon
You can already pre-order Thorn from most booksellers. The hardcover ISBN13 is 9780062835703. The eBook editions in various formats are also already available to pre-order. If you love fairy tale retellings, you won't want to miss this one.
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Now, as mentioned above, take a look at Intisar's giveaway, which runs through July 18, celebrating the cover reveal! (This giveaway is not being run through my blog, so please click on the link below the photo!) She's giving away a THORN-inspired prize pack including a great snowy owl enamel pin, a gorgeous "quill" style calligraphy pen set, a hand-painted watercolor feather on a page from Thorn, and a "fairy dust" candle. The prize pack plus a $25 Gift Card will be awarded to one US winner. She is also offering a $25 Gift Card to one non-US winner. Good luck!